On Thursday, 26 April and Friday 27 April ACCORD hosted separate visits from parties from both sides to the conflict in Sri Lanka.
On Thursday, 26 April, the Founder and Executive Director of ACCORD, Mr. Vasu Gounden, welcomed The Honourable M.K. Eelaventhan, a member of parliament and the Secretary General for the Tamil Eelam Liberation Front, to ACCORD House. The Hon. Mr. Eelaventhan provided an informative historical overview of the history of the Tamils of Eelam, as well as an overview of the current situation from the perspective of the Eelam Liberation Front. The meeting was attended by a small delegation of senior members of the local Durban Tamil community. The Hon. Mr. Eelaventhan is currently in South Africa to inform as many leading individuals and government officials as possible about the experiences of the Tamil people in order to gain political support for the Tamil liberation struggle.
Vasu Gounden with The Honourable M.K. Eelaventhan, a Member of Parliament from the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka and the Secretary General for the Tamil Eelam Liberation Front, during his visit to ACCORD on 26 April 2007.
In April 2005 ACCORD hosted a visiting delegation from the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), who were being hosted by the South African government on a study tour of South Africa. ACCORD was one of the conflict management organisations that they visited, particularly to learn more about ACCORD’s work in Burundi and the DRC working with former rebel groups.
On Friday, 27 April Mr. Vasu Gounden then welcomed two political leaders from the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, to ACCORD House. The Honourable Mr. Veerasingham Anandasangaree and the Honourable Mr. Douglas Devananda, were accompanied by the High Commissioner for the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka to South Africa, H.E. Mr. Anura Rajakaruna and the granddaughter of Mahatma Gandhi, Ms Ela Gandhi.
Vasu Gounden with the two visiting political leaders from the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, The Honourable Mr. Veerasingham Anandasangaree (a former Member of Parliament and President of the Tamil United Liberation Front [TULF]) and the Honourable Mr. Douglas Devananda (the Minister of Social Services and Social Welfare and Leader of the Eelam People’s Democratic Party [EPDP]), who were accompanied by the High Commissioner for the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka to South Africa, H.E. Mr. Anura Rajakaruna and the Granddaughter of Mahatma Gandhi, Ms Ela Gandhi, during their visit to ACCORD on 27 April 2007.
The Hon. Veerasingham Andasangaree is a former member of parliament, and became president of the Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF) in 2001. He was the only TULF member who refused to join the Tamil National Alliance, a separatist alliance that supports the LTTE, for the 2004 elections. As an indefatigable advocate of democracy and peaceful conflict resolution, he has contributed to raising awareness of the Tamil cause in a spirit of dialogue, while seeking to promote non-violent solutions in Sri Lanka and opposing terrorism. Upon the recommendations of an international jury, the 2006 UNESCO Madanjeet Singh prize for the promotion of tolerance and non-violence was awarded to him in recognition of his contribution towards the peaceful resolution of the Sri Lankan conflict.
The Hon. Douglas Devenanda is a Sri Lankan Tamil political leader and presently the Minister of Social Services and Social Welfare. He is also the Leader of the Eelam People’s Democratic Party (EPDP). Along with nine other members of the EPDP, he was elected to parliament in the August 1994 elections representing the Tamil community in the northern and eastern provinces of Sri Lanka.
Ms Gandhi is the Chairperson of the Gandhi Development Trust on which Vasu Gounden serves as a trustee.
The discussion at ACCORD House focused on receiving an official update on the current situation in Sri Lanka, as well as exploring various peaceful settlement options to the current conflict.
In February 2006 Mr. Gounden was invited by The Foundation for Co-existence, based in Colombo, to be a presenter at their symposium entitled: 'Peace Negotiations in Sri Lanka', where he participated in a session focusing on international experiences, providing an overview of the South African peace process as well as the role of civil society. In April 2006 Mr. Gounden was invited to be a resource person at a seminar entitled 'Envisioning New Trajectories for Peace in Sri Lanka', which was held in Zurich, Switzerland. The seminar was hosted by the Centre for Just Peace and Democracy (CJPD), Switzerland, in collaboration with the Berghof Foundation for Conflict Studies, Sri Lanka. About thirty eight high level participants drawn from a cross section of civil society in Sri Lanka, peace activists from the diaspora community, and peace experts from the international community attended the seminar. Mr. Gounden formed part of the final panel session which focused on the topic 'Re-envisioning Sri Lanka – Lessons learned & Challenges and Opportunities'. Mr. Gounden’s contribution focused on 'Re-envisioning Sri Lanka – ways forward and breaking the dead-lock'.