Grand Illusions - 2
The air seems to be already heavy with election gimmickry...... . there was this alluring promise by UNP leader Ranil Wickremasinghe to talk to most of the prime opponents to the proposed constitution, to form a broad consensus on it. They include the Sangha and the LTTE. He also hopes to arrive at a cessation of hostilities agreement with the Tigers. It should be noted that what is in focus here is not a mere cease-fire but a broader reconciliation process in which all hostile acts across the divide would cease. The concrete measures, which would be adopted to further these aims.....remains unsaid. Intelligent voters are unlikely to fall for all this balmy talk........
The history of the ethnic problem illustrates the many yawning pitfalls to peace. People are fully aware of, for instance, the intransigence of the Tigers in bringing about a negotiated settlement to the conflict. They are also aware of the mindless manner in which the LTTE rejected the draft constitution. How credible then is the UNP leaders claim that he could talk to the Tigers and win them over to the peace path?
How will he get the Tigers to agree to cessation of hostilities? Judicious voters are likely to demand details rather than enchanted pronouncements, which in reality say nothing.
How is Mr. Wickremasinghe going to convince hardline sections of the Sangha, who see red even at the drop of the word devolution, that the path of constitutional reform should be traversed?
.... However, not all factors in the current drama are driven by rationality and a sensible perception of the common good. The LTTE is likely to oppose a political solution as long as it believes that its position as the predominant power among the armed groups in the North- East wouldnt be perpetuated by the new order of things. As long as they believe that they would be an endangered minority in the world, hard-line opponents to a just peace in Southern Sri Lanka are likely to reconcile in horror at the mention of power devolution...
Political leaders who do not come to grips with these realities are likely to prolong Lankas nightmare.
Guess who made these comments? Certainly it is in line with the consistent thinking of The Island since the commencement of the conflict in the North and East. But it isnt. We have reproduced excerpts of an editorial titled Grand Illusions (September 1) of none other than the flagship the Peoples Alliance, the Daily News!
Our friends on the banks of the Beire, we must admit, have been remarkably candid in recent times. They have given up pretensions of not being the government gazette and have now come out openly and become the government gazette with the issue of a free copy of the gazette every Friday! It has indeed become a unique paper. But our immediate concern is not that.
Does the Daily News and the Peoples Alliance government still hold the views expressed in its editorial of September 1? President Kumaratunga, adopted a tough line towards the LTTE in her recent address to parliament, when she refused to give into the LTTE pre- conditions for peace talks as stipulated in the LTTE press release from London, after talks with the Norwegian government representative. But the government propagandists, the peace constituency of the kept press appears to be all Ga-Ga about whom they call Prabha. The sister paper of the Daily News, the Sunday Observer, in a three-deck headline last Sunday said: Prabharakarans heroes day speech keenly awaited....... What makes them think that the intransigence of the Tigers and the views of the hardline sections of the Sangha have changed?
The sudden anti-LTTE transformation of the PA took place during the campaigns for the Presidential and General Election. The UNP leader had said his proposal for a solution to the North-East problem was an interim council for the North and East which would be representatives of political interests in the region. It was implied that the Mr. Wickremasinghe had wanted the LTTE to be included in it. Then came the drumming up of the conspiracy theory - a secret pact - between the LTTE and the UNP, which the state propagandists drummed up with gusto.
The question to be asked is whether Prabhakaran or the Sangha had changed their views today? The arrival of the Norwegian diplomat who met Prabhakaran, President Kumaratunga and claimed that the LTTE was willing for talks without pre conditions - quite contrary to their statement from London - had made certain sections go ecstatic about Norwegian facilitation. A state propagandist in the Sunday Observer called Eric Solheim, the Norwegian representative facilitator, mediator/ facilitator and finally, mediator! One of the qualification for Norwegians as mediators, according to this pundit, is that since Norway is among the nations that forms a part of Sri Lankas development aid consortium, it possesses the economic leverage that is required for any mediator/ facilitator to have credibility in this modern world,
We wonder whether our Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar and President Kumaratunga are happy about this possibility of having our arms twisted by the Norwegians? On the other hand what leverage does the Norwegians have with the LTTE? They have no doubt donated a Norwegian kidney and performed a kidney transplant on Anton Balasingham who is associated with the bloody murders of thousands of Sinhalese, Tamils and Muslims. But could they twist Balasinghams arm as the Lake House pundit hopes the Norwegians would be able to do to the Sri Lanka government? Perhaps, Sri Lankan patients in need of kidney transplants and who have not even hurt a fly in their whole life should appeal to the Norwegian government for similar humanitarian considerations.
The reason for quoting the Daily News editorial above is that both the UNP and the PA shelved the issue of devolution during the election campaign for obvious reasons. The UNP refused to support it while PA spokesmen said the proposed constitution would not be implemented in its present form and Norwegian mediation would be called off. And it should be borne in mind that both parties have not obtained a clear majority to govern the country and thus there is no clear mandate for either of them. Neither the LTTE nor the Sangha and other forces opposed to the draft constitution have come out openly to say that they had changed their views after the election.
The Island is for a negotiated settlement but as the Daily News editorial of September 1 says: Political leaders who do not come to grips with these realities are likely to prolong Sri Lankas nightmare.
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