Don’t throw away the trump card

The LTTE is on a peace offensive and any one who raises doubts about Vellupillai Prabakaran as a man of peace runs the risk of being called names such as ‘warmonger’ and even’ ‘Buddhist Thug’ as the editor of this paper was called by a LTTE fanatic writing on E-mail from a far away country. Another fanatic has written to us on E- mail accusing newspapers who have been critical of their peacemaker Prabakaran as being responsible for this continuing violence. Readers can judge for themselves whether newspapers or terrorists have been responsible for the bloody carnage that this country has been through for 18 years.

This newspaper has been advocating peace all the way. Only fascist fanatics can justify war. But we are not for peace at any cost. If all the terrorist demands are to be conceded, then there would have been no reason for this conflict to rage on for this long a time. Peace can only be established if both sides to the conflict adopt rational thinking and are prepared to concede what is reasonable. The intransigent stance of ‘Kill even me, should I deviate from the sacred objective of Eelam’, is no way to peace. And let all those who are euphoric about an imminent peace remind themselves that the ‘Supreme Leader’ has not publicly retracted from this position.

The new Prime Minister, the Dove of Peace, is flying high. He is the recipient of accolades from world leaders. He has accepted the cease-fire, which the LTTE has been offering for over a year and was rejected by President Kumaratunga. He has removed security barricades in Colombo; lifted the embargo on banned goods, that could be of military value, to LTTE controlled areas; permitted movement from LTTE controlled areas to other areas to and fro . All this has happened in just one month’s time after he was elected Prime Minister. Rumours are afloat that the UNP might even agree to the deproscription of the LTTE soon.

The people of this country, even though they are for peace, have no trust in the statements and motives of terrorists. They are apprehensive of the rapid concessions that have been made so far. The inclination of newly elected governments is to go ahead with their own proposals and not consult public opinion - certainly not immediately after winning an election. Mr. Wickremasinghe should be well advised to consult the rank and file of his party on the moves that he has made.

Adjoining these comments is an article by Neville Ladduwahetty pointing out to the pitfalls in the negotiating process. He points out to the importance of separating matters arising out of the cease-fire from political issues in the Memorandum of Understanding that the government expects to sign with the LTTE on the cease-fire. The other important issue raised is the free movement people from LTTE controlled areas to other areas. These are matters that should not be swept away by the euphoria about peace.

While the new government has conceded some demands made by the LTTE and their mouthpiece, the Tamil National Alliance, the question is being asked about the concessions made by the LTTE other than their initial call for a cease-fire. Peace making is essentially a two-way process. The LTTE is demanding deproscription as a condition for talks although initially Prabakaran’s call was for unconditional talks. The LTTE and their fellow travellers know that the organisation was proscribed because of its terrorism and if it is to be deproscribed there must at least be a pledge made in the open to give up terrorism. Holding deproscription as a condition for negotiations is sheer blackmail.

Professor V. Suryanarayan, former Director, Centre for South Asian Studies, University of Madras, Chennai, referring to the LTTE demand for deproscription has pointed out that in India negotiations with militant organisations had taken place while they were banned. G. Parathasarthy, as the emissary of the Indian government had negotiated with Laldenga of the Mizo National front (MNF) while the MNF was a banned organisation. This is true also in Nagaland where Indian officials have held talks with the militant organisation in Bangkok and Amsterdam. Recently, Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee held discussions with leaders of the NCSN(IM), he says. Professor Suryanarayan’s advice to the Sri Lanka government is: ‘Although the ethnic crisis in Sri Lanka has its own unique features, it would be prudent on the part of Colombo to learn from experience of other countries that have faced threats to national security’.

The LTTE is trying its damnedest to have the proscriptions placed on them - now in six countries - lifted. Soon many countries will follow in accordance with the recently adopted UN resolutions on global terrorism. The noose is tightening round its neck and its one desperate move is to have it lifted. The first place to start would be Sri Lanka. Its request for India to host peace talks is another ploy to get the deproscription noose off their necks. But Indians learn from lessons of the past unlike us Sri Lankans who have a tendency to repeat mistakes. If Sri Lanka deproscribes the LTTE, we will be placing the noose around our own neck.

We certainly welcome the peace initiative of Prime Minister Wickremasinghe. But we should not go to the negotiating table throwing away our trump card.

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