Confidence Deflating Measures

Confidence Building is a newly created academic discipline by the western academia although it has been an age-old practice in diplomacy and other forms of negotiations. The prospects of settlement of disputes are much better if the parties to the dispute are confident of themselves as well as trust one another. In Sri Lanka in recent times, confidence building has been touted by NGO activists and academics. It does seem that our politicians don’t seem to realise that it is a more than a one-way process.

Now, we are told it is time for Confidence Building Measures (CBMs) to be put in place here for the Ceasefire Agreement to work and for the success of the proposed peace talks, but only the LTTE seems to be benefiting from this confidence building

Mr. S.L Gunasekera of the Sinhala Jatika Sangamaya thinks that the CBMs are in place and are already working: Supreme confidence of the LTTE being built up. In a letter to The Island (published on February 27) he says that the deafening silence on the part of the government, while the LTTE engaged in extremely provocative acts such as forcible conscription of children, smuggling of armaments, extortion of money from civilians etc. during the ceasefire period followed by the signing of the Ceasefire Agreement have given the LTTE this degree of confidence.

The LTTE it appears is not only supremely confident, but is cocky. The latest report from Thailand (See page 1) says that the Thai authorities have seized an arms shipment of the LTTE. Thus, it appears that the terrorists are not giving two hoots about this so-called Ceasefire Agreement. What the Norwegian monitors will do or are expected to do is anybody’s guess.

Now, our President, Chandrika Kumaratunga, has injected a shot of adrenaline into the Tiger. Addressing a meeting of her party supporters at Wariyapola on February 27 (see the Island report of March 5 ), the president has said that the LTTE was very strong economically, and their economic power was more dangerous than their military power.

Earlier, Mr. Ranil Wickremasinghe had conceded that the LTTE had greater firepower than the Sri Lankan Navy did. The calibre of their guns was bigger than our biggest, he said.

What will all these comments and actions do to the confidence of the average Sri Lankan? What impact will they have on the morale of our armed forces? Is this the way to build confidence among the law-abiding people of this country?

Are we to believe the hogwash that has been dished to us by the pro-LTTE NGO lobby that this band of terrorists, that do not number over 5,000, cannot be defeated by our armed forces? Are we to succumb to their demands? Should we not examine the gross betrayals and corruption and stupidity of our armed forces and politicians that led to this deplorable state of affairs?

The Sri Lankan government - both the Prime Minister and the President - appear to be adopting a unique policy on negotiations - admitting that they are negotiating from a position of weakness, both militarily and politically, rather than from a position of strength!

There is a school of thought that says that no criticism should be made of the ceasefire and the so-called peace process. ‘Give peace a chance’, is their fervent prayer. For those who believe in miracles and the supernatural, such blind faith is justified. Peace does not fall out of heaven. Negotiations, on which the future of the nation hinges on, have to be based on logical reasoning and thinking.

Let it be realised that if the mood is that of terrorists brimming with confidence and the majority of the people distraught, demoralised and seething with anger, there can be no fruitful outcome to the negotiations. There can be no peace. The Indo-Lanka agreement with the UNP government, forced on the people, was rejected by the majority, is the best example.

The Tigers, it will be recalled, just two months ago had their tail between their legs and crying out for negotiations after western nations proscribed them as terrorists. Now, they are roaring and cock-a-hoop, flouting the provisions of the ceasefire agreement and laughing at the government security forces who have been forced to spike their guns. There are eerie recollections of a similar situation during the Premadasa ceasefire, when about 700 policemen surrendered to the LTTE on the orders of the president and were machine-gunned to death.

Already the so-called Memorandum of Understanding is being called the Memorandum of Misunderstandings or One that Passes All Understanding.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe did move in the right direction when he agreed to a parliamentary committee to monitor the ceasefire. But he should explain how this parliamentary committee could function alongside with the Norwegian monitors or whether it would be possible at all. Mr. Wickremasinghe assured parliament that the security forces will be on constant alert and asked the people to have trust in the Ceasefire Agreement.

For the people to have faith in the Ceasefire Agreement, they need concrete and tangible proof that the LTTE, too, is abiding by it or be made to abide by it with the help of the Norwegian monitors. The sincerity of the LTTE for peace cannot be reconciled with continuous smuggling of arms and conscription of children for war.

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