An Indian perspective
On the current Peace Process

by A former Colombo Correspondent

You Lankans must hand it to them, the LTTE has not only outmaneuvered and outgunned you in the battlefield but they are also getting the better of you in their diplomacy; your intellectual negotiators seem to be putty in their hands. Or is this some huge pre-planned game?

To us it seems that the government is throwing away its trumps or its "Knights "and "Castles" without winning even a "pawn". It does appear that its is not a give and take exercise but a give and give exercise. If your government has decided to hand over the North and East to the LTTE then it should take the people into its confidence and tell them so instead of indulging, in a charade of talks and conferences. All that then needs to be done is to work out the parameters of power sharing.

What is happening today can only be understood in such a context. At the present time .the government has, through its acquiescence in an LTTE crafted MoU handed over vast areas into LTTE control. The government is going even further and seeking to legitimize their control. This creeping control without accountability is spreading into all areas of human activity, leaving thousands at the mercy of an organization that has not publicly renounced its fascist policies or tendencies. Is the government not responsible for the security of all its citizens or is the government surrendering its writ. The LTTE appears to be acquiring all the trappings of statehood with the assistance of the government. Surely does all this not seem your government’s deliberate policy?

Take the almost silent acquiescence in the establishment of LTTE control over territory, which has assumed status of a permanent administration. The establishment of Courts and the LTTE Police is surely a slap in the face of your government? Or has your country lost its self-respect? Your Minister for the Interior gets away with a ridiculous statement (which would have resulted in his having to resign if it had been said in India), that the LTTE Police stations are necessary to maintain law and order. Whose Law whose order? What an admission that the writ of the government does not run in the North and East of your country. Should not these courts and Police stations have been incorporated into your system? This is important if the government is to prevent the division of your country. Does the government not realize that with the establishment of these institutions their claim to a separate state becomes irrefutable? Do they not know that institutions create nations?

It does appear to us that the government is falling over itself to give into LTTE demands. This is not confined to the domestic scene. It is an undeniable fact that the LTTE has come to the negotiating table only because it had no options. September 11 was a nail in their coffin too, but the proscriptions of the LTTE in many countries; the freezing of their accounts and the closing of their offices has had a crippling effect of the terrorist organization. And what does your government do with this trump card? They are just throwing it away and they are said to be brilliant intellectuals.

Who was it from your side that decided that the LTTE join you to raise funds for the reconstruction effort? The concept of a partnership is being carried (perhaps deliberately) to absurd lengths, detrimental to your national interest to our minds. The people of your country should know, who it was that decided to accommodate the LTTE. Was it Minister Professor Peiris or the young and inexperienced, but said to be clever businessman — politician Moragoda? Did the Musalman Hakeem concur? I presume that the bureaucrat Gunathileka would not have had a say. Did Peiris and Moragoda not realize the significance of their action? The LTTE should of course be your partner in rebuilding the North in particular but taking them on this Roadshow is not in the interest of your country. Some of your politicians seem to so full of themselves that they are inebriated by their rhetoric and the exuberance of their verbosity. Their verbosity appears to have got the better of their judgement.

Your government has now equated the LTTE with it. No self-respecting country would have done this. But equally importantly, your government has given the LTTE an opportunity and means to have the proscription lifted without them either renouncing in simple words their aspirations to establish a separate state or to continue to use violence to attain their political goal. In recent times many political commentators in your country have called upon the LTTE to renounce terrorism publicly but these calls have fallen on deaf ears. Is it this governments policy to clothe the LTTE in respectability?

Did your ministers not consult the Indians when they invited the LTTE to join them to raise funds? Is it that they continue to remain uninterested as they already have enough on their plate? (the meeting with the Indian PM captured on camera appeared to show our PM asleep). Surely what was the need to invite the LTTE to join the government to raise funds internationally? Did some naive person think that having the LTTE on board would lend credibility to the exercise? Surely should this not have been a state to state exercise? Would the Norwegians or any other country have done it if they had an insurrection? What is wrong with your people?

The Indian government has quite rightly refused to sit at the same table with the LTTE despite heavy pressure being exerted. Perhaps it is at the request of your government that the US and the UK and member states of the EU are sending such a high powered teams who would sit at the same table with an organization, which they have proscribed for being a terrorist organization. They of course could not care less — they frankly have no real interest in your country. Armitage and Claire Short would of course be shaking hands with terrorists — that picture itself would be worth millions of dollars to the LTTE for their own fund raising campaign.

We have read with interest that your Minister Professor Peiris has invoked the Liam Fox Agreement in regard to keeping your opposition in Parliament and the President informed. We were under the impression that the Fox Agreement made for "consultations" and not briefing after the event. It is in a sense humorous to see the Minister who was the architect of the Peace Constitution of the former government now invoking the Liam Fox Agreement for not bringing in the PA into the Peace Process. The only reason to keep out the opposition would be that they could withdraw at some stage making out that the UNP was selling out the interests of the Sinhalese, with a view to making political capital from such withdrawal. Considering the level of mistrust prevailing this is not an impossibility. We can therefore understand the reason for the government not wishing to make your peace talks more inclusive, but there is no reason why there cannot be consultations on the Agenda and the substantive matters to be discussed at the talks, before each round of talks, to be followed by a briefing after the particular round of talks is concluded.

On the matter of Observers, should not the Indians and the Japanese be brought in as Observers? India has a permanent interest in forging a durable peace in this country and the Japanese have bee the main financial supporter of Lanka. Japan has volunteered to risk their reputation to sponsor the "Donor Conference" in Tokyo. Why should they not be Observers? Both countries have in fact an even bigger stake than Norway in your country. India and Japan sitting in would also help appease the Opposition in Lanka.

As for the other donor countries participating, is their passion in the fight against all forms of terrorism everywhere (Bush) waning? Have they got different measures and does violence against innocent civilians become terrorism only when it is directed at their interests? Perhaps the American Ambassador or the British High Commissioner could answer this. We are absolutely aghast at the thought that Armitage might in the near future be also shaking hands with Pakistani terrorists and sitting down with them to discuss matters affecting my country. These governments are not only setting a bad and dangerous precedent but also doing damage to their own credibility.

As stated earlier India is the only country that has a permanent interest in the stability of Lanka. The basis of the settlement of the ethnic problem could have consequences for India. Asymmetric devolution or loose Confederation here would be inimical to India’s interests for the "disease" could spread across the Palk Strait or across the proposed new bridge with catastrophic consequences for us. Furthermore the LTTE is acknowledged to be Fascist and intolerant. Its bloody record speaks for itself. India would not wish to see that intolerant totalitarian creed spread to Tamil Nadu and the rest of the South. Such a solution would not usher in a lasting peace either, as the hill country would be the next target of your separatists. One hears of Chadrasekaran MP and his rallying cry to the hill country Tamils as one travels through that part of your country.

Whilst power sharing and devolution is the only basis for a solution, an asymmetric Confederation can never be the answer to your problem. I am reliably informed that the late President Jayewardene too opposed asymmetric devolution. Under the 13th Amendment to your constitution he created nine Provincial Councils and gave them all the same powers. This government has decided to divide the country into five economic zones and that appears to be the logical answer to the question as to what should be the unit of devolution of political power. That would be a far safer re-imaging of the country than an asymmetric situation based on ethnicity. Those units could be called States of the Republic. There appears to be a certain allergy in this country to the use of the word "State" but we have States in India and we have no problem with that. The Central government co-exists with the State government.

We Indians are particularly concerned about the transfer of monopolistic power to an organization like the LTTE, which is patently fascist, communal, intolerant and militarized to the teeth. Conferring legitimacy on such an organisation will make it seem as if "nothing succeeds like excess", that unbridled violence will yield rich dividends and that the world will ultimately accept extremism however gross it may be. The LTTE, and not democratic movements, will be the role model in the South Asian region in which ethnic, caste and religious and regional groups are vigorously jockeying for power in a fluid and explosive political and economic situation.

We sometimes wonder as to whether politicians of today understand that most of them would be dead and gone under twenty five years from now — and that is not a long time, for twenty five years ago was 1978! But before they are gone the people will forget them, perhaps other than those who wrecked havoc on the peoples lives. Your President Premadasa seems to be more remembered for having arbitrarily expelled the IPKF that shed much Indian blood for the unity of your country. He is no more but at least twenty five thousand of your youth have died consequent to his one foolish action and the country faces the threat of breaking up. Our politicians never learn, they think of themselves as God’s gift to mankind. There are times when we pray that He should save us from them.

There are grave doubts about the LTTE’s intentions because the LTTE has been sending contradictory signals. Balasingham has stated in Thailand that "The LTTE is committed to entering the democratic mainstream" but their actions do not match their words. There appears to be a yawning chasm between their words and deeds. They have been smuggling arms into your country, with your Navy and ours looking the other way. They are opening new military training camps, indulging in massive recruitment, hostage taking, extortion, abductions, showing a particular insensitivity to other ethnic groups and above all the using school children to raid Army camps. Nevertheless everyone in your country and ours too accept that peace is urgently needed to alleviate the sufferings of the Tamil people in particular. The economic cost of the war is unacceptable. Everyone involved must work towards maintaining this peace. What the politicians of today should and could do is to lay the foundations for a just society where the people (not just the immediate families of politicians) lead a prosperous life. Where all the people of this country could live as equal citizens, in dignity, in security and in a truly peaceful and democratic environment. Your present problems are ephemeral and transient but the solutions you are attempting could mean misery and not peace in the years to come, just as the problems of today are the result of policies of the policies of 1956 and thereafter.

Let us hope your politicians will use this historic opportunity wisely, bearing in mind the volatile situation in your east, the nascent but emerging threat from the hills and last but least the dangerously developing situation in the South of your country, to ensure that the integrity of Lanka is safeguarded and not leave behind a failed state.