Peace Trapped

War or Peace? It is the question on the lips of the public as negotiations between the government and the LTTE remain suspended and the LTTE keeps rejecting the proposals made by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe. The appearance of armed troops on the streets of Colombo has fuelled speculation that the breakdown of the Ceasefire is imminent. Prime Minister Wickremasinghe however appears to be confident about the peace holding because he was scheduled to leave for London at the time these comments are being written.

The LTTE spokesman Anton Balasingham on Friday in rejecting the prime minister’s proposal for an Interim Administration has said: ‘We will insist on a radical overhaul of the entire peace process. We want a new, redefined agenda. We will discuss this matter with the Norwegian facilitators’.

Balasingham has also said that the Ranil Wickremasinghe administration is resistant to offer anything substantial in the form of an interim administration and instead is calling upon the LTTE to come up with a practical solution to draw up a mechanism. It was not prudent on the part of the LTTE to present a mechanism or structure for an interim administrative set up without any idea of the scope and extent to which the government could offer politico- administrative power as to the LTTE, he had added

In the context of the six rounds of talks held in capitals stretching from Bangkok to Oslo, it is natural to ask: What the hell were they talking all the while if the LTTE does not have a clue to what the government’s broad intentions were and what could be offered to them? And as for the call for a’ redefined agenda’, was Balasingham going through a grand act of deception with his warm embraces and lingering handshakes with our Chief Negotiator Prof.G.L. Peiris saying that the talks were proceeding very well?

Government negotiators and Colombo’s peace activists appeared to have been in cuckooland for almost 16 months till the LTTE leader after being left out of the Washington Conference developed apoplexy and suspended negotiations. They also announced their boycott of the Tokyo Conference thinking that they could wreck the parley and blackmail the foreign donors.

What made the LTTE that was waltzing well in step with the Wickremasinghe Administration to somersault at this juncture, is the four billion-dollar question.

It will be recalled that at the commencement of negotiations the Interim Administration was considered a key issue but the LTTE dropped the issue. The excuse given was that the LTTE was magnanimous enough to consider the plea of the government that an Interim Administration was a very sensitive issue which they did not want to be taken up at the initial stages. The fact of the matter however is that the LTTE found the de facto administration in the areas they controlled very much more convenient for their skulduggery than an official Interim Administration working within the constitution. Their illegal courts, police, armed services, forced conscription and extortion in the name of taxation were all possible in this de facto administration run in accordance with the law of the jungle!

Did this sudden need for the recognition of an Interim Administration outside the constitution arise when the issue of the billions of dollars coming in for reconstruction and rehabilitation was realised?

On the other hand the LTTE is now playing coy. This terror outfit is fighting shy to say what it wants! Balasingham says that it is not ‘prudent’ on the part of the LTTE to make suggestions without having any idea of what the government could offer!

So is this game to go on: For the government to make offers and the LTTE to refuse while pursuing its objectives such as killing off all those opposing them like the Deputy Leader of the EPRLF, Thambirajah Subathiran?

Even if the government gives into the demand of the LTTE on a ‘ radical overhaul of the entire peace process on a new redefined agenda’, it will have to be negotiated with the Sri Lanka government. So, why is the LTTE keeping away from the negotiating table?

The terrorists, it does appear, have fallen into a peace trap which they had contributed to create. Having internationalised the problem, invited foreign mediation they now find the foreign donors willing to help them but not in the creation of a fascist state under the dictatorship of the "sole representatives of the Tamils". The donors do not want Sri Lanka divided into two separate states. They want the people of the north and east-of all communities—- to live in peace under a democratic set up. That is the Peace trap that LTTE has fallen into. Will their response be to lash out against world opinion and go back to war? But can they wage a war that will be opposed by the world’s greatest powers?

We pointed out in our comments yesterday that the UNF government itself has set up its own Peace Trap having staked its political future in the LTTE’s commitment to peace. What happens to them, if the LTTE reneges?

President Kumaratunga and the PA too have been caught in their own Peace Trap. Norwegians were brought in to the Peace Process first by President Kumaratunga and she is committed neck deep in this Peace Process even though for her party consumption she lashes out against the Wickremasinghe Peace Process and even the Norwegians.

All three antagonists are caught in their own Peace Traps and the only way out seems to be to make a determined effort to make peace among themselves.

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