Fatal Strategies of Failed Negotiators

by Durand Appuhamy

The government and the LTTE have had six expensive sessions of negotiations all over the world. What really happened at those sessions was not revealed to the people. At the end of each session, the world at large was told that the negotiations had been successful and many ‘breakthroughs’ on various issues had been achieved. The rhetoric and the sunshine stories on both sides were too good to be true. Alas, the truth had to come out some time, and it did, from the mouth of one of the negotiators. He said that the negotiations were a "waste of time". Now we know that those sessions of negotiations had all been fatuous non-events. They have not even been comic opera staged for our amusement. Therefore the verdict on the work of the government negotiators is that they have failed miserably in their task! If they have any sense of dignity and self-respect they should resign and abstain from taking any further part in this onerous task. But would they? No. Nevertheless, it is right that we should remind them of their duty.

The nation had all along being misinformed and misled by the negotiators in their paeans of praises after each session of negotiation, when in fact, all was not well. We were all suckered. Is this not a matter for resignation? Observe how Blair and Bush have been hauled over the coal by their respective representative bodies for fomenting the dodgy doctrine of Weapons of Mass Destruction to go to war and kill thousands of Iraq’s population. An alert opposition in parliament should be baying for the resignation of those ineffective and incompetent negotiators of GOSL. The Prime Minister behind this debacle should also be called to account. At Tokyo he acknowledged that it was a high-risk strategy. It has failed, therefore he must also accept the reprimand and penalty due.

The government’s strategy had all along been one of appeasement. The most important question of Rule of Law was ignored to the extent that the LTTE could set themselves up as the Rule of Law, and do as they please in any part of the land. This was fatal imprudence. The terrifying consequence was the impudence of LTTE to dispense with the law of the land and implement their own brand of tyranny on the people. Now every effort to exorcise them only serves to precipitate them. Each contumacy of the LTTE confirms and legitimates the one that preceded it.

In any case, the government should on its own bring in new minds and new mindset into its team. Clearly its strategy of appeasement had failed. Every concession has had the effect of ratcheting up the escalating demands to the current position of an Interim Administration outside the Constitution, that is, outside the pale of law and order, here and now applicable to every citizen in this country, notwithstanding the roguish regime in the badlands under LTTE. We have now the triumph of LTTE’s blackmail as a strategy. Blackmail is the worst kind of relationship, and acceptance of blackmail is the worst kind of dishonour. We have now no war, no peace, only a weak deterrence. Peripeteias of an anorexic negotiation without a vigorous strategy can no longer deliver peace. The Oslow declaration by the LTTE (on a Federal set-up), should have been pursued to the end and the LTTE should have been called to deliver on their democratic presences. Their defunct ideologies, bygone utopias, dead concepts and fossilized ideas cannot be allowed to pollute our mental and political space any longer. The LTTE should be called upon to practice what they preach. In this respect, whatever the hidden agenda of USA, their call on LTTE to prove their democratic credentials by their actions requires commendation.

Immediately following Oslow, the GOSL should have embarked on reinstating the Rule of Law and democratic Human Rights and then set about devising institutions to settle the conflict with the LTTE. Without first establishing the supremacy of the Rule of Law, a Constitution, however well formulated, will be subject to subversion and eventual disintegration. The same goes for the institution of Interim Administration as proposed by the Prime Minister in Tokyo. He tells us that this Interim Administration (IA) "should not be in conflict with the laws of Sri Lanka". Sad to say, that this is only a pious presumption on the part of the PM. He has failed to establish the acceptance of Rule of Law by the LTTE in the first instance. This is why we have today Eelam Courts, Eelam Police, Eelam Banks, Eelam Kachchery and Eelam Army, Navy and Air Force. They are all in conflict with the law of the land. Let me repeat, principles come first before institutions, and institutions should be based on firm principles of law and order.

The PM has accepted at Tokyo that he would "seek to involve the Opposition in the decision- making process wherever possible". This is the right approach, and the IA he has proposed, is a golden opportunity to involve the Opposition in decision-making. He should seek input from the PA on this venture. Mere consultation, where the Opposition’s views are promptly ignored after the consultation, is not enough. Without this input and involvement their cooperation could not be assured and should not be expected.

In Sri Lanka, anything interim eventually becomes permanent or semi-permanent. The merger of North and East was at first an interim measure. Today it is more or less permanent despite the many protestations by all sections of the people. Therefore any future IA should have attached to it an unmistakable timetable when it would cease to be interim and degrade to invisibility and illegality.

It has to be acknowledged that the Tokyo conference was a success for the UNF. It was also a success for the "International Community" in that they have now got a substantial handle on Sri Lankan affairs. In future it would be legitimate for them to dabble in our internal affairs under various excuses. Could they now force us to compromise on the sovereignty of the country? Has anyone thought of the debt burden on the community? These are cogent reasons why the Opposition should get completely involved so that those funds would be utilized to enhance economic growth of the country, which in turn, would help to pay off the debts. Could it be the case that the only growth would be the foreign bank balances of politicians, their cronies and that of the LTTE?

The need of the hour is a new strategy. It should start with a plan of at least the basic outline of a solution acceptable to both UNF and PA. A new negotiating team should be chosen from both the UNF and the PA. This unity in purpose would deny the opportunity for the LTTE to exploit the political division in the country and trot out excuses in order to drag on the peace process. It would also signal parliamentary support for the outcome. It would also be consonant with what the PM expressed in Tokyo. There should also be a think tank supporting the negotiators. They should be given the active task of sifting through the events and arguments and eliciting whatever that would contribute to a durable peace. Where necessary this think-tank should rifle through the dustbins of recent negotiations and look for resumption of peace-talks in the rubbish itself. If the terminator in Vanni has already decided on another course of action disastrous to all, then we expect the international community to send us the bunker-busting smart bombs, missiles and delivery systems to put a permanent end to the destruction of the country by the LTTE.