Editorial

Negotiations: Wanted Poker players not old world diplomats or academics

The LTTE is remarkably consistent when it comes to impossible demands. In their ‘proposals’ for an Interim Administration they have demanded almost all requirements for a separate state. Even the ever condescending Prof. G. L. Peiris has said that ‘disparities between the positions of the parties are evident’, conceding the differences even though this remark would go down as the best understatement in recent times.

Never mind the long preamble – Velupillai Prabakaran’s interpretation of contemporary Sri Lankan history. What is breath-taking is that while the Sri Lankan government, the people and the ‘international community’ awaited proposals for an Interim Administration for areas under LTTE control, these proposals are for an ‘Interim Self-Governing authority for the entire NorthEast region’ covering all the areas in the Northern and Eastern Provinces including those under government control. In one sweep he wants this administration with plenary (undisputed and uncontested powers) to cover a region extending from Mannar in the North Western Coast through the Northern and Eastern Provinces right down to the Amparai District in the South bordering the Wilpattu!

Apparently, the LTTE wants the Sri Lanka government, the people and the ‘international community’ to develop amnesia on the fact that all negotiations were based on the Memorandum of Understanding which Prof. Peiris and Prime Minister Wickremasinghe cites as the bulwark of the existing peace. This agreement refers to areas under LTTE control and areas under control of the government in the Northern and Eastern provinces but all that appears to be pass`E9 for these terrorists in their ‘peace making’ role.

This Interim Administration, under an absolute LTTE majority, will govern the amalgamated two provinces for five years and ‘if no final settlement has been reached at the expiry of five years, an independent Election Commission appointed by the Interim Administration will conduct free and fair elections in accordance with international democratic principles and standards under international observation’.

To those who have been observing the democratic principles in accordance with international standards of the LTTE, this is quite a huge bag of salt to swallow. We are assured that ‘The people of the NorthEast shall be accorded all rights as provided by under international human rights law........ There shall be an independent Human Rights Commission appointed under the IGSA (Interim Administration) etc.

Whatever happened to human rights in the areas under the control of the LTTE during the past 20 months? Even the records and statements of the biased Norwegian Monitors and those like the UNHCR , Red Cross and UNICEF belie the pious proclamations of the commitments of the LTTE to ‘democratic principles in accordance with international standards’. The plaintive cries of those little children being abducted in trailers of tractors by the LTTE as shown in photographs but are not heard by the rest of the world, is a damning indictment on the gullible believers of the LTTE as being committed to peace and a democratic organisation.

The Island on October 18 reproduced a quotation from CNN of a Jesuit priest Father Harry Miller who had been living in Batticaloa for over 50 years. ‘It is like an ogre that descends from the hills once a while and takes children way’, he told CNN.

For those who want to believe the LTTE, as opposed to sceptics like The Island, about LTTE’s motives these are questions to answer.

Mass hysteria has been developed by the state media in the eve of the LTTE’s announcement of their proposals against the Upali Group of Newspapers over the Pongu Tamil show in Colombo. We do not comment on the allegations that have been made by the outstanding stooges of governments in power – whatever the government may be – against our group of newspapers. About the Town Hall incident, the matter is under investigation. It will be recalled that during the height of the JVP insurrection, the Daily News editorially accused this group of newspapers of attacking their distribution vans and setting them on fire. Let there be investigations, particularly about those who put pen to paper and made these accusations and those responsible for it! The tragedy of Sri Lankan journalism is that scavengers are aplenty whose priority is garbage and seeking employment over truth.

The pundits and fellow travellers with the terrorists will tell us that the LTTE’s maximalist demands should only have been expected. That is quite obvious but the chances are that with our supine negotiators they are likely to get away selling parts of a fragmented nation. The LTTE has been clever enough in selling the story that Anton Balasingham has fallen out of favour with Prabakaran and is being sidelined to some of our ‘foreign correspondents’. This is garbage that is being dished out to our gullible. He has only been put on the shelf because he played out his role as a diplomat to the western world and our gullible negotiators and demonstrated how reasonable and pliable they were. That was round No 1. They wanted to change tracks and a hard-liner was required. Then Tamil Chelvam, ‘the Cobra’ as some western diplomats describe him – oscillation of the head and the perpetual smile – was brought in for the hard-line. And talks were suspended. Tamil Chelvam and other hard-liners are now to be negotiators if and when Balasingham will be taken off the shelf and brought in if required. This is something our Foreign Ministry thinkers, incapable of protecting our ayahs, or the gerontocrats of the Prime Minister’s officers are not capable of figuring out.

What Sri Lanka now needs are negotiators who are not hair-splitting academics or those trained in old world diplomacy but diplomats who can play poker in the negotiations.

There are preliminary breakthroughs to be made: Refusal to consider the LTTE as the sole representatives of Tamils; rejection of transferring the areas under LTTE control to the whole of the NorthEastern province and making it quite clear that the constitution cannot be by passed such as on the issue of Buddhism, if at all a decision is made under a new constitution.

The Prime Minister needs some poker players not old world diplomats, academics or philosophers..


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