Peace Talks: Wanted negotiators not appeasers

The presentation of the LTTE proposals for an 'Interim Administration’ has been welcomed by political leaders and interested foreign parties not so much for the contents of the proposals but in the hope that it will lead to resumption of negotiations between the LTTE and the Sri Lanka government for the settlement of the North-East conflict.

It is hard to imagine that the 'erudite constitutional experts’ summoned by the LTTE to draft these proposals could have contributed to the savage, intemperate attack on the Sinhalese people in the preamble of the proposals. Did these ‘learned gentlemen’ever consider they were drafting proposals that were intended for their people to live in peace with the Sinhalese? The savage despicable attack on the Sinhalese while pretending that the LTTE were the epitome of political rectitude revealed the work of amateurs and delinquents. You don’t kick people in their teeth, spit on them and then call them to smoke the peace pipe. That hysterical outburst would have negated whatever goodwill the Sinhalese had towards the LTTE.

Yesterday, in our editorial we commented on many of the absurd proposals made for an ‘Interim Administration’ which in reality were proposals for laying the foundations for a separate state. S. L. Gunasekara, the President of the Sinhala Jatika Sangamaya exposed the pernicious and Machiavellian objectives of some of these seemingly innocuous proposals. In our editorial we made a very serious omission – the failure to point out that these proposals did not have a word regarding the de-commissioning of LTTE armaments, an absolutely essential requirement in a peaceful settlement of any such peace negotiations. The stalling of the peace process in Northern Ireland, it is well known, has been precisely on the issue of decommissioning of weapons. On the other hand the terrorists have lamented over the presence of the Army in the High security Zones and pleaded how essential it was for the sake of peace that they be moved out – only the gods will know where.

The peace makers are whipping euphoria and hysteria to support the LTTE and destroy any dissent expressed against these proposals. All relevant and scathing criticisms are being dismissed with the contention that these are ‘mere proposals’ and that they have to be negotiated. Whether they are proposals, demands or sheer blackmail are to be seen. But it is essential that the entire country – not only the government be prepared and involved – in the selection of negotiators.

Yesterday’s political developments may result in peace negotiations not taking place immediately but in whatever crisis this choice of negotiators should be considered a matter of life and death for this nation and cannot be put aside. Whatever happened in the six rounds of negotiations spread across almost eight months amidst bear- hugs, tree planting and proclamations of success , we do not know but these new proposals do not reflect what has been achieved.

The matter of selection of negotiators for Sri Lanka should not be left to the prime minister and the government in power alone. The opposition particularly from the SLFP and other minority parties too should be included if there is to be a durable settlement. Such a selection necessarily calls for a common strategy to be adopted by all parties concerned – a vital requirement that has not been achieved so far. But such a common strategy is absolutely essential even to the LTTE. Agreement with one party together with a minority party will not mean acceptance by the whole country.

This strategy will no doubt present great difficulties. No longer will it be possible to sweep contentious issues under the table hoping that some miracle, god or time will resolve the issue. If so called ‘experts’ and diplomats are required let them be made use of but the negotiators will have to be representatives of the people who will be accountable to the people. They cannot be people who can put airy-fairy theories, pull wool over the eyes of the people who only in the end will realise that their birth rights have been sold.

Today, there are far too many cooks in this peace soup. Notable are those ‘academics’ and NGO activists, most of whom have failed to enter our Sri Lankan Universities, qualified abroad and arrived here to head heavily funded NGOs who dance to the tune of their governments or sponsors. These people under the cover of ‘civil society’ do not represent the people – only a minuscule anglicised Colombo society. Our negotiators should be persons of the calibre who can tell these ‘elitists’ to get lost with their offers of free junkets and research funding.

If negotiations are to succeed we need politically responsible negotiators not appeasers.

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