Negotiations: No blackmail and bulldozing

Enough experience has been gained in the past two decades on negotiating with the LTTE but successive governments tempted by immediate political gains have lapsed into the well-known Sri Lankan political amnesia.

We can now see the LTTE as before attempting to blackmail the UPFA government with their intransigent demands. They have been successful in getting the government to recognise them as the sole representatives of the Tamils, surprisingly the SLFP and the JVP that had adopted extremely hardline postures against the LTTE, caved in. Now comes the second non-negotiable demand: The LTTE demand for an Interim Self-Governing Authority must be taken up first. President Kumaratunga’s request that negotiations for a permanent settlement of the north east issue be also be taken up, has been turned down by the LTTE.

The LTTE is using its psycho tactics to make the government cow down. Now with the ‘International Community’ all gaga about the talks re-commencing, President George Bush himself expressing hope for success of the talks, the LTTE is pressurising the government to accept their demand. The LTTE Shylockian demand is: Discuss the ISGA or no negotiations. This is a stupid and mulish attitude to take at the beginning of this ‘Peace Process’ which is expected to be protracted and much flexibility on the part of negotiators on both sides are required.

The UNF’s initial mistake was to withdraw the proscription of the LTTE as a terrorist organisation. With that the floodgates were opened and there were no stopping the terrorist demands. President Kumaratunga and the JVP leaders if there are as tough and macho as they posed off to be in pre election times, should firmly teach the terrorists the basic elements of negotiations, by refusing to cave in.

Why is the LTTE refusing to discuss settlement of the main problem alongside the setting up of an interim administration? A political neophyte can see through it all: They want to establish this interim administration which will be a penultimate step to a separate state, with the approval of the international community. If the negotiations fail, they have the infrastructure intact which would have been rubber-stamped by the western powers and Japan! And this penultimate stage for a separate state would have been built with the foreign assistance amounting to billions of dollars that have been already pledged! The government must be able to stand up to this blackmail by a terrorist group. No sovereign government can succumb to such blackmail or be bulldozed in such a manner.

The SLFP and the JVP are bound by the pledges given to the people on this very same issue. It is quite apparent that the UNF government of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe suffered defeat because they gave in to these terrorists demands, The SLFP and JVP exploited these mistakes to win Southern votes. Baron Munchausen Balasingham of the LTTE, ignoring the rigging and thuggery practised by his ‘liberators’, claims that the LTTE has received a mandate from the Tamil people. The SLFP and the JVP can truthfully say they have a mandate from the people of the South on this issue of the ISGA.

This newspaper on November 3 last year reported on the front page, JVP leaders castigating the UNF for agreeing to discuss the ISGA proposals. JVP, General Secretary Tilvin de Silva had said that it was not an interim agreement but one that would definitely lead to the division of the country. He had said that there was no point even in discussing the ISGA proposals, which did not even mention the de- commissioning of arms. What the LTTE had sought was not a federal state but a separate state in the island of Sri Lanka he had said.

More important Tilvin Silva had said that ‘the UNF’s spineless handling of the peace process gave the LTTE strength and that the LTTE would not have brazenly sought to take over the north east if the government did not allow the LTTE to take advantage of the Cease-fire Agreement. At this press conference addressed to by Tilvin Silva other JVP leaders such as Wimal Weerawansa, Nandana Gunatilleke Vijitha Herath had ridiculed the LTTE proposals to have election in this area under the ISGA after 5 years.

The SLFP in a full statement in The Island on November 5 declared that the LTTE proposals would lead to a future separate and sovereign state.

The LTTE must be firmly told that these proposals are not acceptable to the people and that they have already been rejected at the last general election. They must be told that alternate proposals have to be forwarded if there is to be any purpose in sitting down to negotiate.

And what of negotiations that took place in six foreign capitals which Munchausen of the LTTE kept hailing as great successes till the last meeting? What of the Berlin and Tokyo Declarations on federalism, pluralism, democracy and human rights on which the $4.5 billion were pledged. Because Prabakaran had tantrums about them (as his one time Eastern Commander Karuna revealed) are we to throw them all to the dustbin and discuss only this blue print for a fascist state?

We are all for peace talks but first the terrorists must be taught how and what to talk at peace talks.

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