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Musings on paradigm shifts etc

The LTTE's collapse at the battlefront has resulted in a paradigm shift on the part of all those who once mistakenly thought the LTTE's participation was the be-all and end-all of peace processes.

The US and the UK are now asking Sri Lanka to discuss with non-LTTE Tamils. In response to our editorial, Hypocrisy wrapped in gobbledygook (on Feb. 06), US Ambassador Robert Blake and British High Commissioner Dr. Peter Hayes have reiterated the United States and United Kingdom do not advocate that the government of Sri Lanka negotiate with the LTTE. And they have extended 'support for discussions with non-LTTE Tamils, both inside and outside of Sri Lanka, on the elements of a political settlement to ensure lasting peace and reconciliation'.

The question is why on earth the Co-Chairs––the US and the UK are members of that collective of nations––initially backed the Norwegian-crafted peace process and twisted Sri Lanka's arm to negotiate with the LTTE which claimed to be the sole representative of the Tamil community. In pressing for talks between the government and the LTTE, they went to the extent of tying an aid package (4.5 billion US dollars) they pledged in Tokyo for Sri Lanka in 2003 to the progress to be made in that fragile peace process. Unfortunately, the LTTE took advantage of that particular condition to violate the CFA with impunity over 3,000 times. Prabhakaran knew the cash-strapped Sri Lankan government could not afford to lose that aid package and therefore would have no alternative but to bend over backwards to keep the peace process going in spite of truce violations and even threats to national security.

Now that the US and the UK have apparently written off the LTTE and are urging Sri Lanka to have discussions with non-LTTE Tamils, the Co-Chairs should honour their aid pledge to enable Sri Lanka to carry out reconstruction and rehabilitation programmes. They must take a leaf out of the book of the US, which is assisting in developing the Eastern Province so that 'terrorism will not take root in that region again'. People in the war-torn areas are badly in need of assistance, and there is no reason why the Co-Chairs should not release the promised funds urgently if their humanitarian concerns are genuine.

Who is a non-LTTE Tamil? Is it a Tamil who is not a member of the LTTE but subscribes to the LTTE's separatist project or is it a Tamil who is neither for the LTTE nor for the division of the country? A solution is never possible with the former as a party to future discussion. For, such intransigent elements will try to achieve Eelam by political means thus causing negotiations to come a cropper.

It is not only Prabhakaran and his combatants who have been striving for Eelam. There are many others such as the LTTE sympathisers both here and abroad who have been raising funds and providing knowhow, logistics and moral support for the Tigers; those who have fallen out with the LTTE but are supportive of its cause; those who are opposed to the LTTE's modus operandi but desire secession and international players such as some Tamil Nadu politicians, Erik Solheim, Bruce Fein et al.

The kneejerk reaction of those who sought to achieve Eelam through Prabhakaran's armed struggle has been to ditch him because of his failure. This they have done not out of their aversion to his violence or his goal but out of their utter disappointment. They put all their separatist eggs in Prabhakaran's terrorist basket seeking a shortcut to Eelam. Their hopes have been dashed.

With the ignominious defeat of the LTTE, the Plan A of the separatists has manifestly failed. They are now trying to put their Plan B into action. The TNA's response to the Co-Chairs' recent statement is a case in point. The TNA says there are two nations in this country––Sinhala and Tamil. Curiouser and curiouser! Has the TNA forgotten the Muslims, the Burghers, the Malays and other ethnic communities? Isn't the TNA discriminating against those peoples by refusing to recognise them too as 'nations'? If the Sinhalese and Tamils are ‘nations’, others must also be ‘nations’.

The TNA’s message is clear; the two ‘nations’ cannot exist in one country.

Thus, the Co-Chairs or the other members of the international community or Sri Lankan leaders must not make the mistake of considering the TNA members as non-LTTE Tamils. The TNA must be precluded from taking part in talks on how to eliminate the factors that led to the chronic discontent and the attendant consternation of minorities, which the LTTE exploited to nurture its barbaric terrorism.

A process of finding ways and means of putting the present conflict behind us and prevent ing the occurrence of uprisings in the future must be inclusive. The Muslims have been suffering immensely in silence all these years without even representation in any of the previous peace processes. They must be included as a stakeholder in future talks.

The government, for its part, must break free from the evil spell of the bankrupt racist political elements masquerading as patriots wrapping themselves in the flag. The JHU, the JVP etc., which are anachronisms in modern politics ought to be neutralised politically if ethnic polarisation is to be checked. The same goes for mono ethnic and mono religious outfits like the SLMC and the TULF. These political malformations that have resulted from the failure of the two main parties to do away with the ethno-religious glass ceiling which has prevented non-Sinhala and/or non-Buddhist leaders from reaching the topmost notches of government, inter alia, have put paid to the efforts made since Independence to bring about the much needed national integration and to create a Sri Lanka where people can live in peace and dignity, irrespective of their ethnicity and/or religion.

Defeating terrorism is, no doubt, half the battle in resolving the current conflict but there will remain much more to be done after the last nail is driven into the LTTE's coffin. That is a task for the moderate sections of all ethnic communities and not for the rabid elements of the lunatic fringe on either side of the so-called ethnic divide.

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