|Monday, 21 January 2002|
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A thorny path
As our columns in recent days showed there is growing euphoria at the prospect of peace in the near future.
People living in both sides of the ethnic divide feel a sense of elation as security barriers are withdrawn and goods continue to flow freely into Tiger held territory in the Vanni and elsewhere.
A sense of normalcy has returned in the war zone with the guns fallen silent consequent to the cessation of hostilities by the LTTE and the Government.
On the economic front too there is fresh activity with the trade chambers visiting Jaffna and arrangements being made for two-way transportation of goods.
Both parties in the conflict must take into account this growing desire for peace. The political leadership of all communities must respect the popular wish and try to work out a negotiated settlement.
The path to peace is not easy. It is arduous and thorny as the Prime Minister stressed in his New Year Message. In military parlance, it could even be described as a heavily mined causeway.
The peace process is likely to encounter various obstacles and pitfalls. That is why the services of Norwegian facilitation become indispensable.
It is the task of the facilitator to iron out differences, to look for common denominators and coincidence of interests among the parties to this seemingly intractable conflict.
It is understood that the Government and the LTTE are working towards a Memorandum of Understanding for the institution of a permanent ceasefire of a longer duration.
The request by the LTTE for its de-proscription came as the parties were fine-tuning the MoU.
The reason given for the request is the desire of the LTTE to seek legitimacy as a participant in the negotiation process. The government will have to consider this request carefully as it has to address both the concerns for legitimacy expressed by the LTTE as well as the concerns of the Government's own constituency.
Such requests are not new to the negotiating processes. There are enough precedents in international experience where such requests have been dealt with in a manner that would address the concerns of all parties.
On principle, both parties have expressed their desire to enter negotiations without pre-conditions. Even, Thamil Chelvam, LTTE's political Wing leader has underlined that the call for de-proscription is a request and not a demand.
Negotiations involve compromises or give-and-take policies. What is essential is to weigh each step in relation to the process as a whole, to see whether it would help to carry the peace process forward or lay the groundwork for a future rupture.
What is important also is to take into confidence one's own constituency by either side.
In our lead story today, the US Ambassador in Sri Lanka has specifically addressed some of these concerns. Responding to a question about the effect in US of a possible de-proscription of the LTTE in Sri Lanka, the Ambassador has shown how the two issues are de-linked. The US would use its own yardstick and would not be guided by any action taken by the Sri Lankan Government.
It should be recalled that both the US and India proscribed the LTTE long before Sri Lanka did. They did it for their own reasons and not in response to any request from Sri Lanka.
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