|Thursday, 28 February 2002|
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The Agreement and after
The Ceasefire Agreement between the Government and the LTTE is now in operation. Majority of the people are happy and feel relieved that the guns have fallen silent. They hope that it will be forever.
Meanwhile, President Chandrika Kumaratunga has openly voiced serious concerns over the manner the agreement was signed. She has lamented that sufficient time was not given to her as Head of State to study the draft. She has promised to make known her concerns after studying the Agreement.
The dispute seems to be more on procedure than on substantive clauses in the Agreement. As we have stressed earlier in this column, these are matters to be discussed and resolved through dialogue and consultation. There is no need to be panicky, as the LSSP has stated.
We also learn that the bulk of the Agreement is based on a draft worked out by the previous government in 2001. Besides, some of the clauses are the same as that found in the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement of 1995.
What is wanted now is to consolidate the ceasefire and to ensure the effective working of the Monitoring Mission.
It is necessary to build a Southern consensus on the issue. This includes a bi-partisan consensus between the two principal political formations, the UNF and the PA.
In this respect, the remarks attributed to President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga, that she could abrogate the Agreement with one letter to the Army Commander is most unfortunate.
This is not the time to bicker over powers entrusted to various arms of the state. What is necessary is political co-habitation by the President and the Cabinet to solve the burning problems of the masses.
As Prof. G. L. Peiris stressed sovereignty lies with the people. The people have given two verdicts. Firstly, they elected Madam Chandrika Bandaranaike as President.
Subsequently they gave a mandate to Mr. Ranil Wickremesinghe to form a UNF government. The Second mandate was specifically to settle the ethnic question through negotiations. It was despite adverse communal propaganda by the PA.
What matters at this juncture is the Second mandate for it is more recent. In a sense, the Second mandate has eroded the first to a certain extent.
To quote chapter and verse from the Constitution to embark on a path of confrontation with the people's mandate smells of acrimonious politics. What is required is statesmanship to steer the country out of the quagmire of war.
The Ceasefire Agreement is not an end in itself. It is only a prelude to talks about talks and substantive negotiations.
In the ensuing period, it is very necessary to build a conducive atmosphere for the talks to begin. Confidence building is a key factor in preparing the required atmosphere. Acrimonious politics will certainly pollute the atmosphere and dampen people's hopes for peace. It will adversely affect confidence building as well as erode the goodwill of the international community.
Whoever that engages in acrimonious politics or plays to the base instincts of the masses for a handful of local votes is doing a disservice to the country.
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