|Thursday, 19 September 2002|
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Sentiment of vast value
The statement attributed to the LTTE's chief negotiator, Dr. Anton Balasingham, that the LTTE has no intention of resuming armed hostilities could be considered a measure of the trust which has been achieved thus far between the Government and the LTTE at the peace negotiations in Thailand. This observation is also proof that the LTTE intends consolidating the gains established by the ceasefire agreement for the foreseeable future, while further underwriting its principal clauses.
Those who have been intent on projecting the stereotypical image of the LTTE are likely to react cynically to this observation by Balasingham but the admission represents the reaching of another significant milepost on the journey to a lasting peace. The remark is further confirmation that the LTTE intends giving peace a chance.
It is important that the decision-makers of this country and the public view these developments without the attitudinal blinkers of the past. True, this is the fourth occasion on which peace is being given a try and according to some sections of opinion of the South, it was the LTTE which scuttled most of these attempts at peace - making. Finding out what really went wrong with those peace efforts is a task for objective historians but on this occasion the facts should be made to speak for themselves.
To begin with, the ceasefire which has brought an end to the hostilities and the bloodshed, has been in existence since mid-February and is continuing. Direct contact between the Government and the LTTE, which was established on and off over the past few months, has now culminated in substantive negotiations marked by an absence of acrimony. Besides, the negotiations are being conducted by senior Government ministers who are endowed with a considerable decision - making capability. In contrast, the 1994 peace effort, for instance, was left in the hands of persons from the government side, who had little or no political clout. This feature of the then talks, played a main role in crippling the peace process.
The peace effort, this time round should, therefore, prove to be of greater durability. We hope the positive elements in the negotiations would enhance mutual trust and confidence between the chief protagonists. That the LTTE has admitted that it doesn't intend to get back to war is proof that the Government side has inspired confidence in the LTTE negotiators and that bridges of trust have been built.
These developments, however, should not be taken as signs that the polity could now lull itself into a sense of complacency. Nor should they be a trigger for premature rejoicing. For, it could be months and even years before a "final solution" is sewn up.
However, the Southern public in particular could take heart over the fact that some headway has been made in efforts to integrate the LTTE into the democratic process. Instead of seeking to resolve their differences in the battle field, the LTTE is now opting to do so at the conference table. Instead of using violent coercion to meet its ends the LTTE is now deploying the tools of dialogue for the same purpose.
This is something all Sri Lankans could be proud of. We seem to have reached a significant milestone in democratic development. Rather than exclude and alienate disaffected groups from the democratic process, we have managed to bring them in. Once these groups increasingly discover that their problems could be resolved within the democratic framework they wouldn't feel compelled to leave it.
What the public is made to remember of the much maligned. "Thimpu Principles" are four or five weighty propositions which are construed by mischievous demagogues of the South as the "Sesame" to a separate state. In other words, the Thimpu document is quoted selectively. However, what is not usually mentioned by these sections is the final paragraph which expresses the wish of the authors to remain Sri Lankans, in close companionship with other communities.
It will be some time before the "core issues" are taken up by the present negotiators. Meanwhile, the consultative process should be sufficiently accommodative and effective enough to convince the LTTE that problems are best solved within a democratic framework.
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