|Thursday, 5 June 2003|
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How the people could help out
One thing which continues to provide hope for the future is the substantial public backing for "peace by peaceful means" and we had fresh confirmation of this from the periodic public opinion survey conducted by Social Indicator, the social research unit of the Centre for Policy Alternatives.
According to the latter's latest survey, public support for a negotiated settlement of the ethnic conflict stands at an encouraging 86 percent, indicating that the majority of Lankans is continuing to be solidly behind the current peace endeavour.
While this figure is a veritable measure of the popular disfavour the LTTE is likely to incur by continuing to refrain from cooperating in the peace process, a support base of these proportions is a rich resource which ought to be used wisely by the State and other progressive forces desirous of taking Sri Lanka along the peace path. If China's former Communist leader, Mao Tse Tung's now hackneyed "fish and the sea" analogy is to be reapplied to the Lankan situation, the LTTE fish cannot expect to continue to swim freely in a sea of public opinion perceived to be in its favour, because it could now find itself to be at variance with the wishes of the Northern people. For, most of the Northern people too are likely to support the negotiatory process.
As could have been observed, the Government has gone the extra mile to re-engage the LTTE in the negotiatory process. While such efforts need to continue in consideration of the duty cast on the State to serve the national interest, it is obligatory on the part of pro-peace opinion in the North-East too to impress on the LTTE, their preference for the continuation of the peace process. In other words, civil society in the North-East would need to mobilize itself against moves to hamper the peace process. If, as the LTTE claims, it is sensitive to the needs of the people, it would pay heed to this fervent appeal of the people too. If it doesn't it would be only confirming the long-held belief in some quarters that it is a fascist organisation, merely intent an enforcing its diktat on the people.
The need, therefore, is great for a profound awakening of the public conscience, covering North, South, East and West. It is incumbent on everyone considering herself or himself a peace-maker, to stand up and be counted. Civic organisations everywhere need to channel the people's energies for beneficial, purposive change, lest the spoilers of peace wrest the initiative in moves to charter the future.
Another vital CPA statistic which the State needs to consider seriously is the finding that a majority of 65.8 percent of the public believes that the people are ill-informed about federalism. It is difficult to conceive how progress could be made in the peace effort if the people remain uneducated on issues as vital as the federal system of government.
A duty is cast on the State and its agencies to go the extra mile in efforts to keep the people informed and educated on the gut issues in the peace process.
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