|Wednesday, 11 June 2003|
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Seizing the moment
The process of "Regaining Sri Lanka" could be described as having got off to a sound start in Tokyo with this country's aid donors pledging a substantial US$ 4 billion for our rebuilding effort.
The quantum of aid promised and the readiness with which it has been offered point to the sound backing Sri Lanka is at present receiving from the world community and the great confidence the latter reposes in it. In other words, the massive aid pledge is an unprecedented vote of confidence in Sri Lanka, on the part of the aid-giving community. Chief, of course, among the latter are Japan, the US and the EU.
There is no doubt that the unobtrusive but effective personal diplomacy of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe contributed substantially towards the success of this initial stage in the "Regaining Sri Lanka" process.
It should be a cause for deep satisfaction to the Government that they could swing world opinion in Sri Lanka's favour at a time when it was feared that the non-participation of the LTTE in the Tokyo conference would have torpedoed the aid-giving effort.
It should be realised, however, that this is only the beginning of the hazard-strewn road to peace and economic stability. Those reading the observations of the chief aid donors would have noticed the recurring emphasis they laid on the necessity to get the peace process back on track. Many were the appeals to the LTTE to get back to the negotiating table. Clearly, the aid promised would be concretely realised only in tandem with tangible progress made in the peace effort.
In other words, this is financial assistance with strings attached. Sri Lanka would need to provide proof that it is safely on the path to a negotiated settlement, if the promised donor funding is to be forthcoming.
These considerations should prompt both major parties in the peace process to carefully map out their future courses of action. As far as the Government is concerned, it is abundantly clear that it would want to go ahead with the negotiating process. However, it is only fair that it is realised that the conditions on the ground should be conducive to a return to the negotiating table on the part of the LTTE. For instance, the development process in the North-East should get on to a fast track if the LTTE is to realise that it would be worthwhile giving the negotiations another try.
In other words, they should be convinced that the negotiatory process is getting them somewhere. However, as we suggested yesterday, the very concept of development needs to be probed deeply to enable its benefits to be enjoyed by the people at first hand.
The LTTE, on the other hand, should realise the uniqueness of this moment. The present opportunity for making peace is unlikely to present itself in the future. If it cares for the Tamil people it would seize this opening with both hands to remain engaged in the negotiatory process. It would need to work in cooperation with the State for the initiation of positive change.
Produced by Lake House