|Thursday, 25 September 2003|
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Creating and cashing-in on scares
If at all anything has been proved by the recently - collapsed PA-JVP common front talks, it is the fact that a wide consensus exists in the country for power devolution as a means of resolving the ethnic conflict.
From what could be gathered, apart from the JVP demanding some four key portfolios in the event of a PA-JVP government coming into existence, the two sides had failed to reach agreement on considering devolution as an answer to the conflict. While the PA had, apparently, said "yes" to devolution, the JVP had said "no".
In consideration of this disclosure, the troubled talks couldn't be said to have been in vain. At least the country knows now that the major parties of the South see devolution as an important condition for resolving the crisis.
While the UNF, has, of course, made plain its thinking by seeking to bring peace by peaceful means, with substantial power devolution being endorsed by it as a cornerstone of its peace-building strategy, the PA's recent talks with the JVP on a common front, tended to cause some understandable confusion in the minds of the public on its stance on the ethnic issue. While the draft 2000 constitution bore eloquent testimony to the PA's endorsement of power devolution, its alliance - building efforts with the JVP had the public guessing on whether its position on devolution was on the verge of being compromised to accommodate the JVP. The crumbling of the PA-JVP talks is proof that the PA has not changed its stance on devolution.
Nevertheless, the PA has chosen to squabble with the Government on what it sees as limitations and shortcomings in the current peace effort, with the obvious intention of placating the hardliners of the South, while looking warily over its shoulders at the minority communities who should be backing the present peace process, although with some reservations in some quarters. The PA's latest populist tactic is to raise a security alarm over what it terms are unauthorized LTTE military camps and structures which it claims have sprung-up in Trincomalee.
Such shrill alarms are likely to be sounded by the PA in the future too with increasing stridency in the hope of capturing popular support in the South.
However, given the PA's support for devolution, such tactics smack of attempts to run with the hare and hunt with the hound. Ideally, these contradictions should be seized by the UNF and exposed as desperate, power-capturing manoeuvres.
While we feel the public good will be served immensely if the JVP is allowed to drift into the political wilderness with its scare stories of imperilled states and unprotected territories, all political parties which claim to adhere to principled politics should see the virtues of offering constructive support to the current peace effort.
This is clearly not the time to play "pandu" with the ethnic issue. This was more or less what happened over the past decades since 1948.
Chauvinism will today have few takers on account of the changed popular mindset which the peace process has brought about. National survival crucially depends on united thinking and action.
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