|Tuesday, 4 November 2003|
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Pursue peace with a sense of realism
Predictably, we have had mixed reactions in the country to the LTTE's proposals for a North-East Interim Administration, better known as an Interim Self Governing Authority for the North-East (ISGA).
The negative reactions to the proposals are, partly, a reflection of the lack of awareness among considerable sections in particularly Southern Sri Lanka, of the complexity of the issues at the heart of the conflict.
There are also those who have right along opposed peace with the LTTE and have seen war as the only answer to the ethnic issue. These sections too have responded negatively to the proposals besides those who have rejected them on grounds of political expediency.
Of these sets of negative reactions, it would be important to dwell awhile on the first - that is, the reaction of those sections which have recoiled from the proposals as a result of a relative lack of awareness of the complexity of the issues at hand.
It has always been our contention that the public needs to be enlightened by the State on the central issues in the conflict.
What we always needed and what is still very much in need is a sustained public education program on the finer dimensions of the ethnic issue. For instance, the Oslo Declaration made it known about an year ago, that the LTTE had opted for "internal self-determination" as an alternative to Eelam.
Now, the wider society cannot be faulted for not knowing the finer implications of this concept. It was up to the State and those progressive groups supportive of peace, to analyze this concept in full for the benefit of the public. If this was done, the public could have been expected to react with a greater degree of knowledge to the latest proposals. However, it is not late at all to launch these public awareness programs.
However, we are glad that the Government is not showing befuddlement at these new developments. We laud efforts at Ministerial level to launch an informal dialogue with the LTTE leadership and to push for an early resumption of the formal Govt. - LTTE negotiations. For, the fact remains that the new proposals are open to negotiation. In fact they may be considered the basis of future negotiations. So, the Government for its part is, fortunately, seeking to proactively promote the peace process.
However, the major parties to the conflict need to pursue peace with a strong sense of realism. The Government and other parties in the South need to be realistic enough to understand that the LTTE has been waging a war for the furtherance of the Tamil community's power aspirations. While the LTTE is on record as saying that it is seeking an alternative to Eelam within one country, it is unlikely to be satisfied with the current system of power devolution.
The LTTE, on the other hand, needs to realise that the Government cannot be seen as compromising the unity and territorial integrity of the State. If it is seen as doing this a compromise solution cannot be arrived at. Therefore, a sense of realism, on both sides, is essential for progress.
Produced by Lake House