|Monday, 01 December 2003|
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November was an eventful month in the political calendar. First came the LTTE proposals for an Interim self-Governing Authority for the Northeast.
In chronological order, it was followed by the President taking over three key ministries and the President - PM talks to identify common grounds for working together and to establish a National Reconstruction and Reconciliation Government (NRRG).
Some viewed the President's taking over of the Ministries as a rash act aimed at grabbing power. The LTTE considered it an immediate reaction to their proposals. Yet, later developments showed that it was motivated by greater national interests.
The proposal for the establishment of a GRRN was approved by wide sections of the people at different levels. As the President - PM talks progressed hopes were raised that at last our nation's leaders would rise above self and party in the greater interest of the country and its people.
However, these hopes seem to be too early. Now it is known that the President's proposal for a NRRG has not met with the Prime Minister's approval. It is a bit strange as it is the Prime Minister who informed the President that he was prepared to form a National Government soon after his election victory in 2001.
The proposal, however, did not meet with the President's approval as the Prime Minister wanted to implement it on his own terms. The President was reported to have set two conditions of her own then, viz., an end to the harassment of PA supporters by supporters of the ruling UNF and a regular briefing of the President on the development of the peace process.
Thus, it seems an opportunity had been missed in December 2001 due to political acrimony between the two rival political formations. Though one cannot find a rational explanation for the failure, one can understand pressures on both leaders that would have caused it in the emotionally charged post-election political climate.
Far more tragic and disheartening is the present outright rejection of the NRRG proposal by the Prime Minister. Undaunted, however, the President has initiated a new set of proposals for a political consensus on several key areas for a period of One year. It is hoped that the Prime Minister and the UNF would not throw away this one last opportunity for consensual politics at this critical juncture in the history of the country.
It is necessary that both parties recognize the nature of the dual mandate they received in 1999 and 2001.
As Minister Rauf Hakeem pointed out in Parliament last week each of these mandates does not supercede the other. Hence the imperative need for consensual politics.
The future of the country depends on the future of the peace process. No single party could take the peace process forward. Commitments by donors for economic aid also are conditional on the progress of the peace process. Abandoning co-habitation and consensual politics at this juncture is abandoning the country. It is impossible to believe that the people would give a two-thirds majority to any coalition even at a snap election, thus eliminating the need for consensual politics.
What is at stake is not the prestige and honour of a single individual or party. It is the country's future that is at stake. The sooner this is realised, especially by the leaders the better for the country.
A blissful breeze in South Asia
Last week India and Pakistan, the two south Asian giants came to a formal agreement to observe a ceasefire along the Line of Control and the Actual Ground Position Line in the Siachen Glacier region, thus signaling a significant positive development in relations between the two estranged neigbours.
Governments of both India and Pakistan should be congratulated for their constructive and pragmatic approach towards a rapprochement. It is to be noted that the Government of Pakistan has initiated measures to curb terrorism and has banned several militant organizations that were engaged in military operations from Pakistan soil against India. Though India had reservations regarding the same its response was positive.
Nothing could be more welcome news for South Asia in view of the forthcoming 12th SAARC Summit to be held in Islamabad in early January. In fact, the progress of SAARC has been long hampered by the deterioration in Indo-Pak relations. Compared to other regional cooperation bodies, SAARC has been limping and lagging behind with important initiatives like the South Asian Free Trade Arrangement unable to get off the ground.
In the context of globalization which is sweeping across the globe under the domination of international monopolies, regional integration and united action is the only means available to developing countries to secure just place in the emerging global order and ensure a level playing ground for all, both the developed and the developing nations.
How difficult this struggle was seen at the last WTO Summit in Cancun where the developed nations refused to remove subsidies to their farmers while binding developing nations to free trade, thus placing their farmers at a distinct disadvantage vis a vis their Western counterparts.
We hope the recent thaw in Indo-Pak relations would proceed towards a resolution of their outstanding problems. The forthcoming SAARC Summit could be made use of as another opportunity for both sides to move forward.
Produced by Lake House