The core issues
The SLFP's Chief Campaign Coordinator
for the Presidential Election, Minister Mangala Samaraweera, could not
have done better than to put the record straight on some issues which
had figured prominently in the talks Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapakse
had held with the JVP and which were subjected to some serious
distortions by sections of the privately -owned media.
The overall impression sought to be conveyed by these sections was
that the Prime Minister and his party would be toeing an
ultra-nationalistic policy on the ethnic conflict, following talks with
the JVP. In this perspective, the Premier was seeking to pursue an
uncompromising and confrontational stance on some issues in the ethnic
conflict. For instance, the Ceasefire Agreement, we were given to
understand, was in jeopardy.
However, the factual position is that the Prime Minister, on assuming
the position of President, would "go the extra mile" to negotiate a just
peace with the LTTE. No less a person than Premier Rajapakse had
clarified recently that he would go to the extent of even negotiating
peace personally with the Tiger leader, in the event of his winning the
According to the clarification made by Minister Samaraweera, rather
than abandon the peace process, a future government headed by Rajapakse
would be arriving at a solution to our conflict in consultation with all
relevant parties, including the LTTE. Besides, the Ceasefire Agreement
would be sought to be revised, rather than shelved, in view of its
From the point of view of the silent or moral majority, favouring a
just peace, these are timely and vitally significant clarifications
which would keep their peace hopes very much alive. We are perfectly in
accord with the view of this moral majority that no debate on the future
of Sri Lanka is possible without featuring the need for pursuing the
peace process. In other words, it would be futile to envisage a
prosperous future for this country without also envisioning a peace
process which would be taken to its logical conclusion.
As we see it, these issues are central to any debate on the future of
Sri Lanka and the upcoming battle of ideas for the Presidency cannot be
an exception to this important rule. President Chandrika Bandaranaike
Kumaratunga, with the cogency which is typical of her, broached some of
them at the recent 54th anniversary commemoration of the SLFP. She could
be considered as having set the tone and direction for the SLFP's
Presidential campaign with her timely words.
In her speech, the President stressed the need for a settlement based
on power devolution and underscored the importance of perpetuating the
Ceasefire Agreement. The President also pointed to improved material
prospects the ceasefire had brought Sri Lanka.
All this does not mean that loopholes in the Ceasefire Agreement
should be ignored and LTTE recalcitrance tamely given in to. Not at all.
All that it means is that governing Sri Lanka would prove impossible if
the ethnic conflict is not resolved by peaceful means.
Now that the terms of the future Presidential campaign have been set
for the SLFP by its leadership, on the basis of the knowledge and wisdom
which have been acquired by it over the past decade or more, we hope
there would be no deviation from this vital, nation-building path.
One of the worst things that could happen to Sri Lanka would be for
some of those claiming to back the Government's political agenda to
side-track into a dangerously-divisive, landmine strewn,
ultra-nationalistic blind alley.