Calling peace in a time of terror
PEACE: Sri Lanka is once again at crossroads. Peace is under threat
and concerns are mounting that the nation could be heading back to a
prolonged conflict. Everyone is familiar with the phrase "history
repeats itself and those that don't learn from it would be bound to
repeat it." Nowhere does this phrase apply more than to our present
It is seen that throughout last three decades, peace treaties were
made and then they were broken by the LTTE. As a result, Sri Lanka has
gone through two internal conflicts and has had to pay with not only
lives but also land as well.
One has only to look at the history of the conflicts elsewhere and
the final outcome to see that no peace treaty has ever worked until
violence completely ceases to exist. In order to accomplish this,
Prabhakaran must cut all of his ties to terrorist activities and take
control of his people and lead them to believe that there is a
democratic way to live with their Southern neighbours in peace.
But isn't it just wishful thinking? It certainly is. LTTE violence in
Sri Lanka has been going on for quite a long time and it'll continue to
do so in future too. The current outrages have acquired new bloody
dimensions because of the introduction of the atrocious claymore bombs.
LTTE rationale is quite obvious. These are the same people who have
blown up the Central Bank, killed one President of Sri Lanka and maimed
another, killed a Prime Minister of India, killed worshippers of Sri
Maha Bodhi, attacked Dalada Maligawa, killed thousands of people,
whether Sinhalese, Muslims or his own Tamils and in literally hundreds
of other acts of violence.
Four years ago, we thought that terror and mayhem would stop after
the signing of the Peace Accord. That has not happened. On the contrary,
it did not last for more than two years.
More and more people have been killed thereafter by violent attacks
even when the South was calling for peaceful means for a negotiated
settlement. It is now obvious to the common man that LTTE will not be
satisfied with a "reasonable" solution.
Prabhakaran needs his pound of flesh. For him, the presence of
Sinhalese and Muslims in the North and East is an unacceptable thorn -an
insult that must be avenged and eliminated. Regardless of what other
proposals may be put on the table by well-meaning (and sometimes not so
well-meaning) third parties, Sinhalese were living side by side with
Tamils and Muslims in the North and East in peace and co-prosperity.
Three decades ago LTTE simply made it not possible.
Yet, in spite of all these, we need peace today. We need it not only
for a safe and healthy future of our country, but possibly for its very
An understanding of the real peace we need is, therefore, of greatest
importance for the future of our country.
We must recognize that the tendency to define peace as the absence of
armed hostilities must be changed. Such a negative definition of peace
is actually a moral tragedy of a conflict. It amounts to an avoidance
and renunciation of the need for a deep transformation of the national
system that defeats all genuine social discourse. Peace is not merely a
political condition: even less is it a tense readiness for war.
All this amounts to the need for a new peace process - not the mere
resuscitation of the old one, which is now (at best) on life-support.
Sadly, at the current rate of the failure of compromise of LTTE's
political thinking, Sri Lanka may well be forced to go through a period
of conflict before a refashioned peace process becomes possible.
The Government has shown a degree of generosity that few other
countries can match. In the face of extreme provocation by the LTTE, the
Government has shown exemplary tolerance, patience, and restraint.
Unfortunately, LTTE has misread the generosity as a weakness. It has
adopted violence as an instrument of policy. Every time the Government
has tried for peace through dialogue, LTTE has responded by launching a
fresh violent offensive.
But the current incidents should not deter the Government in its
commitment to protect the national interests and preserve the national
unity. The State machinery has the means to do so.
No one can doubt that. While we share the grief of the loved ones of
those who lost their lives in the recent violent activities, we should
be doubly determined to have our minds focused to pursue peace. Even in
this period of calamity, a nation of a twenty million people cannot (and
should not) be dissuaded by violence, no matter how gruesome and
senseless they are.
We must not lose sight that those atrocities have been perpetrated at
the behest of and by those who neither believes in peaceful co-existence
nor in peaceful resolution of issues. This is the sad truth.