Ball in the TNA's court
It would give all those
with the national interest at heart, the greatest satisfaction
to learn that the government - TNA talks are, generally
speaking, proceeding smoothly and that many a knotty problem
that bedeviled this relationship over the years is being
resolved to the satisfaction of both parties. We are happy at
this continual engagement and wish it all the success.
There was scepticism in some quarters that the state would
abandon the project of finding a political solution to our
conflict in consideration of the fact that the LTTE was crushed
and that no more problems to the Lankan polity would crop-up
from the terror group. Well, such scepticism could now be laid
to rest because the government - TNA talks indicate that the
search for a political solution is continuing.
This is astute thinking on the part of the Lankan state. The
LTTE was only an extremist group which emerged as a most
painful, unsettling and wasting symptom of the conflict. It was
not the disease itself but an ugly manifestation of it. It was
necessary to be rid of this obnoxious symptom that got in the
way of a peaceful resolution of the conflict, but being rid of
the symptom did not guarantee that we were done with the
'disease'. However, the state-TNA talks are the reassurance that
the causes for the 'disease' are now being remedied.
One cannot expect these ongoing talks to yield miraculous
results. The 'disease' is decades-old and a tremendous amount of
hard work would be required by both sides to see an end to the
conflict. However, as we see it, there is no alternative to
talks of this kind and we are glad that the discussion process
is forging ahead.
The Tamil side would need to realise that the generality of
the people of the North-East desire to live within a united and
unitary Sri Lanka, in peace and harmony with the rest of the
country's communities. They never wanted a fight with the state
and this would continue to be their position. The separatist
revolt against the state was really launched by a disgruntled
section of the Tamil community which took the unprecedented step
of escalating the revolt to the level of a bloody militancy and
now that these terrorists are out of the way the path has been
paved for a negotiated settlement of the conflict.
Nevertheless, the dignity and total well being of the Tamil
community must be ensured and this is a task for the government.
One may recall that the 'Mahinda Chinthana' promised a
home-grown, viable solution to the conflict and this must be
pursued in earnest. In this task it is quite inessential to
recall old, threadbare slogans and formulae as solutions. As
mentioned, the task at hand is to ensure the dignity and well
being of all and as long as these aims are achieved, there is
absolutely no need to bring back to the negotiating table the
tired, worn out ideas of the past.
However, concrete progress must be registered at these talks
and we are happy that some useful proposals are seeing the light
of day. One of these is to increase the number of Tamil recruits
to the state police force and we understand that the government
is making adequate provision for this.
Nothing could be more comforting than for a Tamil citizen to
be in a position to take any law and order and connected issues
to Tamil-speaking state personnel and an increase in the number
of Tamil police recruits could meet this need adequately.
Besides, such measures could go some distance in resolving the
issue of police powers under the 13th amendment.
Therefore, it is plain to see that some concrete progress is
being made in the direction of resolving some outstanding issues
in the conflict. However, as the saying goes, it takes two to
Tango and groups such as the TNA need to recognize this. This
cooperative attitude of the state should be adequately
reciprocated by the TNA and it should remember that it cannot
speak for the totality of the Tamil public. As the talks
proceed, they would need to be broadbased and the opinion of
other Tamil groups on the questions at issue would need to be
consulted too. Nevertheless, the solutions that emerge would
need to be put to other Tamil groups also, for their views.
President Mahinda Rajapaksa is on record that he wants peace
and communal harmony and it goes without saying that this is the
aim of the state in its talks with the TNA. But the TNA would
need to go the extra mile and even more to cooperate with the
The TNA should realize that a solution cannot be a reality
unless and until it responds in a cooperative spirit to the
state's overtures. This is crucial for settling the problems of
the Tamil community.
The need for such a cooperative spirit is underscored by the
TNA's attitude towards the Darusman Report. The TNA cannot
continue to have a fruitful discourse with the government, as
long as it sees some validity in the contents of the Report,
which do not have a basis in fact.
Rather, the TNA should approach the talks with an open and
impartial mind. Besides, it would need to speak and act
unitedly. Playing to any sort of sectional interest or 'gallery'
could jeopardize the talks. The ball, then, is in the TNA's