Topic started by 7098 (@ ezp2.library.uq.edu.au) on Mon Jun 24 23:07:11 .
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Are Tigers denying peace to Tamils?
By Shakuntala Perera
From ensuring the security of a nation, to appeasing the rebels, the international community and a Southern political base, the task of the Premier is far from enviable. Having been pushed far beyond was promised initially, he no doubt has the Herculean task of being both facilitator and maker of peace.
With the LTTE backtracking on their word and preferring to reap the larger benefits for its existence over that of a country at peace, the government has necessarily to bear full responsibility for every one of its steps.
It has almost come to a point of the position of the rebels being the enviable ones as their role in meeting their share of the cease-fire agreement seems far responsible.
It's almost as if the Sri Lankan government has taken full responsibility for the conflict. In fact it wouldn't shock the moderate minded, if the government went one last step forward in accepting the LTTE claim of a separate nation as justifiable.
Unfortunately the real victim of the entire exercise is once again going to be the innocent civilians, displaced, robbed of their education, their employment and the very right to a peaceful life. Thousands we watched with teary eyes packing their bags and rushing to their lands in the North and the East, in the anticipation of tilling their lands once more.
The thousands who told their children that life was going to be all right after all. Sadly the LTTE doesn't seem to have made up their minds on allowing these people a peaceful existence.
By announcing Tuesday, that there was a greater likelihood of the talks put off beyond August 25, the LTTE possibly broke the last hope left alive in the hearts of millions. Millions that included those listed as internally displaced and those who had made foreign countries their temporary home.
The LTTE had cited what they claim is the government's failure in complying satisfactorily with the provisions of the cease-fire agreement.
They had asked for complete compliance with the February agreement before they can release an exact date for talks. The dates for talks meanwhile, has continued to be postponed from mid June. The LTTE has continued to peddle various reasons why the talks could not take place. They presently insist that the government withdraw all its troops from schools and other places of religious worship.
Tamil United Liberation Front MP Joseph Pararajasingham on Thursday endorsed the fact that the LTTE could not move ahead with the talks, until the provisions of the cease-fire agreement were met and honoured to the last letter.
"The Prime Minister gave orders to the armed forces and now they must keep to the deadlines," he had maintained.
Hence, it was a visibly very discontented senior Cabinet Minister that came before the press on Thursday to defend the sad position of the government. Cabinet spokesman Prof. G. L. Peiris clearly found it a difficult task to appear unmoved by the LTTE statement on a further delay in talks.
Doing his utmost to cover up the obvious inability of the government to express its real sentiments, the Minister resorted to find fault with the scribes' "obsession" with dates! He was of the opinion that it was "quite immature" to be so obsessed, claiming dates were far from their concerns.
He maintained that it was more important to get the agenda in place and have the conflict over the interim administration and the core issues, than get the "show on the road". The Minister also said that the government was placing more concentration on anticipating the hurdles on the way and dealing with them than wasting time over them when the peace talks begin.
In a sense the attempt of the Minister was to justify the LTTE move to delay talks, as a possible face-saving measure. He however admitted that there were "obviously differences but nothing so bad" the two parties could not meet.
The Minister was also quick to deny charges that the peace talks were in the "doldrums". He blamed the journalists for its unproductive "highlighting" of issues that had not worked out, instead of appreciating the more "tangible" benefits of the peace process.
Indeed the tangible benefits of the peace process are noteworthy. But if the process was going to be concentrated purely on allowing the LTTE time and energy to rise from the ashes of a world- wide war against terror, then it has failed in reaping the desired result. Certainly the fact that there are no more deaths being counted in the defence lines, on either side, and that there is freedom of movement after a long pause is positive. But with a process that fails to move beyond that position, the public discontent is natural. And the government has to be mature enough itself, to accept that this disenchantment cannot be denied, for a people that have been forced to restrict a greater part of their lives.
If Prof. Peiris thought dangling the virtual success carrot before the public, was sufficient to fool them otherwise, he was mistaken.
No doubt last week's meeting between the government representative Bernard Goonathilake and LTTE's Thamil Chelvam is significant to the process. But with the LTTE announcing over a month and a half delay in the talks, merely days after that meeting took place, the government can afford to take little credit.
Despite the government choosing to reveal little about what actually took place at the discussion, it is all too clear that it could have not been a great success. The meeting between the Premier and the representatives of the Tamil National Alliance could also have not been to the favour of the government. Otherwise the Cabinet spokesman would well have chosen the opportunity to reveal more. But by restricting information to the mere fact that a meeting took place, is another way of admitting to a near-failed discussion.
These failures were thrown more light upon by Thursday evening's statement by the US Ambassador that it was less certain about the commitment of the LTTE to a peace deal than the government.
He had in fact appreciated the genuine efforts undertaken by the Premier and the President in achieving a viable solution to the conflict.
"I know that the President and the Prime Minister are committed to peace. But I have less certainty about the Tigers. I don't know what their intentions are," he had said.
He has also noted the genuine efforts undertaken by successive governments of the country, of the past six years, to do a peace deal with the LTTE, and some way "devolve power in an acceptable manner".
He had reminded both sides that the war could not be won by either party and called upon the rebels once more to distance itself from terrorism. Herein possibly lies the core issue to be dealt with at this juncture. How willing are the LTTE to lay down arms for good and move along a more politically acceptable line towards achieving their demands?
The underlying notion is no doubt their apparent reluctance to come to the democratic process, and possibly be accountable for the atrocities of the past. But with a process that is willing allow forgiveness, these are hardly the excuses befitting the image built around the Tiger supremo Prabhakaran and one of the world's deadliest terrorist organizations. Time will only tell if he will do justice to his image and prove himself a bigger man than what he's making himself out to be at this moment of history.