What is unfolding on the peace front evokes memories of a bygone era. In the late 1980s, when India coerced the JRJ government into introducing the 13th Amendment, the JVP took school children out to stage protests. And we had small children shouting, `Pala Baba Apita Epa`? which roughly put into English means, `We don`t want green leaves (pala) baby (baba)?instead of the slogan the JVP had taught them to parrot, `Palath Sabha Apita Epa`?`We don`t want Provincial (palath) Councils (Sabha).` Poor children didn`t know what they were doing. The lure was the sweets given by the bearded aiyas in red shirts. We see a similar childish campaign again. It, however, is not by a group of misguided children but from a collective of grown up men and women who want the government to resume peace talks with the LTTE. `Saama Katha Patan Ganu!`, (Resume Peace Talks!), they are telling the government. Unlike the innocent children in the grip of the then JVP, these men and women know exactly what they are doing. And the lure? Kroner, pounds sterling, yens and dollars, and not toffees and chocolates!
Have they forgotten that it is the LTTE which unilaterally suspended talks under the UNF government and therefore the initiative for resuming talks should come from the LTTE? Or, is it that they are just doing what they are paid for?pressuring the government to grant a demand which the LTTE imposed as a condition for having further talks?the ISGA?
The LTTE agreed to the Oslo Declaration, which envisaged a solution within a federal framework. Shortly afterwards, it put the cart before the horse by demanding an interim arrangement (ISGA) before a final solution. It is like honeymoon before marriage! The Wickremesinghe government, in spite of all its servility to the LTTE, found the ISGA too much to stomach. But the UNP in the run up to the November 17 presidential election indicated willingness to consider some kind of administrative arrangement, which the government construed as its readiness to grant the ISGA. According to the peace lobby, but for the LTTE-instigated polls boycott, Ranil Wickremesinghe would have won. In other words, the LTTE engineered his defeat, as it was not interested in what the UNP offered.
The LTTE has proved beyond doubt that its ISGA demand is also a ploy to perpetuate the conflict to achieve its separatist goal. So, while the fact remains that war has to be averted and a negotiated settlement adopted, the question is whether the resuming of peace talks is going to serve any purpose with the LTTE remaining intransigent.
The LTTE is in a quandary. It is not in a position to make either war or peace. It may have expected President Rajapakse to thrust war upon it so that it could win back sympathy overseas and justify its terror. Its provocations have been in vain. If it goes for talks at this juncture, it will be under pressure to make compromises and eschew violence, both of which it cannot afford. It is only wishful thinking that the LTTE will settle for federalism and agree to dismantle its terror empire. It has crossed the point of no return in its terror war. Its friends in the garb of peace makers are all out to absolve it of the responsibility for the peace process being in suspended animation by blaming the government for not doing enough to kick start the peace talks.
The government for once has played its cards well by staying unprovoked and leaving the doors open for talks with the LTTE, which is now resorting to various dilatory tactics such as opposing the proposed venues for future talks. Some of the LTTE`s friends are of the view that Japan should be the venue for the first round of future talks and then they should be shifted to Norway. A former diplomat who visited us, while these comments were being written suggested?of course, with his tongue in his cheek?that Sri Lanka convert one of her islets, preferably Baththalangunduwa (off Mannar), into a permanent venue for talks. (That may not be too absurd an idea, given the Norwegian proposal that talks be held at the Katunayake Airport!)
The LTTE is fast becoming too embarrassing to its international allies because of the brutal violence it unleashes, unprovoked and if the government is wise it will tread cautiously on the path of peace, letting the Tigers stew in their own juice and without providing them with a casus belli.