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Asian Tribune is published by E-LANKA MEDIA(PVT)Ltd. Vol. 20 No. 108

Significant basis to restart peace talks in Sri Lanka

By Edward Theophilus Wanigasekera

It is obvious from the current news dominate in Sri Lanka and international news media that peace talks, which were at halt in Geneva due to dissatisfaction of conditions between Sri Lanka’s government and LTTE, will be possibly recommenced under the initiatives of the UK government. The main reason to halt peace talks was the mistrust between two parties and LTTE abortively attempted to gain unfair advantages through European mediators with a view to regrouping and acquiring sophisticated resources to attack Sri Lankan government forces, Sinhala and Muslim community. The serious failure of LTTE after signing the cease fire agreement was breaking away Karuna and LTTE’s inability to face two fronts, Sri Lanka’s defense force and Karuna’s group, which challenged LTTE and its affairs with Norway officials.

Many observers have already questioned if LTTE went to Geneva with a genuine intention to achieve progress in peace talks or to gain unfair advantages with a view to controlling Karuna’s group. It was clearly demonstrated that the cease fire agreement and the behavior of Norway officials as mediators were quite bias towards LTTE and also demonstrated that the behavior of Norway officials could not be won the confidence of majority population in Sri Lanka to gain mandate for their actions.

Did Norway honestly monitor cease fire agreement on good faith to achieve peace in Sri Lanka? This is a serious question to be answered before reestablishment of peace talks. It is publicly known fact that many European consultants, advisors and diplomats wrongly assumed that people in South Asia are stupid, who could be misled to achieve their aims. This is a wrong assumption and it is possible for us to express that Norway had put the finger into a volcano with such a negative attitude towards Sri Lanka and its population. However, Norway has realized that not only their assumption was wrong but also it created a great insult to them as international peace negotiators. The use of bribery, insignificant foreign aids or any other small advantages such as lunches, dinners and tours to key personnel in the negotiation process would not be successful in a country where the population is literate and well educated. In fact the situation that Norway faced in mediating for peace talks in Sri Lanka was paralleled to a past situation that when Dr W. Dahanayake contested an election with Mr. H.W.Amerasuriya, he told the people that “I will shake a money tree, you could pick the money but as a respect for shaking the tree, you should vote me”. Same type of situation was faced by Norway in Sri Lanka because they entertained selected people but nobody supported their hidden agenda.

This is a good example for future mediators because any attempts to deal with dishonest motives in the future peace talks will cause the death of child before birth. So the first condition for the future peace talks should be the honesty of mediators and, offering small pledges with dishonest intentions will not work, when an issue that impacts on the future of a nation is negotiating. The past experience in Sri Lanka after signing the cease fire agreement was not strange to Norway government or the international community. Certain administrators in Norway government have publicly expressed views that they will be supported to a separate state for Tamils, despite the wish of majority population in Sri Lanka and India. The statements made by former LTTE strongman in the East, Karuna Amman disclosed illegal, undiplomatic and disgusting dealings between Norway officials and LTTE. What kind of advantages was honestly expected by Norway officials through sidelining to LTTE was a massive secret involved in the peace process. It is also apparent that unexpected sidelines and possibly hidden agenda of Norway officials in the peace process have contributed to unsuccessfulness of the peace process.

If UK and European Union or any other country wants to restart the peace process, the second significant factor is that mediator must clearly understand the issue and the root causes for the ethnic problem in Sri Lanka from its history. The manipulations of certain so called Tamil academics or the propaganda machine of Tamil Diaspora are not factual to consider when examines historical evidence for such manipulations.

Tamil people have spread all over the world and the majority of Tamil Diaspora is not born in Sri Lanka. According to international law, no country is responsible for people who were not born or citizens in that country, although they are ethnically similar to the citizens of the country. The truth about Tamil Diaspora is that less than half a million of Tamil Diaspora were born in Sri Lanka and 60% of that population has obtained citizenships in other countries giving up the citizenship of Sri Lanka. Tamil Diaspora may be so many millions and most of them were generated from other countries such as India, Malaysia, Kenya, Uganda etc. Therefore, Sri Lankan government or Sinhala population has no responsibility towards Tamil Diaspora and the Sri Lankan government has never refused to accept Tamil Diaspora who were born and have current citizenship in Sri Lanka.

According to current estimates, the actual Tamil population living in North and East under the LTTE administration is less than 200000. The majority of Tamils in Sri Lanka are living under the government administration sharing the brotherhood with Sinhalese and Muslims. When peace talks began with the mediation of Norway, this truth was not understood or considered by Norway officials and it was appeared that Norway officials attempted to con Sinhala majority by supporting the terrorist rules and undemocratic principles of LTTE leaders, in spite of democratic values and social democratic principles of European Union. Therefore, the success of next round of peace talks will be dependent on the comprehensive understanding of the issue and the geopolitical interest of India by mediators.

The conflict between Sinhalese and Tamils began more than a millennium ago. It has a long history like the conflict between Arabs and Israelis. According to historical evidence, South Indians (Soli, Pandi and Kerala) embarked to Sri Lanka as invaders and when Tamil invaders dominated in the administration of Sri Lanka, they have committed so many atrocious acts against Sinhala population. Historical information provides evidence to make an assessment that except King Elara, all other Tamil rulers in Sri Lanka were either brutal murderous or destroyers of Sinhala culture and civilization like the situation what Prabhakaran is doing now in Sri Lanka.

However, the behaviors of Sinhala rulers were quite different and King Parakrama Bahu the great highly respected to South Indian Culture and Values, and constructed Hindu temples in Polonnaruwa. King Dutugemunu established the highest respect for Elara after his death and during the Kandian Kingdom, Sinhala people accepted Tamil kings as their leaders when Tamils prince accepted Sinhala culture and religion. During the King Gajaba, a large sum of South Indians were brought to Sri Lanka and were settled in costal areas, where they were gradually converted or absorbed into Sinhala community.

There are plenty of inter marriages between Sinhalese and Tamils, many Sinhala people visits Hindu temples. Despite these cultural and other ties, some misguided politicians such as Chelvenayagam, Ponnambalam, Sundaralingam, Rajaratne, Ciril Matthew and many others contributed to the issue. Prabhakaran and others were guided by Maxist ideologies during the cold war have taken weapons and we must admit that misguided politics of UNP and SLFP also contributed to the problem. The problem became complex due the involvement of religious parties and opportunist.

The issue needs to be considered beyond the political, religious or any other differences. The experience in recent past has convinced Sinhala population as well as Tamils that no political advantages in long run could be gained by politicizing the issue. If religious parties and politicians get away from the attempt to solve the problem, it would be valuable than complicating the problem.

The current differences between Sinhalese and Tamils have gone to a considerable distance and the past behavior of LTTE in the name of peace talks was not forgotten by Sinhala people as LTTE always used peace talk as a way to regrouping against Sri Lanka’s defence force or to illegally collect arms. In this situation, it is essential to rebuild the trust between the LTTE and Sri Lanka’s government.

Therefore, LTTE should essentially demonstrate that they respect human values, democratic principles and rules and use legitimate way of living. Since the establishment of LTTE, it has been committing brutal acts and crimes against humanity. They have already demonstrated to the world that their aim is to achieve a separate state against the wish of majority population by destroying whoever, person irrespectively Sinhala, Tamil or Muslim, if the view of them is against the LTTE policies. More than a million of people from the North and East migrated to the South of Sri Lanka and other countries without an ability to cope with LTTE threats. Under the ethnic cleansing, they eliminated thousands of Sinhala and Muslim peoples from the North and East. This type of behavior is unacceptable and people who have full faith on democratic value and rights would not tolerate the brutal policies and actions of LTTE. To reconcile the differences between Tamils and Sinhalese, it is essential that LTTE should allow Sri Lanka’s government to establish democratic rules, values and equity principles in the North and East in Sri Lanka.

As citizens in Sri Lanka, everybody have a right to peaceful life, do business or engage in employments anywhere in the country. No community in the country could rule that a particular area of the country is owned by only that community and others are not allowed to purchase properties, do business and engage in employments.

Such rules are not only undemocratic but also unacceptable to Sinhala community. Sri Lanka is not for a particular community but it is for all communities in the country, where all citizens have equal right for basic needs. When there were only Sinhala people in the Country, it was called “Sinhala Deshaya” and as a result of integrating different communities, it was become Sri Lanka, where people are against the hedge monism of a particular community.

The other significant factor in relation to the recommencing peace talks is that there is no equal status for Sri Lanka’s government and LTTE as political institutions in the negotiating process because LTTE is not a democratically elected and legitimate organization in the institutional structure of the country. Sri Lanka’s government is a legitimate and duly elected government by majority of people in the country.

The total membership of LTTE in the country is less than 1% of the population and in such a situation, although the mediator could treat government representatives and LTTE representatives is equal as human beings at the table, there shouldn’t be a room to give equal status to Sri Lanka’s government and LTTE as political institutions in the country. Mediators should clearly understand this issue in spite of the manipulation of Norway officials that Sri Lanka’s government and LTTE are political institutions with equal constitutional rights and power.

There is no difficulty in sharing power and delegating authority similar to India in a unitary framework in Sri Lanka. Under the Indian constitution, Loksabha is the supreme authority in political administration and it has full power to do anything except changing a man to woman or woman to a man as Harold J.Laski express in his Grammar of Politics. No provincial government could exercise power over the Loksaba, which is the central authority to determine the power and functional area of the provincial governments. In the same way, the central government in Sri Lanka could delegate the authority and functional tasks to provinces or district councils and the regional authorities could not go beyond the central government and perform functions relating to the central government. I f such things happen; the central government has the authority to takeover the power of provincial governments. In India, central government took over power dismissing provincial government of Tamil Nadu several times however, allowing provinces to merge may not be a wise idea as it gradually supports to divisions.

It appears that there is a misunderstanding among the Sinhalese, Tamils and Muslims on the delegation of authority or power. Many Tamils living in central and south think that there is no matter in which way delegate the power because they will gain nothing through the delegation of power. People, who work hard and earn good revenue, will enjoy better life under the centralized power or delegated power.

Edward Theophilus Wanigasekera, Head of Department, Business Studies, Home Economics, Design & Technology and technical Vocational Education at the University of Goroka in Papua New Guinea.

- Asian Tribune -

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