Tuesday, 28 May 2002  
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Boost to peace effort

The news that the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission would now be extending its activities to the seas adjacent to Sri Lanka, should be welcome news for those who wish the country well and those who earnestly back the current peace effort. As is well known, some incidents in the recent past on Lanka's eastern seas have led to a round of allegations and counter-allegations between the main parties to the conflict.

For instance, some sections accused the LTTE of arms smuggling. The incidents also led to near confrontations between the Lankan security forces and the LTTE. All this impacted negatively on the peace process and proved ammunition for those intent on criticizing it. The incidents were ample proof in the eyes of some that the LTTE was reneging on some of the provisions in the ceasefire agreement.

By expanding its monitoring activities to the seas, the SLMM would be in a position to strengthen the peace process by checking on any activities which violate the terms of the ceasefire agreement. Fears raised by perceived LTTE violations of the agreement would also be calmed. Hopefully, this measure would also generate more support, locally in particular, for the peace effort.

In view of the sensitivity of the issue of arms smuggling and connected allegations, it is our belief that a stepped-up SLMM presence in the adjacent seas is essential. Besides its operations need to prove effective if the peace process is to be consolidated.

Whatever the detractors of the peace effort may say, we consider it obligatory to state that, on the whole, the peace process has developed satisfactorily. There have been, of course, some incidents, but these teething problems are only to be expected in a conflict which has increased in complexity over the years. We have said it before and we say it again that the path to peace is unlikely to prove smooth and trouble-free. Some setbacks and problems may arise now and then on account of the proportions to which the problem has grown.

However, it is up to all the principal parties concerned, including the facilitators, to continuously improve the peace process and eliminate any lapses which may occur in it. This is likely to be an on-going process. It calls for a constant state of vigilance on the part of all these parties to ensure the smooth development of the process. It is particularly important to foresee problems and take timely action to eliminate them, rather than linger passively until they snowball into serious crises.

It goes without saying that a closer consultation process needs to take hold among the main parties to the conflict and the SLMM. Meetings on the lines of the one which took place recently between Lankan Government officials and those of the LTTE in the Vanni, need to be held more frequently if we are to pursue a more trouble-free path to peace.

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