Saturday, 22  February 2003  
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Landmark event in peace effort

We have been free of conflict and war over the past year, thanks to the current effort at resolving the National Question by peaceful means, in which the Govt. - LTTE Memorandum of Understanding is playing a principal role. Rightly, solemn, religious functions are expected to mark this the first anniversary of the launching of the ceasefire which paved the way for the continuing negotiatory process between the Government and the LTTE.

We have been continually resorting to the symbol of the half-filled glass of water, to assess the country's progress over the past few months and we are compelled to evoke this image once again in evaluating the gains and losses which have accrued to Sri Lanka since February last year when the MoU was signed. That Lanka has proceeded along a bumpy road to peace is fairly obvious but we would consider this country's glass of progress as half full rather than half empty.

In other words, the gains garnered by Lanka as a result of the present Government seeking to end the conflict by peaceful means, far outweigh the minuses which have been incurred. Some tasks may be open to the criticism of being mishandled in this peace context and much remains to be achieved no doubt but it is the most soulless of cynics who would argue that we are on a disastrous course. One has to be irredeemably nihilistic in outlook to take up the position that the peace process is a fruitless exercise. It is only those who are prejudiced in the extreme who would pronounce the peace effort to be profitless.

However, the facts need to be allowed to speak for themselves. One fact which could be rejoiced over is that the hostilities and the bloodletting have ceased. No more lives have been lost in the war since the shoring-up of the ceasefire. In other words, a grand opportunity offers itself for the rehumanization of Sri Lanka. This is one of the biggest gains from the ceasefire. During the war years, this country was likened to a "Killing Field." The cessation of hostilities and the search for a political settlement will enable Lanka to regain her lost humanity.

The coming to power of the present administration saw the fundamental approach to resolving the conflict change fully. In previous years, peace was sought through war. Today peace is being sought through peaceful means. As a result there is a greater degree of understanding between the once warring parties. If this approach was not adopted peace talks would never have progressed to any length of time because the constant taking of lives would have engendered a spirit of bitterness and hatred in the protagonists to the negotiations.

We have a long way ahead it is true, but the talks which have been held thus far have enabled the parties to overcome hurdles which were at one time considered too high to conquer. For instance, not only has the LTTE dropped the Eelam demand, it has also agreed to work towards a federal solution. All this was made possible because mutual hostilities and the resulting bad blood have ceased.

Clearly then, we are having at hand the greatest opportunity to work towards a negotiated settlement. Let's not ruin this priceless chance. However, the achievement of peace requires unity of purpose between the main parties. If the current process is to be taken to its logical conclusion, the terms of the MoU need to be strictly adhered to. It needs to be observed in both letter and spirit. If the terms of the MoU are violated by either party, the peace process will stand discredited. Everyone in that event will be a loser.

It also needs to be remembered by those opposing the peace effort that perceived and real deprivations led to the outbreak of conflict and war. Until the minorities' power aspirations are satisfied within an united Lanka, we cannot expect to have peace.

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