Friday, 14 November 2003  
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Persist with reconciliation talks

Although, predictably, there has been no dramatic, positive outcome from the President-Prime Minister first round of talks, the people are afforded the satisfaction that the dialogue process between these leaders is continuing.

Thus, the possibility exists of their differences being narrowed in the future, provided an earnest effort is made by them to place the national interest above short-term political considerations.

While it is beyond dispute that the President is empowered by the constitution to take under her purview Ministries or portfolios which she thinks could be best handled by her, in the national interest, an inability on the part of the Government to come to terms with this fact could jeopardise that very national interest which is being sought to be protected.

For, governmental instability and deadlock could be the prime consequences of such prolonged confrontation between the separate arms of the State. Ultimately, no useful purpose would be served by this state of affairs.

On the other hand, there is no gainsaying the fact that the government has received a mandate to rule the country - as the Prime Minister very often stresses - and that this need to be respected. The need of the hour is to reconcile these contrasting and conflicting approaches to the exercise of equally valid popular mandates. Perhaps, an enlightened, positive approach at the talks would enable the parties to the conflict to arrive at a mutually-satisfying solution within a cohabitational framework.

The country cannot, clearly, be allowed to drift in a state of uncertainty. In such an event, grave political instability and economic decline stare us in the face. A push for another general election too, wouldn't prove advisable simply because the current status quo wouldn't alter substantially even if another popular mandate is obtained by the Government. Besides, another general election would hurtle the country in the direction of violence and bloodshed.

Thus, there, doesn't seem to be an alternative to efforts to make the cohabitational arrangement between the President and the Prime Minister work effectively. We reiterate that there is many an opportunity in this grave standoff which could be seized for the betterment of all.

Of prime consideration for the Executive arm of the State should be the current peace process, among other priorities. Although the President's credentials as a champion of ethnic peace cannot be doubted, there is a danger of the current crisis being seized by the forces opposed to a just peace for a furthering of their agenda. These forces are cheering the current state of affairs, apparently for the wrong reason, whereas, the Government and the opposition see the need to perpetuate the current peace process.

It is with a view to resolving these contradictions that an amicable solution needs to be found to the conflict. It is vital that the enemies of peace do not see the current confrontation as an opportunity to advance their agenda.

The need is great for all peace loving sections of the State and civil society to work towards a common purpose.

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