Wednesday, 5 May 2004  
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Mihintalava - The Birthplace of Sri Lankan Buddhist Civilization

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Basics in place for talks

The news that the LTTE is prepared to resume the peace process will undoubtedly be well received by the majority of the people. Our lead story yesterday quoted LTTE political wing chief, S. P. Thamilselvam as saying that the LTTE was prepared to go ahead with the negotiatory process on the "same principles and atmosphere" as it did with the previous government.

On the other hand, Norwegian peace envoy Eric Solheim had informed the LTTE political wing chief of President Kumaratunga's firm commitment to the peace process and of her willingness to uphold the ceasefire.

Thus, the conditions are just right for kickstarting the peace process and we urge the relevant parties to explore the possibility of re-launching the talks early. As mentioned by us in this commentary on many an occasion, the people voted strongly for a re-launching of the peace process under the UPFA Government, because the need to forge ahead with the negotiatory process figured very prominently in the UPFA election manifesto.

This consensus points to tremendous maturity and political perceptiveness on the part of the people. There is clearly no question of the country going back to the bad old days of bitter ethnic chauvinism, war and bloodshed. The public consensus today is for a just peace and the Government should go right ahead and negotiate an equitable solution to the conflict, notwithstanding any detractors who have failed to gauge the public mood and the people's aspirations.

As mentioned on a previous occasion, public awareness on the gut issues in the peace process would need to be enhanced if the negotiations are to proceed without a hitch.

This time around the people will be kept informed of the run of play in the peace process, unlike the UNF administration which kept everything too close to its chest, not even briefing the President on the state of play.

A spirit of flexibility and accommodation would need to pervade the negotiations. The main parties to the conflict are already aware of the principal parameters of the peace effort. But compromises and mutual adjustments may be necessary as they traverse the peace road.

It will be necessary, therefore, to approach the talks with a certain openness of mind and spirit. The preliminaries could now be in place to resume the negotiations. For, both sides seem to be ready for the talks.

All that glitters

They are dazzling ornaments that embellish our bodies and according to some, even our souls. Women in particular have a close affinity with these objects of desire, but men are also falling for their charms. Gold, silver, platinum, diamond, string, shell - whatever the material, a piece of jewellery has the unique ability to add a touch of beauty to its owner. Now, new research indicates that Man's love for jewellery blossomed as long as 75,000 years ago.

A collar made of shell beads estimated to be 75,000 years old, found in a cave in South Africa a couple of weeks ago is believed to be the oldest known jewellery, appearing 30,000 years before what had previously been considered the first signs of civilisation. Archaeologists discovered 41 beads the size of peas with holes bored in them in the Blombos Cave on the Indian Ocean coast, according to the journal Science. The beads were made from the shells of a mollusc and contained traces of red ochre, indicating they were coloured with a pigment.

The discovery reinforces the theory that civilization developed earlier than first believed. It shows that art had a place in even the earliest civilisations. The presence of 'representational objects' in archaeological findings indicates that Man had moved away from a hunter-gatherer lifestyle and settled down, with plenty of time for other pursuits such as making jewellery.

The discovery of gold and silver as well as techniques for crafting them into various shapes gave birth to metal jewellery. Since then, gold and silver have found favour with royals as well as with ordinary mortals. Gold has also acquired an investment value as it can be exchanged for money instantly.

Worldwide, jewellery is a big business. Some well-known names in the industry sell gem and diamond studded jewellery at exorbitant prices. Such is the attraction of jewellery that these exquisite creations are snapped up within days by billionaire buyers.

Yet, gold, silver and platinum are finite resources. The world's metal reserves will be exhausted one day. But our craving for jewellery will continue. Will Man have to look to other planets in the solar system and even beyond it to extract precious metals and gems ?

The biggest diamond detected so far (2,500 miles across) is buried in a red dwarf star 50 light years away from the Earth. Man has gone to the ends of the Earth for metals and gems that dazzle. He will surely go to the edge of the universe to seek that extra bit of lustre.

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