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Primacy for peace

In what amounts to one of her most cogent public pronouncements on the need to forge ahead with the process of working out a political solution to our conflict, President Kumaratunga has emphasised that not even the possibility of her losing the Presidency would deter her from carrying out this momentous undertaking. For this exemplary, courageous resolve, the President is likely to draw accolades from many. For, peace is finally receiving priority over power.

In view of the fact that power has proved an ineradicable fixation among the majority of our politicians, even to the point of eclipsing almost all other considerations, including peace, we consider it relevant to quote the President in full on this point: "In the process, the Government may fall, several Ministries might be lost and even I might lose the Presidency, but those things are not of national interest, unlike bringing lasting peace to the country."

It is this spirit of self-sacrificial caring which needs to prevail among our decision-makers, but which has been sadly lacking over the years. For, power has usually taken primacy over all else, including the public weal. By adopting this position, the President takes the moral high ground and exposes the spiritual poverty of her detractors. To be sure, power and its fleeting plums cannot be allowed to get in the way of the great undertaking of bringing peace through a political solution to our conflict.

Unfortunately for Sri Lanka, particularly over the past two decades, power and power only has taken primacy over nation-building, which is a fruit of working out a political solution to the ethnic conflict. For, a united country at peace with itself is the proof that a nation-building process is at work. These considerations, however, have not proved to be of any significance among our major political parties which have cast the national interest aside and thought it fit to be locked in a self-destructive struggle for power.

What have been the consequences for all of us, as a result of this unrelenting power struggle? Unstable governments which are not in a position to work towards the collective good of Sri Lanka.

Alas for us, even now these political parties do not seem to have learnt their lessons. Already, the UNP is engaging in wishful thinking of coming to power by next May Day. The term national interest seems to have lost all meaning for our principal political parties.

We are duty-bound to tell Lanka's body-politic, once again, that there is no future for this country without a stable peace. And a stable, just peace could be built only on an arrangement to share power between the centre and the regions. Only such an arrangement will cement Sri Lanka into a united whole and restore peace among its communities.

Those opposing a negotiated, just peace would be only strengthening the separatist forces in this country. Doesn't it stand to reason that the loss of hope in a negotiated solution would compel separatist forces to intensify their struggle for a division of the land?

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