Government and LTTE delegations are meeting today in Geneva
with the stated objective of reviving the peace process which has been
under severe strain due to spiralling violence. This is the first time
they are meeting after the February 2006 truce talks in the same Swiss
Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickremanayake is reported to have told the
Indonesian President during his current official tour that the talks
should be viewed with "cautious optimism". This is a correct assessment
of the situation, as one cannot expect peace to dawn overnight. It is a
tedious process that will have ups and downs, but the final aim should
be securing lasting peace for all in Sri Lanka.
All political parties in the South, even those tagged 'extremist' by
sections of the media, do agree on one point: that the final solution
should be based on negotiations. The emerging Southern consensus on this
issue, as exemplified by the SLFP-UNP Pact and the deliberations of the
All Party Representatives Committee, augurs well for the negotiations.
The Government has always stressed its commitment to a negotiated
political settlement that would incorporate power devolution.
The international community is keen on this aspect of the peace
process. Although there are some elements who argue that the North-East
conflict is an internal issue of Sri Lanka, our inability to resolve it
amicably has led to the involvement of the international community.
There is a peace facilitator - Norway - in addition to the C-Chairs
of the Peace Process (Norway, Japan, EU and the US). Our immediate
neighbour India is also fully supportive of the peace moves. Peace
envoys shuttle back and forth meeting Government and LTTE leaders every
Now that the LTTE has been brought back to the negotiating table,
attempts must be made to keep it there. One cannot question the
Government's sincere commitment to talks, as it had always kept the door
open for such a process.
It is the LTTE which has to prove to the Government as well as to the
international community its commitment to the peace process as doubts
have been expressed - and correctly so - in this regard thanks to the
sheer scale of violence perpetrated by the outfit.
From the Mavilaru anicut closure to the killing of unarmed sailors at
Digampathana to the abortive suicide attack on the Galle Harbour, the
LTTE's recent history of violence calls into question its avowed
commitment to a political settlement. It engaged in ceasefire violations
even after the peace talks dates were announced, knowing very well that
the international community would be irked.
The Government maintained that it engaged in defensive actions in the
face of LTTE aggression and it is accepted that a Government has the
right to defend itself and the people against unabashed acts of
It is thus timely that core issues are expected to be discussed
during this round of talks. It is vital that these issues - democracy,
multi-party political system, pluralism, human rights, child
recruitment, North-East development and power devolution - are brought
to the fore.
The LTTE has been fighting shy of these very issues for a long time,
but it cannot conceivably hope to avoid them forever. An ultimate
political settlement will incorporate many, if not all, of these
features and the LTTE must be flexible enough to adapt to these changes
which will in essence mean an irreversible shift from its dictatorial
and intransigent character.
The talks are a golden opportunity for the LTTE to begin anew,
abandoning the violent tactics which only serve to bring further
suffering to the very community that it claims to liberate. The global
community will not declassify the LTTE as a terrorist group unless and
until it renounces all forms of violence in word and deed.
Thus it is up to the LTTE to select the path it wants to tread on -
peace or conflict. Giving up the separatist violence and entering the
political mainstream is the only viable option left for the LTTE. It is
our fervent hope that the peace talks would be steered in this
Human rights campaigner at grossroots level
Last few months saw for the 1st time in many
years a series of successful offensives, by the Armed Forces, in
defense, of unprovoked attacks on the position of Armed Forces by
terrorists in North and East. Infact these, except, taking of Jaffna
is the only, success after triumphs, at Vadamarachchi in 1986.
SLFP-UNP accord raises unprecedented hopes
News of the accord reached between the two major political parties in
Sri Lanka, who together reflect the majority opinion of those, allowed
to vote at the last general election has been hailed as the best hope
for this country, since we became an independent nation.
On My Watch
Geneva 2 and the challenge of peace
Whatever the outcome of the current round of
Geneva Talks between the Government and the LTTE, the question
should not be as to who can win the war in Sri Lanka, whether it is
one of low or high intensity. The Government's commitment to a
negotiated settlement of the long drawn out conflict, demonstrates
its abhorrence of violence, and appreciation of the need to usher in
peace through dialogue and understanding.