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Government Gazette

Peace hopes

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 city.

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 few months.

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 terrorism.

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 direction.

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.

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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.

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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.

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