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Co-chairs as preachers

The Co-chairs of the Tokyo Donors’ Conference on Sri Lanka have issued yet another statement blaming both parties to the conflict for the escalation of violence and called for keeping the supply routes open. It has welcomed the government’s readiness to send convoys of essential goods via the now closed A-9 road—an offer that the LTTE has flatly refused demanding that the road be fully opened. The government is wary of meeting the LTTE demand on the grounds that the objective of the outfit is to resume illegal taxes, arms smuggling etc. by taking advantage of the road opening.

However noble their intentions may be, the Co-chairs are, we are afraid, not making a worthwhile contribution to peace making. They are only behaving like a group of preachers trying as they do very hard to impress the virtues of non violence, compassion and respect for human rights on the warring factions, knowing very well that they are pouring water on a duck’s back. Nobody seems to pay heed to their preaching but they go on pontificating. Thus, the Co-chairs have wasted their time and money on meetings. The suffering of civilians remains far from ameliorated, violence escalates and the death toll rises.

Those who are involved in conflict resolution here are preoccupied with the final solution, which might even be light years away. They appear to think that everything else has to wait until the conflict is resolved once and for all. A process of resolving a protracted conflict warrants short term and middle term strategies to address the issues that, besides causing human misery, may also have the potential to stand in the way of a final solution.

The present phase of ‘undeclared’ war began with the LTTE capturing the Mawilaru anicut, having attacked the security forces with claymore mines for months. Had the Co-chairs made an early intervention at that stage to stop the LTTE provocations, the escalation of violence could have been averted. Mere statements sans action are of little use in curbing violence.

Restraining the LTTE is a task that the UK or Norway can accomplish with ease by summoning the big Tigers it is sponsoring on its soil and warning the outfit through them to behave. The UK did so quite effectively when Tamil parliamentarian Sam Thambimttu’s wife and son were abducted in the East in the late 1980s. The British government asked LTTE Spokesman Anton Balasingham in London to either secure their release or get ready to be deported. That method worked. (However, the LTTE killed Mr. and Mrs. Thambimuttu in 1990). More recently, when the LTTE abducted a prominent Tamil social worker called Jayadevan, a British passport holder in the Wanni owing to a dispute over a Kovil in the UK, the British government intervened and secured his release.

Making an aid worshipping government fall in line is much easier. It was only a few years ago that a bossy vice president of the World Bank told President Kumaratunga how to run the country. An otherwise pugnacious Ms. Kumaratunga took it all lying down. Such is the power that the givers of aid and loans wield over mendicant governments anywhere in the world.

Perhaps, it is not fair for the Co-chairs to be asked to clear the mess Sri Lanka has created herself. But, now that they have volunteered to shoulder the burden of resolving the conflict, they ought to change their strategy. They need to take crucial issues one by one and deal with them as and when they crop up without letting the grass grow under their feet and lumping them together. The biggest problem besetting the country at present being the plight of civilians in the North, the Co-chairs should be more focused on it.

The best way to help that hapless populace is to send food convoys through the A-9 road. Since the LTTE is opposed to the government proposal, the Co-chairs can step in to break the deadlock. They should either ask the LTTE to allow the supplies to reach the North as the government suggests or get the road fully reopened by wresting an assurance from the LTTE that it won’t resume its illegal taxes, arms struggling and forays. They must also spell out what action they propose to take in case of the LTTE acting in breach of its assurance.

Bland statements which leave much unsaid are not going to take us anywhere. They are not worth the paper they are written on. -The Island Editorial

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November 24, 2006 - Posted by | Media Journalism, News and politics, South Asia

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