WHAT CONSTITUTES A LASTING PEACE FOR LANKA?
By Shyamon Jayasinghe, Melbourne
In your columns on 2/11/04 we observed a media release by the Melbourne organization SPUR which came out unreservedly in defence of the JVP with regard to the latters stand on the national question. The question is, what is the JVP stand? One cannot assess the JVP on this issue other than to state that they have no plan and our criticism in a previous article in your columns was precisely this absence of a JVP vision on the biggest problem confronting the country. A political party seeking government must have worked out something tidy by now. On the other hand, what we are left with is a series of protests on anything anybody else (Ranil or CBK) has been trying to do.
The JVP began life as an insurgent political organization representing the underprivileged. They seduced thousands of frustrated youth to come out with shot guns and go for the establishment. Theirs was a crude and violent protest movement that never offered a constructive solution to the ills of the country that plagued these innocent youths who were eventually gunned down by the state. It is clear that this inherited negative protest cult still defines the legitimate political party that is the JVP of today. We would be happy to see this party reposition itself for today.
The SPUR release compounds the problem by stating categorically that the JVP stands for a lasting peace. Even in the absence of JVP policy, SPUR should have tried to enlighten us on what they mean by a lasting peace. We have taken the liberty of attempting to determine the conditions of a lasting peace as far as the island is concerned:
Firstly, let us assume that by a lasting solution SPUR means a solution that would be applicable for all time. We beg to point out that no such all -time formula is possible in the affairs of men and women. In a micro sense, this observation applies even to a simple a marriage. In a community of humans, peace has to be won everyday as much as a marriage has to be won every day. A formula for peace worked out for now will have to be kept adjusted all the time. As far as the Lankan problem is concerned, in the long run, it is only a recurrent and mutual good sense and good faith among the Tamil and Sinhalese communities kept and maintained throughout the future can bring lasting peace. A framework of proposals must be formulated with sincerity and maintained in good faith.
As a minority, the Tamil community is dominant enough to cause serious fissions in our society, which they have done all these years. Any proposal for a lasting peace must acknowledge that fact. That community also has a fifty million block of support across the Indian Ocean, which can be ignited if they are harshly dealt with. This is not to mention the enormous support they can call up from a generous Diaspora living outside. In addition to an intrinsic ethical reason, the last stated point represents a pragmatic reason why we must exercise good sense and good faith with them.
There is no need to dig deep into the past. However, suffice it to say that it is just the destruction of this good faith and good sense by opportunistic politicians who came and who come wearing the mask of saving our jathiya that have caused this huge crisis which has crippled our island and set back the clock whilst other lands that were initially behind us have surged ahead. The mantle of keeping our island as one harmonious entity primarily rests on the majority Sinhala people. However, foolish, short sighted, and selfish Sinhala leaders triggered the start and a vicious cycle burst out with equally opportunistic and self-aggrandising Tamil leaders taking on from the other end.
A twenty-year war followed which provided good links for a thriving industry in arms, ammunition, and donations that benefited the protagonists of war on both sides of the divide. Ministers in charge of defence and army generals have since been plagued with corruption allegations. If some day a full investigation takes place, ordinary people will be perhaps astonished to find that what has thus far been revealed is a mere tip of a huge iceberg of corruption and treachery that has stalked our land.
We are of the firm view that the sooner this war is ended the better it is and that the end can come only with political negotiation aided by the global environment that is now friendly to the Sri Lankan government and to the sovereignty of the Sri Lankan state. We are also happy that Bush is back in power. The underlying strategy behind the peace talks has been well put by another of your columnists. He said that the idea is to hook the LTTE to a negotiated settlement with global assent. Such a settlement, even if reluctantly made at the start, can also satisfy the Tamil Diaspora, which provides funds to the LTTE. In the longer run, the LTTE could be brought into the mainstream as the JVP has now been brought. Coming into the mainstream of democratic politics would expose the LTTE leadership to competitive forces within the widerTamil community. Already we have seen competition and challenge from Karuna and this has been made possible by the truce initiated by the former government and continued in earnest by the present government. To this extent, we have won by being smart.
Now back to the JVP: The LTTE has insisted that discussions take place around the ISGA proposals the latter have presented. Although it may not be the best start, why cant we be smart enough again and begin on that basis without yielding to its unreasonable and dangerous clauses. Saying no we are not and sticking stubbornly to that stand is not being smart. Sri Lanka is an island only in a geographical sense; in a metaphorical sense we are not, since current circumstances demand that we keep in line with the US, Euro and Indian positions. This is not being frightened but being realistic. Hence, the JVP must face up to this. If not, they must suggest a workable alternative, which they are not doing.
Fortunately, the JVP is no longer opposed to facilitation by Norway- a surprising turnaround after we saw that party burning flags outside the Norway embassy when the former government had been in power. There are many overseas critics of Norway but an assessment of the allegations made is a matter for the government and opposition because they are in the best position to do that. If Norway is no good, then we must seek the kind offices of some other country because facilitation is vital for a dispute of this nature.
Devolution will be central to any lasting solution since it would not be practical to offer mere regional council status as in the 13th amendment, to the Tamil community. What is the JVP stance on this issue? Is it in favour of a federal solution? A federal solution on the Indian model is all right. Federalism does not mean an undermining of sovereignty. We see no objection to the Tamil community being given a place they can call their very own in the Vanni. Joining up with the East is a different matter altogether. A federal model can be worked out in a way that any attempt to break off can be crushed by the centre. The former governments tete-a tete with Indian defence forces and the proposed defence pact with India by CBK are jolly good moves. In fact, Ranil went a step further and saw the value of forging firm economic links with the subcontinent towards a kind of common market. Now, all this signifies a vision. What vision has the JVP expressed with regard to all these dimensions toward lasting peace? Are they aware of such dimensions? Our worry is that they have been hopelessly out of depth regarding these issues.
We humbly suggest that overseas Sri Lankans and Lankan organizations
must learn to look at the events in Sri Lanka with what Nietzsche referred
to as the art of distrust. What political parties and political
leaders say and do may not necessarily be what they really mean. We
must try to unmask the pretensions and propaganda by which Lankan politicians
cloak their actions. If we do not, then we fall into a series of repeated
errors of judgement with which would vitiate our efforts towards our
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