Search for Peace and the unanswered problems

Point of View: By A.Rajasingam

Though it appears that the LTTE was cornered, the LTTE has once again proved that they are still active with the air raid in Colombo. What the Government has achieved is the capture of territories without people and later a systematic and calculated murder of innocent Tamils after they are accommodated in separate camps, which demonstrates genocide on different pretexts. Murdering innocent citizens is not encouraged in religious teachings including Buddhism to defeat an enemy. This is not the way to initiate peace though the LTTE has sent a hot signal in respond to the international community for truce, but not prepared to surrender arms and negotiate. The Government should grab this opportunity to give priority for the rehabilitation of the IDPs.


[Thousands of Sri Lankans need safe passage away from the fighting in the north (file photo)-IRIN/by Amantha Perera]

The centre of gravity in initiating Peace revolves around rehabilitating the aggrieved community yearning for peace at which point it is very essential that a person with a common touch with the aggrieved community should play a vital role. Dictating terms would not in any way materialize the peace moves. Criticism is easier but to materialize a peace move is very difficult. Everyone engaged in the peace moves should tolerate all constraints and adopt a give and take policy.

Poor governance in Sri Lanka manifests the inability to maintain law and order to control the sporadic eruptions of political instability and violence. As a result it had experienced regional insurrections which had caused a negative impact on the economic growth.

A democratic government has difficulties in talking with the terrorists. The type of terrorists susceptible for negotiation requires careful scrutiny. There are two objectives for negotiation with the terrorists. One is to reduce the effect of violence and the other is to weaken its political structure. Number of conditions are laid down to begin negotiation with the terrorists. The time factor also contributes a vital role in negotiation with the terrorists. As for the LTTE they demand an assurance for the recognition of the Tamil rights with honour and dignity.

Sincerity on the part of the Government is essential so that there would be a moral duty on the Tamils to reciprocate in the same manner for the beneficial of the entire nation. The paramilitary groups, the LTTE and the southern extremists should realize that the quest for peace revolves round the concept of the freedom to live from any fear whatsoever from any quarters. Freedom to live from fear symbolizes the freedom of speech, opinion, movement, the right to life, etc. Such civil liberties discourage the military rule. The tension prevailing among the Tamils can be minimized only when educated moderates emerge and take decisive roles in peace process.

The southern politicians are also instrumental for the birth of terrorism in oppressing the minorities. Terrorism took a different turn when some southern politicians tends to have secret dealings with the terrorists to gain unlawful fortunes. The worst factor was that politicians had given facilities to the terrorists to collect arms and ammunitions. The collection of arms and ammunitions by the LTTE during Premadasa's regime and by Muslim's faction when Ashroff was Minister of Harbour during Chandrika's regime were cases of incidents and still been carried on various pretexts. Further, the politicians always sought the assistance of the criminals who mingled with the terrorists to do all the dirty works. Number unscrupulous Tamils and Muslims have taken up government jobs in various branches in false names and some have been arrested. One ponders whether Sri Lanka appears to be a base for the network of the terrorists' operations in South Asia.

These are some of the unanswered problems confronting the law abiding citizens as moderates to negotiate with the Government. The reason for the reluctance of the Tamil moderates is the fear of threat to death from the paramilitary groups in the company of the southern political leaders and also the LTTE. The only option left for the moderates to participate is with the assistance of foreign countries and peace process should also take place in foreign countries. What is needed is the role of the Professionals to mould the political thinking absolutely and decisively in keeping with the trends of the Western democratic countries where the decentralized form of government has achieved its desired goals by discouraging the deliberate marginalization of the minority community for the prosperity of the entire country.

The absence of unity among the Tamil Movements and the cunningness of the Southern politicians for unlawful political gains shattered all hopes of a confident building measure. The politicians always expect the media to promote good news for their survival, having placed all the restrictions and threats on it. But the question is, do the politicians realize that more children from all communities must be lost in war.

In this prevailing state of affair, what should be accepted, is to treat them as equals to some level in contemplating a negotiation with the view to begin a confident building measure. If negotiation is to take place, it may appear that legitimacy is attributed to the acts of the terrorists, when, in fact, negotiation is undertaken on the understanding that terrorists are given an opportunity to fall within the democratic stream. It is true that Democracy discourages violence and Terrorism survives on violence. But the Mediator should act in such a way that the terrorists should command the trust and confidence of the Mediator and eventually the Government. Apparently the Government should also adopt a give and take policy to win their confidence.

Peace is something that cannot be achieved overnight. Peace is achieved as a result of compromise. It cannot be achieved through battle. Necessary skill and patience is what is required of a Mediator to bring both warring parties to the negotiating table. Demonstration of kindness and compassion should be exerted by the Mediator. Mass murder will only develop hatred.

The LTTE should realize that Freedom fighters are those engaged in an armed struggle to obtain freedom for themselves and their people without killing its own people. Freedom fighters respect the laws of other countries. Moreover, persons campaigning for freedom through peaceful means without the use of force also falls within the category of freedom fighters like Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru. Both categories of persons are termed as freedom fighters.

Terrorists are those engaged in creating a fear in the minds of the people through unlawful acts in order to achieve an objective on which they are absorbed and shows lack of tolerance for contrary opinions especially on religious or political cause. Terrorists are fanatics. Fanaticism gives rise to the birth of terrorism. A fanatic displays a very strict standard of an absorbed ideology and shows less tolerance for contrary opinions especially on religious or political cause.

As a result they engage themselves in murder of politicians, abduction and disappearances of high ranking officials, professionals, etc., and such crimes remain unanswered to date. Abductions and murders have shown that the domestic drivers and servants have contributed a great deal to such activities of the terrorists by falling prey to the terrorists' money power. Terrorists do not have any regard for civilians and law abiding citizens, whereas freedom fighters agitate for their rights against the rulers only and do not target non-combatants. Terrorists have the practice of calculated and systematic decimation of anyone who stands in their way for which they have the torture camps and kangaroo courts. The terrorists leave only a legacy of brutality and not the freedom of opinion. The mass murders committed by the LTTE still remains as unanswered problems.

Simultaneously, the Sri Lankan Government should also be partly blamed for the massacre of innocent civilians. The motive of the southern politicians is to wipe out all evidence that are cast against them for involvement with the terrorists for political gains. To date no answers have been provided for the mysterious deaths of leading personalities who are supposed to be the sole witnesses. Briefly it is the laws of the jungle that still prevails.

Upon an examination of the nature of the terrorists, the government has to take cautious steps to negotiate with the terrorists. Willingness to negotiate by the Government cannot be treated as a weakness on the part of the Government and the terrorists should not take this opportunity to bargain for time to regroup and strengthen itself. The terrorists should also realize that the Government studies the strategies of the terrorists during the period of negotiation. So what is required is the demonstration of genuineness as a prerequisite on the part of the terrorists which is expected by the civilized nations.

The Government should grab the opportunity when a hot signal is shown for truce. The Mediator is entrusted with the surrendering of arms which is symbolic. Mass killing is not the solution to bring the aggrieved party to the negotiating table, it is only a temporary measure. Conquering the hearts of the aggrieved community is what matters. Tolerance and hard work of integrative negotiation is a must to preserve both peace and justice. That is why an acceptable Mediator with knowledge of multi-culture is essential.

Both the Tamil Movements and the Southern politicians failed to play a vital role in instilling a sense of stability and security and instead they were instrumental for developing hatred among the communities. The moderates were denied a place to reduce the tension and promote good neighbourly relations among the communities. The extremists such as the JVP, JHU and the Tamil Movements should have been discouraged by both the Sinhalese, Tamils and Muslims. The damage done by the Security Forces will remain as scars in the minds of the innocent Tamils and will take years to heal.

The daily needs of the Tamils should be stressed immediately until they reach a balance state of mind. Further, in respecting the value of human rights, necessary steps should be taken to cherish the civil liberties which would facilitate the participation of the people from all quarters, Thus different shades of opinion could be gathered to evaluate the peace process.

The role of the Mediator in bringing the Government and the terrorists is extremely a difficult task. He has to perform his role within the concept of 'one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter' in spite of different perceptions and universal views. The task of the Mediator is to maintain peace and to prevent from going into further battles. After the ceasefire agreement is signed, the Mediator should have the power to penalize the defaulting party whenever a breach is caused.

Initiation of Peace is a cumbersome process but had to tolerate all constraints without using the word ‘unacceptable’ instead of exploring the possibilities of making it acceptable. It takes a considerable length of period to achieve its desired results after creating a climate of better understanding. The path to peace consists of many obstacles. Disputes that have been in existence for almost a half century will definitely take time. Peace is something that has to be accomplished through a gradual process by way of patching up all painful wounds of misunderstandings. Generally, it is achieved after realizing the errors through wars by way of having a Federal Government or with a government with Federal features where power was allowed to be shared by all communities.

The general fear of the southern politicians that self-determination will give the right of secession is absolutely baseless and false. The General Assembly of the UN has stressed the importance of the universal realization of the rights of peoples to self-determination and the observance of human rights. The clarification of the words ‘self-determination’ and ‘foreign domination’ pertaining to the observance of human rights led to a new dimension. When the fundamental rights of the minorities have been suppressed by evil provisions of the constitution together with the aid of aggressive military operation, it is a fact that the minorities as freedom fighters treat the government as a foreign domination.

In the circumstances, it need not endorse the granting of full independence to the Regions where the minority community lives as a separate entity, but a regional autonomy as it exists in India, Canada, Switzerland and other Federal countries, which, if granted, will not affect the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the country and the main unanswered problem will come to an end. I presume that is the expectation of the Tamils and the International Community at this hour. Such a form of regional autonomy will certainly allay the fears of the minority Tamils.