Aththa had a sensible comment which I think explains the general apathy, in Colombo at least. We can’t have our cake and eat it too. What Ranil bought us in 2001 was a peace process, not peace. Successive governments have enjoyed the benefits of peace without processing anything, and each time this decision has been supported by Sri Lankan voters. In the Western Province and the South we have resumed tourism, business and general walking around without pissing our pants. However, the peace process effectively died when CBK seized the ministries and no on has revived it. Because the cease fire still held, Sri Lankans have gotten complacent without realizing where exactly we are. We have mistaken purgatory for heaven and now they’re giving us hell.
As Aththa says,
It is essential that we condemn the active violence of the LTTE; it is equally important the we condemn the passive violence of the Sinhala majority which refuses to respond with a political solution. Both are forms of violence.
I repeat: anyone can see how much people in the government controlled areas benefited after the violence was stopped as a result of the ceasefire; no equivalent benefits flowed to the people in the LTTE controlled areas or even in the government controlled areas in the North and East (unless the reduction in the likelihood of being bombed or otherwise killed is seen as a benefit). The one exception is mobile telephony, but as they say, you canâ€™t eat phone calls. Then one has to ask who benefited most from no-war/no-peace. The politicians, the businesses and the middle classes in the South, primarily in the Western Province.
This is not to say that the LTTE is somehow justified in its terrorism. They are a brutal, facist force to be mentioned in the same breath as Al Qaeda, I wish the international community would understand that they’re not cool. People (Tamil, Muslim, whatever) in the North and East, however, are suffering and we have to resolve this problem. There is no point debating policy with a facist terrorists, so Sri Lankans have to work through our rickety democratic institutions and make the peace ourselves. The Cease Fire Agreement (CFA) was the first step to that, not the last, as mentioned in its preamble.
The overall objective of the Government of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka (hereinafter referred to as the GOSL) and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (hereinafter referred to as the LTTE) is to find a negotiated solution to the ongoing ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka.
The GOSL and the LTTE (hereinafter referred to as the Parties) recognize the importance of bringing an end to the hostilities and improving the living conditions for all inhabitants affected by the conflict. Bringing an end to the hostilities is also seen by the Parties as a means of establishing a positive atmosphere in which further steps towards negotiations on a lasting solution can be taken.
Ranil negotiated the Cease Fire Agreement in 2002. This is from BBC, but in 2002, ‘De-commissioning of weapons begins; the road linking the Jaffna peninsula with the rest of Sri Lanka reopens after 12 years; passenger flights to Jaffna resume.’ Also, ‘both sides exchange prisoners of war for first time. Rebels drop demand for separate state.’ However, in 2003 Chandrika Bandaranaike seized the relevant ministries and the peace process stopped. Nothing has happened since then.
You’d think that Sri Lankans would be pissed at her dangerous hissy fit, but in 2004 the SLFP took over Parliament, Ranil was tossed out and Mahinda was made Prime Minister. That’s when the terrorism restarted, with a suicide bombing targeting Douglas Devananda in 2004, Lakshman Kadirgamar’s assassination in 2005 and now the suicide bombing targeting Sarath Fonseka. Incidentally, two of the targets were Tamils who have the audacity to oppose the LTTE. In 2005 Ranil ran on a platform of resuming the peace process while Mahinda called for ‘re-evaluating’ the current cease-fire, which apparently means low level war. Anyways, we have been in purgatory since 2003, and it was foolish to think that it could last.
What To Do?
I dunno. Drink? Dr. Uyangoda has some more coherent points on Moju. What most people (myself included) want is for the cease fire to continue. In fact, the main agenda of the recent Geneva talks (besides a vacation) was to simply reaffirm the cease fire. That means that I can enjoy a pleasant life and build plans for the future without getting pulled over every night or worrying about Douglas Devananda exploding as he drives down Dickman’s road. Which would be great. However, while No-War/No-Peace may be possible, No-War/No-Peace/No-Development is not. As Uyangoda says, there has to be concrete economic gains in the North and East for this ‘cold war’ we have going to melt. If the LTTE is an evil facist empire then the only way to beat them, like the Soviets, is with refrigerators and color TV, not rocket launchers. Plus is is absolutely vital, as Mahinda rightly said, that communal rioting must be avoided in the short term. The LTTE may be terrorists, but Sri Lankans have to behave better than that. This means that we have to work with NGOs and Civil Society that actually do work in these areas and have trust with the LTTE in order to improve lives in the North and East. Of course, that would mean overcoming a whole lot of lazy in the Western Province which, more likely than anything, will just end up drinking more. As secondary points,
Is Mahinda The Right Leader?
He’s not especially visionary, but Mahinda is ostensibly hawkish enough that he can make concessions that Ranil would get chewed out over. He is behaving with great moderation (perhaps out of impotence) and the JHU/JVP extremists are relatively quiet. I think the team he sent to Geneva was unqualified and generally shit, but Mahinda can make concessions that Ranil couldn’t.
What About Karuna?
I was talking to a venerable lawyer who said that you don’t necessarily want to negotiate with your enemy when they are weak. Negotiations require trust, and one option for GoSL is to give up Karuna, to the extent that it can. Of course, the Karuna split is internal within the LTTE and it’s questionable whether GoSL should sacrifice the dissident (yet also facist) voice of eastern Tamils, but is a strategic option.
Regardless, I’d say that the desire for the status quo is so strong that people are generally going to do fuck all and hope that the problem will go away. The guy who started the peace process has been rejected twice at the polls and its unclear if Sri Lankans will ever accept the compromises and hard work involved in peace, especially if they can enjoy the benefits with only a few corpses to pay. I, for one, have gone back to life as usual (if I ever left it) and I don’t know if that’s right or wrong.