the devil for the rascal?
UN special envoy Lakdar Brahimi is in Sri Lanka, in a bid to give
a special UN flavour to the Sri Lankan peace process.
Norwegian role in Sri Lanka's peace bid is meanwhile under the microscope,
aggravated by the murder of this country's foreign minister three
weeks ago. The Norwegians must be held to account for this assassination
-- for being unable to rein in the trigger happiness of the LTTE.
But Oslo's hope is that the Sri Lankans' infamous ability to forgive
and forget, will get them off the hook. This week, when the police
formally announced that they have closed the files on the President
R Premadasa and Mr. Gamini Dissanayake assassinations, the Norwegian
theory that nothing can be pinned on anybody in this country earned
the southern polity, as opposed to the north and east, the Norwegians
have lost credibility almost altogether. It follows as night follows
day then -- should they be replaced?
Chandrika Kumaratunga's call for the United Nations to get more
involved in the peace process here comes as a shot in the dark.
In the last few months, she bowed to both local and foreign pressures
and sidelined her late Foreign Minster for his hard-line approach,
inter-alia, of holding the Norwegians accountable for the LTTE's
continued refusal to show signs of entering the democratic mainstream.
LTTE continues with their prevarication and gamesmanship, among
these their claim that talks should be held in Oslo or Kilinochchi.
That's the same motley lot that has no qualms in coming to Colombo
to take wing to some foreign destination via the Colombo International
said that, we still don't know if all this is just another knee-jerk
reaction by the President to her FM's murder -- or whether her current
international advisers, some of who are aspiring for top slots in
a future UN, and her political advisers, have nudged her in this
direction. But whichever way you look at it, she has shown her own
exasperation with the Norwegian pussyfooting on the peace process.
On the other hand, Ms. Chandrika Kumaratunga is now a lame-duck
President for all intents and purposes.
The focus is now on the polls and it's pertinent to ask if it's
best to await the people's verdict. This way, the current President
who failed to solve the issue, can pass the baby to the successor.But,
what will such a successor have to offer?
Minister Mahinda Rajapakse ducked National Security Council sessions
as he ducked - or was left out of -- the peace process. His was
basically a hands-off approach, which was shrewdly calculated to
show him up as one who had a clean slate on the issue when he got
the top job.
unable to shilly-shally anymore on the campaign trail, he now says
he wants a summit with the LTTE supremo, Prabhakaran, the man himself.
Not a bad approach we say -- but how realistic is it? It's vaguely
reminiscent of President J.R.Jayawardene's challenge for a duel
with the elusive guerrilla leader at Galle Face Green.
other possible successor, Mr. Ranil Wickremesinghe has a completely
different approach. The "international safety net" is
his ongoing slogan, and its the same track on which he pursued the
peace process having talks with the LTTE through Norwegian facilitation
with the global community keeping sentinel. Mr. Wickremesinghe’s
approach does not seem to have changed as espoused last week in
New Delhi where he showed off an eight-point programme to kick-start
the stalled process. During his tenure as Head of Government, he
used the ' international safety net ' to egg Norway on through the
strategy was to ensure that Norway's efforts were to be re-calibrated,
especially by India, when the process gets log-jammed. The fine
balance between ' unabashed appeasing ' and diplomatic pressure
on the LTTE was his way of tackling the problem, but the LTTE was
adept at side - stepping, dummying and running on the blind-side.
that the UN has played an exemplary role anyway considering the
manner in which they tackled the aborted Annan visit to Kilinochchi,
followed by the statement issued on the killing of a rebel area
leader, Kaushalyan. Maybe the UN will also have the support of the
LTTE for a peace exercise.
new tendency will be therefore that instead of five countries running
the peace process, which is bad enough, we are going to have 150
countries and more doing it. It’s doubtful that either Presidential
candidate will endorse this kind of internationalizing of what is
essentially still a domestic dispute.
It could be a case of as is best said in the pithy Sinhala idiom
' getting rid of the spouse with the cold for the spouse with the
cough' ?? The best is that the peace process be on cold storage
winner in the presidential stakes, will then inherit this chronic
problem, with its perennial headache causing potentialities. It
is axiomatic in this light that the current President bows out gracefully,
without muddying the waters further, and with a mission unaccomplished.