step in the right direction
The official reporting on the Geneva talks between the Government
of Sri Lanka and the LTTE is still to take place, the Government
delegation having returned to our shores only last evening.
our Defence Correspondent has (see opposite page) dealt in great
detail with virtually all that happened in Geneva at the resumption
of the talks with the LTTE. According to him, the unlikely hero
of the Government delegation was - the Inspector General of Police
seems to not only have been possessed of the facts, but to have
articulated his case with great forensic skill and more so, with
a genuineness that seems to have struck a chord even in the hearts
of the delegation of the guerrilla organisation. Presenting his
case about the killings that have bedevilled the ceasefire, he said
his force could make arrest the suspects if they could enter LTTE
areas where they are hiding.
statements drew a strong response from Anton Balasingham but the
upshot of the matter was a reassurance from the Sri Lankan delegation
head that "we (the government) will not, directly, or indirectly
help any illegal armed group", and the reference in the communiqué
issued after the talks which stated that: "The GOSL and the
LTTE are committed to taking all necessary measures to ensure that
there will be no intimidation, acts of violence, abductions or killings",
and during the talks itself.
Mr. Balasingham's arguments about the killings and who was responsible
for them, delegation chief Nimal Siripala de Silva said the LTTE
must accept the genuine assurance given by President Rajapaksa.
He said the Government would give an undertaking that no armed groups
would operate in their controlled areas. This was indeed a brave
statement and one that needs to be applauded.
overriding objective of this week's talks was to get rid of the
immediate irritant to both sides - the killings - and then to prepare
the platform for the next round of talks - and the rounds thereafter
which hopefully will lead to the final outcome.
the latter prospect may be a distant dream in these early stages,
the fact that the two parties were able to agree on a brief eight-paragraph
joint communiqué has, at least, set the tone for future hope.
we are to go by what has happened, the Government delegation has
fared quite creditably, especially given the fears that were justifiably
entertained that they were not up to the mark with their brief.
last-minute inclusion of the likes of lawyer H.L. de Silva, one
of the very few who have mastered the quest for a separate state
and vigorously opposed it from its very inception, not only added
gravitas to the delegation, but also allayed the fears of a people
who had grave doubts about the capabilities of those who were going
to represent them.
doubt - the Norwegians, and the Co-Chairs flexed their muscle and
exerted pressure just in order to make their presence felt, especially
when the LTTE delegation made noises about walk-outs.
for the chief broker - Norwegian International Development Minister
Erik Solheim to say that the final outcome of the two-day meeting
was beyond expectation, it would seem is an accurate reflection
of the success of these talks.
salient features that emerge are that the Govt delegation acquitted
itself quite well and the decision to hook-up to Colombo and get
political directives helped those in Geneva.
other factor that emerged was that the LTTE seemed prepared to be
reasonable. Whether this was due to international pressure or otherwise,
it, at least, shows that they are open to business - and that war
is not the only option left in this virtual civil war.
if any party has been forced to agree to something it is not committed
to - all this becomes a mere façade. And both the Govt and
the people - and the military - will still need to be wary of a
party talking peace but contemplating war.
is a lot of preparation that goes into talks such as these. What
we hear of as the outcome of two days of talks was not all begun
and concluded within those 48 hours. Likewise, there will be a lot
of preparation needed for the next round. Both sides - if they are
interested in genuine peace will need to keep the peace - and show
their commitment to the process in the two months before the next
round of talks.
is only just a fresh start and just one small but important aspect
of the entire peace process. The much larger canvas awaits to be
sketched - issues like democracy, devolution, federalism, pluralism,
the rule of law have to be drawn in.
must not run away with the feel-good factor that all was well at
Geneva. The LTTE's chief negotiator still proclaims that a Government
has been formed in the areas held by their cadres, and a State-in-waiting
But still, a step in the right direction has been taken this week.