The talking Tiger
The reluctant Tiger has finally been nudged onto the negotiating table in Thailand. We hope the government of Sri Lanka did not coax the LTTE to agree to talks on the basis of a quid pro quo. As the Prime Minister himself was heard to say during the early days of the Ceasefire Agreement, the crunch will come only now when the talks begin.

Getting the feet-dragging LTTE onto the negotiating table is no doubt an achievement for both the Government and the 'international community'. It has not been without paying a price. Firstly the notorious terrorist organisation got legitimised to some extent as a somewhat respectable liberation movement. Secondly, via the Ceasefire Agreement they have made in-roads into the hitherto out-of-bounds Jaffna Peninsula without firing a shot. Even then, the vast mass of the country's populace, of all races and faiths, by and large have opted for the current peace process. But what next? The LTTE keeps sending different signals all the time. There is one from London, another from the Wanni, and yet others from their different Websites and mouthpieces.

It will be helpful if the LTTE spoke now with one voice and the government of Sri Lanka did likewise. The official press release announcing the talks has not told us whether the LTTE has agreed to discuss 'Core Issues" i.e. whether their demands will be sans Eelam-or not.

We do not know whether the Interim Administration for the LTTE to control the North and East will be signed, sealed and delivered before talks on LTTE insistence. We have not even been told if there is going to be an Agenda for talks.

But never mind, provided however, this is not pure gimmickry on the part of the LTTE to win credibility with the world community, and for the Government with its own electorate, while in the process of rolling up sleeves to take on the Executive Presidency.

With the talks approaching, the government originally planned to expand its peace secretariat and make available a well-coordinated think tank. This had not happened because the better part of the government's energies have been spent dragging the LTTE to the negotiating table. The matter of negotiating with the LTTE now is too delicate to be left in the hands of a handful of eager men who think they are good at brinkmanship.

They talk of dealing with the LTTE wth "cool heads and warm hearts". This is clearly insufficient in negotiations. One must have strong stomachs for it too.

Issues of land, of water resources, of distribution of power and energy sources, and of course issues of political import such as the dynamics of power sharing are all part of the multi-dimensional discipline of negotiating. The Ceasefire Agreement for instance notoriously had been negotiated - or let us say settled - with the government making the maximum of concessions almost rather naively, compared to the gains that were made by the LTTE. Even the new ancillary agreement regarding the use of the sea route seems to favour the Tigers. This method of negotiating away concessions almost by default if adopted at the Thailand sessions will have repercussions that, to say the least, would haunt us in history.


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