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.
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
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.