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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2830

Banning The LTTE: The only option but not the only strategy

By R Ranasinghe.

In his article Raj Gonsalkorale (Asian Tribune) tries, as so many moderate and well meaning Singhalese have done before, to advocate a policy of rapprochement that seeks to go to extremes in accommodating what he believes are the grievances of the Sri Lankan Tamils.

While it is noble to show the kind of largesse that will put verses of the National Anthem into Tamil these actions of gesture politics by themselves are unlikely to achieve very much in either the short term or the distant future.

However, there were a number of more interesting points that he made about finding a consensus among all the non-LTTE parties to a constitutional formula for reform. An initial reform programme the President could put forward as a referendum to the nation in the short term.

Something that would show the world the GOSL is serious about reforming the country’s institutions. Quite frankly, the All Party Representative Committee (APRC) is nothing more than a grand gesture to the need for a solution. That it takes account of the fact the LTTE is never going to join in does not in itself give the APRC authority.

Mr Gonsalkorale is quite right to point out the absences of the TULF seriously undermines its credibility. But even if they were sitting round the table, it is inconceivable they, the TVMP, the JVP and the JHU are going to agree on the content of the referendum. The solution if it is ever to come must be developed in stages. Taking account of the pressures on the Government coming not just from defeatists inside the country, misguided foreign nationals and a mischievous Tamil diaspora but also the unhelpful position taken by India.

The de-merger of the North and the East have led the President into complications with Sri Lanka’s great and powerful neighbour.

India’s interest is clearly to keep a foothold there, which will allow them at some point, when it is in their interest, to occupy or at the very least meddle in Trincomalee’s future. De-merged, the canard of Tamil disaffection will not give them an excuse to interfere in Sri Lanka’s internal affairs. All the Tamil parties, including the normally pro-Singhalese EPDP, believe the North and the East should be fused into one. Meanwhile, the JVP and JHU have fought hard to bring about the recent de-merger of the two provinces. It’s a political hot potato neither the Tamils nor the Singhalese Nationalists are going to back down on. An issue the President will have to put on the back burner.

This is long before we have got to the meat of the reforms to create greater representation for the minorities in parliament and in local government. A working party outside the APRC should be set up by the President to establish common ground among the fractious participants of the APRC, where everyone could be made to focus their minds on producing a universally acceptable statement of intent. It may be far from a document to please everyone, but it might be a basis for an initial Referendum. One where each community’s interests are enshrined and thus taking some of the sting out of the feeling that everyone else, other than one’s own side, is plotting to undermine the interests of the people one represents. A phased programme of reform with a timetable would serve as a "road map" all democratic parties can sign up to. With a referendum at every phase, if it is necessary, to measure the degree of popular approval there is for each stage of legislative programme.

In a similar way to American baseball where the runner heads for the base closest to him, one he can reach easily. Then he waits until the opportunity arises for him to set off for the next base.

Once a road map is agreed then the LTTE’s disruptive activities are going to be of less significance to the future of Sri Lanka.

All parties can point to an agreed timetable when a popular mandate will be sought for each constituent part of the reform package. We might find the alignment of parties are surprisingly different once everyone believes a little more in the strength and value of having democratic institutions.

A process that allows for a period of implementation, reflection and then further considered legislation is what democracy is all about. A steady evolution of the country’s institutions will lead to a stable transformation of the relations between the Singhalese, Muslims and Tamils. If we focus simply on appeasing the Tamils and forget about the views and interests of the Singhalese and Muslims we might well create a very different tinderbox that might once again ignite ethnic tensions just when we thought they were a thing of the past.

- Asian Tribune -

Also Read:To ban or not to ban the LTTE: Is Sri Lanka caught between a rock and a hard place?

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