Hard choices yet to be made
"..what needs to be understood is that it is in the nature of
an intifada not to be deterred by force."
By Dr. Pakiasothy Saravanamuttu
As tension mounts in Jaffna, earlier restraint seems to have been
abandoned. The recent incident involving the security forces, students,
member of the Jaffna University faculty, the vice chancellor and an MP
resulting in injuries to civilians at the hands of the security forces,
suggests that the intifada in the north will be met with a severe response.
It is not clear though as to whether this is government policy or the
position adopted by the security forces on the ground. Either way, what
needs to be understood is that it is in the nature of an intifada not to be
deterred by force.
Quite the reverse, force is most likely to swell its ranks – there has to be a
political response and there does not seem to be one. Instead there are
other disturbing signs – the moves toward a common alliance between the
CWC and the TNA and the expected insistence by the LTTE that talks
take place, if at all, in Europe in Oslo.
This also begs the question as to what the President intends talking about
with political and governmental leaders in Delhi, especially since his volte
face on Norwegian facilitation was probably brought about by basic Indian
tutoring in geo strategic realities.
There is a slide to war and fundamental to arresting it is that the two
signatories of the CFA commence communicating with each other through
their Norwegian facilitators.
Whatever assurances need to be given in this respect to Oslo by the new
Sri Lankan government must be made so that Norwegian facilitation can
commence to defuse tension as a matter of priority.
Assurances to Norway
And these assurances must surely be given. There is no other facilitator
waiting in the wings and the Norwegians have been subjected to
harassment and humiliation, treated as scapegoats and whipping boys for
every shortcoming in the CFA agreed and signed by the government of
Sri Lanka and the LTTE.
As far as the accusations of Norwegian partiality towards the LTTE are
concerned, there needs to be solid substantiation of this by the
government and early agreement on revised TORs if this is what the
present government desires and accordingly can get the LTTE to agree
to as well. Both sides as well as Norway have to agree if facilitation along
revised lines is to be initiated.
It would seem though that even despite an election every other year and a
presidential one just concluded, the balance of political forces in the south
is not stable and as long as that remains so, very little can be attempted in
terms of nonviolent conflict transformation.
President Rajapakse could well embark on his all party talks within the
framework of the unitary state, but as long as those talks are conducted
within that framework they will be academic and futile.
Furthermore, they are not going to convince anyone, local or
international, that in themselves they could halt the slide to war.
A firm stance on the intifada sans overkill and zealousness may begin to
make some political sense if it was accompanied by realistic attempts to
build a southern consensus that could in turn advance the peace process.
That means within a framework sans the unitary state. And that in turn
means dealing with his electoral allies.
Ironic though it may seem, an early general election may become
increasingly more attractive for the President if he can pull it off before
war breaks out. Further down the line, his electoral allies may have turned
out to be his sternest critics, ready, willing and able to take their chances
with the electorate on their own.
Were he to act now, he will have to be bold – devise a strategy for
effecting a real political realignment of moderate opinion. Or else having
seen off the bogey of the past President, he will be have to contend with
that of the JVP into the future.
Velupillai Pirapaharan of course will not allow him the luxury of time. In this
sense, his presidency is being dictated by the JVP on the one hand and
the LTTE on the other, the reasons for this lying in the choices he made,
either out of haste or necessity, in the election campaign.
It is not by any means smooth passage for Pirapaharan and what he
wants to achieve, either.
His choreography of a resumption of hostilities as a civilian uprising
against an army of occupation, still requires the army of occupation to
behave beyond any doubt in the mind of local and international opinion as
one that is irredeemably so.
Furthermore, the civilian uprising will lead to more death and devastation
for the civilians, with no guarantee to them that it will turn out better at the
There has to be the obstinacy of all species of mule on the part of the
government and tragically quite a bit of blood spilt by the security forces
as well as general bloody mindedness in the treatment of civilians before
he can turn international opinion his way.
And then of course there is the Karuna question, more than irksome and
still substantially unresolved.
This does beg the question of as to whether the intifada in the north is
designed to tie up the security forces there, whilst the real move could
come in the east.
It is coming somewhere and somewhere soon if those much maligned
Norwegians do not get into the act soon and pull the rabbit of negotiations
out of the hat of hostilities it is entrapped in. [TheMorningLeader]