Breaking the Deadlock

By N. Sathiya Moorthy

(March 23, Chennai, Sri Lanka Guardian )
Who will blink first – the LTTE or the Sri Lankan Government? It is now as much a war of nerves as it is otherwise. The nerves of tens of thousands of Tamils caught in the crossfire may not be made of the same matter, either.

Barring an occasional Diaspora-led street-protest in some western city, the civilian victims now remain a contestable statistic, and just that. When one arm of the UN reportedly or purportedly does not share, or share with another, the available figures, the two-warring sides to the ethnic war cannot be expected to share each other’s views on anything.

Weeks after the Government’s deadlines had ended, the LTTE war-machine is roaming, though not roaring. Whatever roar is there, it is by the Diaspora, but with little to show by way of international intervention to ease the military pressure on the LTTE back home. Which is what they really want.

Governments, unlike sections of the domestic polity, remain mostly unmoved by the arguments. They have learnt to differentiate between the targeted LTTE cadres and trapped civilians on the one hand, and between the political ambitions of the LTTE and the legitimate aspirations of the larger Tamil community, on the other.

In Canada, for instance, the domestic discourse is not about what is happening to the Tamils in Sri Lanka’s war-zone, but about the wisdom and legality of the Diaspora waving LTTE flags in a Toronto protest march. It is no different with other countries, either.

The US is no more talking about deploying the Marines to ‘evacuate’ the trapped civilians. An impossible task it would have been, without the LTTE’s concurrence and cooperation. Instead, Washington is now talking about a political solution, which alone could put a permanent end to the decades-old war and violence.

Like much of the rest of the world, the US too is not talking about the Colombo dispensation having to talk to the LTTE. None barring President Mahinda Rajapaksa is talking even about the four-party Tamil Nationalist Alliance (TNA) – though for not accepting his invitation for political negotiations.

Anyway, India was the only country to have engaged the TNA, formally and at the highest levels. Norway, as the peace facilitator, used to talk to the LTTE – until the Rajapaksa dispensation pulled out of the ceasefire. That was over a year ago.

Independent of the pressures that the Diaspora has been able to build on the international community and global organisations, the increasing marginalisation of the LTTE as a political factor is becoming as much a reality as its military neutralisation. The Sri Lankan State has thus become the arbiter of any political role for the LTTE now.

The Government has its conditions: that the LTTE should lay down arms, and eschew violence and terrorism. Neither having paid in the end, it may not be out of place for the LTTE to consider mainstreaming on an early date.

They would need guarantees for their safety, and reassurance that the political process would not be as farcical as in the Fifties and the Sixties. Yet, is it what the LTTE is asking for?

It would also mean that the international community would have a cause to be engaged with Sri Lanka, going beyond war and peace, relief and rehabilitation. There is a lot that sections of the international community could try and do, in terms of influencing the LTTE and the Tamil Diaspora on the one hand, and the Sri Lankan Government and the Sinhala polity, on the other.

What is needed is not piecemeal action on the part of the international community – but coordinated efforts, where each one of them could invest their strengths in areas where they can be of help.

Already, nations like Norway and the US have pledged to help in de-mining in the war zones. UN agencies and the ICRC are doing their bit on immediate relief and expeditious rehabilitation.

Between them, they all have the expertise and funds to restore a forgotten Sri Lanka to a forgotten glory – from the near-past.

The Sri Lankan Government is on record that even a substantial share of the massive tsunami relief that the international community committed is yet to be spent – on projects that have been promised for the war-ravaged North and the East.

There are those among the international community who have worked on the peace and political processes attending on the ‘ethnic issue’ in Sri Lanka. It is not that they know what is good for Sri Lanka. It is for Sri Lankans to decide what is good for them – Sinhalas and Tamils, Muslims and Burghers, of all hues and regions.

If the international community is not talking for Sri Lanka, as is at times alleged in Colombo, so are Sri Lankans. Those who talk thus in Sri Lanka do not count and those who count do not talk.

The Government cannot deny that the end-game has not ended as fast as it had planned for. The LTTE cannot claim victory, nor can it deny the armed forces a final victory in the none-too-distant future.

The Government seems to be keen on not leaving the battlefield with global memories of a civilian blood in its hand. The LTTE seems determined to achieve only as much.

As with war, so with peace. Elections in the North, as in the East, could and would be a beginning. Yet, that would only a beginning.

Power-devolution is the end. It would also be an invitation for the international community to invest in Sri Lanka’s peace and progress, democracy and development.

[The writer is Director, Chennai Chapter of the Observer Research Foundation (ORF), the Indian policy think-tank, headquartered in New Delhi.The article an originally published by the Daily Mirror, daily news paper based Colombo.]
-Sri Lanka Guardian
Unknown said...

What dealock?? The forces are inching towards the terrorist daily in a organized manner to prevent civilian casualty and to liberate the civilians held by LTTE. It is slow only for this reason but there is no deadlock at all.