Ilankai Tamil Sangam

Association of Tamils of Sri Lanka in the USA

Niggardly Negotiations

by Wakeley Paul, Esq.

Any and all negotiations with the GOSL - to be successful - must be founded on a platform of mutual trust.  Herein lies the rub.  The relations between the GOSL and the LTTE are, and continue to be, founded on mutual suspicion instead.  Any hope of attaining peace or the expectation of securing the ultimate goal of unveiling a new constitution are doomed to failure, based upon our fundamental inability to reach a compromise founded on mutual trust.

One thing is clear.  Trying to create a multi-ethnic government capable of being the basis for peaceful co-existence between ethnic groups who are fueled with suspicion and distrust of each other is an illusion.  Seperate co-existence on a single island is, IF the Sinhalese are willing to whittle down their desire to regard the whole island as their exclusive homeland.  The Sinhalese must be ready and willing to downsize their ambition to control the destiny of the Tamil people and to constrict their desire to control the Tamil homeland.

Where does this leave us at this juncture?  Can we expect the international community to play a more active role in stimulating such trust and understanding between us?  They will no doubt respond with the staled and tedious response "That is up to you."  That not only exonerates them from responsibility, but is unquestionably the easy way out.  There can be no hope of their engendering a compromise by their taking this cop-out attitude.

It is obviously not up to us, but the government in power to knit together a solution that can last, without sparking a desire on either side to initiate another civil war.  The present GOSL is mired in its own struggle to survive which will prevent them from making communal harmony their top priority.  Survival takes precedence over the national welfare.  The UNP is embroiled in the possibility of taking over the office of president from the current incumbent.  The JVP is too racist and uncompromising for us to bother with.  The Muslims have their own agenda.

Does this leave us with war as the only feasible alternative?  Clearly not.  Reaching a political compromise is a long and arduous ordeal.  We have to evidence a desire to attain that goal, despite the many hoops that we have to jump through to get there. 

Will the government do the same?  If they do not, will the international community detect this and fault them for it, or will they continue to fall for the unceasing government tactic of shifting the blame to the other side?  So far, the GOSL has been very successful in engaging in this slimy strategy.  The foreigners do not seem to be able to comprehend the craftiness with which the Sinhalese leadership has bluffed the the international community into believing that Sri Lanka is a genuine democratic society.  The international community has bought into the government’s ploy of suggesting that the LTTE are unprincipled terrorists who cannot be trusted, despite the recognition that the LTTE has to be negotiated with.  The GOSL have convinced the naive and unsuspecting elements abroad that it is the LTTE and not they who have violated the CFA.  The government keeps harping on the relatively minor issue of recruitment of child soldiers; and now Kadirgamar stoops to the level of suggesting that the Tamils are not a democratic society, despite the fact that the results of the last election have proved otherwise.

What does all this suggest?  A need for us to reevaluate the effectiveness of our public relations operations?  Our offensive rheoric has to be sharpened and has to have more sting to it than in the past.  The art of being self-criticism, far from being a weakness, is a strength we must never fail to indulge in.  Our leaders have accomplished much more than people like me could ever have dreamed of.  I have the confidence and hope that they can accomplish yet more in the years to come by being a touch self critical, with a view to advancng our interests still further.

Let us not forget that the Sinhalese leaders have dragged the island down to its present level by indulging in unjustified self-confidence.  Their idea that they could slap us around because they were the majority communty on the island as a whole has proved to be their undoing.  They continued to ignore the power we possessed as a regional majority.  They harp on the false illusion of a united society, which they have done everything in their power to scramble.  They continue to want to exercise power in areas of the island where they are detested and despised.  They will never learn from the multitude of their gaffes.  They continue to harp on the same misconceptions that have been responsible for their undoing for decades.

Let us never fall into the same trap.


Posted July 19, 2005