Fifth Column

15th April 2001

Negotiating peace is grim business

5th Column

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"Thaaththa," Bindu Udagedera asked, "what is all this fuss about peace talks again?"

"Why, Bindu, Satellite wants to talk to the Tigers again." Bindu's father, Percy explained.

"But thaaththa, what about all those promises?"

"What promises?" Percy wanted to know.

"Why thaaththa, all those promises they made at the elections last year?"

"I forget now," Percy said, "what was that about?"

"Why, can't you remember what the Prime Minister said?"

"Why, did he say something at that time?" Percy wanted to know.

"Why, thaaththa, he campaigned entirely on this issue promising that there would be no talks but war with the Tigers."

"I guess Satellite has different ideas." Percy observed.

"But thaaththa," Bindu protested, "what about all those accusations they made against the Green leader."

"Why, what did they say?" Percy queried.

"Why, they said he was trying to talk to the Tigers and made a big issue about it."

"So, what you are saying is that now they themselves are doing it." Percy said.

"Yes, thaaththa," Bindu said, "is that fair?"

"But, Bindu" Percy explained, "they say this is because the Norwegians are intervening."

"But just because of that they don't have to do it, thaaththa." Bindu argued.

"But, Bindu, even Prabhakaran is extending his ceasefire without anyone asking him to do so."

"That was initially because he wanted to convince Britain not to ban them there." Bindu argued.

"But he has extended the ceasefire even after the ban was announced." Percy countered.

"And for that he has now got the government to relax a ban on some goods being transported to the north." Bindu pointed out.

"But Bindu, now everybody seems so keen to stop the war."

"Why do you say that, thaaththa?"

"Why, even the Green leader is supposed to be going to Norway."

"And while our leaders are going to Norway, the Norwegians are going to the Wanni to talk to Prabha."

"Maybe it is the New Year spirit of forgiving and forgetting past misdeeds, Bindu." Percy suggested.

"If they succeed, we will all be happy," Bindu agreed, "but I feel sorry for Solheim."

"Why is that, Bindu?" Percy wanted to know.

"Why thaaththa, he is the chief negotiator in this issue."

"So, what's wrong with that?"

"Why, thaaththa, there have been two people who went to negotiate with Prabha earlier."

"Who were they?"

"Why, President Premadasa and Rajiv Gandhi."

"So, what's that got to do with Solheim?" Percy was puzzled.

"Why, thaaththa, can't you remember what happened to both of them?" Bindu asked.

Percy did not know what to say to that.

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