26th August 2001
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  • Uncle Sam too 
  • Talk in good faith

    The UNP and the PA have sat down to talk, and if the official press releases are anything to go by, the dialogue is shrouded in secrecy as if dealt with a papal conclave. 

    The political convulsions of the past few weeks, particularly in the aftermath of the airport attack, have led to an almost pious resolve to talk, negotiate and reconcile with the arch political enemy. This call has emanated from the business community, civil society and from interested outsiders, and has been echoed from interested sections within the two political parties themselves. 

    But the real reasons the parties have sat down to talks, may have nothing to do with these pious resolutions and sanctimonious desires that have to do with the ship of state.

    The whole political cloak-and dagger exercise that lies behind the façade of the serious round table conference is often more important to participant and commentator alike, in this funny theatre that is Sri Lankan politics.

    There is a whole attitude problem towards the talks, and its genesis is the instinct of political self-aggrandizement, about which we have written repeatedly in the past few weeks to an extent that even this column may now sound as if it is a stuck record.

    But it is this same spirit of talking and bad-mouthing the opponent simultaneously which makes these "talks'' appear even to the rank political tyro as a mental exercise or a mere going through of motions to please the people and the other interested parties. Presidential pronouncements, for instance, in these days are almost suggestive of the condition of the paranoid schizophrenic. The President wants the talks, invites the opposition, and then lambasts its leader saying she cannot work with a man like him. It is true that talks are necessarily between disagreeing parties, but even the LTTE was granted the concession of a cessation of hostilities while talks were in progress. But the President's fire against the Opposition seems to intensify each time she gets the UNP to sit around a table. The UNP is being accused of running with the hare and hunting with the hound.

    If these attitudinal problems don't change, these talks will eventually be recognised as being farcical, and that will in effect be a step backward, as it will further damage any faith people place in good-sense prevailing among the major players in a time of crisis. 

    Uncle Sam too

    Who would have thought Uncle Sam is interested to the point of getting a finger jabbed in the pie without so much as asking "May I?" Ambassador Ashley Wills apparently sought last week to get the two major political parties to form a national government. Apparently, it was at the bidding of one of the two parties involved, but none is owning up.

    There was Liam Fox earlier trying to get Chandrika Kumaratunga and Ranil Wickremesinghe talking, and the Norwegians trying to get the LTTE to talk to the government. Now, if what the Americans say is true, a UNP-PA rapprochement is the latest Foreign policy initiative of the US government. 

    It is not hopefully the beginning of a saga of needless protracted interference in domestic affairs. The last time a formidable power got involved here, it had disastrous consequences. It is difficult to forget the 1983 to 1990 involvement of India in the Sri Lankan crisis, an accord forced down an arm-twisted JRJ's throat and an intervention by the IPKF (Indian Peace Keeping Forces.) 

    That's on the one hand, but on the other, the US reaction to the national crisis is a terrible indictment on all the players in national politics. It shows that the leaders of this nation have collectively taken national politics to a point at which third parties and brokers have to get involved on a regular basis.

    Though preserving national sovereignty is the ostensible policy of most of our national leaders, sovereignty has become so completely porous due to the influences that can be brought to bear on us due to the country's internal problems. 

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