More questions than answers about peace
Let's face it. The critical mass of opinion now building
up, is that this peace process is going to end up in a heap. There is no
critical mass of opinion yet formed, that says this peace bid is going
to be disastrous for the Sri Lankan government. But, at the moment, the
critical mass is building up.
"Forced conscription by the LTTE,'' "Arms shipments by the LTTE'' shout
headlines and Editorials. The Sri Lankan government is about to be suckered,
say the grim admonitions.
But, the contours of the conflict were arranged in such a way, that
there was very little possibility for the Sri Lankan government to avoid
peace talks. The simple fact is that the UNP government couldn't have come
to power without a peace agenda. The UNF could not have won the poll without
minority support – and there would be no minority support if the UNP did
not follow a peace agenda.
This was true in the 1994 situation as well. Someone quoted Clauzwitz
and said "ceasefires are part of the strategy of war.'' He might as well
have gone a little further and added that "elections are part of the strategy
of war also.''
On the one hand, it would have been very difficult for a PA government
to continue in power, a situation which was also brought about precisely
because of the PA policy on the conflict. The war had left the economy
in tatters – and the people were looking for a new government. The only
viable option seemed to be the UNP — which necessarily needed to have a
peace agenda if it was to win the polls.
Even the critical mass of opinion that's building up against the peace
talks, seems to acknowledge that these talks have the ring of inevitability
about them. Most acknowledge, at least tacitly, that things developed in
such a way that there was no choice but to opt for negotiations.
But, if the talks are inevitable, say the analysts, their collapse seems
even more inevitable. The Jayatillekes, the Silvas, the Swarises, they
all say it is a matter of time before the Tiger springs again.
But, if the talks were inevitable, seeing the devious monster in the
Tiger, true or false, may only be academic. If the ceasefire is an inevitable
part of war, and if the Tiger is going to spring anyway, what is the Sri
Lankan government going to do about it?
If the peace process is inevitable, and if the collapse of the process
is also – according to developing critical mass of opinion — inevitable,
what's also interesting to watch is the inevitable drama that repeats itself.
The Sinhalathva thinkers cabal is issuing their own dire prognostications,
with suitable amount of accompanying theory, and the Editorialists and
the political analysts point out with unerring facility that Prabhakaran
is a devious militarist whose only aim is to hoist the Sri Lankan government
on its own petard.
The peace lobby on the other hand is saying that conflict resolution
is a process that depends on mutual trust, and that the government, in
particular, should go the full length in building up this level of trust.
There are very few Editorialists who follow that line, but academics who
do, and other "free-floating intelligentsia'' (to borrow a phrase from
a fellow columnist) say peace should work, if only it is given a proper
chance. Read: the Sri Lankan government must give more concessions.
If it is the same process that is repeating itself, the question that
fairly begs to be answered is — is it any use, if this is history repeating
itself, to keep-on beating the same tired tom-tom's?
Read the papers of the 1994 peace-interlude, and find out for oneself,
that the articles and the opinion was divided exactly on the same lines.
A) Prabhakaran is an untrustworthy maniac, and those who ride the Tiger
will end up in its belly — limerick and all. B) Peace is a process that
needs hard work, concessions, and plenty of mutual trust to work, so god
help us. Signed – Peace Lobby.
If the peace process is inevitable one can take it. If the peace-collapse
is inevitable, one has to take it too. But, is the peace charade, the whole
accompanying devil-dance of warnings, prognostications and exhortations
inevitable too, and does it have to be taken like the dose of medicine
that accompanies this malady that now strikes the country unfailingly,
just about every four years?
Perhaps if the peace process is inevitable, and the peace - collapse
is inevitable, a little constructive thought about this "inevitability''
may taste a little less like a decoction that is swallowed. Susantha Gunatilleke
was veering towards such constructive-ism a few weeks back, when he said
" enjoy the peace, but prepare for war.'' Full points for a course of action
suggested about the inevitable.
Is the peace folly already accomplished, and is Ranil a dunce? The Sri
Lankan government can think about developing its own strategy for the collapse
of peace, on the other hand. If the Sri Lankan government looks as innocent
as possible, and paints itself as the perfect sucker, when the Tiger strikes
as predicted, at least Sri Lanka would have won the propaganda war.
But, the war, from a purely militarist point of view, will go even farther
from Sri Lanka's control if the peace process collapses. That's the general
commonsensical assumption. The Tigers would have built the bunkers — replenished
arms and ammunition. If that's so — the Sri Lankans are in a no-win situation.
Talk and you are damned. Don't talk, and you are damned. Any constructive
thought about that? Only "enjoy the peace – and prepare for war''?