waiting for Godot, no?
Soon August will be upon us. Here in the UK the Blair government
is bracing itself for a possible summer of discontent as a long dormant
trade unionism begins
to flex its collective muscle and threatens strike action.
In Sri Lanka,
the only worrying issue appears to be the rising cost of living
that threatens to disrupt the stratosphere.
of talks between the government and the LTTE that dominated the
political scene nearly six months back, seems to have receded. Talk
of impeachment, of inner party squabbles and friction, sitting in
the UN Secretary-General's chair and surveillance equipment in handbags
take pride of place in the media and doubtless titillate a people
otherwise burdened by their daily existence.
First it was
said that talks between the two sides would start in May. Then it
became June because certain deadlines set out in the Memorandum
of Understanding (MoU) had to be met. So the country held its breath
and waited for the 30-day deadline to pass.
It did, but
there were no signs of enhanced activity on the side of the negotiators
who had been named with some fanfare. In the green corner were so
and so. In the yellow corner were so and so.
Then came June.
It passed quickly too, but the so and sos were still not putting
their heads-or whatever they were planning to put together- and
soon we were in July. Still not even the slightest sign of negotiations.
So an exhausted
people await the sixth month while a deafening silence fills the
appears to have taken a vow of silence, though some politicians
who were not mandated by the prime minister to talk on the subject
of war and peace, do so as though they were privy to every move
or lack of it. The LTTE whose designated chief negotiator has not
return to land on the waters of Iranamadu, and like Moses, divide
the waters and lead his tribe to the negotiating table.
The Thais who
have been holding their breath and waiting to see Bangkok returning
to the news after their last effort to bring peace to Cambodia,
must surely be wondering whether this was all a hoax.
is now available in the North, but at a price. The LTTE has its
own tax structure and shop owners and businessmen have to pay those
taxes- or else.
pass on these taxes to the consumer who has therefore to pay taxes
twice over- those charged by the government as announced in budgets
and approved by parliament and the LTTE tax which has been imposed
without any parliamentary authority but by the edict of Tiger overlords.
who have been to the north recently say that foreign exchange transactions
take place in banks run by the LTTE or by persons who are authorised
All this while
I was under the impression that the opening of new banks within
the country have to be with the approval of Sri Lanka's monetary
authority, that there is a Banking Act and that the country's Central
Bank supervises the functioning of local banks to ensure that they
abide by the rules and regulations set out.
I may be wrong
of course, but if such monetary and fiscal issues which should rightly
be the province of the central government have been usurped by a
body of persons who have never been elected by the people, who have
not been given the mandate to do so-and if given, certainly not
through any publicly advertised and held election or referendum,
then are not the laws of Sri Lanka being violated with impunity?
I also read
in this newspaper last Sunday that the LTTE is operating bus services
from Jaffna to Colombo and back along the A-9 highway with the help
of some private bus operators.
operators were coerced into doing so or were selected for their
loyalty one does not know just now. But one thing is certain- these
operators have to pay the LTTE a tax to run these services. Doubtless
that tax is being passed on to the passengers.
In short the
people living in the North or LTTE-held areas are paying taxes twice
and more than people in the rest of the country, for the luxury
of living under Mr. Prabhakaran.
secret ballot was held in the LTTE held areas asking the people
there whether they are agreeable to paying the prices and taxes
demanded of them and if it was held without any coercion, intimidation
and violence, how do you suppose the vote would go?
The other day
LTTE cadres on a trawler which was transporting heaven only knows
what, reportedly held two foreign monitors virtually hostage when
they arrived to inquire during a confrontation with the navy.
The very people
invited to your home and to mediate in a dispute are then treated
in a manner that is hardly hospitable. The Monitoring Mission has
already reported that the LTTE (and the government too) has committed
a series of acts such as intimation, abduction, kidnapping and harassment
in violation of the MoU.
If the LTTE
is able to violate not only the MoU but also Sri Lanka's laws with
impunity and therefore act as a de facto state without any agreement
what on earth is the hurry in having talks- in Bangkok, Tierra del
Fuego or wherever.