ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday, February 11, 2007
Vol. 41 - No 37
Financial Times  

Professor Johan Galtung’s road map for peace

Will even a Katyusha Rocket awaken Sri Lankan leaders?

“Will even a Katyusha rocket directed at Colombo awaken Sri Lankan leaders to get back on track and resolve the conflict by negotiation; will it then crystalize positive supportive action by civil society and media?” asked Professor Johan Galtung, 76 years and founder of International Peace Research Institute (Oslo), an ardent proponent of the political ethics of Mahathma Gandhi, who has devoted coonsiderable energy in the recent years through Transcend ( to conflict transformation by peaceful means.

He described a hypothetical scenario (not necessarily realistic) for Sri Lankans to assume, where the LTTE with its perceived close links with Hizballah smuggle in parts and assemble a Katyusha rocket with a firing range from Killinochchi to Colombo! He asked whether such a capability will drive Southern leaders, business and media to be more supportive in seeking by negotiation a sustainable, honourable and fair resolution?

Drawing reference points from the conflicts in Myanmar, Nepal, Philippines, Spain and Sri Lanka, all with underlying socio/cultural/political issues and the use of violence by the parties to the conflict, Professor Galtung stated that the respective governments in these states were engaging in continuous violence without solving the underlying issues. At the same time in four of the countries there exist ceasefire agreements-CFA’S (except in Myanmar) but they are all “sleeping agreements” and not honoured by all parties. The focus in these countries is on the violations of the agreements and the discussions are centred around strengthening the CFA’s and not on the core underlying issues. In this state one or more of the parties feel they have been cheated by the terms of the CFA’s and engage in violent actions to bring opponents under control before another more favourable agreement is negotiated. Under these circumstances the governments become harsher and dictatorial (the current state in Sri Lanka). Both parties then take up the position that the CFA did not work and its continuation is to its disadvantage to convince the people that war is the solution, and victory is at hand.

Professor Galtung is deeply skeptical whether any concrete progress can be achieved in Sri Lanka with the government’s focus on the CFA and low priority in solving underlying issues. If the latter becomes the focus and some issues are resolved, the situation improves and the outlook will then becomes positive. In the current state, the rebels will tell the people that the CFA route did not work and that an armed struggle for separation is the only way out in the face of an armed aggression by the government.

Professor Galtung stressed that “the government must abandon its linear approach in the pursuit of a resolution (first agree and then address one focus area at a time,without a simultaneous approach on all issues); adopt the Gandhian approach as a way forward. Gandhi never restricted his struggle to Satyagraha and then Sarvodaya nor Sarvodaya first and then Satyagraha next. He practiced both Satyagraha and Sarvodaya at the same time, forcing people led action for government to address all issues and sending a message to the colonial masters of the futility of aggression as well as the consequences of turning a blind eye to the issues facing the nation and its people.

Professor Galtung’s Road Map for Peace in Sri Lanka is to follow the undernoted strategy;

• All approaches to be validated against the bench marks - Concrete offers, Creative in origin fitting the local situation and Constructive in nature
• Develop out of the box, new paradigm setting solutions that recognize socio/cultural /political sensitivities of the communities
• Develop for discussion as many choices and options as the opportunity permits and not a single fixed solution
• Try to develop local level innitiatives that demonstrate inter communal harmony, holding hands and depicting togetherness, even where fundamental commitments remain unchanged ie. walk together and work together with LTTE supporters and combatants in social events and local development initiatives
• Discuss issues in small groups representative of all communities and negotiate with the people at village level rather than at the top of the apex amongst elected representatives and encourage the LTTE and the Muslim leaders to do so also
• Seek lessons from what worked in India (in most parts of India) in agreeing the future the governace structure, rules, principles and guidelines to make it work and avoid pitfalls
• Adopt simple rules of engagement in these local level discussions and seek simple, practical ideas and stress that “no one person represents a specific community but is a responsible voice on behalf of the entire community”
• Let the dialogue blossom throughout the country and listen to the voice of the community
• Publicise ideas as they emerge; do not wait for firm proposals; avoid details (it is small details pronounced too early that cause the biggest obstacles later)
• Encourage all to “be the picture they seek to draw and also practice today what they wish to see in the picture”
• Throughout the process encourage civil society to focus on assuring all sides uphold human rights, civic liberties, equity, eqality and humanitarian support for affected civilians
• Try to catalize all good men and women with credibility in society, including religious and business leaders and media personnel (even though they may be very few in number) to take pro active support stance throughout the process and not be driven away by negative experiances but motivated by even small positive experiances
Professor Galtung had the following advise for the leaders engaged in negotiations;
• Remember that violence breeds violence
• Those with firm opinions and apprehensions will fail
• Dialogue prefered to negotiation
• Get people to represent themselves and not get others to do so
• There is no room for naïve thoughts during a period of change

And remember that a LTTE leader had once remarked “a tiger can be a beautiful animal, majestic, non violent and performing to directions, but may first require to be groomed and in need of a manicure and pedicure whilst at other times the environment forces it to sharpen its claws and teeth to kill its prey”.


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Copyright 2007 Wijeya Newspapers Ltd.Colombo. Sri Lanka.