ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday, July 1, 2007
Vol. 42 - No 05
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Wijeya Pariganaka

Co-Chairs off the target

The International Community (IC), the euphemism for the countries that give Sri Lanka aid so that we can 'get on' with it, met earlier this week under the banner of the "Co-Chairs"- i.e. the countries that supervise the 'peace process' in the country vis-à-vis the northern insurgency.

Their decision has not been made public, for they have rejected the thought of issuing a public statement saying that their repeated calls for 'both sides', i.e. the Government and the LTTE to stop the fighting have fallen on deaf ears.

However, The Sunday Times has been able to obtain details of what transpired at this meeting and they are contained in our front page and the defence column on the facing page.

These decisions will be made formally known to Government leaders in Colombo next week. The underlying theme of the Co-Chairs' deliberations had been that there is no military solution to the northern insurgency, and only a political one will succeed in ending this 'conflict'.

No specific criticism has been made of the LTTE for waging war. It's the Government they blame for pursuing a military option to end the insurgency without putting forward a proper political package.

On the issue of human rights violations, they do accuse the LTTE of forced abductions etc., but here again they have come down hard on the Government on the problems of food shortages, abductions etc., saying that the State has a higher responsibility because it has signed international covenants.

It seems clear that the conference held in Oslo has not taken into consideration what little the Government has done to meet humanitarian needs in the East -- and the North in recent times.

They have made it clear that the 'IC' will not give its imprimatur to the devolution proposals if all that is being offered is the District Councils to "the genuine grievances of the Tamil parties".

And not surprisingly, they are asking the question, whether the prosecution of the war against the LTTE is "cornering" the rebels to reject the prospect of going to the negotiating table. Put differently, they are saying that the LTTE must not be militarily defeated, because then they will not come to the negotiating table, and there will not be a political solution.

The Co-Chairs seem indifferent to the suggestion that -- should the East be cleared -- militarily -- some day soon, economic aid for its uplift should come immediately rather than wait for a final settlement.

We have said this before -- that countries like Japan must not wait to hand over their beefy cheque only "once peace comes", and that institutions like the World Bank too should not wait to dole out the dough only then. They should start doing that now so that economic activity in these war-ravaged areas could be started right now, weaning the people especially the youth away from a state of hapless inactivity, having nothing to do but join the terrorists or find their way abroad.

The Co-Chairs seem to have taken a swipe at the on-going public thrashings between the Attorney General and the International Group of Eminent Persons (IIGEP), but here again they are leaning on the side of the IIGEP.

This brings us to our editorial of last week: "Putting our house in order". It now seems the Government is somersaulting backwards to put its house in order by even sacrificing the Attorney General who stuck his neck out for the integrity of the nation's conscience.

It just shows how the Government acts and reacts generally -- with the same haste that has prompted a public admonition from even the Chief Justice this week in the presence of the President.

Ad-hoc action seems to be the order of the day, with different players playing different instruments all making a jarring tone to the Government's orchestra.

Patchwork diplomacy has been the hallmark of this Government with the Minister aided and abetted by some buffoonery indulged in by certain media buccaneers in his office that have earned for him and country a bad press here and abroad; a Foreign Secretary who is left to his own devices; other Ministers poaching into the field of foreign affairs and a foreign service demoralised to the hilt.

This week's disclosure of how the Justice Ministry operates was a revelation indeed on how the Government works in this country. It's about time some sanity prevailed.

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Copyright 2007 Wijeya Newspapers Ltd.Colombo. Sri Lanka.