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3rd October 1999

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Mirror Magazine

    Politics of mediation

    There have been mixed reactions to the blitz of suggestions that perhaps the United Nations might be able to mediate a solution to the protracted war in this country. The Foreign Minister sees UN mediation as an invitation to disaster, and he is not without substantial reason to hold such a view.

    UN intervention has not helped in places such as Kashmir for instance, engendering a certain justified UN phobia in countries such as ours.

    But, the government's inability to find a solution to the bloody conflict doesn't allow the state to take the high horse as far as suggestions of UN mediation are concerned.

    The war rages on, benefitting perhaps arms dealers and a few other undesirable elements that do not want to see an end to this conflict. Other efforts that were launched by the state almost under euphoric circumstances to see an end to the conflict by constitutional means have come a total cropper, despite the weak protestations made by the government to the contrary. The government has in the meantime, revealed yet another mantra for solving the ethnic issue, which is called the Equal opportunities Bill. There is nothing strange about that, as this is the n'th time the government has come up with some new trick to shore up its own morale regarding a crisis that never seems to end.

    But, the Equal Opportunities Bill may be another political gimmick which may yield results by way of wasted time in terms of lengthy parliamentary debates to discuss the issues . That may sound flippant, but the Equal Opportunities Bill to a great extent merely duplicates some of the equal rights legislation already constitutionally granted.

    Besides, as far as fundamental rights legislation goes, people in very high places have referred to the recourse to such laws as "an industry." The former Attorney General went on record saying fundamental rights legislation has "gone too far." If legal rights bestowed with the left hand are taken away with the right, there is every possibility that the Equal Opportunities Bill will be yet another cosmetic legislative device.

    Though this Bill envisages the extension of the concept of equal rights, that doesn't represent such a radical revolutionary change as has been made out. So what does a government do under these circumstances? Try out the option of UN mediation or third party mediation, being suggested as a way out of the crisis? Granted that the considerations are graver than they might sound, and granted that a "yes'' or "no'' answer to the question of UN mediation may be too simplistic.

    This is not to say that a government should cave in to manoeuvres from outside our shores to force some kind of ad hoc solution to the conflict in this country, but it is merely to point out that the government may not have the option of sleeping on the job. The government will have to find a solution one way or the other, or face other unpleasant repercussions.

    Meanwhile, India, still our big brother to the North (lingering, it's almost tempting to say ) is also not opposed to the suggestion of UN mediation here in Sri Lanka. This despite the fact that it is the Indian government that first interfered in the conflict in this country and exacerbated it almost beyond repair.

    The Indian factor still prevails, and that's galling more than any suggestion of UN mediation, because the Indian government is hardly in a position to suggest anything to this country, given its past record concerning the conflict here.

    All of these factors are no doubt irritating, but the government also has to take some responsibility for inviting these irritants. It's easier to ask all nosey parkers to go to hell, if the nosey parkers have nothing to point fingers at. But, successive Sri Lankan governments seem to give them plenty.

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