20th May 2001
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Erik Solheim himself seems unable to cast himself as something other than a regular harbinger of bad news. The cat and mouse game between the Sri Lankan government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, has been disturbed at least temporarily by the news that the LTTE does not want to name a date for the commencement of negotiations. 

This is because of the confirmation of bad news they said they previously gave Jon Westborg, the Norwegian ambassador but which the Norwegians said they didn't. The news is confirmed by the Norwegians themselves now that the LTTE wants two essential prerequisites met, before they sit down for any sort of discussions. One is the de-proscription of the LTTE, and the other is a ceasefire, both demands suitably underplayed those days by both Sri Lankan and Nowegian interests.

These demands, now reiterated, effectively make the talks the greatest non-event of the current time. The LTTE is finding it difficult to transform itself from being a terror group to a political outfit with matching respectability, and this is obvious from the way that it has been doing the hop around the issue of negotiations. 

On the other hand the Sri Lankan government was almost a sucker for the talks except for the brief interregnum of Agni Kheila. This particular operation was supposed to be the pivotal factor that was to clinch the would-be talks in favour of the Sri Lankan government. An Army chief is now going around telling the political leaders that Agni Kheila was in fact a success, and that its portrayal as a failure was the work of the so called "private media.'' That apart, this week's developments where both Solheim and LTTE's Thamilchelvam escaped assassination bids, leaves time for reflection. Is the LTTE ready to talk? Or not?

The ally

The conspicuously subdued wel-come that was given friend-in-deed China this week did not compare with previous welcomes given to leaders in the history of relations between our two countries. Mrs Bandaranaike was given a rapturous welcome in Beijing in the heady era of non- alignment, and Chou En-lai was received here like some conquering hero. 

It is conceded that the country's leaders were preoccupied with more pressing issues at hand, such as the matter of impending negotiations being brokered by Mr Solheim from Norway. But, what is delegation of power, personified in a large Parakarama Samudra-size Cabinet all about? What was the Home Minister doing?

China has been Sri Lanka's staunch ally especially since 1971, and even after the escalation of hostilities in the North after 1983, springing from an Indian abetted effort from across the Palk Straits. China has dispatched an array of military hardware from its armoury which has helped considerably in meeting the serious threat to national sovereignty from the separatists. 

China has however received a tremendous quid pro quo which is more than elementary thanks for this offer of assistance. There has been a mute mode on China's Tibet policy, on which score China has come in for almost universal international opprobrium. 

Sri Lanka which is one of the world's leading exponents of the pacifist brand of Theravada Buddhism, has not been able to raise a whimper over systematic inroads made into Tibetan Buddhism and the unique Tibetan cultural identity, by the government of Zhu Rongji the Prime Minister of the People's Republic of China. 

It was not long ago that the Sri Lankan government refused entry to the Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhists who now lives in exile in Dharamsala India. This is the price we have to pay in terms of compromising our moral stature, all due to the relentless campaign of destruction unleashed by the LTTE. 

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