day, the Sahibs went to talk in Sattahip
Though slightly anti cli- mactic in
nature the talks between the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE have
arrived. When Anton Balasingham and G. L. Peiris see each other in
that Naval base in Sattahip in Thailand, they will recognize the other
not from the photographs but from the fact that they are as different
as chalk is from cheese.
These are the
technocrats' peace talks, what with lawyers and businessmen turned
politicians scrumming down for sessions that are seen as being focused
on the realities of development more than on the arcane considerations
of constitutional politics.
Some may wonder
whether there is an element of hijacking of the agenda in these
talks. Those who were in the frontline of the confrontation have
disappeared. In their places are new faces - fresh faces and yuppie
faces barring a few, people who will be more at ease in the highways
of New Jersey and California than they are in the by-ways of Sattahip
or in the alleys and dirt tracks of Jaffna or Slave Island.
is a journey, say the spin doctors, that has to be traversed both
on the highways and the bi-ways. 'Spin' is itself an American coinage,
which really conveys a lot more that it says on the face of it.
The UNF's spin is supposed to be very good, or so an expert on these
matters told me over the weekend.
But what is
amazing is that the UNF has been able to get the LTTE to synchronize
with its moves with amazing consistency. Whether the government
is synchronizing with the LTTE's moves or whether the LTTE is synchronizing
with the government's moves also may be in question.
But, it is
clear from the choice of delegates for the talks for instance that
the two principal actors in this peace process are in agreement
on the general trend of negotiations in Sattahip. They have all
picked people who are far from the theatre of military conflict
- and both sides have counted out personalities who are heavy on
political rhetoric and short on getting things done. (One might
be tempted to add, except for G. L. Peiris who is an academic has
more of a theoretical streak in him but even he is expected to go
against his grain here.)
These are also
the negotiations which seem to peddle the economic theory which
is that if economic issues are addressed, peace will look after
itself as a matter of course. The stock exchanges seemed to have
responded as if they are flesh and blood and alive. The business
analyst types are in frenzy when they tell us that the indices in
Colombo have hit a five year high.
It is not surprising
under the circumstances that these are being called the talks of
the boardroom. ( LTTE goes from battlefield to boardroom screamed
the wire services copy.) The image of the boardroom about captures
what the technocrats seem to expect from these talks - which is
that the Northern economy will be jump started, resulting in the
war becoming irrelevant.
The Sri Lankan
entourage has been generally behaving as if the substance of the
talks emanate from somewhere in the region of George Bush's kitchen.
The US factor has been spoken of in the past few weeks before the
talks as if the life of the talks depend on this issue alone.
will be joined by G. L. Peiris in Washington soon after the talks
, and this about represents the Sri Lankan negotiators' entire predicament,
or their 'situation'. Apparently Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari
Vajpayee will meet Premier Ranil Wickremesinghe in Washington, which
means that the big picture for the Sri Lankan side is about complete.
is caught between pleasing these two competing monsters - he will
see them as monsters as long as they keep outdoing each other to
leverage influence in Sri Lanka. The American presence or the Indian
presence will not be felt in Sattahip, but the entire talks will
be held under the shadow of these two powers.
The talks will
gloss over issues such as cease-fire violations for the simple reason
that these talks seem to have their agenda preconceived. These don't
seem to be antagonists who are sitting down for a bout of arm wrestling.
It is not exactly
something that has been hatched in smoke filled rooms by various
political fixers - but if the talks seem to have a slightly anti
climactic feel to them, it is due to the simple reason that the
talks are between what seems to be two like minded partners . Who
is fooling whom may be a legitimate question, but at least the facade
of it is that these two sides are in total almost appalling synchrony
with each other that the talks seem almost to be preconceived.
in his habitat in the Wanni must be pleased with himself for causing
such convulsion that has resulted in a peace effort - which was
described the other day by the Norwegian ambassador while in his
tight jeans outfit - the cowboy who looked after somebody else's
prairie - as one which has 'reached the end of its beginning.' He
didn't mean it - but that seems to add to the cynicism of the cynics.
The Norwegians orchestrate these peace moves; it seems now if we
watch the conductor that we are still in overture. This overture
is so well rehearsed that one wonders 'why have this concert at
all?' Since an interim administration cannot hang in the air ( the
words are Bradman Weerakoon's ) the next best thing is to have a
parallel administration in which one party - it is your guess which
party that is - freezes itself in the administrative process after
its own vital functions such as legally transferring development
funds etc., are concluded.
How the Tigers
will run the North and the East with funds accruing from the parallel
Sri Lankan administration is what the Sahibs are going to presumably
discuss in this first outing in Sattahip.