Keeping the peace
On the eve of the peace talks there is a rising expectation-quotient in the country. But there is a measure of caution that accompanies this hope. Both the Norwegians and the Prime Minister have asked that too much hope should not be invested in the process so early.

It is a good question why there is that amount of restraint being shown, and why there is so much caution that's being sounded. It would be because they know with whom they are dealing.

From all accounts that reach us, next week's peace talks will be only a public statement of positions, and a recounting of the historical aspects of the conflict followed by the hammering out of an agenda.

Anton Balasingham will no doubt speak of state terrorism by the government, but he will be silent on who murdered not just Premadasa and Gandhi, but also, Duraiappah, Bastiampillai, Amirthalingam, Mr and Mrs Yogeswaran, Dharmalingam, Maheshwaran, Sabaratnam, Pathmanaba, Tambimuttu, Thiruchelvam etc., who were all snuffed out in the furtherance of the cause of the oppressed Tamils of the North and East. We reproduce today Balasingham's speech made less than a year ago, where he quotes his leader saying,'we have a working plan - according to this we will bring Jaffna and Batticaloa under our control. We will do this either through war or peace.'

Read together with his leader Velupillai Prabhakaran's assertion at the Killinochchi press conference last April in reply to the question by an Indian journalist that any one of his cadres is entitled to shoot him the day he gives up Eelam - no wonder the Norwegians and the Prime Minister are a bit wary.

All this brings us to the situation in our own backyard, which seems to be developing apace while the government talks peace with the outfit we have described above. The President has scuttled plans by the UNF government to revamp the army top command. There is a disgraceful situation in which certain top level meetings in the Defense establishment have to be interrupted in order to ascertain whether the army commander will continue to hold that post or not.

While the civilian high command does not know what is going on in the army, it is sad to see the level of dissension among the top brass of the army, navy and police.

There is no doubt that the President has precipitated some of these situations in furtherance of what seem to be cheap political objectives, but that does not completely absolve all parties concerned who have neglected the forces because there is a lull in the war.

While the LTTE continues to keep its war machine in fine trim, the government seems to have given all officers and gentlemen a breather. The going rationalization at the current time seems to be that the army is for civilians to run because there is no war on at the moment.

The President's action in granting extension to those forces chiefs who are past the age of 55 will effectively keep some of the others from ever being able to hold the top positions in their respective forces.

This wouldn't do much for morale but what is worse is the fact that the infighting in the forces is spilling over to the public arena, sending out a bad signal that the so called disciplined forces are allowed to be run in a free-for-all manner by a civilian command during peacetime. Men who have made genuine sacrifices would ask themselves what they have been fighting for, if the political high command cannot grasp the command structure requirements of the armed forces still technically at war.

The armed forces of our country should not be an instrument for politicians to play their own little power games with. If there is war again, all these war games in Colombo will be over and the price this nation will have to pay will be indescribable.


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