Where and how the peace goes from here
No talks? The public's reaction to that has
been similar to one that greets a cancellation of a one day match
owing to a downpour. Public apathy cannot be measured, but it can
be understood, and it appears the public is more worried about the
distant almost non-existent threat of SARS than it is about the
suspension of talks with the Tamil Tigers.
This is Vesak
season, and the public has other things on their mind, and suitably,
a one day cricket tournament is being played at the "Buddhist
seat of learning'' in Dambulla, or so said one news report.
in the driving seat, and cricket being the opiate, the talks become
a non-issue. This of course is not the fault of the average Sri
Lankan. Nobody has been more used to the condition of the changing
fortunes of Sri Lanka's conflict than the average Sri Lankan who
has been used to the yo-yo craziness with which chances of any resolution
to the conflict fluctuates.
But, now there
can be posters printed, and tickets sold too to this pantomime,
because the conflict has acquired a distinct theatrical flavour.
Why are Sri Lankans tuned-off? Tuning-off seems to be the best reaction
to a chain of events that is looking so scripted, that the only
thing that has not been done is to name the ingénue, and
write an opening night blurb.
are few who take the dissenting judgement, the general consensus
is that the Tigers will waltz back sometime to the negotiating table.
This in itself is not the issue so much as the fact that the reactions
of the principal actors to the 'suspension' of the talks looks scripted
and predictable, that we might as well ask when the dress rehearsal
for all this took place. The Japanese envoy Akashi for instance,
is prancing about from one photo event to another, and says the
LTTE should be back at the table. He takes for granted that they
will no doubt be back. His only point is that the LTTE should be
back at the table, before and not after the Japan donor conference.
The vast conspiracy
theory is attractive, and it is tempting to say that there is a
vast 'conspiracy' between the actors of the current peace drama.
In South Africa, for example, the books that came out after the
successful dismantling of apartheid, indicated that there was so
much 'collusion' during negotiations between the ANC and the apartheid
rulers of the dying regime, that the public was most often kept
right out of the loop.
figure, not even Mandela, was larger than the 'process.'' To some
extent, Mandela was 'scripted' as well, inasmuch as he was expected
to play the role of Gandhi in South Africa, and be there as the
potent symbol of the freedom struggle while the actual dialogue
took place between the ANC and the De Klerk government.
Here in Sri
Lanka, people seem to have divined earlier than in South Africa
that there is a script. They know that they do not see a tenth of
what's really going on in the peace saga despite the various titbits
that are being shoved towards them by a the know all media who would
say, Sri Lankan style, that such and such a negotiator made a call
to his opposite number in the negotiating team at such and such
the media who dish out the fancy detail would also perhaps think
that they are privy to the peace process and its workings, that
they have that so called 'ringside view.'' What a load of bullocks
that view would be, if the expression be pardoned in this sanitized
world of peace karma.
All of the
above might indicate the suggestion that if the Sri Lankan peace
moves are orchestrated as they were in South Africa, that they are
also headed for success as they were in the South African instance.
But this article will not really suggest anything so sanguine --
all that can be said at the moment is that the actors hope that
the whole process would lead them in the direction of success that
finally obtained in South Africa.
The LTTE is
one 'actor' that cannot be totally sized up, and at any given moment
that makes any sort of assessment of the current peace moves difficult
-- more difficult for instance than things were in South Africa.
Also this is not South Africa.
But the similarities are eerie. A scripted performance is the demand
of the hour. In South Africa, apartheid had no chance against the
forces that were arraigned against it, and the only thing that remained
in the end was forging the way out for an honourable exit for a
white regime which the big powers of the world never really wanted
to see condemned and abandoned.
Wickremesinghe talks of the international safety net, he is vocalising
the hope that there are similar imperatives here. He seems to say
' as much as conditions were ready for South Africa to evolve from
a white dominated apartheid regime to a democratic regime led by
the ANC, conditions are also ready in Sri Lanka for a resolution
of the Sri Lankan conflict, with the LTTE not being abandoned by
the international community.''
In many ways
though, the safety net of the international community is for the
LTTE and not for the Sri Lankan government. In the manner that the
international players ensured that the white led government in South
Africa was not destroyed in the process of transition, but were
honourably nursed and nurtured out, (much against the wishes of
most elements in the ANC) the international safety net is here to
ensure that the LTTE is given a 'deal that is deemed appropriate.'
argument of those who do not necessarily see things in this way
is that the LTTE is always the wild card. There is merit in this
view undoubtedly, considering the whole audacious military orientation
of the LTTE and its devil may care past. But, notwithstanding all
that, it appears that the Sri Lankan conflict has entered that highly
scripted stage that it is becoming difficult if not entirely impossible
for any player to act out of script.
So let us just
say -- if the Tigers walk out of talks, even with difficulty they
may be keeping to script. But, if Moragoda walks out - make no mistake,
it is most certainly according to script...