Devolution or Eelam
And so, hatched
and incubated with much fanfare, we have the LTTE's proposals for
a Provincial Self-Administration under their command in Sri Lanka's
North and East provinces.
The UNF Government
leadership could well have been taken aback by these proposals that
call for an extra-Constitutional exercise to hand the LTTE virtual
The Government Spokesman and Chief Negotiator has already conceeded
that the " disparities between the positions are evident "
and while reiterating a firm commitment to a negotiated settlement,
he sees that the shock to an increasingly disturbed South is cushioned.
He refers to the " definitive statement " that was recently
made in New Delhi during the official visit of the Prime Minister
where it was stated that any Interim Agreement should be part of
an integral part of a final solution ".
Spokesman goes on to say that human rights, democracy,pluralism
and genuine power-sharing are the basic values underpinning a negotiated
settlement. Significantly, the LTTE is deafeningly silent on most
of these 'basic values' in their 8-page proposals for virtual self-rule
with a vague description on human rights, a hypocritical passage
on Discrimination on grounds of religion or race while specifically
discriminating North and East Muslims and Sinhalese from the administration
of the Interim Administration, and having not a single word on democracy
in these two provinces.
And to cap
it all, the proposals call for the selection of a chairperson for
arbitration of disputes by the International Court of Justice, a
body which deals only in disputes between sovereign states.
No doubt these
are matters up for negotiation now. It is a well established practice
that when going in for negotiations one must ask for the maximum
plus plus. So, the Government negotiators will now need more than
a cool head and a warm heart. They will need a strong stomach for
tough bargaining in the months ahead, quite apart from a need to
hone in on their negotiating skills.
But if there
is one thing that the Government must take the rap for in permitting
the LTTE make these grandiose claims, it is that they allowed things
to fester during the period of the Ceasefire from February last
year uptodate. They allowed banks, courts, taxation, IGPs, Chief
Justices as they did the military build-ups, while they ignored
the Muslim resentment.
Now comes the
hard grind to undo all these - or give in. Ex-facie, these proposals
would appear to be a quantum leap even from the Thimpu principles
of 1985, and no doubt in the weeks ahead there will be arguments
for and against these proposals.
One thing however
needs to be said, i.e. devolution of power was never an LTTE demand
in its early days. They simply wanted a separate state. Devolution
was thrust down our throats by the Indians of the day, who at the
time sided with the LTTE.
The LTTE has now come to accept reality and settled for devolution,
which would explain the mad rush in recent months criss-crossing
the globe in search of devolution models. And an increasingly battered
Sri Lankan Nation is now weakening its resistance to giving that
devolution to the LTTE.
that would linger nevertheless, is whether the LTTE by accepting
devolution has given up its goal of a separate state, or whether
this Interim arrangement is simply the stepping stone for that separate