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 self-rule.
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 ".

The Government 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.

The question 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 state.

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