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Chance for honourable peace

The LTTE has got yet another opportunity to prove its good intentions of arriving at an honourable solution to the ethnic problem, in the peace process before the international community.

The LTTE has little or no opportunity of avoiding poverty and insecurity on their own without the cooperation of the rest of the country as well as the rest of the world.

In this rapidly globalising world, economies of scale and higher specialised skills are important to achieve competitiveness to realise better and bigger returns for the country’s goods and services.

Despite the recent blood letting, where the terrorists intensified their attacks against the security forces and civilians, the Norwegian peace brokers are optimistic that next weekend’s peace talks in Geneva would go ahead as scheduled.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa has continuously emphasised his keenness to talk to the Tigers to achieve this goal for the benefit of the entire country. This proves that he is a man who strongly believes in democracy as well as the unity of all Sri Lankans, irrespective of race, colour or creed. But if the Tigers take his patience to be a sign of weakness, they are mistaken.
Therefore, at a time when the President and the Government are showing a commitment to negotiate the longstanding concerns of the minorities despite the LTTE’s obsession for blood letting, the Tigers should make every endeavour to make the best of the opportunity.

The recent incidents in Kebbetigollawa, Habarana and Galle have proved that the terrorists believe in the bullet, not the ballot. If the thinking of the Tigers is that any military victories would be an advantage for them to increase their bargaining power at the negotiation table, they are mistaken.

As a democratically elected Government, Sri Lanka has the ability and the international backing to meet such terrorist attacks. However, it has to be noted that the President treats the Tiger terrorists as citizens of this country just as the rest, though they have opted for terrorist acts against an elected Government. It may be for this reason that President Rajapaksa is prepared to talk to the LTTE.

Despite the LTTE’s ruthless acts, Norway’s Development Minister Eric Solheim believes that the peace talks would go ahead as scheduled. However, the international community should take note that this is an instance of a legitimate Government talking peace with a group of terrorists.

Hence, it is wrong to treat the two parties as equals. Nobody wants war. What is of importance is arriving at a strategy of achieving vital peace in a dignified manner, which is acceptable to all communities of this country.

Unlike on previous occasions, the peace talks are taking place under a more conducive environment. The ruling party - the SLFP-led UPFA, and the main opposition party - the UNP, to their credit has come to an understanding of reaching a consensus for the formulation of such a strategy.

Indications are that almost all minority parties, irrespective of whether they are in the Government or not, would give their backing to this approach initiated by President Rajapaksa.

The Tigers are under immense pressure by the international community to negotiate a political settlement with the government. All European Union member countries have joined the USA, UK, Canada and India in branding the LTTE as a terrorist organisation. On the other hand, President Rajapaksa has courageously stuck to his goal of protecting the people of this country from terrorism, despite persistent military provocations by the Tigers.

He has also succeeded in maintaining the morale of the security forces at a high level and received the backing of the peace-loving citizens of this country. He has already given instructions to the Government’s peace delegation that issues concerning the minorities be given serious consideration at the forthcoming talks in Geneva.

This could therefore be a historic turning point in Lanka’s quest for peace.

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