Innovate to Progress



By Arvalan


"Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world."  -Albert Einstein (1879-1955)


Various columnists perceive the current impasse in the peace negotiations in different ways.  Iqbal Athas of The Sunday Times thunders that the "Road map to peace in Lanka (is) facing LTTE barriers".  PK Balachandran of Hindustan Times declares "Lanka not to allow LTTE to run interim administration".


Both Balachandran and Athas are portraying their perceptions.  They perceive the current limbo is due to the LTTE demanding an Interim Administration, which any legitimately elected, democratically decorated government cannot set up.


From the LTTE's perspective, they are endeavoring to achieve two important objectives by resurfacing the good old issue of an Interim Administration. First and foremost, they want to prove to the International community that the Singhalese governments never deliver on their commitments and secondly, the LTTE want to ensure that the aid money is used effectively and efficiently to rehabilitate and reconstruct war ravaged North East.


It must be remembered that it was Mr. Ranil Wickramasinghe who suggested that he would offer the LTTE an interim administration for two years during the 2001 General Election Campaign, which was even incorporated in the UNP's election manifesto.  This made President Kumaratunaga vow to derail the interim administration proposal, way back in 2001.


"Sri Lanka’s President Chandrika Kumaratunga Thursday vowed to derail the proposed peace efforts of the main opposition United National Party (UNP) if the latter were to come to power in next month’s Parliamentary elections," the state owned Daily News said on Friday, 23rd November 2001.


In democratic countries an election manifesto is a commitment between the voters and the political parties.  Therefore Ranil Wickramasinghe has a democratic duty to fulfill the commitment he made to the Sri Lankan nation at large. The so called democratic and free world needs to teach the Sri Lankan government a lesson or two in democracy before urging the LTTE to join main stratum politics.


The International community needs to understand that what the LTTE is demanding at the moment is what has already been promised to them, both directly and indirectly.  Dr. Anton Balasingham reiterates this point in his letter to the Norwegian Foreign Minister. "Originally the idea of an interim administrative structure for the Northeast was mooted by the LTTE months before the last general elections. The UNP leadership endorsed the proposal and the Prime Minister Mr. Ranil Wickremesinghe openly campaigned in support of an interim administrative structure with the active participation of the LTTE," he states.


Further, the LTTE has gone back to demanding an Interim Administration after trying the alternative proposed by the government (SIHRN) failed.  "The country representatives of the World Bank and Asian Development Bank have said that they agreed with the Liberation Tigers’ criticism of the inefficiency of Sri Lanka government’s bureaucracy", The Sunday Times reported on 2nd June 2003.


The reiteration of the Interim Administration demand is also a 'challenge test' for the government set by the LTTE, in which the government has failed miserably.  LTTE set the challenge to test the government's credibility in fulfilling its commitments.  If the Government cannot deliver on its own election manifesto, then how can it be trusted to deliver on a final political settlement?


The International Community need to pressurize the Colombo government to honour its election promise and setup an Interim Administration to prove its commitment. One should not for a moment fool himself or herself that the battle for Eelam these past 20 years has been about getting an interim council. Interim Administration is a means to the end, not the end itself.  If the government cannot deliver on this interim step, how is it going to deliver the final settlement?


It is no secret that the near economic collapse of the Sri Lankan state and its inability to fund the war effort was the key driver, which pushed the government to negotiate with the LTTE.  Therefore, why should the same LTTE, which brought down the government to its knees, now help it get aid to be utilised for the rest of the country?


The one and only reason for the LTTE to participate in the Tokyo conference is - it should benefit the Tamil People.  If there isn't any mechanism to ensure that the funds will be utilised in the NorthEast, then why should they participate?


The donor community should remember the millions of dollars they funded to rebuilt Jaffna after it was captured by the Sri Lankan Government ended up in the South and in the pockets of politicians.  Therefore, a corruption-free and efficient mechanism is needed from the donor community's perspective as well.


The fact that the LTTE is banned in those countries is not an excuse.  The removal of the ban is long overdue.  LTTE, unlike the other organizations, which are listed, has been in negotiation mode for the last year or so.  In addition, they have never been a threat to US, UK, Canada or Australia.  So why keep the ban, when the LTTE's number one adversary, the Sri Lankan government, has already removed the ban on the organization and is in the process of negotiating peace?


The current peace process is bogged down because the Sri Lankan negotiating team has too much knowledge about the constitution.  Prof. Pieris is an expert in constitutional law and he perceives the problem through his constitutional lenses.  What the government needs is imagination to solve the problem creatively, not bound by constitutional constraints.


It must be noted that it is this very constitution that has created the ethnic problem in Sri Lanka.  Therefore, why be bound by the same demon in finding a solution? Some people call it a catch 22. Is it really?


The Sunday Leader in its editorial on the 3rd of June 2003, under the caption "Who is scared about CBK?" illustrates the lack of guts in the part of the UNP government to confront the President, who is hell bent on breaking the peace process. The Sunday Leader editorial concludes by stating that "The UNF will rue this day if it persuades itself that Kumaratunga does not need to be confronted head on. She should not just be exposed, but crippled politically so that she cannot continue to sabotage the country for her own personal greed. The nation has tolerated the antics of this malevolent piece of mischief far too long. It is time to show her up and make her account for her sins. This is not a question of settling political scores, it is a question of doing what the government was elected to do - serve the people, not the President. Who's afraid of CBK? Ranil Wickremesinghe and the UNF, that's who"


Ranil Wickramasinghe's government is unable to shake its hand with reality and make progress in the peace negotiations. Because its hands and minds are tied with the constitution, the president and a lack of courage.  The need of the hour is not the knowledge (about the constitution) that limits; but the imagination to make progress.