Is It Crisis Management or Conflict Resolution?

by Chandi Sinnathurai

THE FIVE-DAY visit to Sri Lanka by the UN special envoy Lakhdar Brahimi has caused many speculations.  Is the intent of the UN to study the progress of the peace process genuine enough to win peace while bringing justice to the marginalised Tamils?  Such fear is always palpable in the Sinhala mind-set.

The Sinhala State would desperately want peace, especially at this juncture.  But, sadly, as tradition would have it, only through the suppression of Tamils – this has been the history of Sinhala chauvinism.  The West in its wisdom has to recognise the fact of history that it is not the Tamils who are a stumbling block to peace.  The Tamils are, of course, opposed to the State terror.

The thorn in the side in this peace process has been the intransigent immoderate Sinhala political parties, including both the extremist Buddhist Clergy party and the Sangha, which would oppose any concession given to the Tamils!  The Tamil struggle, however, has matured and moved on in the last 30 years, from being appeasing for concessions to demanding an independent sovereign State. 

The Subcontinent neighbour has its ears on the ground in this matter.  India would want to be consulted or - given the nature of geopolitics - at least to be seen as Big Brother with fig leaves.  It is rumoured that Brahimi will be engaging in behind-the-scenes diplomacy for an Indian policy change with regard to the LTTE.

The EU

The EU is deliberating this week with its member states (25 countries) whether to call for a ban on political activities of the LTTE.

It is indeed a conflicting state of affairs.  How, on one hand, could you strangle the political activities of an organisation which is a central piece in the peace puzzle, while on the other extend a hand of blessing?  It is such muddled actions that lead civil societies to loose trust in Western democratic institutions that still seem to communicate with an air of arrogance and hypocrisy to the conflicts of the developing world. 

Friend or foe

The Sri Lankan State is also caught in a Presidential conundrum.  Will Rajapakse be a friend of the Tamils?  Friend or foe; all presidential candidates begin like doves and then turn into clay pigeons in the palms of racist politics.  The Tamils are not gullible to burn their fingers.  The mistrust over Norway being an interlocutor has always been there.  It is the unfounded phobia and the mindset of the Sinhalas that the West needs to take into consideration.

The UN involvement is welcomed by Sri Lanka.  Many believe this to be a covert measure of post-Kadirgamar crisis management.  At some stage in the process – if this engagement is genuine and serious on the part of the UN, when the envoy opens the inescapable dialogue for international recognition of both the Tamil struggle and its homeland – what happens then will be an acid test of the Sinhala mindset.  That remains the lynch pin in the whole peace initiative.

One has to be an impeccable optimist in this regard!  Brahimi has been the under-secretary general of the League of Arab States (1984 - 1991); and Algerian Minister of Foreign Affairs ( 1991 - 1993).  His experience and diplomatic skills would tell him not to exclude Norwegians in this process.  The Tamils at any cost will not accept any purely cosmetic changes.

Fingers crossed; let’s hope that history doesn’t repeat itself.


Posted September 6, 2005