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Life's good comes not from others' gift, nor ill
Man's pains and pains' relief are from within.
Thus have we seen in visions of the wise !."
Tamil Poem in Purananuru, circa 500 B.C 

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Tamil National Forum

Selected Writings - Dr. Adrian Wijemanne

The GoSL-LTTE negotiations for peace

31 October 2002

The public discourse on the Sinhala side about the forthcoming meeting in Bangkok seems to be clouded by a lack of a clear understanding of its nature. The cause of peace will be furthered if, even at this late stage, there is clarity as to what is impending.

The common object of the GoSL and the LTTE is to end the war between them and establish a secure peace on the island. This object is to be attained by negotiation between the two parties which precludes any form of dictation by one party to the other. They have met as equals on the field of battle and now they meet as equals at the peace negotiation.

The negotiation is about peace for all the peoples of the island. It is not about a constitutional reform of the existing state because no constitution can secure peace between peoples who have differing conceptions of their rights and the exercise of those rights. Sri Lanka's own experience is the best proof of this. There have been three constitutions and many amendments of them none of which has averted one of the longest wars in Asia.

Peace needs not a constitution but a treaty between the two parties to the negotiation which will bind each party to its agreed obligations. The performance of treaty obligations necessitates the existence within each party of the powers necessary to fulfil its obligations, powers which are independent of the other and which are not derived from the other.

It is very important that these implications of what negotiation means are clearly understood by the Sinhala people and their leaders who have spoken so far in the vaguest terms of a constitutional exercise in which they will be playing a dominant role. Nothing could be further from reality.

On the Sinhala side the constant refrain has been the securing of peace within the single all-island state. There is a nationwide, multi-partisan consensus on this. Peace has been inextricably linked to the single all-island state. For the last 18 years the single all-island state has been the arena in which peace has proved to be impossible of attainment and in which war has prevailed.

Even prior to that the single all-island state was the arena for recurring physical violence against the Tamil people and their elected leaders with a view to browbeating them into abandoning their political demands which were unpalatable to us. If peace is de-linked from the single all-island state there arises the prospect of peace within a two-state island.

To reject that possibility means that peace is not what we want and to make clear that what we want is the single all-island state despite the proven impossibility of securing peace within it.

Peace requires a re-examination of the nexus between peace and the single all-island state which has been for so long an article of faith among the Sinhala people.

Persistence in it will jeopardise a successful outcome at the forthcoming negotiation.

On the side of the LTTE the emphasis has been consistently on the national rights of the Tamil nation in the separate area of its domicile on the island and on the autonomous exercise of those rights. There is now an overwhelming Tamil consensus on this behind the LTTE.

The issue of Tamil national rights has bedevilled all three previous discussions with the LTTE. Now, however, the time for discussion is past and, instead, we are embarked upon a negotiation for peace between equal parties in which the issue is no longer the existence of Tamil national rights but how to reconcile their realisation with peace on the island for both nations.

The negotiation will be greatly helped by a clear, rational conception of what can be changed and what cannot be changed. The island is a physical entity which cannot be changed even by the agreement of both sides. On that unchangeable platform, however, kingdoms have arisen and fallen, imperial conquests have waxed and waned, and monarchy has been replaced by a republic.



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