Sri Lanka in precarious political uncertainty- Uyangoda

[TamilNet, Saturday, 31 July 2004, 18:44 GMT]
Warning that extended stalemate between the Government of Sri Lanka and the Liberation Tigers may be leading Sri Lanka in a slippery slope towards war, Professor Uyangoda, in a political analysis column in Friday's Daily Mirror, says that "without partnership building premised on mutual trust and respect, there is no way for the UPFA [United Peoples Freedom Alliance] and the LTTE to return to the negotiation table in the foreseeable future."

From a mutually understanding partnership between the LTTE and GoSL during the earlier UNP Government, the "relationship is now entering into one of adversarial competition, one side trying to undermine the other for positional advantage," and the parties are pushing for their own separate agendas disregarding the international dimensions, observes Uyangoda.

Uyangoda sees differing strategic approaches being adopted by the two parties towards resuming negotiations.

Noting that the Karuna affair and the reemergence of violence in the East and in Colombo has propelled LTTE's internal problems to center stage of Sri Lanka's politics, Uyangoda claims that LTTE would like an early return to negotiations to reassert its "sole representative" status and to ensure status of parity at negotiations "despite altered strategic equilibrium consequent to Karuna affair."

On the other hand, Uyangoda surmises that the delay by UPFA in resuming negotiations can be explained by UPFA's strategic doctrine which assumes that framework for talks should be based on "asymmetrical negotiations" rejecting the "notion of parity." A second component of the UPFA's doctrine, Uyangoda says, is "that a negotiated settlement is possible only with a weakened LTTE, so that the state will have the veto over the agenda, the process as well as the outcome of negotiations."

Influence of the International community in shaping events in Sri Lanka is waning according to Uyangoda.

"In the LTTE's strategic calculations, the closer involvement of the international community in Sri Lanka's peace process resulted in altering the power equilibrium in favour of the government. Then the LTTE developed a successful strategy to minimize the role of the international actors vis-à-vis their own decision-making process," says Uyangoda.

He adds that, "the UPFA has been ideologically averse to the intimate involvement of the Western powers in Sri Lanka's peace initiatives. Most of the UPFA political thinkers come from the old school of state sovereignty and they view Sri Lanka's ethnic conflict as well as peace efforts as essentially internal processes...Contrary to what the international donors might think, the UPFA ideologues do not seem to be ready to trade off what they see as 'sovereignty' for rapid economic growth."

Uyangoda sees Sri Lanka as entering "an irreversible future" with mistrust and misgiving between the two sides exacerbating every day, and "the best option in this situation is to envision a future with a protracted period of no war, no talks," concludes Uyangoda with uncharacteristic resignation.

Prof. Jayadeva Uyangoda is a well regarded political commentator in the Sinhala and English media in Sri Lanka. He was one of the Marxist rebels who led the armed insurrection to capture state power in 1971 and was incarcerated for many years after the rebellion was ruthlessly crushed by Sri Lankan armed forces.

He is a senior academic in the University of Colombo.

 

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