Tamils risk turning violence inwards- Prof Uyangoda

[TamilNet, Saturday, 19 March 2005, 11:20 GMT]
Although the three years of relative peace after the signing of the Cease Fire Agreement (CFA) between the United National Party (UNP) and the Liberation Tigers (LTTE) has demonstrated that violence and war is not necessary to mediate relations between warring parties, the same period has "also proved that Tamil society ran the risk of turning violence inwards, against itself," writes Prof Uyangoda in an article appearing in the Saturday edition of Daily Mirror.

Noting that both Indo-Lanka accord of 1987, and the CFA of 2002 have refined some major dimensions of the conflict and pointed towards possible trajectories of settlement, Prof Uyangoda says the Indo-Lanka Accord "postulated that the Tamil ethnic rebellion was not just a terrorist endeavour as many in Sri Lanka believed at the time, but the manifestation of legitimate political grievances and aspirations of a minority ethnic community. It acknowledged that the Sri Lankan Tamil community constituted a nationality with the right to internal self-determination in the form of regional autonomy within a clearly demarcated territorial space."

On CFA he added that it "brought the LTTE into a process of political engagement with the state as an equal partner...CFA formalised...a strategic symmetry of power between the Sri Lankan state and the LTTE. In fact, the CFA gave expression to a military-ground reality that slowly had developed during the People's Alliance regimes' war for peace campaign."

Uyangoda credits the Ranil Wickremesinghe for taking the courageous step to sign the CFA and building an international safety net and says, "Chandrika Kumaratunga and Lakshman Kadirgamar, who are always represented in the media as brave and heroic figures in the island's contemporary politics, would not have dared to sign the CFA of February 2002 in its existing form. They would have rejected it outright, or dillydallied with it until the text became obsolete."

Uyangoda attributes the political ascendency of the JVP-SLFP combine to UNP's "lack of imagination concerning institutionalizing a peace settlement," and UNP's reluctance to move beyond Oslo talks which "required of them to elaborate the federalist formula in a confederal mould." This failure "created the space for the SLFP and the JVP to seize the initiative to re-shape the terms of the political debate," he reasons.

He adds that both "UPFA government as well as the LTTE have acquired a remarkable ability to resist international pressure," which has made it necessary for "Sinhalese, Tamil and Muslim political classes - to find a new framework of engagement, although it may not be forthcoming in the foreseeable future."

Uyangoda notes that although the three years of ceasefire has made it difficult for the State and the LTTE to return to war, commitment to CFA is weakening while Tamil Society is running the risk of "turning violence inwards," He concludes that the Sinhalese political class has squandered the opportunity given by the CFA to resolve the conflict in partnership with the LTTE. "Not even the unprecedented natural disaster of December tsunami has moved them in a constructive direction."

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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