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Prez wants Lanka conflict solved at home

Like Rajapaksa, the LTTE too is not in the favour of internationalisation of the conflict, writes PK Balachandran.

india Updated: May 14, 2006 17:31 IST

The Sri Lankan President, Mahinda Rajapaksa, has said that he will not further internationalise the ethnic conflict in his island country.

"It is my personal view that the ethnic issue should not have been internationalised. We should have treated it as a domestic issue and resolved it ourselves. As for me, I do not want to internationalise it any further," Rajapaksa told The Sunday Times.

In a message to the rebel Tamil Tiger leader, Velupillai Prabhakaran, the Sri Lankan President said: "I am here with a clean sheet. I do not carry any baggage. I do understand the problems of the Tamil-speaking people. There is absolutely nothing that we cannot resolve. Bring it to the table, sit and discuss it with me."

LTTE too is not for internationalisation

Interestingly, the LTTE is also not for internationalisation of the conflict.

When the Ranil Wickremesinghe government started involving the "international community" other than Norway (the accredited Peace Facilitator) in 2002, the LTTE protested.

The LTTE did not like Wickremesinghe's bringing in the US and Japan into the peace process as part of an International Safety Net (ISN) for Sri Lanka.

The ISN was to help the Sri Lankan state resist the LTTE's terrorism and separatism. 

The LTTE loudly complained about "excessive internationalisation" of the conflict and refused to attend the Tokyo Donors' Conference in June 2003, though the latter pledged a plum peace process-linked development aid package of $4.5 billion.

The LTTE did not want to be tied down by the prescriptions and conditions which the Tokyo meet was expected to make.

And, as feared, the Tokyo conclave did lay down the basic parameters of a final settlement in Sri Lanka. The parameters did not suit the LTTE. The Tokyo Declaration was opposed to separatism.

Shared opposition may lead to direct talks

Since both the Sri Lankan President and the LTTE have the same view on internationalisation, the two may one day shun the rest of the world and begin talking to each other directly, some observers feel.

They point out that there has been a precedent.

Between 1988 and 1990, President Ranasinghe Premadasa had given the marching orders to India, then the sole outside actor in the Sri Lankan ethnic conflict, and started talking to the LTTE directly.

But the talks broke down on political issues. And in June 1990, war resumed.

Cynics say that the same thing could happen now, in 2006, because the two sides are divided in the same way  on the same issues.

The gulf is as wide as before.

In 1990, Premadasa had stood for a settlement within a unitary state. In 2006, it is no different, with Rajapaksa saying the very same thing.

But most Tamils want a federal structure. And the LTTE wants a separate state of Tamil Eelam.

The government will concede neither.

There is, as yet, no sign of the two sides modifying their respective stands to find common ground.