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"Peace Process absolutely irreversible" - British Don

[TamilNet, Saturday, 08 November 2003, 12:58 GMT]
"Tamil issue has always been a political football in the grounds of the Southern political discourse, but this time around the situation is entirely different. Transparency of talks and the high level of international engagement make the current Peace Process absolutely irreversible," said Sri Lanka expert Prof. Chris Smith, Director of Center for South Asia studies at the International Policy Institute, King's College, London when TamilNet asked him to comment on the recent constitutional crisis, precipitated by Sri Lanka's President Ms.Chandrika Kumaratunge.

"Sri Lanka's President's actions [of sacking the Ministers in Prime Minister Wickremesinghe's administration] may complicate matters in the short term but her outburst will not work," Prof. Smith added.

When asked to comment on the Interim Self-Governing Authority (ISGA) proposals of the Liberation Tigers, Prof.Smith said, "The proposals may have alarmed some in the South, but this is not surprising. Majority of the Sinhalese viewed the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) as the beginning of the end of conflict, whereas the Tamils viewed the MoU as political space to engage in a broader discourse towards finding a negotiated solution. Basically, the majority Sinhalese public had a simplistic view of the MoU and did not comprehend the complexities involved."

"A form of Confederation is unavoidable to resolve the conflict. Most reasonable Sinhala politicians realize this," he added.

But Prof. Smith cautioned that both sides have to show some degree of flexibility if they are to be successful in reaching a solution to the conflict.

"International community has a finite amount of patience and competing demands from several other nations may deprive Sri Lanka the necessary aid to realize its potential. Sri Lanka's politicians and people must ensure that the International community maintains hope and faith in Sri Lanka's future. Showing forward momentum in Peace is very critical to this," said Prof. Smith

Reinforcing Prof.Smith's view that the President's action will only have short term impact, Prof.Jayadeva Uyangoda, who chairs the Political Science Department at the University of Colombo told the Washington Post, "the President's gamble appears to have been a miscalculation. The move has been unpopular. It is seen as reckless, particularly in the context of economic development."

But Prof.Uyangoda in an article on Friday's edition of Daily Mirror, said "Mrs. Kumaratunge has chosen a strategy of hostile confrontation. The implications of this unfolding power struggle for the peace process are yet to be seen."

Prof. Smith has been to Sri Lanka several times recently and has widely travelled in the NorthEast visiting High Security Zones (HSZ) and the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) refugee camps. He has widely published on topics related to Anti-personnel landmines and light weapons proliferation in South Asia.

 

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