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Sunday, 27 January 2002  
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Taking risks for peace

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has used his policy statement to the new Parliament to make clear the Government's intention to carefully consider the possibility of suspending or relaxing the ban on the LTTE. It is that important an issue for the United National Front Government.

The Prime Minister and his parliamentary colleagues will argue that it is an equally important issue for the country as a whole. Mr. Wickremesinghe's speech to the House and to the nation strongly argues the case: the country has suffered, and continues to suffer, terribly from the ethnic conflict and proscription should not be allowed to become an obstacle to ending it.

The Prime Minister speaks of a 'last chance'. Sophists and cynics might argue that there have been opportunities for peace before the current process and there could be opportunities in the future as well. But the Premier, as the leader of a society, speaks of that society's yearnings, its expectations and its dues. That is his appointed role, his societal function.

Sri Lanka and Sri Lankans deserve peace today - here and now. Not one more Sri Lankan, of any ethnic group, social class, male or female, should suffer for a moment more, if peace is even remotely possible. Not one Sri Lankan should be allowed to die or be mained for life or deprived of her/his spouse or parent or son/daughter if peace could be achieved; nor should the land and the eco-system suffer.

In that sense, this is the 'last chance' for those millions of Sri Lankans who are already suffering or are directly at risk because of the conflict.

Equally important is the fact that this is the first time that both major national political parties are jointly in power today providing an unique opportunity for that long-sought collaborative effort for political reform and peace.

It is an opportunity that the national political leadership does not wish to waste; and should not. That is why it is prepared to take risks, even politico-military ones, such as re-considering the ban on the LTTE.

In his policy statement, Tuesday, Prime Minister Wickremesinghe referred to the need for political parties to co-operate in the effort to bring about a sustainable political settlement of the conflict. The whole of Sri Lanka knows what the Premier is talking about.

The issue is the need for as many political parties as possible to collaborate in the effort to resolve the ethnic conflict. Most important is for the two major national political parties, the UNP and the SLFP-led PA, to collaborate in this effort.

The experience of several decades of repeated actions by both the UNP and the SLFP to sabotage of each other's initiatives to solve the ethnic problem finally led to the realisation by the people at large that the mere practise of political competition for power cannot be the panacea for political ills in our post-colonial state.

The action by the electorate to place both the PA as well as the UNP side by side in power - as executive President and Government - means that now the main parties have a golden opportunity to share in the credit for a successful peace effort or, jointly take the blame for failure.

Will enlightened self-interest prevail or, will those restive elements that always haunt the corridors of power drag us back into rivalry and betrayal?

Given the combined popular mandate for peace bestowed in the last polls on both the United National Front as well as the People's Alliance, clearly the nation, too, is ready to follow its leadership in taking risks.

Crescat Development Ltd.

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