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Sunday, 13 February 2005  
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On relief and peace

The killing of LTTE Batticaloa - Ampara area leader Koushalyan once more reminds us how fragile the existing ceasefire is. As many have pointed out such actions pose a serious threat to the ceasefire. In other words, it could lead to a confrontation, which could develop into a full-scale war.

The danger is all the more due to the emergence of a third group which is carrying on a guerrilla type war against the LTTE, unbound by any commitment to hold the ceasefire. In this situation the ceasefire could be breached by the actions of this group even when parties to the ceasefire abide by it.

Hence it is essential that the parties to the ceasefire as well as the ceasefire monitors should immediately take joint measures to prevent or at least minimise the dangers arising from this unhappy state of affairs.

This also shows that negative peace cannot be indefinitely prolonged without any forward movement towards negotiations and a final settlement.

The tsunami disaster provided us with a rare opportunity to move forward towards peace with confidence building in the processes of relief, rehabilitation and reconstruction. People of all communities had shown the way forward by their instant humane reactions to assist the victims. It is unfortunate that politicians have been so far unable to agree on a common mechanism to conduct these processes.

The stand taken by the JVP and the JHU against such a common mechanism is detrimental not only to the future of the peace process but also to the rehabilitation and reconstruction effort.

Whether one likes it or not there are de facto two states in the territory of Sri Lanka. The signing of the ceasefire agreement is a tacit acknowledgement of this fact. It is not practical to conclude that the rehabilitation and reconstruction activities could be conducted unilaterally by agencies of the government. If what is at heart is the well being of the affected people legal, political or other constraints should not be made a barrier to the establishment of a common mechanism.

Both parties should show flexibility in approaching the subject of a common mechanism. We must also remember that time is running out.

The international community, more particularly the donors are anxious that aid is distributed equitably and in proportion to the damages caused. There is also the danger that aid pledged may not materialise if the wrangle on the mode of disbursement is not settled soon.

It is also inhuman to tie foreign aid to the resumption of negotiations. The urgent task is humanitarian assistance to the people.

At the same time proper disbursement of aid and a common reconstruction activity could go a long way in building confidence amongst estranged peoples and parties so that a more conducive atmosphere would be created for the resumption of the stalled dialogue.

Bush's dream

President George W. Bush in his State of the Union Address a fortnight ago declared that his dream was to be the conquest of freedom. A laudable dream indeed! Yet judging by his actions during the first term and his declared intentions for the second term we have to admit that his conception of freedom is somewhat skewed.

It was under the guise of bringing freedom to the Iraqi people that he rained bombs, including the monstrous 'mother of all bombs' on the innocent civilians in Baghdad and elsewhere in that country.

It was also under this skewed notion of freedom that prisoners at Abu Ghraib were tortured and humiliated.

It was also under the same notion that thousands of US troops are engaged in a war with the Iraqi people and are paying with their lives for the folly of their government.

It was under the same notion that mountaintops in distant Afghanistan were flattened and thousands were killed, maimed and displaced in the search for an illusive Osama Bin Laden.

What is more, in the aftermath of September 11 he threateningly declared that all nations should fall in line with him in his War on Terror. "Either you are with us or not with us," he said threatening those who differed with punishment.

He named an "Axis of evil" according to his fancy and declared war against them. During his recent State of the Union address he named Iran and Syria as rogue states and accused them of harbouring terrorists. He threatened both and told the American people that the US must confront these states.

This is a dangerous policy with far reaching dangerous repercussions for peace in the world. No country, however powerful it may be could arrogate to itself the power to punish sovereign states. He also openly called upon the Iranian people to subvert the regime in Teheran.

No, Bush's dream is not noble. It is a terrible dream. Peoples of the world should unite against all attempts to realise this mad dream and make the world a safer and better place to live.

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