The political negotiations stalled during the long run-up to the Geneva process. The TNA said not much progress had been made when they were talking. The Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) could mark a new beginning to the political process. The Government proposed it, the Government wants it.
The TNA wanted the PSC and/or Parliament to be an endorser of decisions taken elsewhere at bilateral negotiations – between the Government and the Alliance. It is not just about the Government’s majority in Parliament. It is about the sovereignty of Parliament.
It will be better for the Tamil community over time, if individual Parliament members endorsed a political solution rather than expecting them to take orders from a strong leadership. It did not work when 13-A was passed.
The Government may not have revealed the PSC possibility before calling in the TNA for talks. It looks as if the PSC process itself was an after-thought after the bilateral negotiations were deadlocked. It could be a new opening that the TNA should not deny, decline or miss out on.
TNA’s R Sampanthan has since said that a conducive atmosphere has to be created before the talks could be revived. He seemed to have modified his stand on third-party facilitation, a process mooted by fellow-TNA MP Suresh Premachandran, who is incidentally the official spokesperson of the combine.
First, Sampanthan said that no such proposal had even been discussed within the Alliance. He said that third-party facilitation may have been the personal view of whoever had mooted it. Later, he modified it to say that the proposal needed to be considered only after the atmosphere is created for reopening of the talks.
Post-Geneva, President Mahinda Rajapaksa has reiterated his Government’s resolve to revive the political process and find a negotiated settlement to the ethnic issue. It was a promise his leadership has been making almost since his first day in office after his first-time election in 2005. It is a part of his Mahinda *Chintanaya* that has not been kept, as yet. Details could vary still, just as has been the case with the Government’s commitment to India and the international community on 13-A and the rest.
India backed the 13-A proposal when President Rajapaksa promised it. India backed the PSC proposal when his Government mooted it. Through the years of ‘Eelam War IV’, India expanded the scope of its early formulation for Sri Lanka to find a political solution within a united country and by addressing the concerns of all communities, including the Tamils. The proposition extended to include the TNA, but not the TNA alone. India endorsed the official Sri Lankan State position, thus.
The present-day constituents of the TNA, in their earlier *avtar(s*), had disowned 13-A. They acknowledged the India-Sri Lanka Agreement only in relation to the Provincial Councils Act, for the merger of the North and the East. They kept silent on the pre-condition about the LTTE and other militant groups laying down their arms when merger was effected.
The TNA related to the 1987 Agreement when the Sri Lankan Supreme Court ordered de-merger. The Government acted with great alacrity on the judgment, but not on other aspects of a political solution, including the APRC Report that it had commissioned. After encouraging it all through and swearing by it, too, the Government could not dismiss it as a ‘Leftist report’.
News reports say that External Affairs Minister G L Peiris would be visiting Washington, for a meeting with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in mid-May. Negotiations with the TNA not having progressed as expected by either, the Government could now go to the PSC and/or Parliament with its set of proposals and the TNA’s additions and amendments. A round-up session or two with the TNA may be in order.
For all this, the Government does not have to wait for Minister Peiris to visit Washington. It is an unavoidable next step, but post-Washington, motives would be attributed. The domestic scene could get truly vitiated.
The Government has not demonstrated stomach to face the local polity under such circumstances in the past, either.
Unlike Tamil predecessors, the TNA has not attributed majoritarian motives to the failure of the post-war negotiations to come up with a draft, which alone it wanted put up before the PSC or Parliament. It cannot escape the next best option available -- to all stake-holders, which does not stall with just two. The PSC is that option. The Government cannot stall the PSC process later, if someone referred to the finer aspects of the APRC Report. It cannot dismiss the APRC’s as a ‘Leftist report’.
Post-Geneva, these are gestures that the Government and theTNA can do with, Sri Lanka can do with. If anything, the TNA can go to the PSC with the full realisation that the world is watching -- watching the TNA as it will be watching the Government, post-Geneva in particular.