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Sri Lankan Peace Talks on an American Ship?

Thanjai Nalankilli

TAMIL TRIBUNE, March 2002 (ID.2002-03-01)

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Abbreviations

AIADMK - All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam

LTTE - Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam

USA - United States of America

Sri Lankan peace talks between the government and the Tamil minority represented by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) has hit a minor snag. The vexing problem is where to hold the talks. LTTE's chief delegate to the talks (chief negotiator) would be Dr. Anton Stanislaus Balasingham. Dr. Balasingham, in his sixties, currently lives in London, England. He is a diabetic and had a kidney transplant not long ago. His delicate health condition requires that the venue of the peace talks has modern medical facilities. Another concern is security for the government and LTTE delegates and the Norwegian facilitators. The venue should also be close to Sri Lanka so that the government and LTTE negotiators could frequently meet with and consult the President/Prime Minister and the LTTE Chief, respectively. Proximity is particularly important to Dr. Balasingham because frequent long-distance travel, for example, from Norway to Sri Lanka or England to Sri Lanka, could be too taxing for him. 

A few locations have been considered and dropped, among them, Madhu and Colombo. Madhu in the LTTE-held Tamil region of Sri Lanka is close and LTTE may be able to provide the necessary security. But Madhu, as well as any other location in the Tamil regions of Sri Lanka, has only meager medical facilities. Sri Lankan capital Colombo is close and has the medical facilities but security for the Tamil delegates could be a problem. There are powerful forces in the Sinhalese community within and without the government, including within the military, who could attempt to harm the Tamil delegates.

An ideal location, from the perspective of proximity, security and medical care, is southern India. LTTE is banned in India as a terrorist organization. In spite of that, LTTE expressed strong interest in holding the talk there because of the proximity, security and medical care. Preferred locations were Chennai (Madras), Bangalore and Thiruvanathapuram (Trivandrum). No sooner did LTTE's interest leaked out to the press in early January 2002, the traditionally anti-LTTE lobbies, media and organizations, including two powerful political parties (AIADMK and Congress Party) opposed the idea. Although, during the past two months, many top LTTE leaders had publicly requested the Indian Government to host the talks in southern India, Indian Government has kept silent like the gods of Olympus silently enjoying the specter of mere mortals pleading to them for favours. 

Difficult problems require unorthodox solutions. If you cannot find a place close to Sri Lanka that meets the security and medical requirement, why not bring "a suitable place" close to Sri Lanka? The Sri Lankan Government, LTTE and the Norwegian facilitators should turn to the United States of America (USA). Request the American Government to anchor an American Navy ship off the Sri Lankan coast and make it available for the peace talks. The ship could be anchored at the Colombo harbor or Trincomalee harbor. Both the government and LTTE delegates could be helicoptered back and forth between the ship and their respective headquarters for consultations with their leaders as necessary. (www.geocities.com/tamiltribune) There is no security threat to the delegates or the facilitators in the ship. US Navy can provide the necessary medical care for Dr. Balasingham. 

Sri Lanka is in friendly terms with America and would not object to this proposal. Although LTTE is banned as a terrorist organization in USA, LTTE was never hostile to it and should not object to it. In view of India's recently expressed friendship and cooperation with America, even India may not object. America had consistently taken the position that the conflict be resolved through peace talks. So they may be willing to give all necessary help. Considering everything, an American Navy ship anchored off the coast of Sri Lanka seems an ideal venue for peace talks between the Sri Lankan Government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). 

This is our 39-th article about the Sri Lankan Conflict. Let us hope that a just peace is achieved soon and we will not have a 49-th article on the conflict!

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