15 October 2012

Humility and trust should frame PSC

It is almost as though the Tamil National Alliance is a creature of Delhi, for that party rushes to India at the drop of a hat.  This time around, Delhi has told the TNA to talk with the Government of Sri Lanka.  The TNA states that its position with respect to the Parliamentary Select Committee set up to resolve the so-called ‘Ethnic Question’ has not changed.    

Government-TNA talks came to a halt when the TNA demanded that joining the PSC must be preceded by an agreement on a ‘solution’, an eventuality which would make the PSC nonsensical.  Delhi sending the TNA back to the Government, then, must be read as a polite way of saying ‘The PSC is the way to go’.  Mistrust and arrogance by one of many or all parties will ensure that the impasse continues. 

The TNA may have legitimate reasons to be wary but that’s a boot that the Government can also wear with respect to the TNA.  If everyone trusted everyone else, then all the world’s problems would be resolved over a cup of tea.  This is why people have to discuss, negotiate and compromise. 
With the PSC, the Government has created an opportunity for as representative a debate as there can be given realities.  Everyone will have their preferred ‘solution’.  Nothing wrong in that.  On the other hand if people walk in thinking ‘It’s my way or the high way’.  For example. We’ve had dollar and euro hungry NGOs using ‘federalism’ as synonyms of both ‘negotiations’ and ‘peace’.  This ‘fixes’ discussion into a one-outcome straightjacket.  It kills possibility.

The PSC should not begin, therefore, with arguments about outcome.  The key word must be process.  It is when there are no preconditions about outcome that discussion makes sense.  This is why Northern Ireland and in South Africa succeeded in forging an agreement that could work and to a large extent has worked.

First things first.  In a context of mis-naming culprit and mis-articulating grievance, where exaggerated claims and frilling of history have inflated egos and much else, sanity calls for a sober laying out of problems, be they about history, homelands, citizenship anomalies, neglect, discrimination or anything else.  The details must be given. Claim must be substantiated.  Nothing should be hidden.  If territories and people are talked about, then historical claim must be backed with evidence and demographic realities must be tabled.

If the PSC does not yield an outcome acceptable to everyone, then it would not mean that the Government has ‘cheated’ the TNA or the Tamil people, but rather that politicians have cheated the entire citizenry.  

Those mandated to represent at the PSC would do well to keep in mind that they would not be trusted not only by groups with ideological or political differences but the people in general too.  Politicians have played the ethnic soccer game using the people as the ball for too long for anyone to believe they will do anything different.  This then is an opportunity to put those reservations to rest. 

Humility must chair the discussions.  There is no one who can claim innocence for all that has happened.  It is easy to point fingers, easy to practice rhetoric, easy to turn things into something like a school debate.  It is tough to take a hit, step back, smile and get back to the harder task of being rational and farseeing.  

Political ‘doability’ must frame everything.  At the end of the day all citizens must benefit.  Given that communities are not contained in specific geographies, ‘solutions’ must be sought in mechanisms where citizen has respect, meaning and equality before the law, irrespective of identity marker.  Everyone should feel that finally ‘Sri Lanka’ is a name they can identify with and this island should be a place that they can shout and tell the world is their home, now and always. 




Anonymous said...

A committee with the label, "All Parties Committee"(APC)had its' proceedings for a very long period and made its' recommendations. What's the need of having another committee for the same purpose? Why can't authorities consider the recommendations of the APC and implement the suitable ones. The right thinking people do not understand the need to have another PSC.