Feizal Samath

The guessing game has begun once again in Colombo. How long will President Chandrika Kumaratunga’s government survive? Will the P-TOMS (Joint Mechanism) or peeping Toms as it has been mischievously pegged, succeed? Will the war begin again? Or will life in Sri Lanka continue as if nothing has happened?

Give a choice I would go for the last scenario. Why? One has to look at the drama and conflict that has engulfed this country for nearly three decades to realise that Sri Lanka has come to a stage of no return. There are many other reasons why the country would be engulfed in a period of rhetoric and argumentative politics with no stepping down from stated positions or negotiation. So who cares!

Peace has always been elusive to Sri Lanka. The two main political parties – the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) and the United National Party (UNP) – are unlikely to come together even if a majority of the people want a peaceful solution to be effective; the People’s Liberation Front or JVP may resort to more violent rallies and protests henceforth and stubbornly oppose any truck with Tamil rebels; the LTTE is further distancing itself from a resumption of peace talks though it hasn’t returned to war; radical Buddhist monks are flexing their muscles; the Muslims are unhappy they have not been consulted on peace, and so on. No one expected the SLFP-JVP alliance to last. No one expected the UNP to oppose the Joint Mechanism apart from reservation on some of the clauses, which political analysts say is a tactic of opposing for sake of opposing.

No one or rather most people don’t expect the LTTE to return to war right now. Why should they when the people in the south are fighting among themselves over the LTTE and not coming together as a united front?

The breakup of the SLFP-JVP alliance was inevitable. If there was one positive development from the JVP entry into government, it was their constant opposition to expanding the cabinet of ministers and improper appointments of government officials. But in recent months, the JVP has also been accused of being corrupt. President Chandrika Kumaratunga said so in her speech to the nation last week, a day after the JVP quit the government and on the same day the Joint Mechanism was signed. If by some strange quirk, the JVP decides to re-join the government, all these accusations would be forgotten. PM Mahinda Rajapakse is reportedly working hard to woo the JVP back. Rajapakse who has had a rollercoaster relationship with the President in recent months is expected to be SLFP’s presidential candidate at the presidential election likely to be held in or around December this year. The Premier knows that it is only with the JVP’s help that he could win the poll or give Ranil Wickremesinghe, the main opposition leader and UNP presidential candidate, a good fight. Without the JVP, Rajapakse’s campaign for the presidency would a damp squib. Thus the ding-dong battles in Sri Lanka will continue in coming weeks and months. There is speculation of another election. That again is no surprise.

Samath, a freelancer, wri-tes for THT from Colombo