The Washington Post Editorial - 3rd February 1996

The Washington Post Editorial of 3rd February stated -


The bombings in the capital of Sri Lanka, the sad island country off the tip of India, demand a showing of solidarity against terrorism. Sri Lanka is no routine police state. With a government committed to democracy, ethnic harmony and social justice, it has sought to provide political space for minority Tamil elements to express their very real grievances. It has also tried to restrain the human rights abuses that it has been drawn into by the familiar brutalizing rigors of civil war. For the government's pains, the so-called Tamil Tigers - a guerilla group representing the most radical, independence seeking slice of Tamil nationalism sent a suicide squad to Colombo for an assault on the Central Bank. The gang got only to the gate, but it killed more than 70 innocent people.

At Jaffna in December the government, dominated by the mostly Buddhist Sinhalese majority, had won what it chose to celebrate as a turning point victory in its 12-year struggle against insurgents of the mainly Hindu Tamil minority. President Chandrika Kumaratunga promptly offered the Tigers amnesty and a dialogue if they would accept a "substantial surrender of arms" and her proposals for devolution of power to regional councils. Enough moderate Tamils showed favor for this package to allow outsiders to believe that it was a reasonable offer. To the tigers, however, that may have been proof of its disqualification. Their leader rejected the government package. The bombings in Colombo followed.

"Negotiate" - this is the familiar advice that outsiders offer the parties in the ethnic and civil wars. It rides on the assumption that the parties are ultimately competent to recognize their self-interest in compromise. Advice like this cracks, however, when the two sides are as far apart as the sovereignty-asserting Sri Lankan government and the independence-demanding Tamil rebels. Then it falls to the United States and others to determine whether the Government offers a serious path to civic peace, whether the insurgents answer responsible and, if war continues, whether the two sides respect its rules.

The sequence that included the explosions in Colombo confirms that the government in Sri Lanka comes much closer to meeting these crucial standards than do the Tamil terrorists. There should be no hesitation in condemning their criminal acts".

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