Editorial: Questions, questions ....

IssueJune - August 2002
Comment by Ippy D

It seems the Tamil Tigers have begun to take small steps towards at least the possibility of a change, away from the violent tactics of their lengthy "liberation" struggle against the Sri Lankan government. Was it - as reported in some of the mainstream press the pressure being brought to bear by the "war on terror" that prompted them?

Unlikely perhaps, but not completely implausible, and that's certainly what the “war on terror's” promulgators would love us to believe (its also been suggested that the Tamil leader is just tired of it all).

But what then of the subtle changes in the structure and proclamations from the PKK, or of the Burmese military juntas release of Aung San Suu Kyi from house arrest? Was April just a good month for small, positive changes?

Renouncing violence?

During that month the PKK rebranded itself as The Kurdistan Freedom and Democracy Congress (KADEK). In a public statement the successor party praised the long heroic uprising of the PKK, but declared that “this form of struggle was now at an end”.

In Sri Lanka the leader of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), Velupillai Prabhakaran, emerged from the jungle to hold a press conference (following a Norwegian-brokered ceasefire deal signed between the government and the Tigers in February) where he suggested that the conflict - which has claimed the lives of an estimated 64,000 people - may indeed be over: "We are seriously considering renouncing the armed struggle if a solution acceptable to the Tamil people is worked out". Further talks are due to take place in Thailand in June.

In Burma (rebranded Myanmar by the military junta) Aung San Suu Kyi was released after 19 months under house arrest. Suu Kyi, whose National League for Democracy party won a landslide victory in elections in 1990, which the military refused to accept, is well-known as an advocate of nonviolent resistance. Responding to her release, the international Free Burma Coalition said they were "cautiously optimistic" about the latest developments, adding that they "sincerely hope this is the first genuine step [by the Burmese generals] towards national reconciliation and nation-building".

Making compromises?

Are these really big shifts in seemingly endless conflicts, or is it merely good spin that will shortly reveal the same old story as the various parties revert to type? Even if it is possible to find unarmed resolution to these conflicts, what compromises will the weak have to make to the powerful in order to achieve "peace"?

Will the military regime in Burma concede that the people made their choice back in 1990 when they chose a woman whose philosophical and strategic approach to nonviolence is a shining symbol to the world? Or will Suu Kyi be forced into making serious compromises as the price of achieving practical political power?

Hope in nonviolence

Lets hope that Ang San Suu Kyi's power - located in her popular support and commitment to nonviolence, combined with an international solidarity campaign - is enough to really make a "big shift": transforming Burma from the incredibly militarised society it is today (where 50 million people are ruled by fear and with a military machine of 400,000 soldiers), to one in which Burma is, in the words of Suu Kyi herself, "a peaceful and truly progressive society built on a commitment to tolerance, compassion and justice, a society where liberty and learning can flourish".

The Free Burma Coalition are right to be "cautiously optimistic", safe in the knowledge that Suu Kyi's release has nothing to do with additional pressures exerted through the "war on terror". After all, such pressure is hardly intended for, or directed at, the unelected military regimes of countries like Burma or Pakistan. Perhaps April was just a (potentially) good month after all!

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