Peace and Fish on the Same Plate? Ethical Inquiry in Peace Facilitation

By de Alwis, Chandrika | Social Alternatives, First Quarter 2010 | Go to article overview

Peace and Fish on the Same Plate? Ethical Inquiry in Peace Facilitation


de Alwis, Chandrika, Social Alternatives


This study seeks to explore best practices of peace facilitation by an external third party. It examines why peace processes are abrogated, leading to military approaches to resolving conflicts. The 2002 Norwegian- led peace facilitation in Sri Lanka is a case in point. The study examines the processes of intervention and the role of culture in order to identify aspects of ethical inquiry in negotiations and facilitation that seem to be relevant to the case. Thereby the study seeks to advance innovation and change in conflict transformation by third party peace facilitation, primarily in Asia and the Pacific.

Introduction

The Sh Lankan secessionist conflict lasting nearly three decades made world headlines and, in the current post-conflict scenario, is still attracting world attention. Discussions commonly stress the long-held Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) argument for the right to self-rule by Tamils in a Tamil Homeland within the existing boundaries of Sh Lanka. This very same argument was the centre of negotiations by unsuccessful third parties facilitating in Sh Lanka since 1987. For example, India virtually brought Sh Lanka to its knees in accepting the 1987 Indo-Lanka Peace Agreement that resolved to amend the Sri Lankan constitution in order to allow a Tamil state. This Indian intrusion was by no means altruistic or ethical as India confronted the issue with her military might but was forced to give up by the maneuverings of the LTTE. Norwegian peace facilitation began as early as 1997, but in more conventional style. Nevertheless, as a consequence of changing demands by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), they were obliged to review the process on four separate occasions (Sjeberg 2003). In 2002, a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed between the Government of Sh Lanka (GoSL) and the LTTE culminated in the largest Norwegian- led (Nordic) peace facilitation attempt. Interestingly, in January of 2008 the GoSL abrogated the MOU and requested the Norwegian facilitation team to leave.

The resultant military offensive was unobtrusively tied to the loss of human capital and other resources which are unquestionable components that peace facilitators are called into protect. Sustaining a peace processes is important in peace facilitation. Yet it seems that facilitators did not give much attention to how best they could sustain such a process as they seem to have missed the vital ingrethent of ensuring appropriate ethical perspectives are maintained in the peace process. Therefore, the argument presented in this article is the vital importance of ethical inquiry in peace facilitation based on evidence from the Sri Lankan case. Answers may enrich peace research.

Facets of Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka documents a fascinating history of over 2500 years of civilisation built on the principles of Dasa Raja Dharma, the Ten Royal Qualities of Leadership. She has never waged war against another nation but since the 6th century, her northern territories faced twenty two invasions by Indian Tamil Kings. Thereafter, prior to the arrival of European colonists- the Portugese in 1505, the Dutch in 1658 and the British in 1796 - the nation witnessed a very peaceful period (Powell 1973).

To fathom this unique situation, it is imperative to recognise the strategic positioning of Sri Lanka in the Indian Ocean that attracted invaders from Southern India and Europe and as an important sea hub from the West to the Orient. The ancient Greek and Chinese ships travelling the southern silk route crossed the Gulf of Mannar while Mannar itself was an important harbor to the ancient seafarers. Other enticing attractions were its natural resources and the world renowned natural harbor of Trincomalee described by Lord Nelson as the world's finest. Trincomalee became the East Asian home base for the British Admiralty during World War II. The geography for Eelam included Mannar and Trincomalee.

Subsequently, having played a key role in the diplomatic history of Europe in the context of 'European rivalry for colonial domination in South Asia' (Mendis 2002) Sh Lanka gained international prestige in diplomacy and international relations, which was an art practiced since the third century B. …

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Peace and Fish on the Same Plate? Ethical Inquiry in Peace Facilitation
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