Sri Lanka’s only hope for peace: The Sri Lankan government and Tamil Tiger rebels start their first direct talks for three years on Wednesday. The BBC assesses why they are so important. (Paul Danahar, 2/22/06, BBC)

Whether the Sri Lankan government likes it or not – and they do not – the Tamil Tigers have established a de facto state in the north-east of the country. […]

The Tamil diaspora, which has been hugely successful around the world, has also made the Tigers one of the richest militant groups, one that has its own navy and can afford long protracted battles.

But if they are brilliant guerrillas, the diplomat said, they are also supremely bad politicians.

He believes that the Tamil boycott of last year’s presidential elections was not part of a cunning plan but an act of political immaturity.

It snatched the presidency from Ranil Wickramasinghe, the former prime minister who negotiated the 2002 ceasefire, and handed it to Mahinda Rajapakse, who campaigned on a hardline ticket.

Things have been sliding downhill ever since.

But, analysts say, if the Tigers don’t have the political maturity now to move away from violence, they won’t ever get it if they are kept isolated from the outside world.

It’s a tough thing to ask the politicians to do because the Sri Lankan press are notorious for savaging anyone who suggests compromise.

But diplomats believe that until the Colombo polity shows it wants to help the Tigers make the transformation from the bullet to the ballot box, the deadlock cannot be broken.

The wrong side is being required to grow up here. As with the Kurds, Palestinians, Basque, ec., when a people consider themselves sovereign and have de facto sovereignty, they’re going to get their own state. That’s just a function of the democratic age.

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