Sri Lanka

THE internal strife in Sri Lanka has reached a crucial point. Conventional wisdom holds that long-term conflict between Tamil guerrillas and government forces lies ahead because peace talks have stalemated. Yet this scenario can be averted, with courage and goodwill on both sides. Promptness is important.

Most needed now is for moderates on both sides to work publicly and forcefully for a negotiated settlement. At the same time India should resume its efforts to urge both sides to compromise, and the minority Tamils should have a measure of autonomy on the island, off the south-eastern coast of India, which they share with the Sinhalese majority.

For moderates to thrust themselves forward will not be easy. In the past, several Tamils who advocated a middle road were assassinated by their radical brethren. And Sinhalese officials who supported moderate positions lost their political backing.

Yet the urgent role for moderates seems clear: The Sri Lankan situation must ultimately be solved by Sri Lankans. Outsiders can play only adjunct roles.

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