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What Tamils seek is viable political solution in a united, undivided, indivisible Sri Lanka; Sampanthan

R Sampanthan

Tamil National Alliance Leader R.Sampanthan has observed that the Tamil people seek a viable political solution in a united, undivided nd indivisible Sri Lanka.

He made this observation addressing the event held to launch book on Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera the Rabindranath Tagore Auditorium in Ruhuna University recently.

During his address, Sampanthan said:

“Mangala has discharged his duties competently and efficiently with honesty and integrity. He has been also quite outspoken and forthright both nationally and internationally on human rights.

Tamils only demanded an equal and just rule in an undivided country. It was the Kandyans who demanded three units of power-sharing before the country attained Independence. The three units of power-sharing were namely for the Kandyan Sinhalese, the low country Sinhalese and for the Tamils in the Northern and Eastern parts of the country.

The Jaffna Youth League demanded ‘Poorna Swaraj’ which meant full freedom for the whole country. Unfortunately, things went sour after the country gained independence. Our path ended in the hands of the majority community and language, land, education, economic development and employment became issues. The Tamils were subjected to violence when they demanded their rights. They neither retaliated nor repealed the protection of the law. They started leaving the country and today, more than 50 percent of the Sri Lankan Tamil population have left the country.

The LTTE emerged in the 1980s after the rights of the Tamil people were denied, agreements were breached and violence unleashed against the Tamils. The Tamils were not given legal protection. The Tamil issue was a serious issue in the country over 30 years before the LTTE appeared on the political scene. During the 30-year war, the LTTE demonstrated its full ability and potential, but was eventually defeated in 2009.

All-party talks, Thimpu talks, the Indo-Sri Lanka agreement and the 13th Amendment to the Constitution were some of the steps taken to solve this issue. After the enactment of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, the late President Ranasinghe Premadasa appointed a Select Committee chaired by the late Mangala Moonesinghe, a leading member of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) to bring about a consensus.

Former President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga came up with proposals in 2000 August in which Mangala Samaraweera played an active role. There was the ‘Sudu Nelum Movement’ which carried out a very strong and effective campaign throughout the country to explain the Sinhalese the need for power-sharing arrangements to be effective in the country to bring about unity and amity among everyone who lived in Sri Lanka. Mangala Samaraweera played a leading role in formulating and implementing that programme.

Then, we had President Mahinda Rajapaksa who came up with many proposals. He made an excellent speech in July 2006, in which he said that the only way the problem could be solved is by maximum possible devolution as people should have the power to determine their destiny in the territory in which they lived. He wanted a multiethnic expert committee appointed to study patterns of devolution in other parts of the world and come up with their proposals. A few days after the end of the war, the then United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon came to Sri Lanka. President Mahinda Rajapaksa was committed to coming up with a proposal that would be acceptable to everyone and bring about effective power-sharing.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa and the then Foreign Minister Professor G. L. Peiris made a commitment to the government and the Indian Prime Minister that not only the 13th Amendment would be fully implemented, but the 13th Amendment would be built upon to ensure maximum devolution of power and enable this country to be rid of this conflict.

After the present Parliament was constituted, a resolution was unanimously adopted converting Parliament into a constitutional assembly and appointing a steering committee and sub-committees to handle the issue. The steering committee and the sub-committees have brought their reports to Parliament and the constitutional assembly. But, somehow things do not seem to be moving. One does not know why. Can a resolution unanimously adopted by Parliament be reduced to nought and the same Parliament continues to be the whole country’s supreme law-making body?

The armed conflict ended in 2009. There was some sort of movement until then. Commitments were made to the international community that once the LTTE was defeated that there would be a reasonable political solution. The forward movement during the tenures of Presidents Ranasinghe Premadasa, Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga and Mahinda Rajapaksa clearly indicated it. But now, everything seems to be dead.

In this background, it appears to be that two questions arise. Can there be forward political movement only in the way of armed conflict and is it the expectation of the world?

In the Sri Lankan context, when the armed conflict has come to an end as done by the Sri Lankan government, does it mean that all the commitments made by the Sri Lankan government to the international community become redundant? The international Community substantially supported the Sri Lanka government to bring the war to an end. If the Sri Lankan government is reneging on its commitments, can the international community be silent spectators? Countries such as India, the US, the European Union, the United Kingdom, Japan and several other countries in the world, not only branded the LTTE as a terrorist organisation in their countries, but impeded them and prevented them from carrying on an armed struggle against the Sri Lanka government.

That was on the basis of the Sri Lanka government’s commitment that the LTTE was an impediment to resolving of the national question and once the LTTE was militarily defeated that they would bring about an acceptable political solution. The next question that arises is, can a national question that has lasted for 70 years, ever since the country became independent and a severe armed conflict that lasted over 30 years which even brought foreign forces to our country which resulted in several commitments being made at different stages to be forgotten and swept away or is it compulsory for all right-thinking Sri Lankans to come together to bring this old question to a satisfactory conclusion?

I raise this question as a Sri Lankan as I want to work with my fellow Sri Lankans to resolve this conflict within a framework of a united Sri Lanka.

The UN Human Rights Council Resolution remains unimplemented. The government appears to be stuck. The government appears unable to move. If there is a nonviolent campaign by the Tamil people for their rights based on the lines of ‘Sathyagraha’ will the Human Rights of the Tamil people be once again violated? And, if that happens what would be the consequences? Do our people have to continuously endure a poor quality of life on account of the follies of those who govern them? We know of countries in our region that have progressed such as Singapore, Malaysia, Cambodia, Vietnam and even Bangladesh is progressing when we are lagging behind and our people are suffering with a minimum quality of life as we are unable to do the right thing. Put things right in this country and there will be investment and development in this country which would give our people a better quality of life. Our stature and standings is deteriorating day by day and we should not allow this to continue.”

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