Amid the festivity, let us not miss the reality
Daily Mirror Editorial
Dec 27, 2011

In the afterglow of Christmas day – though the deep meaning of it was again marred worldwide, what Pope Benedict the XVI described as commercialisation and superficial glitter – the Rajapaksa regime in Lanka needs to address urgently and effectively some vital issues to establish a true and lasting peace. Reports indicate that talks between a government delegation and the main Tamil party, the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) have come to a breaking point with TNA leaders considering whether there is any purpose in continuing the talks.

The TNA is insisting on extensive devolution of power including police and land powers for the provincial councils in the North and the East while President Mahinda Rajapaksa last Wednesday said giving such powers would be impractical if not impossible. The Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC), whose report was widely awaited not only in Sri Lanka but also in the international community, also referred to two key issues relating to devolution of power.

It said local government institutions should be empowered to ensure greater people’s participation at grassroots level and that the lessons learnt from the shortcomings in the functioning of the Provincial Council system be taken into account in devising an appropriate system of devolution that addressed the needs of the people. LLRC Chairman and former Attorney General C.R. de Silva told a Sunday newspaper that a vital issue discussed by the LLRC but had not been fully explained in the 400-page report which was tabled in parliament on December 16, referred to practical steps to consolidate the Sri Lankan identity of all Sri Lankans.

The LLRC would propose that any reference to race – Sinhala, Tamil, Muslim or Burgher – be removed from all official documents including passports and that only the Sri Lankan nationality be mentioned as done in federal or multi ethnic states like India and the United States. The only exception would be when compiling our national census where the race of people would need to be identified for practical purposes. Overall the LLRC made a highly critical and widely acclaimed statement that the present political culture of the country has made the people powerless and helpless to a point they had become dependent on politicians to obtain many of the services and amenities they were entitled to.

The report recommended that an independent institution be established to address the grievances of all citizens and in particular the minority community grievances that arose from abuse by public officials and others involved in governance of the country. While recommending a political solution, the Commission observed that devolution should promote greater harmony and unity among the people of this country.

The promotion of oneness and a common identity should be the principal aim of any form of devolution while protecting and appreciating the rich diversity. In this endeavour, the LLRC states that the focus should be to ensure that the people belonging to all the communities are empowered at every level and devolution of power should not be discriminatory or seen to be discriminatory. The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Sri Lanka in a Christmas message referred to the distinctive challenges in a post-war Sri Lanka and said priority must be given to the ways of establishing true and lasting peace, which were yet to be a reality. The Rajapaksa regime instead of building castles in the air with lofty proclamations needs to address these issues urgently to prevent the outbreak of something worse than the 30-year ethnic war.

Source: Daily Mirror - Sri Lanka