Give the harvest of peace to the people
Daily Mirror Editorial
Jan 14, 2011

While Hindus celebrate the harvest festival of Thai Pongal tomorrow it might be an appropriate time for political leaders to honestly reflect on what has been done or what has not been done to build the foundation for a sustainable peace with justice.

Many independent analysts believe that what we have now -- more than two-and-half years after the end of the war -- is a negative and fragile peace. The war or the armed conflict between government troops and the LTTE ended in May 2009. But the root causes for the armed conflict have yet not been addressed.

For more than 50 years the Tamil-speaking people of the Northern and Eastern Provinces had campaigned peacefully for their language rights, equal status and other grievances or aspirations. Despite efforts by Prime Minister S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike in 1958 and Prime Minister Dudley Senanayaka’s national government in 1965 to devolve power to the North and East, the moves were sabotaged by opposition parties for political reasons and by extremist groups for racial reasons. Worsening the crisis were the racial riots and hooliganism against the Tamil people in 1958 and 1977 with the July 1983 holocaust setting the fuse for a bloody thirty-year war in which hundreds of thousands were killed, injured or displaced with the material damage being colossal or incalculable.

For the past few months a government delegation and the main Tamil political party, the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) have been holding largely unsuccessful talks to find a just and fair political solution to the ethnic conflict. The TNA, backed by India, is seeking police and land powers for provincial councils in terms of the 13th Amendment. Government delegation leader and Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva has said the government is ready to give some land powers to the provincial councils but the extremist groups have opposed this suggestion.

While the extremist groups in the South are taking a hardline, other dangerous developments are also taking place. Reports say that the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna’s (JVP) big dissident group wants to take the party back not only to its original Marxist socialist policies but also to move out of the democratic mainstream and resort again to armed insurrection to achieve its objectives. Analysts and insiders believe the JVP’S radical faction is also trying to link up with some pro LTTE groups in the northeast and the international Tamil Diaspora to launch an armed insurrection in the South and the North.

Against such a backdrop the government needs to move urgently and effectively to address some of the grievances and aspirations of the Tamil-speaking people. For instance the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) has made several positive recommendations including a tri-lingual policy with equal status for Sinhala, Tamil and English. The government needs to act in a courageous manner to isolate extremists and take the middle path to reach some accommodation with mainstream Tamil parties and find a win-win solution to the ethnic conflict. Such an announcement by the President would indeed be good news and make a happy Thai Pongal for the Tamil People.

Source: Daily Mirror - Sri Lanka