National Movement Against Terrorism

By Thilak S. Fernando

The follwoing letter was handed over to the Indian High Commissioner in Colombo on 7th August 98 by the National Movement Against Terrorism in Sri Lanka. The contents of the letter are self explanatory.

380, Bauddhaloka Mawatha, Colombo 7, Sri Lanka.

07th August 1998

Mr. Shiv Shankar Menon.
The High Commissioner for India,
Indian High Commission,
36-38, Galle Road,
Colombo 3.

Your Excellency,

                             We are aware that, on the occasion of the
recent visit by the Indian Prime Minister to Sri Lanka, the
representatives of minority ethnic groups of this country were afforded an
opportunity to meet him. Despite a similar request having been made by our
organisation, we were not granted this privilege.

                             Your Excellency, and the Government of India
which you represent, are probably of the view that the
Sri Lankan Government adequately represents the Sinhala people, and that it
is thus not necessary to have anything to do with organisations such as
ours. Obviously you do not take this view in relation to other ethnic
groups, as you consider it necessary to meet people from organisations which
claim to represent them.

                             The present Government of Sri Lanka, and the
President, were both voted into office with comfortable majorities. This was
a reflection of the distaste with which the previous UNP Government was
viewed, after a continuous 17-year period of rule which was widely seen as
being corrupt and abusive of power.

                             To regard this mandate which the PA Government
and the present President received, as being an uncritical endorsement of
their policy towards what is commonly referred to as Œthe ethnic problem¹,
would be an act of political naivete. Even those in the Government probably
realise this, as they find it necessary to link their devolution Œpackage¹
to the abolishing of the Executive Presidency, at a future referendum. As
you are probably aware, the Executive Presidency is widely unpopular in Sri
Lanka, due mainly to the excesses committed by some of its previous
incumbents. The expectation of the PA Government is that most people would
accept the devolution package as the price that has to be paid for getting
rid of the Executive Presidency.

                             In view of the above, it would be wise for the
Government of India to realise that there is a substantial proportion of the
Sinhala population which is opposed to the policy of appeasement being
pursued by the PA Government, with regard to the separatist agenda of the
minority ethnic groups. Governments may come and go, sometimes along with
the Œagreements¹ they devise, but it is the people who ultimately decide the
course of events. To ignore the majority of the people of a country in the
pursuit of some political goal may, at the very least, turn out to be

                             If the Government of India is sincere in its
stated aim of playing a constructive role in solving this problem, the first
thing it requires to do is to be seen as impartial and even-handed in its
attitude towards all those involved. It is this lack of impartiality, as
exemplified by the Indian Prime Minister meeting with the minority groups
but not with representatives of the Sinhala people, that leads the latter to
view India¹s involvement with suspicion.

                             We humbly request you to convey these thoughts
to the Prime Minister and the Government of India.

Yours faithfully,

A. R. Batuvanthudave

(for)  National Movement Against Terrorism