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President Rajapaksa must Address Specifics of a Political Settlement – The Hindu

India’s respected newspaper “The Hindu” has experienced a change at the Editorial helm with the Editor in Chief Narasimhan Ram stepping down with effect from January 19th 2012.  The Hindu’s national bureau chief Siddharth Varadarajan has succeeded him as Editor.

“The Hindu” dubbed as the “Mount Road Mahavishnu” by some of its detractors is regarded as the most influential newspaper in shaping public opinion on Sri Lankan affairs in the elite circles of India and corridors of power in New Delhi.

N.Ram in particular has been regarded as a well-informed commentator on Sri Lankan issues with a wide range of contacts at many levels in the Island. He is also a recipient of the prestigious Sri Lanka Ratna award.

It appears that Sri Lanka would continue to receive the special consideration it has been receiving in the newspaper despite the transition. There would be both continuity and change in the unfolding editorial policy towards the Island nation.

The important visit made by India’s External affairs minister SM Krishna has received wide coverage in the newspaper. Moreover the first issue of “The Hindu” under its new Editor Varadarajan in a significant gesture carries an Editorial on Sri Lanka with emphasis on Krishna’s visit.

I am reproducing for the benefit of readers the Editorial published in “The Hindu” of January 20th 2012 under the heading”Way Forward in Sri Lanka” on my blog with due acknowledgement.

Here it is Friends-DBS Jeyaraj

Way forward in Sri Lanka-The Hindu

President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s reiteration — in his recent meeting with External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna — of his commitment to the “13th Amendment plus” approach to solving the nation’s Tamil question is to be welcomed, although it is only from Mr. Krishna that we know about this in the present instance.

Of course, the President has articulated this commitment several times before, including in an interview to The Hindu in 2009. But what proponents of an early political settlement, including India, are concerned about is that more than two years after the LTTE’s defeat by the Sri Lankan military, the country has made little progress in that direction.

In the post-war period, as Mr. Rajapaksa moved to consolidate his political gains and the government made progress on rehabilitation, it was expected that he would also swiftly seek political closure to the decades-long ethnic issue. Indeed, the government has given several indications of its seriousness about a political settlement.

It initiated talks with the Tamil National Alliance, the political representatives of the Tamil minority. It also set up a parliamentary select committee to discuss a political solution. The relaxation of the Emergency in 2011 was also an encouraging sign.

The government sought to address international concerns about civilian casualties and human rights violations in the last phase of the war in 2009 by appointing the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission, which has identified some areas for further action by the government. And yet, there has been little by way of concrete movement forward on the Tamil question.

Given President Rajapaksa’s apparent conviction that the 13th Amendment should form the basis for a political settlement, it is time for him to move towards the specifics. Thus far, there has been articulation only about those subjects the government is unwilling to devolve, that is, police powers and land administration.

The “plus” appears to be a reference to an upper house — a Senate — representing all the provinces. The Parliamentary Select Committee, which the government hopes to make the mechanism for drafting a political package, should not go the way of previous committees which did not lead to any substantive outcomes, but rather became a forum for sections opposed to a settlement.

As the main representatives of the Tamils, the TNA should not shy away — or be discouraged by extremist elements in the community — from playing a constructive role in this process. Aside from allaying Tamil apprehensions about the heavy military presence in Jaffna and the rest of the region, the government must plan to hold early provincial elections in the North.

20 January 2012,

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