(PRESS STATEMENT/ 01 May 2015)
Global Tamil Forum (GTF) congratulates the leadership shown by all Sri Lankan political parties and their Parliamentarians, and in particular the leadership shown by President Sirisena and Prime Minister Wickremesinghe on successfully adopting the 19th Amendment to the Constitution. Passing of the 19th amendment along with other steps taken to democratise the state and its institutions have significantly altered the unfortunate political culture and practices adopted in Sri Lanka in the recent past. These newly adopted progressive changes annul the trend set by the previous regime, and effectively place the country back in the right course to work towards more meaningful and democratic constitutional changes in the future.
We are aware that the government’s 100-day program could not be implemented in full to meet all its ideals and the 19th Amendment too in its adopted form has lot to be desired. Despite that, the spirit of change and the new political atmosphere involving consultations and compromises are breathtakingly fresh in the context of Sri Lanka and give hope that such conditions, if further developed, will be conducive to resolve other pressing issues faced by the people.
We also recognise the positive steps the government has taken to address certain immediate concerns of the Tamil people. These include removing of military Governors and appointing civilians as Governors for the Northern and Eastern Provinces, transferring of small sections of land back to the rightful owners, releasing of a few Tamil political detainees and the review of the proscription of Tamil diaspora individuals and entities. Though limited in scope they are still significant.
However, large swathes of private land are still illegally occupied by the military, disproportionate number of military personnel still remain in the North and East, intimidation and arbitrary arrests still continue, military remains engaged in day to day life of Tamils in North and East, sexual violence continue against the tens of thousands of war widows and others, Tamil men and women still live in fear even more so in the Northern and Eastern provinces, several hundreds of political prisoners still remain in custody without being charged, the Prevention of Terrorism Act still not repealed, above all the Tamil National Question remains unresolved.
Momentum developed by passing of the 19th amendment and other positive initiatives taken to provide limited relief for the Tamil people, should be developed further to be stepping stones, to resolve the long standing Tamil national problem in Sri Lanka. In this context, it is important that the government accelerates implementing these initiatives and also takes meaningful steps to comprehensively address the issues related to alleged war crimes, serving of justice, political resolution and reconciliation.
Global Tamil Forum, for its part, is fully committed to playing a constructive role in making all these reality.