R. K. Radhakrishnan
Taking into consideration “the tendency of the major Opposition parties to blame the government for all problems,” Sri Lanka President Mahinda Rajapaksa and the ruling United People’s Freedom Alliance have lobbed the ball back at the Opposition on what kind of autonomy the Northern Province should get.
Mr. Rajapaksa had earlier stated that he had a solution in mind, but wanted the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), an umbrella organisation of Tamil parties, and government representatives to reach a broad agreement on the issues raised by either side. Six rounds of talks have been held and another round is slated for June 23.
With India making clear that it is only interested in a solution to the problem and did not want Sri Lanka to rigidly follow the formula under the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, the UPFA government and the President have got the manoeuvring space to broadbase the debate and rope in the Opposition too in the search for a political solution to the Tamil question that will be acceptable to all sections of the people.
“The Opposition has the habit of blaming the government for anything that goes wrong. They have never made any concrete, constructive solutions so far on any issue of national importance. Even then, they are being given a chance with the hope that they will utilise this opportunity and participate in the process of national unity and reconciliation,” said one source, familiar with the developments. The patience of the Tamil parties, led by the TNA, is wearing thin. In the meeting held with the Indian ‘troika’ comprising National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon, Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao and Defence Secretary Pradeep Kumar, the TNA leaders’ emphasis was on an equitable solution at the earliest. They pointed out that the war ended more than two years ago and the Northern Province was the only one without even a provincial council, which was the first step towards democratic, decentralised governance. All the eight other provinces had elected provincial councils.
The lone Tamil face in the Sri Lankan Cabinet and ex-militant, Douglas Devananda, opines that a Parliamentary Select Committee should go into the question of autonomy for Tamil areas and a home-grown solution needed to be arrived at. He articulated his ideas to both the President and the visiting Indian delegation. His view was that representatives from all political parties should be on the Committee and they should debate and place a set of proposals before the government within a time frame.