The present Government has prioritised resolving land issues, developing infrastructure, enhancing livelihoods, especially in women-headed households, ensuring accountability through investigations into alleged war crimes committed by both parties during the end of the war, and finding a durable solution for the Tamil equation by arriving at a political solution acceptable to all, said former President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunge yesterday.
Delivering the S.J.V. Chelvanayakam Q.C. memorial lecture organised by the Ilankai Tamil Arasu Katchchi’s Colombo branch, the former President said she was deeply honoured by this invitation, despite her origins from a family that has a checkered history with the ethnic problem.
“We have, today, won the war, but we have not won peace yet. The end of a conflict or war does not necessarily bring peace. The mere absence of war is not peace. Peace entails much more than victory. The victor of many wars may not possess the vision or the ability to build peace,” she said.
“We cannot dwell in history on who did what wrong and change attitudes and deep fears, as a holistic approach is needed to resolve the conflict.
“We know Mr Chelvanayakam left no stone unturned in his efforts to arrive at a political settlement for the minorities’ question, a peaceful political solution. The Bandaranaike-Chelvanayakam (B-C) Pact, the Dudley-Chelvanayakam Pact, were thwarted and prevented from being implemented,” she said.
Ms Kumaratunge said the Sinhala-only Bill was followed with the reasonable use of the Tamil Bill and the B-C Pact. The B-C Pact and the reasonable use of Tamil Bill were arrived at to guarantee the rights of the minorities, following the promulgation of the Sinhala Only Act. Although some saw the Sinhala Only Act as an affirmation of Sinhala supremacy, I maintain that then Prime Minister S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike, who is my father, did not see it that way.”
“Granting Sinhala language its due place after nearly five centuries of colonial suppression of the collective Sri Lankan identity and of our different cultures, to bring back Sinhala, the language of the majority, was seen as the driving force for the re-gaining of the Lankan identity,” she said.
She pointed out that the mistake made was that the languages of the two major communities were not given their due place, and at the same time, a third language was not introduced as a link language, like in India.