The combined Socialist Alliance (SA) yesterday strongly supported the appointment of a Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) as a means of finding a lasting solution to the North-East conflict and said the All Party Representative Committee (APRC) report could be used as a launching pad to start talks.
Lanka Sama Samasamaja Party leader and Senior Minister Tissa Vitharana told a media conference that it was sad to see some members of the government and the opposition having a misconception that development alone could resolve the longstanding ethnic conflict.
“They think an ethnic conflict does not exist in post war Sri Lanka and the problems of the Tamil-speaking people can be resolved by constructing a road or a culvert,” the minister said.
He said no country could achieve sustainable development without peace and harmony among the people and where Sri Lanka was concerned peace and harmony among all ethnic groups would come only through genuine power devolution.
“The Tamil people must be convinced that they are part and parcel of good governance,” the minister said.
He said the SA expected to talk to the constituent parties of the government and the opposition about the PSC and urged them to take part in the PSC.
“The United National Party (UNP) has a big role to play in this exercise. All parties must take part in the PSC discussions and they can leave if they feel it is a futile endeavour,” he added.
The minister warned that extremists both in the government and the opposition may attempt to disrupt the functioning of the PSC and added that administrative, financial and political power must be devolved to the grassroots level using the ‘Gam Saba ‘as the base.
He said the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) has received an overwhelming mandate from the Tamil-speaking people and should participate in PSC discussions with an open mind now that it was not a proxy of the LTTE.
Communist Party General Secretary and Senior Minister D. E. W. Gunasekara said President Mahinda Rajapaksa had gone on record saying he would accept whatever recommendations suggested by the PSC and as such the devolving of police and land powers would not be a stumbling block to the PSC.
“It is extremely dangerous, a suppression of reality and anti-progressive if anyone thinks that the war is over and there is no ethnic problem and development can bring solutions to all national problems,” the minister said.
“Economic development is extremely vital but it will not fulfil the aspirations of ethnic communities. All left parties from the 50s kept saying that the grievances of minorities have to be addressed and the ‘Sinhala only’ Act will bring disaster to the country. All these predictions have been proved correct and the country has suffered more than enough from the political expediency of certain political leaders of the past,” he said and added that power devolution must resolve the problems not only of the Tamils but of the Sinhalese and other minorities.
“There may be many road blocks, barricades and potholes on the path to find a durable solution to our problems. Local and international detractors exploiting the geo political situation will activate geo political strategies to destabilise Sri Lanka in its quest to find a solution to its most vital problem. Whatever the drawbacks what is most important is that Sri Lanka cannot ignore India at any stage. The Indian factor is the key to any solution we envisage. Secondly, we also cannot forget the influence of Tamil Nadu. Never forget that there are 65 million Tamils in India and they are concerned about the fate of Sri Lanka Tamils as they are bound by language, culture and religion with each other,” the minister said.
He reiterated that the war against the LTTE could never have been won without the support of India and the United States and Sri Lanka could not talk about peace and development today if either one of them opposed the fight against the LTTE.
The minister said Sri Lanka must maintain a close link not only with the Indian government but with the Tamil Nadu administration as well. It is surprising that not a single chief minister of Tamil Nadu has visited Sri Lanka for the last 60 years.
New Left Front Leader and Minister Vasudeva Nanayakkaera said if anyone who thought that the war was over and India’s support was not necessary anymore, was wrong. “We cannot resolve the ethnic problem without India’s support. It is as simple as that,” he said.
The minister said there were 16 constituent parties in the government and five in the opposition. All political parties in parliament must adopt a give and take policy and compromise to bring the most suitable and pragmatic proposals to resolve the ethnic issue.
Socialist United Alliance Secretary Raja Kollure said the landslide victory of the TNA in the North indicates that the Tamils have lost confidence in the government.
He said various committees and commissions had made recommendations to resolve the ethnic conflict since independence but the core issue was that no permanent solution was possible without direct power devolution. (Sandun A. Jayaskera)