Competitive Exams: Current Affairs 2011: Srilanka Ties

Srilanka Ties

More than two years ago the guns fell silent in Sri Lanka, ending a three decade old civil war with the LTTE. But voices demanding an acceptable solution that accommodates Tamil aspirations are still strident. The countrys leadership is seeking to meet these demands within a national unity framework.

The expected landslide victory of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) the most popular political formation in the Northern Province, which before the war ended openly supported the armed secessionist movement in the local body polls held in the Tamil dominated Northern Province last Saturday has provided a platform from which the TNA can launch its renewed demand for an enduring long term solution to the problem.

Progress in the talks is imperative for the next step a Select Committee of Parliament, which will consider the Tamil question, and come up with a proposed solution, including constitutional amendments, that will then go to Parliament. This move has been criticised by the TNA as yet another ploy to delay giving Tamils their rights. But in a country where any solution to the ethnic question is likely to be portrayed by chauvinist elements as a sell out of national interests, the government clearly feels it is left with no choice but to involve all stakeholders in the process of finding a political solution.

The President had said earlier that he had a solution to the Tamil problem in mind. In later interactions, he made it clear that he did not want to impose any solution. He wanted talks involving all stakeholders, but with the government and the TNA taking the lead, to map it out. His broad idea was to accord the maximum possible devolution without sacrificing the sovereignty of the country. The prospective political solution came to be known as 13th Amendment plus, with nobody apparently clear about the specifics.

The elimination of the LTTE as a military organisation in May 2009 gave rise to expectations that democratic elections would be held as early as feasible. Twenty six months after the war ended, eight out of the nine Sri Lankan provinces have elected Provincial Councils; the Northern Province is the only one without one. The powers of a Provincial Council might be limited, but an elected Northern Council would be a starting point for people to voice their grievances, opposition politicians feel.

As Sri Lanka debates how best to integrate the northern Tamils into its evolving concept of Sri Lankan nationalism, individual players in the international community have been trying to apply pressure on the island nation. The Brussels based think tank, International Crisis Group, points out that all three communities Sinhala, Tamil and Muslims have suffered immensely. It wants the major international partners in the region to send a strong message against increasing authoritarianism and condition aid on transparency and restored civilian administration in the north and east.

A few recent developments have focussed attention on Sri Lanka since April 2011. One is the report of the United Nations Secretary Generals Expert Panel on Accountability in Sri Lanka, which has held both the government and the LTTE responsible for the mass civilian casualties during the last stages of the war (There is also the US State department report for 2010, the Human Rights Watch report on Sri Lanka and the International Crisis Group report). The second is a Channel 4 video that showed what it asserted were extra judicial killings and other atrocities in Sri Lanka. The third item is a book The Cage, authored by an insider, Gordon Weiss, former U. N. Spokesperson in Sri Lanka, castigating Sri Lankas handling of the final stages of the war and faulting the international community for doing little to limit civilian casualties.

India, one of Sri Lankas staunchest allies, is somewhat impatient with the pace of rehabilitation and rebuilding in the Northern Province, for which India has offered wide spectrum support, and with the pace of working out a 13th Amendment plus political settlement in the post conflict period. But there is also evidence of Indian tardiness in implementing the rebuilding work, especially the massive housing programme, Sri Lankas big neighbour has undertaken in the North.

From a distance, the brutal and bloody war against the LTTE seems to have been the easier campaign to win. Now Sri Lanka battles complex international and domestic pressures as it marches ahead to realise its dream of a bright and prosperous future for its people.

Courtesy: The Hindu and Times of India