Opinion and Editorial

Sri Lanka’s Tamil test

Filed on January 16, 2011

Sharing sentiments are on the rise in Sri Lanka. President Mahinda Rajapakse has once again reiterated his policy to share power with the minority, and has rightly urged the Tamil politicians to come up with a united negotiating position.

This is incredibly a new leaf in the checkered history of the island-nation state that has seen three decades of bloodshed and violence. It is imperative for the government to encourage the Tamils to come out of the Liberation of Tamil Tigers Ealam (LTTE) psyche and start envisioning of a future that is shared and secure. The stigma of associating the enterprising minority with secessionist trends should come to an end, and Rajapakse’s resolve and sincerity will be up for test as he lays down the blueprint for reconciliation in weeks and months to come.

Twenty months down the line since the Tigers’ insurgency was quelled, the minority has lived a restless and reclusive life. With hundreds and thousands still languishing in rehabilitation camps, their return to civil society poses one of the greatest challenges. Similarly, thousands are in detention and are being probed for their links to terrorist and unscrupulous elements. It is incumbent upon the government not to view detainees as possible separatists, and deal with them in a compassionate manner. The treatment meted out to them will go a long in reconciling the aggrieved minority, and harness their faith in state institutions.

The most tragic aspect of LTTE has been the fact that the Tigers while chartering an offensive path had eliminated the culture of political activism. The assassination of credible Tamil figures that believed in the dialogue process and a constitutional way out is most unfortunate. Creating more political space for the minorities, and providing them with greater representation at the national parliament as well as in a proposed upper house can only overcome this vacuum. Tamils and the majority Sinhalese population are in need of a new social contract, whereby not only their socio-economic issues are addressed but they come to share a commonality of mindset thereby burying the bad blood of the past for good. Rajapakse’s vision of devolving powers is appreciated and should serve to bolster nationalism rather than consolidate the ethnic divide. The indispensable initiative is in need of implementation.

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