Abandoned cause?

There has been little forward movement in the quest for a political solution to the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka. It is 17 months since the Sri Lankan government defeated the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, removing an important obstacle in the way to a negotiated settlement to the conflict. However, the government has not come up with a clear plan for a political solution yet. Neither has it done much towards reconciliation with its Tamil people. While the government claims that rehabilitation is going well — Sri Lanka’s external affairs minister G L Peiris has claimed that the number of displaced Tamils who need to be rehabilitated has come down from 2,80,000 to 20,000 — the situation on the ground is not that rosy. While India has contributed in a big way to the reconstruction of infrastructure in the North, it has done little to push President Mahinda Rajapaksa to find a political solution. Colombo has blamed divisions among the Tamils for the lack of progress in finding a political solution. While there are indeed differences on details between various Tamil parties, they are one in the perception that a solution lies in substantial devolution of power to the Tamils. However, the Rajapaksa government seems averse to devolution of power and is increasingly talking of sharing of power at the centre. It remains reluctant to move away from a unitary system of government.

The guns have been silent for over 17 months in Sri Lanka and  peace has taken hold. However, this peace is a negative one as it is not a just peace. Rights organisations have charged several in the Rajapaksa government with war crimes and demanded greater accountability on the part of the government. The government has responded by instituting an eye-wash of a probe.

Reconciliation will not be possible unless justice is done and a political solution found. Rajapaksa is dragging his feet on both fronts. He has the mandate and the support in parliament to resolve the ethnic conflict. His reluctance indicates the lack of political will. Rajapaksa is undeserving of the honour that India bestowed on him by inviting him as a guest of honour to the Commonwealth Games closing ceremony. In doing so, India has sent out a message that it has abandoned its long-standing commitment to a just settlement of the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka.

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