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POLITICAL SOLUTION – MISSING IN ACTION

[DailyMirror, Saturday, 20 June 2009 10:02 No Comment]

The focus of Tamil media has shifted from people entrapped in the one time LTTE held areas in Mullaitivu to the people in camps which are called welfare camps by the Government and detention camps by the anti-government elements. Tamil media or for that matter the Tamil politicians do not seem to place much emphasis after the physical decimation of the LTTE on the political solution to the ethnic problem that was once much talked about.

However, this surely does not mean that the politically conscious Tamils consider that the political solution they were fighting for is no more needed with the defeat of the Tigers. They seem to be nervous to speak about matters that would upset the euphoric psyche of the southern people. Occasionally some Tamil politicians are being heard meekly grumbling over the lack of enthusiasm on the part of the Government to find a political solution to the ethnic problem. Otherwise Tamil media and politicians are obsessed now with the situation in the camps where the people displaced from all over the Wanni are housed.

It is clear that the Government cannot and would not hold them in camps forever or at least for years. Once the infrastructure including electricity and water supply is restored, roads, paddy fields, vegetable plots, surroundings of schools and houses, lakes and irrigation canals are cleared of landmines and booby traps and also once the houses damaged and destroyed by the war are repaired or rebuilt, people have to be resettled. Authorities might take steps to screen these internally displaced people (IDP) for possible LTTE cadres and sympathizers in the meantime.

Irrespective of the fact where these people live, in camps or in their original places, people would tend to talk politics and concentrate on the lethargy in the state machinery and again will begin to paint things in ethnic colours, once they begin to bury the harrowing memories of cruelty and the barbarity of the war. Even if the ordinary people do not want to see things in ethnic colours politicians in the South as well as in the North would show the things to them in such colours. Then again Tamil politicians will cry for political solutions and go on pilgrimages to Chennai, Delhi and Western capitals.

Under the present circumstances where the euphoria over the war victory coupled with majoritarian triumphalism reigns, the people in the North as well as the South, no one would dare to press the Government hard for a political solution since it would earn the wrath of the majority. But the question is what is the government going to do in this regard? One may argue that there is no need for a political solution or for that matter a pacification process now that the LTTE has been crushed, their leaders have been killed, every inch under their writ has been recaptured by the troops and the vast arsenal the outfit possessed has been confiscated by the state.

Also one may argue that even if the LTTE or any other Tamil group resumes another rebellion, it can be crushed as the LTTE, the most ruthless and powerful terrorist outfit in the world according to some analysts was decimated and that therefore, there is no point in wasting time and energy in finding political solutions to the Tamil grievances.

There have been controversies over many Tamil demands, but some of their demands such as the right to work in their own language are uncontestable. Those are the rights that cannot be given by any other community. They are birth rights of communities. Talking about giving rights to another community is itself a term soaked with racism. Any community can plunder rights of other communities if they have power, but no community can offer rights as the rights are natural. Only thing other communities can do is to recognize them and act accordingly. Likewise what the Tamils (not some of the Tamil parties) expect the rulers and the other communities is not to give them their rights, but to recognize them.

No one for the moment denies that the Government troops would crush any powerful or ruthless insurgency as they did in respect of the LTTE. But the important question one may pose in response to that is whether we should create a situation which can in turn present a bloody insurrection for us to test our military prowess destroying thousands of lives and property worth billions in the decades to come. Some form of reconciliatory process therefore must be in place to avert a re-emergence of ethnic animosities and recurrence of bloodshed. You may call this a political solution while another may treat it as a corrective measure. Even the stance of the JVP that is dead against the political solutions and devolution of power is that bringing about equality among communities would solve the current problem. It is an admission that there are inequalities among communities and the need for corrective measures.

However, the “universally” accepted term for the remedy for the Sri Lankan ethnic issue seems to be political solution or more specifically the devolution of power. The UN Secretary General Ban-Ki-Moon, the Japanese special envoy Yasushi Akashi and various foreign leaders have been referring to a political solution to the ethnic problem during their recent visits to Sri Lanka. Indian leaders too are invariably calling for political solutions.

Government’s stance in this regard is extremely vague. President Mahinda Rajapaksa while addressing the nation to announce the defeat of the LTTE said in parliament on May 19 that, “it is necessary that the political solutions they need should be brought closer to them faster than any country or government in the world would bring.” This manifests that he has understood the need of corrective measures to the mishandling of issues by the past governments.

Also the joint communiqué issued by the Sri Lankan Government and the United Nations at the end of the UN Secretary General Ban-Ki-Moon’s visit to Sri Lanka last month said that “President Rajapaksa and the Secretary-General agreed that addressing the aspirations and grievances of all communities and working towards a lasting political solution was fundamental to ensuring long-term socio-economic development.”

However, Government does not seem to have a concrete programme to evolve any political solution other than the over dragged APRC process. On the other hand parliamentarian Wimal Weerawansa a close ally of the Government ridiculed APRC Chairman Professor Tissa Vitharana openly claiming that President Rajapaksa had found fault with Vitharana  for mentioning about the political solution at a meeting held to pay tribute to the security forces. This casts doubts on the credibility of the government.

Even if we agree on the need for a political solution, it is high time for the experts to survey whether devolution of power is the only structural setup that can ensure the rights of the various communities, since Sri Lanka has already experimented the system for the past twenty years.

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