Need For A Time-Bound Process
by Easwaran Rutnam
The government is set to make some headway in the reconciliation process this month but the failure to set deadlines to complete the process has raised some eyebrows.
The government, like the former regime, has been saying as of late that it needs to be given time to address the issues at hand.
However going by past experiences, giving ‘time and space’ for the government to show results does not seem acceptable anymore.
The New York based Human Rights Watch noted that it is crucial that the government act in a time bound manner.
“The government has promised a holistic approach towards justice and accountability. For victim families who have waited years, deposed before commissions and inquiries, appealed repeatedly to the authorities, it is crucial that the government act in a time bound manner. There are too many failed processes from past and it is now an opportunity to do the right thing,” Meenakshi Ganguly, the South Asia Director for Human Rights Watch told The Sunday Leader.
The former government had promised progress on the human rights issue but instead dragged the process and showed very few results. The public have since lost faith in a process which takes months and are now calling for immediate action.
The push for the government to put words to action will come from minority Tamil political parties and the Diaspora.
The Tamil National Alliance (TNA) expressed satisfaction with the decision taken by the government to release the land held by the military in parts of the North which is part of the progress the government was expected to show in the reconciliation process.
The TNA said it welcomed the release of 701 acres of land occupied by the military in Valikamam North and East last week.
The TNA said that the land was released after TNA leader R. Sampanthan made a request to the President when the President visited the North recently.
Following that meeting the President had promised that the request would be considered and as a first step civilians would now be permitted to resettle in one area.
“We thank the President for the fulfillment of this promise and at the same time ask that the rest of the lands held also be released, at least in stages, as soon as possible,” the TNA said.
Failure to expedite the reconciliation process and show tangible results will give groups like the Transnational Government of Tamil Eelam (TGTE) fuel to fire their objections to the liking the international community has taken towards the current government.
TGTE leader Visuvanathan Rudrakumaran said that 2015 saw a change of regime in Sri Lanka, which resulted in the governments of the world adopting a new approach of supporting the Sri Lankan state and the greatest challenge awaiting the TGTE and its supporters in the New Year is going to be how they are going to win over the international community to support their struggle for self-determination from the present position of their support to the Sri Lankan state in their own interest.
“Moves are afoot for drafting a new constitution for the state of Sri Lanka this New Year. Hopes are being aired that through this new constitution the Tamil people’s nationality problem can be solved. According to information reaching us, the new constitution is not going to change the Buddhist hegemony over the Sri Lankan state structure.
On the contrary it is only going to be a continuation of the present structure, it is learnt. This new constitution, it is clear, is not set to recognise the Eelam Tamil people to be a nation, or the North East of the island of Lanka to be the traditional homeland of the Tamil people. We would like to emphasise at this juncture that that the Tamil people’s national problem cannot be solved through any move without such recognitions,” he said. However he says unlike in the past, this time efforts would be made to secure the consent of the Tamil people to the new constitution in the New Year.
With the Tamil National Alliance seemingly tilting towards favouring the government in power, Rudrakumaran said they expect the Tamil People’s Council formed towards the latter part of last year to involve the people in the exchange of views and discussions on a political solution based on the right of the Tamil people to self-determination and make a constructive contribution to developing the nation of ‘Eelam Tamils’ into a vigilant polity.
He said he welcomes the emergence of the Tamil People’s Council as a people’s organisation above election politics with a view to enabling the involvement of people and popular organisations in political decisions.
Meanwhile Rudrakumaran’s TGTE has resolved to draft, with the active participation of world Tamils, a Constitution for an independent sovereign separate State of Tamil Eelam which he claims is the aspiration of the Tamil people.
The National Peace Council believes that the present period offers a unique and unprecedented opportunity to politically resolve the ethnic conflict once and for all, based on equity and justice.
The NPC says this is due to the cohabitation of the two main political parties headed by President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe in the National Unity Government.
Historically these two parties have never worked together to resolve the ethnic conflict.
Instead when one party sought to resolve the issue the other party took to the streets against the proposed solution.
It is noteworthy that virtually all of the small political parties, whether ideology-based or ethnic and religious-based, are broadly supportive of the National Unity Government,” the NPC said.
NPC noted that the opportunity that now exists should not be undermined by factional infighting in both north and south.
“It appears that this factional infighting is less about policy differences than about power struggles for inclusion in the political process and control,” NPC added.
NPC called on members of all political parties to start discussions within their parties and collectively towards a vision of Sri Lanka as a prosperous and united nation where the rights of all are safeguarded.