The National Peace Council (NPC)

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REQUIREMENTS FOR TAMIL CONTRIBUTION TO SUSTAINABLE NATIONAL CHANGE--Jehan Perera

The inability of the government to force through its decisions, and the appearance of opposition forces supportive of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa gaining ground, has generated concerns about the government’s longer term stability. The defeat of the government’s money bill in Parliament has highlighted the structural weakness of the government. The difficulty that the government has been experiencing in fulfilling its main election promises, catching the corrupt and passing the 19th Amendment, has eroded public confidence in the government’s strength. Currently the SLFP has a majority in Parliament with 126 seats while the UNP plays the role of a ‘minority government’ with 41 Parliamentary seats from a total of 225 seats. Without the assistance of the SLFP, the government is unable to obtain even a simple majority of votes to implement its plans. If the opposition parliamentarians could have their way it would be former President Mahinda Rajapaksa who would be the Prime Minister.

The anxiety about the government’s stability is especially articulated in the ethnic minority-dominated North and East. Whether in Jaffna, Mannar or Batticaloa the question that people worry about is whether former President Mahinda Rajapaksa is about to stage a comeback. Those are the parts of the country that delivered the biggest majorities to President Maithripala Sirisena at the presidential elections held four months ago. The Tamil voters of the North and East in particular had to contend with boycott calls from within the Tamil polity itself. They also had to overcome the apprehension that the incumbent government would take some action that would prevent them from expressing their will at those elections. But the voters there were prepared to take risks in voting against the incumbent government because they strongly desired change.

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CONSTRUCTIVE ENGAGEMENT BY NORTHERN PROVINCIAL COUNCIL WILL BENEFIT PEOPLE MORE--Jehan Perera

The resolution passed by the Northern Provincial Council accusing successive Sri Lankan governments of committing acts of genocide against the Tamil people came a few weeks before the UN Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva in March this year. It also asked the UN to set up an investigation into Genocide in various forms alleged to have been perpetrated on the Tamil people from the time of Independence. The resolution also called upon the UN to release the report of its investigation panel into alleged war crimes committed in the final phase of the country’s internal war, and to also set up an international process to ensure accountability for those crimes. However, the UN did not release the report of its investigation panel. It heeded the Sri Lankan government’s appeal that the release of the report should be postponed to give the new government time to make its own domestic accountability procedure more concrete. The UN report is now expected to be released later this year in September when the UN Human Rights Council gathers once again in Geneva.

The visit to Sri Lanka of the UN’s Special Rapporteur on Truth, Accountability, Reparations and Guarantees of Non- Recurrence, Pablo de Greiff, gave the Northern Provincial Council another opportunity to present its case on genocide before the UN. It is reported that the Genocide Resolution was given to the UN Special Rapporteur. However, once again, it does not appear that the Genocide Resolution has had the desired impact. The Tamil media reported that “the UN Special Rapporteur was advocating for an internal mechanism during his visit. He was urging more time and space to be given to the new regime in Colombo. However, the Tamil representatives have explained in detail on the failure of all successive regimes in Colombo in delivering internal mechanisms capable of addressing the crimes committed by the SL State itself and its armed forces in the past.”

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දමිළ ඩයස්පෝරාව ශී‍්‍ර ලාංකික ප‍්‍රජාවේ ව්‍යාප්ත කොටසක් බවට පත් වෙමින් පවතී

දමිළ ඩයස්පෝරාව ශී‍්‍ර ලංකාවේ සාමාන්‍යයෙන් විස්තර වන්නේ රටට ද්‍රෝහි වූ රට බෙදීමට උත්සාහ කරන පිරිසක් ලෙසය. පසුගිය යුද කාලයේදී එල්ටීටීඊයට අවශ්‍ය මූල්‍යාධාර හා අවි එතෙර සිට ඩයස්පෝරාව සැපයූ හෙයින්, එය බලවත් යුද බලයක් බවට පත්ව රටේ ඒකීය භාවයටත් එහි පුරවැසියනටත් බලවත් තර්ජනයක් විය. එල්ටීටීඊ පරාජය ආසන්න අවස්ථාවේදී බටහිර රටවල දමිළ ඩයස්පෝරාව පෙළ ගැස්වූ විශාල විරෝධතාවලින් එල්ටීටීඊ අපේක්‍ෂාව තමනට කරගසා ගැනීමට හැකි බව ප‍්‍රදර්ශනය කළහ. එහෙත් ජනාධිපති මහින්ද රාජපක්‍ෂ මහතා පරාජයට පත් කළ ජනාධිපතිවරණයෙන් පසුව නව රජය සහ රටේ දමිළ ජනයා ප‍්‍රධාන වශයෙන් නියෝජනය කරන දමිළ ජාතික සන්ධානය (ඔගභග්ග* අතර සමීප සබඳතා ගොඩනංවා ගෙන ඇත. ජාතික ප‍්‍රතිසංධානය උදෙසා වන පෙර නිමිත්තක් ලෙස, මෙය දමිළ ඩයස්පෝරාව තුළ වෙනසක් සිදු වෙමින් පවතී. මේ අනුව දමිළ ඩයස්පෝරාව සමඟ සතුරුවීමට වඩා මිතුරුවීම වඩාත් යෝග්‍යය.

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කථා කිරිමට ඇති නිදහස සහ වගකීම දැරීම යහපාලනයේ පදනම වේ

රජය පිළිබඳ ජනතා විරෝධය වර්ධනය වෙමින් පවතී. එසේම විරුද්්ධ පක්‍ෂයෙන් විවේචන අපේක්‍ෂා කළ යුතුය. ඉදිරි පාර්ලිමේන්තු මැතිවරණ ලඟ ලඟම අපේක්‍ෂා කරද්දී රජයේ වැරදි සෙවීමට අවස්ථා සෙවීම ඔවුන්ගේ යහපත සඳහා අවශ්‍යය. එසේ වූවද රජය විවේචනය කරන්නේ විරුද්ධ පක්‍ෂය පමණක් නොවේ. පැවති රජය බලයට පත් කිරීමට ආධාර කළවුන් පවා පවත්නා රජයට එරෙහිව විවේචන සිදු කරති. ¥ෂණය හා බල අපයෝජනය ජනාධිපති ඡුන්ද පැවැත්වීම නිගමනය කළ අවස්ථාවේ, පැවති රජයේ එක්සත් බව බිඳීයාමට තුඩු දුන් ප‍්‍රධාන හේතුව මෙය වේ.

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ජාතික ප‍්‍රතිසංධානය ශක්තිමත් කිරීම උදෙසා රජය තම ඡුන්ද පොරොන්දු ඉක්මවා යයි

ජනාධිපතිවරයාගේ ජනාධිපති ඡුන්ද පොරොන්දු ප‍්‍රකාශනයේ සඳහන් දින 100 වැඩ සටහන කි‍්‍රයාත්මක කිරීමේ මන්දගාමී බව කෙරෙහි රජය විවේචනයට ලක්වී ඇත. එහෙත් දමිළ ජනයාගේ විශ්වාසය ශක්තිමත් කිරීමට යහපත් චේතනාවෙන් රජය තම ජනාධිපතිවරණ පොරොන්දු ඉක්මවා ගොස් ඇත. සන්ධානගත රජයේ පක්‍ෂ නායකයන්ගෙන් යුත් ජාතික විධායක සභාවේ රැුස්වීමකදී ජනාධිපති මෛත‍්‍රිපාල සිරිසේන මහතා දමිළ භාෂාවෙන් ජාතික ගීය ගැයීමට ඉඩදීමට ගත් තිරණය නිර්භීත කි‍්‍රයාවකි. තම රාජ්‍ය තාන්ත‍්‍රික තීරණය කෙරෙහි ජාතික සාම මණ්ඩලය ජනාධිපතිවරයාට තම ප‍්‍රසංශාව පළකරයි. තමන්ට අවබෝධ කරගත හැකි භාෂාවකින් ජාතික ගීය ගායනා කරන විට දමිළ ජනයාට ශ‍්‍රී ලංකා ප‍්‍රජාවට තමන්ද අයත් බව හැඟී යන බැවින් මෙය රජයේ තවත් ප‍්‍රතිසංධාන කි‍්‍රයාවක් ලෙස අපි දකිමු.

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GOVERNMENT MAKES PROGRESS IN REBUILDING CONSTRUCTIVE RELATIONS--Jehan Perara

The election of President Maithripala Sirisena and the appointment of a government headed by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe have seen a turnaround in relations with those within and outside the country. The improvement in international relations has been notable. The Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi who won election on a nationalist platform decided to be the first Indian prime minister in 28 years to visit the country. The last Prime Minister of India to visit, Rajiv Gandhi, was almost killed by a blow given to him by a member of the guard of honour who was angry about the signing of the Indo-Lanka Peace Accord which Sri Lankan nationalists felt was an affront to the country’s sovereignty. In the last few years, relations between Sri Lanka and India became strained, particularly on the issue of the post-war political solution promised by the former government, but which was not delivered as promised.

The visit of Prime Minister Modi to Sri Lanka, and the welcome he received from the government was echoed by virtually all sections of the polity. In his speech to the Sri Lankan parliament, the Indian prime minister said that India expected the government to go beyond the 13th Amendment to the constitution which devolved power to the provinces. However, he did not spell out what this would mean, leaving this to the Sri Lankan polity to address. There was also the pledge of greater economic cooperation and people-to-people exchanges. The grant of visa-on-entry facilities to Sri Lankans will be a boon to those who wish to visit India. In recent years there is hardly any country to which Sri Lankans can travel to without obtaining a prior visa. It is to be hoped that the period in which a traveler with a Sri Lankan passport was viewed with suspicion by immigration officials abroad is coming to an end.

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TAMIL DIASPORA IS BECOMING PART OF LARGER SRI LANKAN COMMUNITY--Jehan Perera President Maithripala Sirisena is reported to be seeking to build relations with the Tamil Diaspora while in London to participate in the Commonwealth Day celebrations as chair

President Maithripala Sirisena is reported to be seeking to build relations with the Tamil Diaspora while in London to participate in the Commonwealth Day celebrations as chair of the Commonwealth. Along with Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera, the president is expected to meet with British Prime Minister David Cameron to explore ways and means of securing the support of the Diaspora groups. This signals a paradigm shift in the approach of the government towards a group that is important to Sri Lanka’s future wellbeing. The Tamil Diaspora is generally portrayed in Sri Lanka as being hostile to the country and seeking its division. During the war funding and weaponry came to the LTTE from abroad which contributed to their becoming a formidable military force and a threat to the unity of the country and to the lives of its citizens. When the LTTE’s defeat became imminent the Tamil Diaspora actions in mobilizing in huge protests in the Western countries against the Sri Lankan government in the final stage of the war showed that they could take on the LTTE’s cause to themselves. However, after the presidential election that saw the unseating of President Mahinda Rajapaksa there are increasingly close ties between the new government and the TNA, which represents the mainstream Tamil polity within the country. This is causing a change in the Tamil Diaspora in a manner that bodes well for national reconciliation. It is better to have the friendship of the Tamil Diaspora than its enmity. The new government has very reason to be grateful to the Tamil voters. The huge majorities for President Maithripala Sirisena that were notched up in the northern and eastern electorates where the Tamil and Muslim voters predominate made the difference between victory and defeat for the president. During his recent visit to Jaffna, President Sirisena made his gratitude known through the words he spoke. He said, “Everyone should work in a spirit of brotherhood irrespective of differences. The task of bringing together the minds of the people cannot be achieved only through physical development. It is this government’s hope to bridge the North and South through friendship and understanding.” President Sirisena showed his gratitude in visiting Jaffna despite negative signals that came from the Northern Province after the presidential elections. The resolution accusing successive Sri Lankan governments of practicing genocide against the Tamils that was passed by the Northern Provincial Council a mere three weeks before the President’s visit to Jaffna was not in keeping with the improvement in relations between the TNA and the government. Nor did it correspond with the positive changes that have been taking place on the ground in the north and east. The most important of these is the lifting of the fear of arbitrary arrest and disappearance by government forces. The mismatch between the improvement in ground realities and the resolution on genocide by the Northern Provincial Council indicated a Tamil Diaspora hand.

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CHAMPIONS NEEDED, NOT ONLY TECHNICAL SOLUTIONS --Jehan Perera

The new government is coming in for a lot of criticism on the grounds of inaction with regard to issues of high level corruption and abuse of power under the old government. At the presidential election one of the main issues raised by those who sought the defeat of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa was the acts of corruption alleged to have been committed by members of the former government. There were photographs of allegedly ill gotten properties, some of it being wheeled into aircraft. There were figures given of infrastructure costs that had been allegedly inflated several times over. There were cases of political and even criminal killings that were laid on the door of the former government.

However, nearly two months after the change of government there has been no high profile arrest of former government leaders who were alleged to be responsible for these crimes. This is causing misgivings amongst those who voted for a change of government. There is concern that the new government is proceeding too slowly on matters of past abuse of power and corruption. This is seen as a sign of weakness on the part of the government or even worse as an indication that members of the new government have been bought over by corruption themselves. This can have the consequence of demoralising those who voted for a change of president in the hope that this would lead to a country in which corruption would no longer be mainstreamed or even tolerated.

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MODERATE MAJORITY WILL CONTINUE TO GROW DESPITE MISGIVINGS--Jehan Perera

There is a popular perception that the new government’s performance so far shows that it is not a strong government. This would lead people to hedge their bets, as they are unsure how long the government will continue under its present leadership. The business community in particular requires stability to make investments in the future. They need to know that government policy would be stable and there will not be sudden reversals which can be very costly to them. The perception that the government is not strong is partly due to the fact that it is a coalition government in which the dominant party, the UNP, does not even enjoy a majority in Parliament. But the larger part of the reason for the perception of a weak government is that the government is not taking strong action against its opponents.

The unexpected defeat of former president Mahinda Rajapaksa at the presidential election led to high expectations amongst those who voted against him that the new government, and its anti-corruption crusaders, would soon put things right. During the election campaign they accused former members of the government of being terribly corrupt, of engaging in the trade of narcotics and the sale of illegal spirits to manufacture alcohol, among others, and of padding up contracts to build infrastructure, with massive kickbacks to themselves. However, the actions of the new government up to now have not justified these popular expectations.

More than six weeks after the change of government those accused of wrongdoing in the former government remain free of formal charges. They are also free to organize political rallies and find money to bus the crowd in from all parts of the country. The long arm of the law has not caught them, and as a result there are stories being spread that some of those in the former government are maintaining corrupt links with those in the present government. But this can be explained. The reason is that the new government pledged to bring in good governance, and key to this is to follow established procedures and the rule of law.

The government would be wary of taking precipitate action that they cannot sustain in a court of law. It is common experience that cases of fraud taken to court in ordinary circumstances will take months to start and years to conclude. This would be more so in cases where files have been destroyed, evidence tampered with and the wrongdoers are prominent in public life. In addition in situations such as the present one, in which the former government members are accused of spiriting out their ill gotten gains to foreign climes, the expertise to probe such crimes is also lacking in the country. An example of precipitate action that was counter-productive was the police raid on one of the former president’s home backfired against the government when nothing incriminating was discovered.

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ETHNIC NATIONALISM WILL REMAIN A POTENT FORCE UNTIL SUPPLANTED--Jehan Perera

In the immediate aftermath of the change of government and government policy following the presidential election there has been a flurry of visits to Sri Lanka by representatives of foreign governments. The representatives of the foreign governments who are presently visiting Sri Lanka come with a broad mandate to get acquainted with the new situation and to assess the prospects for sustained change. Sri Lanka has several unique factors that give it an importance that is disproportionate to its size. Its strategic location in the Indian Ocean and its large and active Diaspora in many countries would be two of the issues that cater to the self-interest of those countries. There are also more altruistic explanations too.

The peaceful transition from an increasingly authoritarian government that appeared to be entrenched in power to a multi-party government in which there is cohabitation between a president and prime minister who come from rival parties has few if any precedents. The new government’s willingness to engage in dialogue with the international community is another positive change of direction. The constructive engagement of the present time in contrast to the approach of the former government whose lack of engagement with the international community was based on an emphasis on Sri Lanka’s national sovereignty. In their eyes, engagement accompanied by change was equated as giving in to international pressure. The former government feared that any accommodation on issues of human rights would open the door to an international probe on war crimes.

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