By Jehan Perera –
Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau’s remarks on May 18 that “Canada will not stop advocating for the rights of the victims and survivors of this conflict, as well as for all in Sri Lanka who continue to face hardship,” in the context of the recognition of May 18 as “Tamil Genocide Remembrance Day” has met with a strong rebuttal from the Sri Lankan government. It is tragic that 14 years after the end of the war, and with a president as internationalist and liberal as Ranil Wickremesinghe at the helm, that Sri Lanka should be losing ground internationally and its embassies abroad are unable to stem the tide because there is no political progress on the issue of national reconciliation at home. This is particularly tragic as Sri Lanka, after its economic collapse, needs international support more than ever.
The reality is that Sri Lanka continues to be a divided society. This was seen when people in the North and East remembered their loved and missing ones who are no longer with them on May 18. The following day on May 19, the government remembered the war victory and the sacrifices of security forces who lost their lives to keep the country united. In view of the tragedy of divided sentiment in the country, the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission appointed by President Mahinda Rajapaksa in 2010 recommended that commemoration of all victims of the war should take place on a single day: “A separate event should be set apart on the National Day (4 February) to express solidarity and empathy with all victims of the tragic conflict and pledge the collective commitment to ensure that there should never be such blood-letting in the country again.”
So far February 4 remains a pageant of military might and not of remembrance. It was so this year as well. It is worth quoting at length from the LLRC report at this time when views seem to be hardening on both side of the ethnic and political divides. “The process of reconciliation requires a full acknowledgement of the tragedy of the conflict and a collective act of contrition by the political leaders and civil society, of both Sinhala and Tamil communities. The conflict could have been avoided had the southern political leaders of the two main political parties acted in the national interest and forged a consensus between them to offer an acceptable solution to the Tamil people.”
Indeed, the time is opportune and the situation is ripe for a bipartisan approach to resolving the ethnic conflict. Speaking to a group of civil society members, Opposition leader Sajith Premadasa observed that the country’s ethnic problem had become easier to resolve in the aftermath of the Aragalaya. One of the protest movement’s notable features was the visible bridging of ethnic and social divides. There was a celebration of unity in diversity that befits Sri Lanka’s plural, multi-ethnic and multi-religious composition. During the Aragalaya the country, and world at large, heard the slogans of the youthful demonstrators who proclaimed the equality of all citizens and denounced the politicians who had come to power on narrow nationalist platforms that mobilized the sentiments of fear and suspicion against each other.
Opposition leader Premadasa also said that at the root of the ethnic conflict and difficulty to resolve it was the suspicion and insecurity that has existed between the communities, but which the economic hardships that precipitated the Aragalaya had contributed to mitigate by uniting the people. The unity of the people who came together to protest was brought about by the common problem they faced when the economy collapsed and there were shortages and queues for most essential commodities. However, while the protest movement could dislodge the government leadership in power, it could not replace it with a new leadership of their own. They were suppressed. Similarly, it would be the case that the unity of the people by themselves will not find a solution to the ethnic conflict. The answer needs to come from political leadership which will make them feel secure and represented.
President Ranil Wickremesinghe has been recently involved in a process of dialogue with the Tamil political parties to find a solution to the problem as has taken place many times in the past without success. In fact, a few months ago he even made a pledge to solve the problem by February 4, the day on which Sri Lanka celebrated its 75th anniversary of independence. He was statesmanlike in his aspirations when he said he did not wish to leave the problem to the next generation. Likewise, the Opposition leader’s invitation to civil society members to make their ideas on the reconciliation process known to him and his observation that the Aragalaya had made the ethnic conflict easier to resolve can be taken as indications of his willingness to engage constructively in the resolution of the ethnic conflict. This could provide the much needed bipartisan consensus necessary to both negotiate and implement a political solution.
The revival and empowerment of the provincial council system is at the heart of the long term resolution of the ethnic conflict. The issue of regional autonomy, which would enable the different ethnic and religious communities to run their own affairs in the areas in which they are majority has had a long history dating back to the Bandaranaike-Chelvanayakam Pact of 1957 which was the first instance of a negotiated settlement between the leadership of the government and Tamil polity. This was followed by the Dudley Senanayake-Chelvanayakam Agreement of 1965, the Indo-Lanka Peace Accord of 1987, the draft constitution of 2000 of Chandrika Kumaratunga, the All Party Representatives Committee proposals of 2010 during Mahinda Rajapaksa’s period, and the constitutional assembly of 2015 by the Sirisena- Wickremesinghe government that came up with multiple proposals.he political solution to the ethnic conflict has been worked and reworked on multiple occasions. They have been accepted by the government in power or by sections within the government but rejected by the opposition that is out of power. This time it can be different. During the meeting between Opposition leader P
remadasa and the civil society members, when he was asked what his position on the devolution of power was, he replied that it was the maximum devolution of power within the unitary state, which was also his position during the presidential election of 2019. Such a position would correspond to President Wickremesinghe’s position that the provisions of the constitution should be followed by fully implementing the 13th Amendment.
Among President Wickremesinghe’s most positive qualities has been his lifelong rejection of ethnic nationalist politics. He has never tried to fan communal fears or prejudices in order to win votes at elections and has lost elections for that reason against less scrupulous political challengers whom the Aragalaya protestors rightly denounced. In a similar way, Opposition leader Premadasa has also never engaged in the politics of ethnic nationalism. It is important that these two non-racist leaders should work together to ensure that Sri Lanka can find a political solution. They also need to deal with the human rights issues of the past, such as what happened in the days and weeks leading to May 18 through the truth and reconciliation commission that the government led by President Wickremesinghe is proposing to set up. As a victim of the war’s atrocities himself, the Opposition leader has demonstrated magnanimity and non-hatred that can show the way to healing the wounds of the past and regaining Sri Lanka’s place in the community of nations.
chiv / May 23, 2023
Jehan , haven’t we seen and heard enough??? Canada is not alone. Most Western Countries urge Lankan governments to take appropriate steps towards reconciliation. For any meaningful reconciliation our SB governments, have to come out of their DENIAL first. Not that Rajapaksa BS of fact finding commission, another commission to verify facts, yet another to show earlier findings were wrong ……… and finally dump without any trace. Or the previous rogues who kept signing pacts with no intention whatsoever to implement..
Dr. Gnana Sankaralingam / May 24, 2023
Ranil is a bluffer. He pretends to be liberal and secular, but he is not. He agrees to ward off a situation, without any seriousness in upholding it. Recently he found fault with Archaeology department, but their activity in appropriating lands of Tamils is continuing. He is under pressure from India and west to settle Tamil demands in a fair manner. He has been told by both Eric Solheim and south African government that they will not take part in reconciliation process without granting justice to Tamils. It is only after that he called Tamil MPs for talks. Now that seems to have hit a snag. Ranil tried to smuggle in a proposal supposed to have been presented by group of Tamils, but was rejected. He has postponed talks and tries to put the blame on Tamils, saying that they must come unitedly. Are the Sinhala MPs united. Without the support of Sinhalese whose consent is necessary to pass legislation how a settlement is possible. Sadly Tamil MPs are playing into his hands by foolish behaviour.
Dr. Gnana Sankaralingam / May 24, 2023
Tamil delegation should state their position according to the following parameter:
1. If you cannot divide Srilanka, you cannot divide Tamil homeland. If you contest the concept of unified Tamil homeland, we will contest the continuation of unified Srilanka.
2 Land belong to the first nation and not to refugees or settlers. First nation of eastern province are Tamilized Veddhas and Tamils who are the rightful owners of it. We are prepared to give up Amparai electorate, most of which were part of Uva province.
3. Tamils living in north and east must enjoy the same rights and privilege enjoyed by Sinhalese in other provinces, nothing less. Sinhalese living in north and east are entitled to the same rights and privileges enjoyed by Tamils in other provinces, nothing less.
These are within accepted international norms to deliver justice and no Sinhalese can object without running the risk of being labelled racist. Making pronouncements such as if there is no north east merger, we will not take part in talks is playing into the hands to Ranil and Sinhala racists who will say, we are prepared to settle, but Tamils are not.
nimal fernando / May 24, 2023
“Ranil is a bluffer.”
Welcome to the party! …….. Better late than never.
Nathan / May 23, 2023
President Ranil Wickremesinghe is no liberal or internationalist. He cleverly hides his true self. National reconciliation is a mirage under him.
Jehan Perera raises the issue of suspicion and insecurity, and says that it has existed between the communities. The said suspicion is a planted one. The insecurity flowed from that plant!
Finding a solution to the ethnic conflict hinges on the country having a political leader with a patriotic hue.
Do you see the right political leadership among the present crowd?
a14455 / May 23, 2023
shocking I tell u simply shocking
chiv / May 27, 2023
What is shocking, if you don’t mind clarify.
srikrish / May 23, 2023
Your observation of Ranil Wicramasinghe about his lifelong rejection of ethnic nationalist polices is spot on!.
He had never tried to fan communal fears or prejudices in order to win votes at elections and has lost elections for that reason against his opponents.
Even in defeat he accepted defeat gracefully and never blamed his erstwhile supporters to desert him at the most crucial time.
The result of Presidential election 2005 and his behavior after the results were announced confirm to this viewpoint.
It is a different matter that Ranil subscribe wholeheartedly to neo- liberal western economic policies.
He is the only leader in Sri Lanka ever to sign an agreement with LTTE leader Prabhaharan and he stood with this agreement in spite of numerous challenges. To his credit, He never repudiated the ceasefire agreement.
He could have become the elected President in 2005 had the voters in LTTE controlled areas not prevented from voting in that election.
The history of ethnic relations would have been different if Ranil was allowed to continue his work in 2005.
It is a classic missed opportunity for Tamils as well as to all well-meaning Sri Lankans.
srikrish / May 23, 2023
I think this is an opportune time for civil society leaders not merely confined to preaching but to enter the fray in a big way in bringing bipartisan agreement with all political shades in Sri Lanka.
Would the civil society take up this challenge?
Nathan / May 23, 2023
Now that Ranil is the President show his steps in support of your stand.
I wonder why Douglas is in his cabinet when Sasikala is not.
old codger / May 24, 2023
Sasikala is a Lok Sabha member in India, so not eligible.
If you’re talking about Vijayakala, also not eligible because she lost her seat in 2020.
Nathan / May 24, 2023
Thank you, old codger, I always knew that you were a ladies’ man!
BTW, Ranil also lost his seat!
old codger / May 25, 2023
Another lady for you to ponder over, specifically why she is not in jail for insulting Buddhism:
Watch what she says around 10:20 onwards about “Suddhodana’s little boy”.
Mahila / May 25, 2023
Thanks for the very valuable Link!!!
Learnt something didn’t know last 55 years and amazed at the availability to better ways to enjoy life!!!
Also didn’t realise we had such excellent talent in SL Comedy!!??
Enjoyed every minute of it and very relaxing
COMEDY!!! NOW I’M A REGULAR AVID VIEWER OF COMEDY CENTRAL”!?
Ajith / May 23, 2023
“President Ranil Wickremesinghe has been recently involved in a process of dialogue with the Tamil political parties to find a solution to the problem “
The Tamil Problem or devolution of power to Traditional home land is well recognised by all political leaders since 1950’s. There were lots of dialogues, discussions, all party proposals, agreements in the past nationally and internationally and there is no need for discussion now. It is about implementation and RW or all other leaders have a responsibility to take this task to the people. Unfortunately, all the leaders including Ranil Wickremasinghe failed to take this to the Sinhalese people over the decades and they were themselves worked against to it. Still they are not prepared to talk to Mahanayakes about the need for peace between Tamils and Sinhalese. Is Mahanayakes and Sinhalese against to the peace? Is Mahanayakes and Sinhalese against to the justice and Rule of law? Is Mahanayakes and Sinhalese in support of Corruption?
Ajith / May 23, 2023
” It is important that these two non-racist leaders should work together to ensure that Sri Lanka can find a political solution.”
I don’t agree with your dream solution of these two leaders working together to find a solution. Further chracterising these two are lead to assume that others including Mahinda, Sirisena and Anura are racist leaders and they are against to find a solution. Ranil W failed in the first place before taking taking the responsibility of the country as President he should have got the support of the people who were working in a united front together with the support of all races from North to South in a common ground. As a President he also failed to stop the escalation of ethnic tension created by Ministers, Military leaders and Officials from Archeology department etc. There is a need that the people and religious leaders should understand that the peace is a necessity to come out of this economic crisis and devolution of power is beneficial to all. All the leaders including Mahinda, Sirisena and Anura to agree and work together. All should come in a common platform and loudly and clearly without any hide and seek game. Can they do it?
Buddhist1 / May 23, 2023
What we have in SL is governance and government based on ideology and not on pragmatism. Starting from religious leaders to politicians they all make decisions and statements based on ideology. In a multi-ethnic and multi-religious society pragmatism should govern when it comes to public affairs and yes in religious affairs – only those who follow that religious ideology can prevail. This religious ideology should never be thrust on other religions.
Even Ranil, who promised things including settlement to ethnic issues by last February 4th, can never and will never deliver what he promises because he is more worried about his position than self-respect. Although he claims to be a democratic law-abiding ruler, history proves otherwise. When the leader of a country is full of contradiction and governs based entirely on his ideology and his will to retain his position, what else can happen? SL will always be on the receiving end of criticism.
Naman / May 23, 2023
No need to appoint another commission to sort out the Ethnic Issues. We need decisive actions taken by GoSL such as
Reducing the Defence forces drastically and huge amount of land occupied by them returned to the original owners.
Remove Road blocks in both Northern and Eastern provinces.
Have Northern and Eastern provinces as one province & not two.
Allow direct investment by the diaspora
Defence forces should not be involved in agriculture or into business such as running hotels and guest houses or tea boutiques
Mahila / May 25, 2023
“Reducing the Defence forces drastically and huge amount of LAND OCCUPIED BY THEM RETURNED TO THE ORIGINAL OWNERS.”
What a Funny administration that exist in this modern day Army (SLA), the Imbeciles they are they don’t realise that it is incumbent upon them to ensure land and related property including infrastructure is returned to the original owners in the same condition that it was, when they took possession of the property at the time of requisitioning the said property for security and Army habitation purpose!!!??? Even if the situation has deteriorated due to normal wear and tear by ensuring process to ensure near original condition!!??
YES THAT IS THE NORM TO BE FOLLOWED, EVEN IF ANYONE TAKES A COMMERCIAL PROPERTY!?
Then could the government explain, why it is different when the Sri Lanka Army takes over any property – commercial and Private property – for occupation of the unit commander or troops!??
The last segment of Lands and property returned in Myliddy in Jaffna district is with HOUSES IN THE PROPERTY RETURNED DEVOID OF DOORS AND WINDOWS – MASSIVE HOLES IN THE WALLS – AND WAS USED AS THE RESIDENCE OF THE COMMANDING OFFICER OF THE UNIT AND THE SMALLER
Mahila / May 25, 2023
HOUSES BY TROOPS!!!?? ALL TAKEN OUT, FRAMES VANISHED INTO THIN AIR!? NAY!!?
THEY HAVE BEEN ROBBED AND TRANSPORTED OUT OF ORIGINAL LANDS – B. ROGUES ROBBING!? THAT’S THE SIGNATURE CHARACTER OF ORGANISATION, PROVIDINTG SL NATIONAL SECURITY!?
No wonder, the RSPLENDANT land is experiencing, deprivation, shortages and starvation widely amongst them since last year or two – may be the KARMIC EFFECT, THE CURSE OF THE PEOPLE WHO WERE VICTIMS OF THIS VILLAINOUS ACT!!!??
Or is it RETRIBUTION, on LOOTERS FOR SINS, VILLAINY COMMITTED ON INNOCENT!!! What one needs urgently and foremost – accountability by ARMY, PUBLIC SERVANTS, and ADMINISTRATORS – HOW DOOR & WINDOW FRAMES ARE NON-EXISTENT!?? AND WHY???
WHERE DID IT END UP, “NEED OF HOUR” RESTITUTION THEREOF & COMPENSATION RESTORE, STATUS QUO ANTE!!!???
The SB’s don’t have INTERLECTUAL capacity, understand!!!
Perhaps god HIS OWN WAY, showing ‘Rogues’ understand PAIN, RANCOUR of victims, by starvation and deprivation!!!???
Gotabaya was only, carrying out God’s decree, without his own knowledge THE KARMIC EFFECT to take place on Sri Lankans, by ordering ban of chemical fertiliser and decreeing ‘ORGANIC AGRICULTURE’!?
THE VERY PERSON CHARGED WITH PROTECTING INITIATING THE DESTRUCTION!!!
POSSIBLE SLIGHT OF HAND BY GOTABAYA (GUARDIAN AND PROTECTOR) OR AN ACT OF GOD!!!??
Rohan25 / May 24, 2023
What reconciliation! All rubbish and pretence. The aim of all Sinhalese-led governments from the time of independence was to gradually marginalise the island’s Tamils, by discriminating against them in every possible way. They first made a million Indian-origin estate Tamils who had lived on the island for over a century and earned most of the foreign exchange at that time stateless, deliberately to reduce the number of Tamil representatives and to halve the Tamil population. Strange half the so-called Sinhalese population on the island themselves are purely descended from Indian Tamil immigrants who were imported into the island by the Portuguese and Dutch but they were not made stateless and forcibly sent back to Tamil Nadu and other South Indian states. Later denying Tamils higher education, training regarding trades and skills, language and employment rights. Hardly now recruited into public service, the army or police, when they were around 26% of the population. ( Even now after the large-scale ethnic cleansing of a million native Tamils, who have fled mainly to the West and made around a million Indian-origin Tamils stateless in 1953 still around 16% ).
Rohan25 / May 24, 2023
Using the state power the racist Sinhalese armed forces, police and other government departments like land, forestry now Mahaveli( stange the Mahaveli is not being diverted to the north but this department is going around Vanni and trying to illegally appropriate private Tamil lands in the name of Mahaveli development for Sinhalese settlement) and last of the all the fake Archaeological department that, has now admitted that is being privately funded by Southern Sinhalese Buddhist organisations and Bikku fronts, and is now going around appropriating Tamil peoples land, everywhere in the north and east, to build Buddhist Viharas and install Buddha statues everywhere, destroy ancient Hindu temples and then convert them to Buddhist Viharas and finally concoct, claim and steal Tamil people’s history symbols and ancient Tamil Buddhist sites in the north and east, that were there long before a people called Sinhalese evolved down south, as Sinhalese Buddhist sites, with the sole aim of settling outside Sinhalese in the Tamil north and east and change demography. They have already done this in Amparai and Trincomalee in the east, and now are trying this in the remaining six Eelam Tamil majority districts in the north and east.
Rohan25 / May 24, 2023
Just pretend talks but on the ground constantly and illegally stealing thousands of acres of private Tamil land, using the racist Sinhalese armed forces, the police all Sinhalese even in Tamil areas, and various government departments the most notable are the fake Archaeological, Mahaveli and land and forestry. In the name of finding non-existence Sinhalese Buddhist sites, Mahaveli development and wildlife and forestry and then building Buddhist structures there, destroying Hindu temples and settling Sinhalese on these Tamil lands. You can see what happened at Thayithi. An illegal Buddhist Vihara constructed on private Tamil people’s land by the armed forces. Now a new Buddhist Vihara is going to be constructed by the army at Uyilankulam in the Mannar district, again from illegally appropriated private Tamil lands. All these Buddhist Viharas in places where no Buddhists live, constructed on stolen land by very UnBuddhist racist people, who are using Buddhism not as a tool of love and peace but to oppress and steal for racist purposes. Even Hindu Lord Buddha will weep. Why did he preach to steal other people’s lands and destroy their homes, farms, villages and Hindu temples, his own religion and build Buddhist Viharas and Buddha statues in his name?
Rohan25 / May 24, 2023
When local Tamils and their representatives protest racist Sinhalese protest come there intimidate them, arrest them and then bark out orders in Sinhalese, in 100% Tamil areas, where no one understands or hardly understands Sinhalese, deliberately to show them who the ruler is. Just like the way Nazis behaved in occupied Europe. Reconciliation indeed. Crafty Ranil and the rest of the Sinhalese political gang are fully aware of all this and are enjoying this. They do not care if the country is bankrupt and they are going around with the begging bowl and ordinary Sinhalese are starving and facing hardship, they will use all the funds to destroy, marginalize and suppress the island’s Tamils and steal their land. This has been the most important goal from the time of independence. No reconciliation or equal rights but the destruction of the Tamils and destroy everything else. Most Sinhalese are happy too, you can see even in this forum all very quiet and mum and nothing in the southern Sinhalese and English media
Svenson / May 24, 2023
How come the Tamils fall for this time and time again? They have some 50m Tamils just a few miles away, the Tamil diaspora and the sympathy of Western governments, but they still put their faith in Sinhalese politicians. Aren’t they the real modayas?
Native Vedda / May 24, 2023
“Aren’t they the real modayas?”
True, they just like their Sinhala Brethren.
Look at the island,….
SJ / May 24, 2023
The Sinhalese cannot be far cleverer if they can fall for the likes of GR and now all parties hailing the IMF package.
Bert / May 24, 2023
Wasn’t every team put together whether to investigate genocide of Tamils or any other crime a “dream team”?
After being appointed they go to sleep. Only thing they see are dreams. This is why nothing gets resolved. Whether bank robbery, taking bribes on major procurement or Genocide.
SJ / May 24, 2023
The Tamil leaders count on states that have committed genocide on a much larger scale to inquire into their allegations.
The West is only interested in using any stick to tame the government. Waving the stick is enough to achieve the purpose.
Buddhist1 / May 24, 2023
SJ, before attacking the West. First, find out under whose rule those genocide were committed. You will find it under British rule and not under the modern Canadian Government.
Svenson / May 24, 2023
You might ask what else can the Tamils do? They have tried everything. But they haven’t tried a general strike, I mean a strike by all Tamil workers. This would mean the Estate Tamils as well. But since they are despised by Jaffna Tamils this is hardly likely. Also the Tamil leaders will cook up deals to weaken a strike. So the Tamils being as divided and contrary as the Sinhalese are, there is no hope of a strike working.
Ideally there should be devolution of power to both Tamil and Sinhalese areas. But this needs unity and compromise which is missing on all sides.
Naman / May 24, 2023
It’s time to have an internationally accepted foreign mediators to solve the Ethnic issue once and forever.
I have zero confidence in any GoSL to genuinely deal with the ETHNIC issue.
It’s time for Ranil W use the law enforcers to achieve genuine systems CHANGE asap
davidthegood / May 25, 2023
How about forgetting ethnic and all other divisions and simply being human for a change. There has to be a major improvement seen within a week or two
Paul / May 24, 2023
I cannot understand why it is so difficult for Ranil to stop the illegal building of Buddha statues, the destruction of kovils and the occupying of Tamil property. Surely all he has to do is pick up the phone and issue an order. And why has he not released all the Tamil political prisoners? Surely these are matters that need immediate attention.
Are his hands tied because he needs the Rajapakse’s support? He and they have a symbiotic relationship.