Harim Peiris

Political and Reconciliation perspectives from Sri Lanka

  • May 2011
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The Indians (Menon, Rao and Kumar) will arrive

Posted by harimpeiris on May 12, 2011

Indian National Security Advisor Shiv Shankar Menon, External Affairs Ministry Secretary Nirupama Rao and Defence Ministry Secretary Pradeep Kumar are due in Sri Lanka tomorrow, Friday 13th May. They are due for meetings with their counterparts and also with President Mahinda Rajapakse. The team that is coming are the senior most Indian officials who effectively make Indian foreign policy. India is being countered on by the Sri Lankan government to be its bulwark against what is perceives as western interference in Sri Lankan affairs. The Sri Lankan government will need India’s support in the forthcoming session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva if the Expert Panel’s recommendation that the pro government resolution of 2009 is not to be revisited.

The Indian role on the world stage is changing. Its billion strong population, with a growing middle class is a consumer market that is increasingly important to the West. Its pursuit of a permanent seat on the UN Security Council, its strategic relationship with the United States, including the nuclear treaty and its historic close relations with Russia and rivalry with China all contribute to India having an increasingly wider and more serious role in the world. Accordingly its own Sri Lanka policy has to be more than the parochial self interest of a regional power to a more serious and responsible position on issues based on their merits. However India has some deeply entrenched and abiding interests in Sri Lanka and we are well advised to seek to address them. Here are some recommendations to the government, about policy changes to accommodate some though not all Indian concerns.

1.     Start the Northern Housing Reconstruction Scheme

The Indians are keen for work to commence on the fifty thousand (50,000) housing scheme for the war affected IDP’s in the North for which they are donating the funds. Frankly so are the poor Tamil IDPs. The delay in commencing this are increasingly hard to justify as months drag on to years. This is not a urban development policy issue, it’s a humanitarian reconstruction issue of resettling war affected civilians of the North who had their homes and all they owned destroyed in the conflict.

2.     Don’t let the LLRC die like the APRC

The APRC led by the Hon. Professor Tissa Vitharana was Sri Lanka’s answer to the politics of ethnic conflict when the war was on. The good professor’s sterling efforts were regularly, and specially to the Indians, trotted out as our bona fide attempts at a political solution. It has died a convenient natural death. Its near namesake is the LLRC, the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission, touted now as Sri Lanka’s answer to all her post war reconciliation needs. However the interim recommendations of the LLRC are yet to be implemented and the inter agency committee tasked with implementing the same have not made any discernable progress. The LLRC must not be allowed to share the same fate as the APRC.

3.     Re-establish democracy in the North – Hold the Northern Provincial Council election.

 

In any post war environment, reestablishing democracy is a crucial first step in normalizing the situation. Presidential, parliamentary and some local elections have now been held in the North. However the most important election as far as the people of the North are concerned would be the Northern Provincial Council elections and having their own elected chief minister. This facility which has been afforded to the people of the Eastern province and indeed to every other province in the country, has been denied to the Northern Tamils. Interestingly holding the Northern Provincial Council elections at the earliest is a promise in the Mahinda Chinthanya – Way Forward ©2010 (p 57 English version).

4.     Demonstrate some progress on talks with the TNA

The much hyped structured dialogue with the TNA proceed at a snail’s pace with no progress. Some substantive progress on the issues, either humanitarian (detainees, high security zones) or political (devolution, language policy) would be both welcome and required.

5.     Operate joint patrolling to prevent fisherman crossing  maritime boundaries

Heavy handed treatment of Indian fishermen causes tensions in Tamil Nadu and political problems for the Indian government at the Centre. Joint patrolling with the Indian coast guard and activating the joint committee with India on the maritime areas would certainly remove the irritant of illegal poaching in Sri Lankan waters.

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