News Features  


Lanka Tamils’ problems ‘need urgent attention’

We have golden opportunity to solve ethnic issue: Rajitha

By Arthur Wamanan
The government has an obligation to protect the dignity of the minorities and ensure their rights are preserved, Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Minister Dr Rajitha Senaratne said.
Giving submissions at to the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC), the Minister admitted that Tamils do have a problem in this country and those problems needed to be addressed immediately.
In his submissions, the Minister said he was representing the people and not the cabinet and that his views would reflect the thoughts of the common man.
Dr Senaratne briefed the commission on the history that led to the 30-year-old war and blamed it on the politicians of that time.

He pointed out that the ethic question had resulted in loss of lives.
“Whether a friend or a foe, all those who died were citizens of this country. We could have saved a large number of people if we could have solved the problem at an early stage,” Dr Senaratne told the LLRC.
The Minister said the country gained independence through the struggles of many people belonging to all races.
“The problem arose when we tried to share the independence we gained,” he said.
Dr Senaratne, in his submissions, pointed out the fate of several peace agreements between the Sinhala and Tamil political leaders since independence due to various issues during the time.
He said former prime minister SWRD Bandaranaike had to tear the Banda-Chelva pact because of a strong opposition by the Buddhist clergy.
“In 1967, the Dudley-Chelva pact was opposed by Sirima Bandaranaike due to the prevalent political situation at the time,” he said.

“In the 1950s Tamils demanded a separate state. Dr Senaratne said the demands of the Tamil politicians were later converted into a propaganda campaign for a separate state by the latter part of the 1970s.
“There was no Mahatma Gandhi to come above such political issues,” he said.
He blamed the Tamil politicians of the time for declaring a separate state and campaigning for the same, which was taken seriously by the youth.
“The youth of the north took forward the drive of a separate state. This led to an armed struggle,” he said.
Dr Senaratne pointed out that no other governments in the world had faced a guerrilla organisation like the LTTE.
“It (LTTE) had its own air force, navy, multi barrels and submarines,” he added.
 Dr Senaratne admitted to the commission that Tamils had a problem and said terrorism was not an answer to the problem.

“I am against terrorism, whether in the north or south. As a result I have four shrapnel in my body three from the south and one from the north,” he said.
He said each community had its own dignity and that needed to be accepted and respected by the other communities in the country.

“We could defeat terrorism by arms, but not the dignity of a nation in that manner,” he said.
He pointed out that the country’s development progress was severely hampered due to the conflict. “Sri Lanka has a history of more than 2,500 years. Even countries like Bangladesh, which was formed recently, have overtaken us,” Dr Senaratne added.

Further in his submissions, Dr Senaratne said the country was blessed with a golden opportunity to solve the long standing ethnic issue as terrorism has been defeated.
“Even the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), which acted as the rubber stamp of the LTTE, is in a position to think and express its views in an independent manner.
“The President also is in a very good position to work towards it. The people too will not have any doubts on the steps taken by him,” he added.
Dr Senaratne blamed the LTTE for the failure of the ceasefire agreement.
According to the Minister, the LTTE was not genuine towards the peace process and it was evident when the outfit called upon the people to boycott the 2005 Presidential election.