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Way out of the present plight

By Milinda Rajasekera
Sri Lanka, having weathered the trials and tribulation of a period plagued by a nasty spell of terrorism, and earned the wrath of those providing encouragement and ammunition for the LTTE, appears to be moving fast backward to that despicable situation that prepared the background for terrorism to arise in this land.
It is evident from history that the cause of the imbroglio created then was the interplay of ambitious, opportunistic and competitive politics that held sway in the country. It was on the main national problem that the prevailing political culture had the most deleterious impact. The political parties that were concerned more with the acquisition of power than protecting and promoting the national interests, had no qualms about using the incendiary ethnic issue for partisan political gain. It was during the time of 1956 elections that the problem reached the political arena with much intensity in the form of the language issue. Both main political parties in the fray, the UNP and the SLFP, competitively promised to make Sinhala only the country’s official language, thus setting afloat an explosive issue that contained the seed for the country’s misfortune.
Since then, it was the historical question about the place to be accorded to the Tamil speaking people that dominated politics. Entering into pacts and agreements among political parties and abrogating or reneging on them afterwards became the order of the day. Finally, the Tamil youth who became impatient and restive over the failure of force of argument that their elders relied upon, wrested – particularly after the Vadukkodai resolution - the task of gaining their people’s rights, from their elders and launched their violent campaigns to achieve their objectives by use of force.
The country thus became a pathetic victim of terrorism that was to bedevil the country for decades until the Mahinda Rajapaksa Government wiped the menace with courage and determination. It was unfortunate, however, that the government, having thus concluded the first stage of completely eliminating terrorism through force of arms, has so far failed to accomplish the second stage of formulating a solution to the ethnic problem. It is this failure that keeps the Tamil parties’ discontent alive, Tamil diaspora abroad fanning the embers of terrorism and the international community meddling with our internal affairs.
The antidote to this unfortunate trend is the formulation of a solution to the main national problem. In fact, no spade work is required to find an acceptable formula to solve the problem because a vast reservoir of studies, reports, opinions, proposals and even draft legislation is available which could be utilized for formulating a just and reasonable solution to the problem. What is necessary is to review this plethora of documents to ferret out relevant data that would suit the present situation for adoption.
The biggest obstacle to accomplishing this task is the current political party strife and acrimony. It is this bugbear that is going to throw a spanner in the works. Already the debate over the 13th Amendment to the Constitution has begun to rage as the government spokesmen started sounding about the possibility of expanding the scope of this legislation. In conformity with Sri Lanka’s pattern of politics, the progenitors of this legislation have begun expressing disenchantment with the proposed move, while some of its bilious traducers have turned out to be its protagonists. The seed is thus sown to generate public confusion and opposition that would thwart all efforts to surmount the biggest hurdle that obstruct the country’s forward march.
What this situation shows graphically is that the tribulations and misery that the country has suffered as a result of the failure to solve this problem has not taught our political parties and their leaders the lesson of true patriotism that makes them submerge their narrow political party interests in times of grave threat to the country. They should, even at this late stage, be honest to their impressive pronouncements about placing country’s interests above those of their political parties and unite – as political parties in mature democracies do – to pull the country out of the present plight.
It is the patriotic duty of these parties to submit their suggestions and proposals to solve the problem instead of indulging in negative and destructive criticism that provides hostile forces with ammunition to continue their attacks on the country in various ways. The government which constitutes parties that represent almost all shades of political opinion in the country is in an advantaged position to reach a consensual agreement on the intricate issues. It is the government’s responsibility to act magnanimously and generously towards opposition parties to get their cooperation in solving this problem. All parties would have to rein in those indulging in vitriolic criticism of one another at least until some agreement is reached on this matter. It is also incumbent upon all organized sections of people, trade unions, media institutions, religious leaders and organizations and other patriotic NGOs to lend their fullest cooperation to achieve the present national objectives.