New Delhi’s ‘initial’ reaction to the LLRC Report may not have set the Palk Strait, leave alone the Indian Ocean, on fire but it will have its own consequences if and when the West takes it up at the UNHRC at Geneva in March. Coupled with near-similar positions taken by Russia and China, India’s studied reaction to the Report indicates that New Delhi would like Colombo to sub-serve the long-term interests of Sri Lanka than stopping with addressing what at best could be undefined concerns over the short and medium-terms.
The Indian reaction should be noted for something that other nations have not taken note of, whatever the reason. “We have been assured by the Government of Sri Lanka on several occasions in the past, of its commitment towards pursuit of a political process, through a broader dialogue with all parties, including the Tamil National Alliance, leading to the full implementation of the 13thAmendment to the Sri Lankan Constitution, and to go beyond, so as to achieve meaningful devolution of powers and genuine national reconciliation,” the Official Spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), said in New Delhi, on Christmas day.
Unlike with other nations, India-Sri Lanka relations are bound inextricably by political stability on the island, flowing not from ethnic-silencing but from ethnic peace. It goes beyond militancy and insurgencies that India had helped Sri Lanka to eradicate. It is not about the ‘Tamil Nadu factor’, as is often misunderstood in Colombo. The ethnic issue has other facets, independent of Tamil Nadu that impinges on India. The Diaspora factor, the Darussman Report and the LLRC, for instance, are not products of pressures from the south Indian State
By calling for a “broader dialogue with all parties, including the Tamil National Alliance”, India has stuck to its earlier position of the Colombo Government having to address the concerns of all communities, including the Tamils. In doing so, New Delhi may have also conferred a certain acceptance of a multi-lateral, multi-level dialogue process. This takes into account ground realities, where not only the Sinahala majority but also denominational divisions among the Tamil-speaking people too have their ‘legitimate aspirations and concerns’ going beyond the Sri Lankan Tamil community and the TNA. The TNA in particular has to be alive to the possibilities, post-war.
Post-emergency, the Sri Lankan Centre may have lost its political case for continuing not to implement the Police and other powers that already form a part of the Constitution. Otherwise, it could be left to the higher judiciary in the country to decide on the legality of non-implementation of 13-A, if approached. Conversely, it would be for Parliament to further amend the Constitution, to withdraw existing provisions on Police and Land powers, for instance. As UNP’s Jayalath Jayawardane has said, the Government has given the impression that it wants the TNA to agree to the changes that it has in mind, but whose enlargement the Tamil party has been demanding.
The constant Indian reference to 13-A may irk some in Sri Lanka. Yet, 13-A is both an existing part of the Sri Lankan Constitution. Any denial of existing promises of the Sri Lankan State to the ethnic minority could revive and feed old animosities. It will also upset the silent majority of the polity in the Sinhala South, who now expect the TNA to get their Provincial Council powers for them. Not just the UNP’s, even the equally defeated and divided JVP’s concerns too have to be seen in context.
Like the West and the rest, India has cited the LLRC Report and expressed the hope that the Sri Lankan Government would follow-up on accountability issues through new mechanisms. Like the West, it has sought an ‘independent’ mechanism for the purpose, without indicating in any way that it should not be Sri Lankan in character. Like the ‘Rest’, it has seemingly side-stepped ‘leadership accountability’, at political, administrative and command levels.
That is saying a lot, particularly in terms of keeping the ‘reconciliation process’ alive and going, and not getting bogged down in the past, as always. The LLRC Report thus provides not just one but multiple ‘windows of opportunity’ to address the post-war reconciliation issues that have turned out in ways that the Government had not imagined when it thought the war had ended and that there were no more battles to be fought.
Great article. But, I doubt the Tamils have endorsed TNA. The truth is, during the last election the Tamils did not wanted to vote for UPFA nor UNP. Thus they did not have any other choice than to vote for TNA.
If there is an alternative political party to come up with different ideas, I am sure they will win.
I personally think the devolution is good in over all for the country as the day to day matters can be managed effectively, I have serious doubt in TNA's capability.
I will not vote for TNA.
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