President’s friendship to Sri Lankan Tamil communities is a positive sign!

The new Government, even though lacking a majority in Parliament, has acquitted itself commendably to the task of Governance and ensuring much need stability. Whereas the Yahapalanaya was flawed from the very inception with the former President and the Prime Minister being from two different political parties following different political ideologies; characterized by one trying to checkmate the other resulting in a state of paralysis in the administration, with the state machinery grinding to a standstill. For the first time in five years, there is governance without internal controversy and administration functioning well with a sense of direction and purpose; with firm and unwavering decisions taken by the New Government. Made possible with the President and Prime Minister working in tandem ensuring stability and direction that has brushed on to the bureaucracy; was thrown into a quandary previously due to deadlock in governance. As the result changes are expected in the leadership of the main opposition political parties the United National Party (UNP), the grand old party and the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), the self-proclaimed as the sole representatives of the Tamils following the defeat suffered by the candidate they actively supported for presidency.

Another positive development came from the Three Nikayas as leading prelates explaining the dangers and harm to the Buddha Sasana in permitting monks to enter Parliament and other legislative bodies have instructed all political parties not to give nominations to any member of Sangha at the upcoming General Elections or accommodate them in Parliament on National Lists. These prelates have stated that members of the Buddhist clergy functioning as members of Parliament or Provincial Councils would only cause harm to the Buddha Sasana since the main role of the Sangha was to guide their followers on the Noble Eightfold Path. Lord Buddha had advised monarchs of his time on the finer points of righteous governance and in Sri Lanka, the Bhikkus have always occupied a prominent place in the country’s political landscape and the Maha Sangha has been advising Kings and rulers for centuries, mostly with positive consequences. Thus Bhikkus and indeed priests from all other religions, without engaging in politics could always continue to engage in an advisory role to the rulers.

The election outcome would surely have drawn his attention to the fact that the voters in the North and East voted almost en bloc for his main rival in a clear polarization of the vote on communal lines. This cannot be an ideal backdrop for the social and political management of the country, leave aside any reconciliation plans he may have in mind towards amity between the main communities. Hence, his prompt response to set the record straight. In a fitting articulation of the profound rationality of the Dhamma, the President stressed that all communities and religious groups in the island must together join in the journey to build the nation.

The President has said on justice and equality for Tamils, in terms of freedoms and political rights there are already provisions in the 13th Amendment of the constitution that is functional; but his government was not willing to implement some aspects like control of police powers and land power and was prepared to discuss alternatives. President’s plan is not to emphasis on political issues, instead would focus on the development, as it is more important to find ways to directly benefit the Tamils for a better living through jobs and promoting fisheries and agriculture. President stressed for 70 odd years, successive leaders promised only devolution, but ultimately nothing happened as nothing could be done against the wishes and feelings of the majority community. But President has said no Sinhala person will say, don’t develop the area, or don’t give jobs, but political issues are different and want him to be judged on his record on development of North & East after five years. The President also said that the 19th Amendment was a failure and if the new Government gets 2/3rds majority in Parliament they would look to drop it from the Constitution.

After ending the war in 2009, according to media reports there had been talks about converting Sri Lanka into various hubs in such sectors as business, aviation, shipping, energy etc. The availability of Trincomalee harbour, a gift of nature is a valuable resource that should have been exploited from the time it was handed back in the 1950’s by the British. It is long accepted fact that Sri Lanka does have the potential and it is still not too late to have a moderate size natural gas terminal in Trincomalee to serve as an energy hub to serve the needs of both the country and beyond in the South Asian region. On the Oil Farm and Port development projects in Trincomalee, the president has said all these projects will be reviewed in detail and would discuss the proposals with India to make necessary changes as all these projects are important to Sri Lanka.

The President did play a key role in ending the war in 2009 as then Secretary of Defence that left a gap between the ruler and the ruled minorities who lived for a decade in negative peace. The President acknowledging this gap has extended the hand of friendship and reconciliation to the Tamil and Muslim communities. This in itself is a positive sign appreciating the fact that his bid for the presidency was overwhelmingly endorsed by the majority community and with his own allies from the minority communities contributing to his victory; promises well for healthy relations between communities. The TNA as the leadership of the Tamil community is busy putting its own alliance in order to open discussions with the new President on the issues pertaining to those living in the North and East. This will certainly help introduce a new political culture that, may provide an environment for dialogue between communities and contending political ideologies as the nation continues to search for a new equilibrium that has evaded it in spite of ending the war a decade ago in 2009.