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A Political Solution for Sri Lanka: Promising Developments and Challenges Ahead

In a recent gathering organized by Religions for Peace International and its Sri Lankan chapter on December 19, former President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga emphasized the public’s disinterest in another conflict, attributing the tensions to political manipulation rather than inherent racism among the Sri Lankan people. Kumaratunga asserted that the majority now favors a political solution centered around inter-ethnic power sharing and increased devolution of power to provincial levels—a sentiment echoed by the National Peace Council.

The National Peace Council sees the current climate as opportune for a breakthrough and welcomes the steps taken by the government. Notably, the cabinet has approved two crucial pieces of legislation: one establishing a Commission for Truth, Harmony, and Reconciliation of Sri Lanka, and the other legally establishing an Office for National Unity and Reconciliation. These measures are awaiting publication as government gazette notifications, inviting public input.

A positive development is the civil society initiative spearheaded by the Association of War Affected Women, bringing together members of the Tamil Diaspora and senior Buddhist monks. This collaborative effort is viewed as a crucial first step toward fostering dialogue and understanding, backed by a joint set of principles agreed upon by both groups. The principles have received general consent from politicians, major religious clergy, and the diplomatic community.

However, the National Peace Council acknowledges the challenges on the ground. The persistent large military presence in the North and East, even 15 years post-war, and associated surveillance, continue to cause unease among the local population. Land disputes, particularly claims by individuals from outside the Northern and Eastern provinces, further exacerbate tensions. The National Peace Council urges the government to address these issues promptly, emphasizing the need for trust, safeguarding of land rights, personal safety, and linguistic freedoms.

As the year draws to a close, the National Peace Council calls on the government to prioritize and expedite provincial council elections. This, they argue, is crucial for ensuring governance at the local level, where people can elect representatives who understand and address their economic and justice concerns. The National Peace Council’s Governing Council emphasizes the need for the government to instill confidence in the people of the North and East, assuring them that their concerns will be addressed as equals within the Sri Lankan nation.

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