Reconciliation has failed because of top-down attempts: Sri Lankan foreign minister

Last Updated: Tue, Jan 22, 2013 15:30 hrs

New Delhi, Jan 22 (IANS) Reconciliation efforts in Sri Lanka after the end of the 30-year armed conflict with the Tamil Tiger rebels have failed mainly because they were top-down attempts and no effort was made to galvanise popular support behind the proposals, a senior minister said here Tuesday.

Moreover, there was a lack of political consensus over the implementation of various proposals that were made in the past, External Affairs Minister G.L. Peiris said. He was delivering a lecture at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA) on "The Rise of Asia and Sri Lanka's Role".

He referred to the instance of one of the bills he presented in the Sri Lankan parliament, which was burnt by the opposition.

He held that the ongoing talks with the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) had identified certain issues which would be taken up for discussions by a parliamentary select committee (PSC) and hoped a solution would be worked out in near future.

However, on the issue of devolution, he argued forcefully that since majority of the Tamils lived outside the north and the east, there was no need to make this a critical issue in the negotiations.

Peiris also noted that as a nation transiting from a society in conflict to a society aiming at peace, Sri Lanka is gearing up for meeting all these challenges in its own way.

He argued that as a nation coming out of 30 years of ethnic conflict, Sri Lanka was not expected to resolve the issue in three-and-half-years since the war against the Tamil Tiger rebels ended.

However, it had made substantial progress in the economic and developmental sectors, especially in building physical infrastructure like roads, highways, railways and communication networks in the areas affected by the conflict.

Peiris thanked India for its substantial contribution towards the development of railways in his country. He invited people from India to visit Sri Lanka and see for themselves the changes taking place in the war ravaged areas. Development was the key to resolution of conflict, he argued.

On India-Sri Lanka relations he held that the two countries were engaged in a whole range of issues, which made the relationship quite robust, vibrant, "rich and satisfying".

During the eighth joint commission meeting, the two countries agreed to cooperate on matters relating to counter terrorism, food and energy security. He considered people to people contact and cultural linkages as the bases of a solid foundation for continuing process of engagement between the two nations.

The minister also dwelt on the daunting challenges confronting his country as it was making substantial progress on the economic front. He identified the challenges as economic, cultural, security-related and political in nature.

Emphasing on the economic challenges the minister said that the fruits of economic development should be equally distributed to the urban and the peri-urban sections of the society and argued that economic development in a country can be sustainable only when complemented with social equity.

Peiris also stressed that a nation's progress depended on sound functioning of institutions like judiciary and legislature. A major problem facing all societies today was how to reconcile freedom with security, he stated. Way.

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