Sri Lankan minister hopes to resolve Tamil issue

Last Updated: Tue, Jan 22, 2013 16:50 hrs

New Delhi, Jan 22 (IANS) Sri Lankan External Affairs Minister G.L. Peiris Tuesday said his government was trying to resolve political issues concerning the island country's Tamils.

Peiris said Sri Lanka was trying to include Tamil National Alliance (TNA) into the process to resolve the issues. "We are trying to bring TNA into the process. Hope it will happen sooner than later," Peiris said.

Answering queries after delivering a lecture, 'The rise of Asia and Sri Lanka's role', at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses here, Peiris said the government was ready with the Parliament Select Committee of various parties and hoped the TNA would agree to join it.

"The way forward is an all-inclusive process," the minister said.

He said successive Sri Lankan governments had made legislative efforts to resolve the political issue concerning Tamils but failed because of lack of adequate support for implementation.

The minister said the Sri Lankan government of President Mahinda Rajapaksa was trying "to do something that will work on the ground".

TNA is the main Tamil voice in the Sri Lankan parliament and was earlier seen as political arm of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

Sri Lanka waged war on the LTTE, leading to its destruction May 2009.

In an interview with IANS, Suresh Premachandran, an MP of TNA, accused the Sri Lankan government of not being sincere about talking to Tamil representatives, and expressed apprehensions about the parliamentary select committee agreeing to its suggestions.

He said the committee was dominated by Sinhalese parties and "they will never agree to anything we suggest".

Premachandran had also accused the Rajapaksa government of militarising Sri Lanka's Tamil dominated north and allowing security forces to have a stranglehold over the vast region where the Tigers once held sway.

He said Sri Lanka's northern province was now like Palestine, "an occupied territory".

Peiris, in his lecture, said that the "(United Nations) Human Rights Council had become more politicised than the earlier human rights commission".

Although the war against the Tamil Tigers ended in 2009, Sri Lanka still battles allegations of human rights abuses. Colombo routinely denies the charges.

Peiris said the Sri Lankan economy was growing rapidly since the war ended and was registering a seven percent GDP growth.

He said Sri Lanka had endeavoured to strike an equilibrium between economic development and preservation of environment.

He lauded India's Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) and said it had allowed the poor among the rural population to purchase minimum essentials.

The minister said India had helped expand the rail network in Sri Lanka. Many countries in the region faced the challenge of terrorism, Peiris said and added there was need for greater economic cooperation between countries in south Asia.

Raising the issue of piracy, he said there was no international tribunal to deal with the issue.

"(There was) no machinery at international level to take into account the whole issue."

Asked about some parties in Tamil Nadu opposing India giving training to Sri Lankan military personnel, Peiris said that India had not rescinded military cooperation between the two countries.

He said the military cooperation was "very urgent today" because of emerging challenges in the region.

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