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Sri Lanka is wasting the peace dividend

Jan 16, 2011 11:51:25 PM- transcurrents.com

Editorial, The Globe and Mail - Jan 17, 2010

The government of Sri Lanka is squandering an important opportunity to build lasting peace. Though its treatment of Tamils has been substantially moderated since the civil war’s end 18 months ago, President Mahinda Rajapaksa is still engaging in some oppressive policies toward them.

After nearly three decades of civil war, reconciliation between the country’s Sinhalese majority and Tamil minority was never going to be easy. But Mr. Rajapaksa, whose three brothers are also in government, must do more to quell ethnic tensions.

The government’s “Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Committee,” which is looking into claims the army killed tens of thousands of Tamil civilians and soldiers in the last phase of the war, lacks credibility.

And Mr. Rajapaksa, who has taken sole credit for the defeat of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, has used his popularity to change the constitution, eliminating the ban on more than two terms in office, and giving himself final authority over all appointments to the civil service, judiciary and police.

“Despite postwar promises to address the political marginalization of Tamil-speaking people, the government has taken no steps to devolve power from the centre,” concludes a new report by the International Crisis Group.

While the Sri Lankan government has released the majority of the 12,000 people detained on suspicion of LTTE involvement, and 300,000 more displaced people, 70,000 Sri Lankans are still unable to return to their own land. “Those who have returned home face huge problems, including a lack of housing,” notes the report.

There should be a transparent process for resolving land disputes, and greater efforts made to include Tamils in the process. They must be reassured that the government isn’t trying to colonize the north by sending Sinhalese people to live there. Reconciliation – not consolidation of personal power – should be Mr. Rajapaksa’s priority.

~ courtesy: The Globe and Mail ~