DIGNITARIES come and dignitaries go, but the relevance of what they say must remain. The recently-concluded visit by US Assistant Secretary of State for Central and South Asia Robert O. Blake resulted in a few points to ponder on. The important point is to see if the Government will listen to the negatives and take action.
Acting Cabinet Spokesman Deputy Minister Lakshman Yapa Abeywardana true to form was quick to commend the positive aspects of Blake’s opinions expressed during a press conference on Wednesday. However, he refused to answer on what the Government would do regarding the EPDP paramilitary outfits that are operating in the north.
Even the reporters were amused by the Minister’s complete lack of a response, but that does not underestimate the responsibility of the Government. The EPDP has long been a supporter of the Government, but that cannot deter it from protecting the citizens of this country. If members of the ruling party or its supporters are damaging the wellbeing of the people then the government has a responsibility to stand up for them. Its refusal to do so will result in it losing credibility and trust – deservedly so.
A full and impartial inquiry that is conducted quickly with its results displayed for the public would be a starting point. The other is to end the favouritism and allow the law enforcement authorities to take action against paramilitary groups that are blatantly flouting the law and security of this land. Denial will only drive a wedge between the people, especially the Tamil population and the Government.
Increasing the number of Tamil officers within the police force is a necessary step to building closer links between the officials and the public. Its necessity can hardly be argued given the fact that the police in general do not have the highest level of respect in the country. Perhaps one deviation is that Police officers of all three ethnicities should be integrated into the Police force and with adequate language training deployed around the country for better relations between the police and people. This would be a long term goal but its foundation can be more aggressively laid.
The once amusing but now serious ‘grease yaka’ phenomenon must also be arrested without delay. While there are many opinions regarding these offenders their concentration in ethnically sensitive areas is a grave concern. In order to constructively enforce law and order this menace has to be wiped out. Building stronger community ties is essential for this and the above move of having more Tamil officers gains more strength from the issue of the grease devils.
There are also several points that Blake did not touch upon but remain important nonetheless. One is the fate of the Internally Displaced People that were originally from Sampur. These people could be left with no assistance if the Resettlement Ministry winds down without providing them with new homes. Resettlement will not be a success unless all these people are allowed to return to normal lives.
The final report of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) has overarching importance for all these issues and more. Its credibility, acceptance and implementation will have a very real effect on the future of this country.