Tamils in Sri Lanka are feeling pessimistic due to lack of progress in reconciliation efforts by President Maithripala Sirisena who had promised to reach out to the minority community more vigorously than his predecessor, a UK-based diaspora group said on Saturday.
“Lack of urgency towards demilitarisation, normalisation in the North and East, insufficient effort to include all communities into the reconciliation processes and mixed messages emanating from the top political leadership on accountability and good governance are all contributing towards re-emergence of cynicism and pessimism among the Tamil people, a trend that ought to be addressed without delay,” the Global Tamil Forum (GTF) said in a statement.
The London-based group commended the comments made by UN Special Rapporteur on minority issues Rita Izsak-Ndiaye that to achieve peaceful co-existence “a comprehensive, well-planned and well-coordinated truth, reconciliation, healing and accountability process must take place”.
“Izsak-Ndiaye’s recommendation that the most pressing and emotive issues for minority communities – disappeared persons, return of occupied land, release of security-related detainees as well as demilitarisation – must be addressed urgently and her call that the views and aspirations of the minority communities must be taken into proper consideration in the Constitutional reform process, resonate fully with the Tamil community,” the group said.
The Special Rapporteur’s warning regarding stalled progress and the urgent need for concrete action to sustain the momentum for change reflect the prevalent view among several key observers on Sri Lanka, it said.
The group appealed to the Lankan government to embark on focussed and targeted initiatives towards accountability, political resolution and reconciliation so that the unique opportunity exists today to convert Sri Lanka into a modern, democratic, plural and prosperous country will not be squandered.
It said that on its part, it will do all it can to pro- actively contribute to consolidate and accelerate the progressive transition presently underway.
Sirisena, who came to power last year after ending former strongman Mahinda Rajapaksa’s nearly a decade-long rule, had promised to reach out to the Tamils to pursue reconciliation more vigorously than Rajapaksa, who was known for his hardline Sinhalese nationalism.
On Thursday, a UN rights expert asked exhorted the Lankan government to return military-occupied land and reduce the role of the army in northern areas, a long-pending demand of the ethnic Tamils since the end of the nearly three-decade- long separatist war led by the LTTE in 2009 in which thousands of civilians were killed.