By Dr. S. Narapalasingam
Like the July 1983 enjoined anti-Tamil pogrom, the forced expulsion of Tamils including the old and the ailing in a prearranged coordinated move from their lodgings in selected areas in Colombo on June 7 pre-dawn by the security forces for no valid reason other than the fact they were Tamil visitors from the North or East will remain a sordid saga in the post independence history of the island nation. The operation was carried out by the Police and Army without warning in the Pettah, Maradana, Kotahena, Wellawatte and other selected areas in Colombo. According to the police, 376 people—291 men and 85 women—were detained and dispatched to the North and East in eight buses. None were charged with any crime. The ridiculous position of the authorities was they had ‘no valid reason’ to be in Colombo, which is not their home territory.
The present government has highlighted the real nature of the so-called national problem. Furthermore, the President’s earlier declaration that there is no ethnic problem has been proved groundless. The word ‘national’ here refers to the multi-ethnic state and not the Sinhala-Buddhist nation as imagined by some ‘patriots’. It is not a conceptual dispute but real, affecting the day-to-day living conditions of the ill-fated Tamils due to the unfair exercise of power. The deceit in official statements concerning the present and future positions of the ethnic minority Tamils is another aspect of the problem. Tisaranee Gunasekara has observed in her comments – ‘A moral debacle’: “It is both significant and heartening that the only party to back the deportations was the JHU. Even the JVP was severely critical of the move, with MP Anura Kumara Dissanayake emphasising the importance of retaining the trust of the Tamil people. Given Mr. Rajapakse’s own proclivities and the fact that his current ideological and spiritual ally is the most retrogressive and extremist political entity in the South, the JHU, we can expect a further hardening of official attitudes towards Tamils.” This is precisely what the LTTE leader wanted from the enforced boycott of the November 2005 Presidential election giving the vital support the then Prime Minister Mahinda Rajaspaksa needed for his victory.
The clear message
All along there has been the annoying gulf between the official pronouncement that the island nation is the home of the majority Sinhalese and the minority Tamil speaking people domiciled all over the country vis-à-vis the discriminatory ways the minorities are treated in respect of their interests, security concerns, aspirations, welfare and development of the regions populated mostly by them as if they are not entitled to the same rights as the indigenous Sinhalese. The insensitive and degrading manner the Tamils were hounded out of their lodgings and bundled into waiting buses arranged to take them to Vavuniya or Trincomalee on June 7 has reinforced the feeling of being considered aliens in their own country. The Tamils who have been enduring indignity for decades are desperate to find a way where they can live in dignity as equals in the civil society. The Tamils have feared for their safety since the unleashing of State terror more openly than before in 1983 and in the subsequent years as a result of the separatist war. The June 7 thoughtless act has rekindled fears for the safety and future of Tamils in Sri Lanka. This is the kind of action desired by the separatists to sustain the case for a separate state. Once this is achieved, there will be no need afterwards for the people in the North and East to visit Colombo to attend to matters as those for which the expelled Tamils had come!
The conflict originated with the one language- one homeland-one (Sinhala hegemonic) government notion that influenced government programmes and policies, particularly during their implementation. This inculcated in the minds of the ethnic minorities fears for their future well-being. The callous methods used continuously by the powerful Sinhalese political leaders, who were overly confident of achieving their hidden aim turned out to be counterproductive as these laid the grounds for the demand for a separate Tamil state which subsequent escalated to the armed struggle for independence. Even those who are against the division of the State recognize the need for the Tamils to have a permanent safe place in the island and political power to safeguard against the excesses of the Sinhala majority regime. This need arose as a result of the discriminatory and violent actions of the State since 1956. Such a setup will also give confidence to the minority Tamils living outside the North and East.
D.B.S. Jeyaraj in his article, ‘Rajapakse Regime Reinforces Concept of Tamil Homeland’ (TamilWeek June 12) has drawn attention to this basic need from the security angle of the Tamils to have distinct powers to administer the region recognized as native to them. This has become necessary to safeguard their future and ensure the safety and security of Tamils not only in this region but also in other parts of the island. To quote: “Many people fail to realise that the homeland theory has its roots in Tamil insecurity and vulnerability and not in ethnic superiority or exclusivity.” It is not the Sinhalese people but governments abusing the centralized powers to punish political opponents or gain some short-term political mileage that created and sustained the division and the connected national problem. State power used as a tool for achieving narrow political gains was at the cost of damaging national unity and welfare of the less privileged people.
The misuse of public funds was also an offshoot of the abuse of power. With rising opportunities for misusing the sovereign power of the people by their leaders, the lust for power has skyrocketed amongst the class of self-seeking politicians. They have mastered the art of electioneering and holding on to the power gained craftily. It is a case of using a convenient strategy to win votes right across the ethnic divide and a contrasting one after winning to remain popular among the majority Sinhalese. Even burning issues vanish from their minds after victory. This is how the hopes of the ethnic Tamils were raised and shattered within weeks of national elections.
Tamil homeland in Sri Lanka
The Tamils forcibly evicted from their lodgings were sent to their home land where their forefathers had lived. State aided colonization schemes intended to change the ethnic configuration of border areas in the North and East that were implemented since independence succeeded in transforming the ethnic makeup of the population in some vital localities particularly in the Eastern Province (e.g. parts of the original Trincomalee district). In 1946 only about 20% of the population in the East was Sinhalese. Ampara and Trincomalee districts now have the high proportion of Sinhalese residents (more than a third) with Batticaloa having the lowest (less than 5%). Nevertheless, the basic demographic distinction between the North-East and the rest of the island remains intact.
[Members of ethnic Tamil civil rights group protest against the government’s eviction of Tamils from their boarding houses in Colombo June 8th, 2007 – Yahoo! News Photo]
The existence of two distinct nationalities in ethnically divided island has been given practical meaning from time to time by the actions of the ‘patriotic’ Sinhalese leaders. The power they possessed made them overconfident even to ignore the island’s future as a stable, united and peaceful country as well as the concerns of foreign donors. The reality is the development of the national economy depends significantly on foreign aid. They were also not concerned about the implications of slow development on the living conditions of the vulnerable people. The June 2007 limited (because of the June 8 ruling by the Supreme Court) but open and direct deed by the authorities has exposed at least one hidden cause of the ethnic problem to the whole world.
An IANS June 8 report titled, ‘How to tell Tamils they don’t belong to Sri Lanka?’ by a New Delhi-based Sri Lankan watcher stated: “For too long it has been claimed by Sri Lanka’s ruling elite that there cannot be a concept of ‘Tamil homeland’ because more Tamils now live outside of the war zone that is the northeastern province, which was once overwhelmingly Tamil. On Thursday (June 7), the Sri Lankan police’s high-handed action seemed to prove that the ‘Tamil homeland’ does exist and it does constitute precisely that region the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) wants to secede. …..In one stroke, Colombo appeared to prove right the LTTE argument that Sri Lanka is made up of two nations – the Sinhala nation and Tamil nation – and that these two nations can never co-exist. …Sri Lanka is no doubt fighting a very difficult war, and against a very determined and sophisticated enemy. But throwing out Tamils from Colombo lodges, even if the number is only 500, reflects poorly on a society and a government who are expected to prove wrong the LTTE ideology.” It is not just the eviction but the way it was carried out in the wee hours on Thursday June 7 is equally relevant to the permanent political settlement of the conflict necessary for ensuring lasting peace.
The innocent sufferers
The following are the observations of foreign and local correspondents in their reports compiled after meeting some of the anguished Tamils who were forcibly expelled from Colombo by the Sri Lankan authorities and brought back two days later from Vavuniya. Although all evictees were allowed to return — after an international uproar and Supreme Court ruling to stop the expulsion – many Tamils opted to stay out of Colombo fearing the expulsions could be the beginning of a new wave of persecution. 186 of the expelled to the North returned to Colombo in the buses arranged by the authorities. It is the unsafe wretched conditions in the conflict-ridden North- East that compel some poor Tamils to “come to Colombo with hopes of securing foreign visas and leaving the island. They often stay in cheap guest houses run by Tamil families while waiting for their paperwork, a process that can take months, if it happens at all”. This is not the only valid reason for visiting Colombo; many come for other personal reasons like marriage, receive close relatives arriving or send some abroad and medical treatment.
Twenty-three-year old Dharshani Selvam had already booked the reception hall for her marriage and was living with her aged mother Saraswathie awaiting the bridegroom’s arrival from London where he works. Both moved to Colombo from Karaveddi following the death of Dharshini’s father and were living in a lodge in Wellawatte. They had mortgaged their house and property in Karaveddi to raise money for the wedding. According to the Daily Mirror (June 8th), the proprietor of the lodge who is an all island JP and a former Secretary of the Ceylon Teachers Congress – a trade union arm of the CWC – told the paper: “Saraswathie even showed police officers the receipt of payment made to the owner of the wedding hall where the ceremony was to take place but the police paid no heed.”
Speaking to Sirasa TV, a Pettah lodge owner described what had happened: “The police and the army came early morning, at about 3.00 a.m. and took the people out from the rooms. There were about seven or eight people aged more than 65 years old. A lady, who was about 65 years, cried and lamented and knelt before the police officers and pleaded not to send her back home. They didn’t care [about] that and there were another four elderly women and four elderly men”.
The Daily Mirror reported June 12, like the bride Dharshini the others evicted also had a tale of fear, uncertainty and despair to recount. North, East Tamils evicted from their lodgings in Wellawatte, Kotahena, Maradana, Pettah and Keselwatta are still in a state of confusion and shock as they try to come to terms with the unexpected and unfortunate incident where they were bundled into CTB buses and taken to Vavuniya or Trincomalee. Even after the predawn ordeal in Colombo, on their return they were questioned by the Police before allowing them to get back to their lodgings.
12 lodgers including two women staying in ‘Thaas Rest’ Wellawatte, were evicted and sent to Vavuniya. A family of four – father, mother, son and daughter – residents of Chavakachcheri was brought back. The son Yoganathan (26) and the father, Nadaraja Rajadorai (59) staying at the same lodge said: “First we were taken to Peliyagoda police station and loaded into a bus. Altogether there were seven buses and we were in one of them. We were then taken towards north and nobody knew where we were being taken to. Some were frightened for their lives. We were hungry and nobody had any money as we were asked to leave unexpectedly. Only a few had money to buy food. The ICRC provided dinner to all who were accommodated at the Gamini Maha Vidyalaya in Vavuniya. The evicted spent the night in the tents provided by the INGO. The following day around 2.00 p.m. Vavuniya Divisional Secretary visited us and informed us that we could go back to Colombo. We left Vavuniya by bus around 7.00 p.m. on Friday (June 8th). Many did not want to come back through fear and uncertainty, though almost all had some unfinished work to attend to back in Colombo”.
The apprehension of many Tamils was revealed from the following reaction of another young tormented Tamil. “We were taken from the lodge so the manager and others knew what happened, but if you’re caught alone, no one would know what was happening”. The harsh ways persons recognized as Tamils are checked at checkpoints in Colombo have also been reported by others. The obvious reason for this is: “There is a general suspicion that Tamils are potential terrorists.” What a gift to the LTTE struggling to force the ultimate division of the island?
The Communist Party, a constituent of the coalition government in a statement issued to the press June 11 condemned the forced eviction of Tamils in Colombo lodges “as the most inhuman, arbitrary, idiotic and ignominious act on the part of the Security forces”.
Ridiculous and misleading responses
Inspector General of Police Victor Perera revealed the criterion used to deport the Tamil lodgers, when he told the press, it had been necessary to secure the “safety of innocent people living in Colombo and its suburbs”. Does this mean there is no alternative other than deporting the Tamil lodgers to their homeland in order to make Colombo safe for its residents? Police Deputy Inspector General in Colombo, Rohan Abeywardene, also attempted to justify the expulsions by saying that the Tamils involved had “no valid reasons” to stay in Colombo. Does this mean the Tamils cannot stay temporarily in Colombo without the consent of the authorities (valid visa)? Speaking in the Parliament, the government’s defence spokesman Minister Kehaliya Rambukwella brushed aside criticisms and told that the security forces had only been facilitating the “voluntary departure” of Tamils!
The government has been attempting an impossible damage control task after the thoughtless action. The President ordered the Inspector General of Police to submit a report to him on the June 7 operation within a week. By the way that week has passed with no talk about the report. This is the kind of instant reaction to any problem that is suspected to be due to the misdeed of the security forces or the miscreants operating with the tacit approval of the authorities or failure of the law enforcement establishment – ordering internal probe or setting up independent commission of inquiry. The Presidential Commission of Inquiry (CoI) set up to investigate some 16 incidents including the assassination of former Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar, the slaying of 17 aid workers in Muttur, the killing of 68 persons at Kebethigollawa and the assassination of TNA MP N. Raviraj has not progressed much for various reasons. One hindering factor is said to be the absence of a judicial system to provide assistance and protection to witnesses wishing to provide relevant information. The work is likely to remain in limbo until this mechanism is introduced.
The International Independent Group of Eminent Persons (IIGEP) formed to watch the work of the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (CoI) headed by former Chief Justice of India, P. N Bhagwati in its statement has indirectly questioned the State’s commitment to the protection of human rights implying that the government was indifferent to the investigation. The Group has also expressed serious concerns about the lack of protection for witnesses and made serious denunciation of the Attorney General’s Department. The IIGEP gave some credibility to the CoI but now it seems to have backfired. Outwardly, the move appears sincere and serious. But in practice hidden factors in the corrupt system hinder the work. This has come about following the politicization of almost every aspect of public administration including law enforcement and judicial procedures over a period of many years.
On June 10 Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickremanayaka expressed regrets for the forced eviction of Tamil lodgers and expulsion out of Colombo, saying that this order and other reported incidents of involuntary disappearances, abductions and killings had brought the government into disrepute. This contradicted the clarification given in the Parliament by the government’s Defence spokesperson, Minister Keheliya Rambukwella just two days earlier. Apparently, the defence establishment took a different position as seen from the widely reported statements made by the Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa in the interview he gave to the BBC and Reuters.
He not only tried to justify the decision to deport the 376 Tamils but also pointed an accusing finger at foreign powers for their double standards in combating terrorism. Incidentally, according to the UNP leader the Defence Secretary like his brother Basil who is also in the inner political circle is a US citizen. According to critics, Defence Secretary’s confident statements lacked political acumen, foresight and diplomacy. One report stated – “by virtually telling the West to mind its own business and calling the West bullies, he committed a diplomatic faux pas which would be damaging to Sri Lanka in the long run.” He also said: “Tamil Tiger rebels had infiltrated the UN office in Colombo and were feeding it incorrect information”. This irked the UN Resident Representative who issued a statement refuting the allegation. Some have questioned his authority as Defence Secretary to proclaim publicly such serious allegations.
According to the Defence Secretary, the abductions in Sri Lanka are like the covert operations of the US Intelligence. Regarding this opinion, ‘The Nation’ columnist observed: “If he has again been quoted correctly, the lid is now blown open as to who is responsible for abductions-–either sanctioning them or doing the actual operations. The abduction and killing of the Red Cross workers, the abduction of the Eastern University Vice Chancellor and the nine bodies at Dumbaladeniya must now be presumed to be cases of justifiable covert operations”!
On the evictions he said, the police had taken action against only a small proportion of ethnic Tamils living in cheap hotels in the city. Since they did not have any legal duty in Colombo, they could go back to their hometowns and this “would be far better than keeping them under detention in Colombo, which he could have done”. Defending the action taken by the security forces, Minister Jeyaraj Fernandopulle, who is also the Government Chief Whip in the Parliament told a news conference on June 13 he felt there was no need to say sorry for the eviction. Surprisingly, his stand and that of the Defence Secretary also contradicted the view taken by the Supreme Court which stayed the expulsion of the Tamil lodgers from Colombo. If these responsible men have expressed different views with the consent or knowledge of the President, then the government is deliberately pursuing a muddled policy with regard to the Tamil issue.
Compounding the confusion, Cabinet spokesman Minister Anura Priyadharsana Yapa at a media briefing on June14 said the PM’s regret (not apology) was the official government position. Responding to a barrage of questions from journalists he said, Minister Fernandopulle only expressed his personal view the previous day and not that of the government. He said in a democracy anyone had the right to express his personal opinion. What happened to the collective responsibility of the Cabinet? One is tempted to doubt whether the Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickremanayaka’s rare message of regret to Tamils is genuine or just a face-saving move by the President. He is the Minister of Defence and not the Prime Minister. He also presides over the meetings of the council, where decisions concerning national security are taken. Any sincere apology should have been offered by the President himself.
Tisaranee Gunasekara commenting on President’s speech in Geneva in her article – ‘Monstrous mistakes’, (Asian Tribune June 17) has said: “The President is in effect backing his brother (Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa) by blaming not the decision to expel but its manner of implementation. He has regretted not the injustice of the policy but any excess in implementation (inconvenience is not quite the term to be used to describe the horror experienced by the victims; the use of the term ‘inconvenience’ indicate that for President Rajapakse, as for his brother, these Tamils are not ‘worthy victims’).
For President Rajapakse, as for his brother, the decision to expel is just because ‘almost all suicide bombers have operated from these lodging houses’…He also reiterated the lie that many of those expelled left voluntarily; true some chose not come back to Colombo when offered the chance to do so and who can blame them? Why should they come back after they were treated like enemy aliens there, with hostility and contempt, by their own government? And the numbers – 376 to be accurate – are comparatively small because the Supreme Court injunction forced the government to stop the expulsions. The government did not stop the expulsions voluntarily; it was compelled to do so…” Many others have also cited the Defense Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa as the government’s top executive responsible for the June 7 incident.
The twists and turns of those directly or indirectly responsible for the heinous act have exposed the plight of the Tamils and the inescapable fact – the Tamil speaking people cannot expect justice, security and equal rights and status under a unitary structure.
Manipulation for short-term gains
Any slanted response obtained by suppressing or twisting facts is unlikely to remain permanent as sooner or later the real facts will come to light. To achieve something on a long-lasting basis truth is essential. This is absolute in the case of the interdependent unity and real peace. On the human rights issue, except for the few like the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louis Arbour, many have expressed strong dissatisfaction with the rights violations which are now alleged to be alarmingly more on the government side.
President Rajapaksa discussed with Ms. Arbour in Geneva on June 14 his Government’s efforts to preserve the human rights “amidst the heightened acts of terrorism”. According to published reports, the latter “expressed her regret at the propaganda launched by various organisations to discredit the Lanka Government” and appreciated the Government’s actions to uphold the human rights. President also held discussions with the President of the International Human Rights Council Luis Alfonso. Mr. Alfonso “appreciated steps taken by the Sri Lanka Government to not only appoint a Presidential Commission to probe human rights violations but also to permit an International panel of eminent persons to be present as observers.” The lack of progress so far has been pointed out earlier. The experts’ opinion suggests likely failure of the Commission in achieving the main objective, if the present system continues without substantial reform.
The Japanese special envoy at the end of his four-day visit (arrived on June 5 two days before the forced eviction of 376 Tamils) said that while the human rights violations were too numerous and not in the least acceptable for a civilised country like Sri Lanka, the people of the island should not have to suffer the consequences of their leaders’ policies. Justifying the continuation of his government’s aid programme, he said: “Our help is for victims of the conflict. People should not be punished for actions or policies of their leaders.” He has ignored the fact that foreign aid is channeled through government or authorized third parties. He also said he was leaving with renewed hope and optimism that the government is committed to a political solution and to upholding the rule of law. He was using the carrot instead of the stick in his unique diplomatic efforts to secure the elusive peace!
The Vice-President of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Jacques Forster and the Secretary General of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, Markku Niskala, during the meeting with the President inquired information on action taken by his government to apprehend the culprits responsible for the abduction and murder of two staff members (Sri Lankan Tamils) of the Sri Lanka Red Cross Society. Apparently, both were happy with the expressed commitment to investigate and bring the perpetrators quickly to justice.
However, the meeting the president had on June 14 in Geneva with (AI) Amnesty’s Secretary General, Irene Khan was less cheering. She said in a statement, an escalation of rights abuses over the past 18 months had shown domestic institutions were not up to the task. “A climate of fear dominates Sri Lanka, with human rights activists and journalists threatened, attacked, intimidated, harassed and killed. Even humanitarian workers have not been immune.” She also said, “in this deteriorating situation, an independent presence to monitor and investigate human rights abuses by all sides is critical”. Apparently, President Rajapakse stopped short of responding directly to the AI appeal to open talks with the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on monitoring and investigating rights violations.
In contrast, the Brussels-based International Crisis Group (ICG) sounded the warning note strongly. It has asked Sri Lanka’s donors to “reassess” their aid to the island in view of the gross violation of human rights by both the government and the LTTE. “Until that action is forthcoming, the victims of violence perpetrated by the state, the LTTE and other armed groups have nowhere to turn,” the ICG’s report dated June 14 said. It also pointed out that “the broad impact of human rights abuses on society is already evident, with rising crime and lawlessness apparent throughout the country.”
The following are other highlights in the report (source Hindustan Times June 15):
* Far from weakening the LTTE, the government’s dirty war seems likely to strengthen its support and stimulate more funding from the Tamil Diaspora. On the other hand, its abuses undermine “any claims to represent the Tamil people.”
* As the state decays, corruption and criminal influence on the political system have increased. While attacking moderates who are critical of the government’s approach, the administration has given space to nationalist extremists, who provoke further inter-communal strife.
* The government faces a severe security threat, which it has a legitimate right to address. However, its policies are doing little to improve security and are fuelling antagonism among moderate Tamils and other minorities towards the state.
* Many moderate voices are being silenced through coercion and fear, while extremists on both sides are encouraged.
* Officially approved impunity makes all communities insecure and further undermines law enforcement and the judicial system.
* How long the international community will simply continue repeating formulaic criticisms of the government’s human rights violations and to express hope that political proposals will be forthcoming?
The strategy of the President and his inner circle of advisors seems to be to buy time until the LTTE is defeated militarily hoping this will help to eject the demand for self-rule. Rajan Philips in his article (Sunday Island and Tamil Week 17 June) has said: “The real purpose of the military approach is to get the LTTE out of the way and force an ungenerous political solution. The political agenda of de-merging, district devolution and sticking to the unitary constitution is also the purpose of the military approach.” Even the district devolution seems unlikely. The expectation is probably to keep the present majoritarian rule (Sinhala majority rule) with the de-merged North-East as separate provinces. The government that has found some reasons to defend many horrendous acts will also provide some excuse for the inability to devolve power more than done under the 13th Amendment. As observed by many foreign and local leaders, the present government has inflicted considerable damage to the country’s image and also diminished the prospect of permanent political settlement to the protracted conflict on which depend unity, peace, stability and socio-economic development of all diverse sections of the Society. Ironically, the Rajapaksa government has strengthened the very forces that caused the division of the Society along ethnic lines and eliminated completely justification for retaining the unitary system.
In an ethnically diverse society, democracy can function satisfactorily on the basis of direct majority rule only if the majority decision is either with the consent of the ethnic minorities or made with due consideration to the aspirations and concerns of the ethnic minority groups. Unfortunately, this has not been the case in Sri Lanka. If the Buddhist principles had been observed in the governing system, liberal democracy would have flourished even without a written constitution. The island nation would have been a role model for the less developed countries characterized by low income, high unemployment and miserable living conditions. Ironically, despite the foremost place given to Buddhism in the Republican constitutions, the political ideals of the main parties contesting for nationwide governing power are in fact in conflict with the Buddhist philosophy.
The imperative to look for a non-unitary structure to secure unity in diversity and lasting peace, averting the division of the country into two separate autonomous states has been confirmed by recent events. This is the reality that cannot be concealed or ignored by the Southern polity. The Sinhalese, who still believe unitary structure is necessary to prevent the breakup of the ‘Sinhala land’, should reconsider their belief in the light of the damage caused by the actions and misleading statements of their leaders to consolidate or seize power. What the Tamils want is a system that will not allow repression by the misuse of majority powers bestowed by the unitary system (Sinhala majority rule).
It is the power struggle under the unitary system that enabled the contestants to use the Tamil speaking people as pawns. Broken promises, abrogated pacts and non-implementation of the Acts of Parliament and approved official policies intended to address the problems of the Tamils can also be linked to the contest for power. The Tamils do not want to remain as pawns in this game. Hence the clamour for a different system that will enable them to decide and implement policies considered necessary for safeguarding their rights, security and future well-being. This means the decisions on certain matters of direct concern only to the ethnic minorities should not depend solely on southern consensus. The reality that durable nationwide peace can only be secured by meaningful devolution to the regions inhabited largely by ethnic minorities along with sharing powers with them at the center is very clear.
[The writer is Former Additional Deputy Secretary to the Treasury, Sri Lanka and UN Advisor, Development Economics/Planning]