Results of Deliberative Poll Reveal Space for Peace

Full Text of Media Release by National Peace Council

A deliberative poll with a sample size of 1800 carried out by the Marga Institute in collaboration with the National Peace Council during May-June 2007 has brought out the people’s attitudes towards the LTTE, the ethnic conflict and its solution, and also the potential for generating popular support for a political solution. This poll, which was carried out in 18 of the country’s 25 administrative districts (excluding the north and including only Ampara from the east) would be primarily reflective of Sinhalese and Muslim opinion.

The deliberative poll seeks to ascertain how the public would respond if they were better informed and had a better understanding of the issues that are the subject of the survey. It was carried out in several phases. In the first phase the respondents were provided with a document that informed them about the issues that they were to be questioned on. In the second phase the respondents were requested to read and deliberate on the material presented and discuss it with others. In the third phase they were presented with a structured questionnaire. Such deliberative polls have been carried out in Northern Ireland to help with the peace process.

According to the Marga study, as many as 99 percent of the respondents did not want the war to continue, agreeing that the prevailing state of war should be ended as early as possible and security restored in all parts of the country. On the other hand, 77 percent of the respondents think that the government needs to act on the basis that the LTTE will not give up their aim of an independent state of Tamil Eelam, and will not enter the democratic process. This leads as many as 84 percent of the respondents to agree that the government should concentrate on militarily defeating the LTTE and recapturing all the territory controlled by the LTTE. But an even greater proportion amounting to 89 percent believe that the LTTE will continue as a guerilla force and be a threat to peace and security even after suffering a comprehensive military defeat.

The bleak assessment of the vast majority of people in the efficacy of a military solution leads most of them amounting to 72 percent to conclude that the best guarantee of lasting peace is a political solution that all communities can accept and that includes the LTTE in a negotiated settlement in which they give up their demand for Tamil Eelam and enter into a multi-party democratic system. This would be the ideal solution, and implies that the people expect the government to put forward a political package to resolve the fundamentals of the ethnic conflict.

It is noteworthy that only a small proportion, less than 10 percent, rejected any form of devolution, including the existing provincial council system. The vast majority were in support of some form of devolution of power. As many as 95 percent agreed that the political solution should be just and fair to all communities and it should guarantee equal rights to all citizens in all parts of the country regardless of ethnicity or religion. An important finding of the survey was that 70 percent of respondents were ready to accept devolution close to a federal system if it was a three tier system and brought government close to the people by giving adequate power to the political institutions at the local (third) and the community level.

The National Peace Council believes that the figures above show that there is a large measure of agreement amongst the people on what has to be done to lead to sustainable peace. They are in agreement with a political solution that enables the LTTE to be brought into a political solution. This imposes an obligation on the LTTE to commit itself to a political solution within the framework of a united country. It also imposes an obligation upon the government to speed up its production of a political package that has broad acceptance amongst the ethnic minority political parties.

In particular we see the readiness of 72 percent of the Sinhalese and Muslim respondents to envisage a future in which the LTTE is part and parcel of a restructured Sri Lankan polity as revealing the space that is available for arriving at a negotiated political settlement that has public backing.

Executive Director
On behalf of Governing Council

National Peace Council
of Sri Lanka
12/14 Purana Vihara Road
Colombo 6
Tel: 2818344, 2854127, 2819064

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