By Dushiyanthini Kanagasabapathipillai
The preliminary reports of the panel of experts became public in December, although the reports were supposed to have been confidential. Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse appointed seventeen member multi ethnic group of experts to submit recommendations on power sharing and constitutional reform.
The seventeen member expert committee comprised six Sinhalese, four Tamils, and one Muslim endorsed a 37 page report. The two reports are popularly knows as the Majority report, and Minority report.
The South Asia Peace Institute organised a symposium on the Experts Committee Reports forwarded to the APRC (All Party Representative Committee), and the launching of the book “A Glimmer of Hope” at the JAIC Hilton Hotel on March 22 nd 2007 – “A Glimmer of Hope”‘ – a new phase in Constitutional Reforms in Sri Lanka – is edited by Professor Sumanasiri Liyanage and Mr. M. Sinnathamby.
Bradman Weerakoon made a presentation on Majority Report, while Professor Shantha Hennayake made a presentation on Minority Report at the symposium. Political view points were expressed by Minister of Constitutional Affairs DEW Gunasekera (People’s Alliance), Abdul Kalam of National Unity Alliance, Tamil National Alliance Parliamentarian R. Sampanthan , Legal Advisor for Jathika Hela Urumaya Udaya Gammanpila, National Movement Against Terrorism Malinda Seneviratne and Eelam People’s Democratic Party’s S. Thavarasa. The executive Director of South Asia Peace Institute, Professor Sumansiri Liyanage was the moderator of the symposium.
“The problem is termed as the national problem. The report tries to bring to bring back constitutional supremacy, and it’s about a government by law, not by men. Tamils who are living in Sinhala area are faced with language problems, and Sinhalese who are living in Tamil areas are faced with language problems as well. This issue has to be addressed” said Bradman Weerakoon in his presentation on Majority Report.
Professor Shantha Hennayake of the Department of Geography at the University of Peradeniya made a presentation on the Minority report:
“The national problem as a ethno-nationalist problem has been identified as Tamil ethno-nationalist problem now. Sri Lanka was a Qasi-Federal state. Federalism means Central government sharing the power with the periphery, which has practical problems in implementing. There are no civil society is functional in Kilinochchi like in Colombo . There cannot be no devolution of power, unless it is accompanied by the decommissioning if arms. There cannot be two armies in one country” observed Professor Shantha Hennayake.
Minister of Constitutional Affairs DEW Gunasekera expressed his political views:
“I appeal to the JVP again to join the APRC, and voice their concerns. They do not want to put their proposal, but they are trying to live on it. The JVP is only helping the LTTE, and the LTTE is only helping the JVP. All peace – building efforts in the past have failed to deliver, because of the lack of consensus. Bandaranaike- Chelvanayagam pact and J.R.Jeyawardena’s All Party Conference are two examples for failures. I am treading cautiously to bring about at least a sufficient consensus. Otherwise we will have to co-exist with terrorism and pass it on to the next generation. I can’t visualize how peace will dawn unless some sanity prevails among our national leaders. What is happening in the Parliament today clearly shows that” said Dew Gunasekera.
Abul Kalam of National Unity Alliance expressed his political views following Dew Gunasekera’s views:
“The Muslims have always stood for peace, and co-existed with other communities. Muslim community has always been sidelined in all peace processes. The Muslims from North were forcibly evicted or ethnically cleansed. This issue has to be addressed. Muslims have to be considered in bridge-building process” said Abul Kalam.
Tamil National Alliance Parliamentarian R. Sampanthan expressed his political view:
“The political solution is still elusive and it has not included everyone in such a way that they are equal, honourable partners in governance. The Sinhala leaders would have to consider seriously if they want to offer political solution for Tamils’ aspirations. Tamil youth had to take up arms in early 80s as a result of Tamils been murdered. We are not the parents of the rebellions. Rebellions were inevitable when the Human Rights were consistently violated .The Sinhala leaders forced the Tamils to take up arms and fight for their rights. It’s your baby, but we don’t mind calling it our baby to solve the problem. We have to co-operate with one another and there is no question about that. But it has to be a process which gives all people their due place” observed R. Sampanthan.
Following R. Sampanthan’s political views, Jathika Hela Urumaya Udaya Gammanpila expressed his views:
“The LTTE leader Velupillai Pirabakaran wants to fight and get the rights for the Tamils. When the LTTE came out with the ISGA (Interim Self-Governing Authority) proposals, all the peace lobbies said that we should use this as a starting point for negotiations. But when four respected Sinhala nationalistic leaders bring out a proposal, they want to put it in a bin’ criticized Udaya Gammanpila.
Malinda Seneviratne of National Movement Against Terrorism expressed his views:
“Tamils were given forms in Sinhala to fill after Tsunami. The language issue is important and should be addressed soon. All issues which matter should be addressed without further delay.
Eelam People’s Democratic Party’s S. Thavarasa expressed his views next:
“The Sinhalese are safe in any part of Sri Lanka. But the Tamils have suffered endlessly. Tamils were killed after the famous Vattukottai declaration was made. This incident led the Tamils to take up arms and fight for their rights. The demands of the Tamils have to met reasonably” said S. Thavarasa.
The symposium has created a needed space for dialogue. Various views were exchanged. The Sri Lanka Freedom Party, United National Party, Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna and Sri Lanka Muslim congress did not participate in the symposium.
Professor Shantha Hennayake of Peradeniya University,Sumanasiri Liyanage,executive director of South Asia Peace Institute, and Bradman Weerakoon
Abul Kalam of National Unity Alliance
Tamil National Alliance parliamentarian R.Sampanthan and Udaya Gammanpila of Jathika Hela Urumaya are sharing a lite moment
Tamil National Alliance parliamentarian R.Sampanthan and Udaya Gammanpila of Jathika Hela Urumaya ~ with a Buddhist monk and a Hindu priest in the foreground
A Buddhist monk in the audience clicking a photo on his mobile phone
Malinda Seneviratne from National Movement Against Terrorism casting his political view points
Audience taking part in the open discussion