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Finding a workable solution

The whole country in each district and region witnessed an unprecedented rejoicing after the victory over a terrorist group that had dogged all efforts at finding an acceptable political solution to the national problem though most leaders of the country from as far back as 1956 made their own efforts to resolve it in different methods.

Each of our leaders were agreed that the Tamil people had some grievances but a dialogue or consensus on many issues like the official language did never reach a conclusive settlement. Many different shades of political opinion and theories only ramified the problem leading finally to an organized attempt to destabilize the country, instill fear into the minds of the general public and put on a prevarication that there could be no solution than giving the terrorist group sufficient power in the two provinces, North and East.

It was during the period of the rule of the UNP Government of J. R. Jayewardene that the then Tamil political leaders and the Tamil terrorist groups finally got India to intervene both directly and indirectly in the internal armed conflict that was planned and started by the terrorist bands and get India to coerce the then government to agree to a devolution of power method under the Indo-Lanka accord of 1987.

The agreement stipulated that a provincial council for a merged Northern and Eastern Provinces should be established. Jayewardene thereafter merged the two provinces under the emergency regulations without the approval of his Cabinet or his Parliament though he had an absolute majority and undated letters of resignation of his Parliamentarians in his pocket.

The Indo-Lanka accord also called on the armed terrorist groups to surrender their arms - a case of countervailing its own former offence of providing the Tamil terrorist groups with arms in the North of Sri Lanka.

The arms or at least a token of arms of a number of terrorist groups including the EPRLF that was to be elected to run the provincial council were handed over to the Indian Peace Keeping Force that also was brought to the country under the accord.

On the day the arms were handed over the people of Jaffna cheered it but they of course were not aware that all the arms that the terrorist groups possessed had not been handed over.

The clauses of the Indo-Lanka accord among other things declared that the Northern and Eastern provinces were areas of historical habitation of the 'Tamil speaking people' but it ignored the fact that the term historical habitation was a vague, ambiguous one that was included with a sinister motive to say that such people had the exclusive right to live in those two provinces.

It was abundantly clear that the whole country was inhabited by all ethnic groups from very ancient times but to the demarcation of the provinces by the British after the whole country was subjugated by the provinces was done in several instances over a long period of time for their administrative convenience and not on ethnic lines.

For especially in the Eastern province hundreds of villages where the Sinhalese people lived were depopulated at least on two periods, the first was during the influenza epidemic at the turn of the 20th Century as recorded in the books of Dr. R. L. Spittle the British surgeon who associated closely with the Veddah tribe of the Eastern province and the second exodus during the malaria epidemic of the early 1930s..

As President Mahinda Rajapaksa said in his address to Parliament on Tuesday, finding a solution to the problem of the Tamil people in the North and East could not be done by any 'imported' method but we the people of the country should go for a home grown solution since the opportunity had been afforded to us with the defeat of the terrorist group that claimed to be the 'sole representative of the Tamil people'.

Before any proposal for devolution of power to the North and East is mooted it would be important to ensure that all the groups of people whom the terrorists had chased out of the North and East like the Muslims of the Jaffna and Mannar districts who were given only 24 hours to quit should be also taken into consideration.

The other factor to be considered is Tamil population - a majority - who are living in the south. If a meaningful devolution of power package is to be implemented discussion with all the ethnic groups not only the Tamil people of the north and east should be imperative and exchange of views among all the groups to find a solution acceptable to all groups was sine qua non.

Since there are views and proposals already expressed by a large number of political parties and groups forming a wide spectrum it would not be impossible to find a workable political solution of the middle path without falling prey to extremist positions.

The people have faith that President Mahinda Rajapaksa would address the problem and the public should be aware and articulate their views towards that end so that the valiant members of the Armed Forces, innocent men women and children who had sacrificed their lives did not die in vain.

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