An alternative path to peace
Although the war against terrorism has come to a successful end, it
is universally accepted that ultimate peace can be achieved only if we
could find a solution acceptable to all parties of the conflict, the
Sinhalese, Tamil, Muslim and other communities who reside in our
It is most unfortunate that in spite of years of deliberation we have
not been able to arrive at such a formula. Why we have been bogged down
in our deliberations is because of our inability to reach an agreement
on the most contentious issue of devolution of power to the Provincial
All citizens of the country should be treated as equals. Picture
by Saman Sri Wedage.
The Provincial Council concept itself was thrust upon us by foreign
powers which lacked understanding of the historic background of our
Rather than devoting our time to solve this most contentious issue
immediately, we should first try to identify a foundation on which an
agreement acceptable to all parties could be reached. There are so many
aspects where any reasonable person could agree on the type of society
we should aspire to achieve in our search for a durable solution to the
crisis, within a unified Sri Lanka. Some examples of such basic
principles are enumerated below;
1. All citizens of the country should be treated as equals,
irrespective of their ethnicity, religion, language or other such
2. Sri Lanka is a multi-racial country and as such it is the homeland
to all its citizens irrespective of the differences referred to above.
3. No person should be discriminated against in any manner on account
of their ethnic or other differences.
4. Basic human rights of all people should be guaranteed.
5. Freedom to livelihood in any part of the country for all citizens
irrespective of the community they belong to should be guaranteed.
Any other factors which are required to ensure a society devoid of
discrimination could be added. Once these factors are identified and
agreed upon, these could adopted as the fundamentals upon which further
deliberations are made.
These should be internationally accepted fundamentals upon which just
and equitable societies are established. Most of these are already
enshrined in our Constitution and as such it is unlikely that any party
desirous of achieving lasting peace would oppose them. Any opposing
party will be exposed to the world community as those standing in way to
resolving the conflict in a manner acceptable to internationally
Once these fundamentals are accepted, they can be adopted as the
framework under which further deliberations are made. They should be
enshrined in our Constitution as binding principles or criteria which
should not be violated by any party. All decisions or actions taken
thereafter should conform to the framework agreed upon.
The second step should be to identify impediments in the way of
achieving fundamentals established above.
The third step should be to determine a plan of action with definite
and realistic timeframes to eliminate these impediments.
The fourth should be to establish suitable politically independent
authorities with legal clout, to oversee the implementation of these
plans with powers even to dissolve those political entities which fail
to implement them as determined.
Another step which could be taken concurrently is to obtain
declarations to uphold the basic principles referred at step one, from
all contesting for political offices and those applying to join the
Government service. Upon election or appointment to their respective
offices, they should be required to take an oath of allegiance to uphold
Let us now examine how this process could be applied to the issue of
devolution of power to the Provincial Councils. The major concern of the
majority of people, particularly the Sinhalese and the Muslims is that
Tamil dominated Provincial Councils would try to shut out non Tamils
from living in those areas and thereby deny them access to benefits from
This is a very justifiable fear they harbour particularly after their
most traumatizing experiences during the era where Tiger domination
prevailed. With the checks and balances referred to in place, no one
would be able to engage in acts of discrimination against any community
or group of people in any part of the country.
Attempts to shut out people from any territory on the basis of
ethnicity or other such factors would be deemed as discriminatory and
consequently corrective action could be taken.
This principle would apply to areas dominated by Sinhalese, Tamils as
well as Muslims. Thus the apprehensions harboured against devolution of
power could be greatly mitigated or even eliminated.
The same process could be applied to the language issue as well.
Although both Sinhala and Tamil have been accepted as official as
well as national languages by the 1978 Constitution, the benefits have
not fully filtered down to the Tamil speaking people yet. Hence the
guidelines set forth could be followed in working out plans of action
for the full implementation of the language policy, within a stipulated
Such a plan of action with a commitment to redress the concerns of
the Tamil speaking people on the language issue, will contribute much
towards earning their trust in the Government. Other grievances too
could be dealt within a similar manner, whether they emanate from
Sinhalese, Tamil, Muslim or other communities.
The expectation of an overwhelming majority of the population of all
communities in Sri Lanka is to live in a peaceful society where all
citizens could live in harmony with each other as equals.
Probably an approach outlined above could be a means of achieving
that cherished dream.