Daily News Online

Thursday, 30 June 2011






Marriage Proposals
Government Gazette

Going along with the collective will

Now that President Mahinda Rajapaksa is on record that he would stand by and implement any solution to our conflict Parliament works out, the onus is on the latter institution to address its mind to the task of forging a consensual and workable solution to the North-East issue. This could be considered a shining moment for the legislature, which, in this country, is usually dwarfed by the Executive Presidency; the principal branch of governance.

One of the prime strengths of the Lankan legislature is that it is widely representative of our citizenry and political community. Its diversity is its strength and this huge plus is of immense value at this moment when broad and durable agreement has to be reached on resolving the conflict on the basis of the just needs of our communities.

There is an excusable tendency on the part of our public to shrink from the idea that another spell of talks on a contentious issue is about to take place and that too in a widely representative and diverse forum which has not been notable for its unity of thought and purpose on this country's conflict over the years. This is because in the collective memory of our public, talks of this kind have not only been prolonged but, in the main, unproductive. The minds of many would have invariably reverted to the numerous 'Round Table' deliberations on the conflict over the decades, which seemed interminable and completely ineffective from the viewpoint of producing positive results.

The Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) on the conflict would need to bear the above in mind. It would need to adopt a business-like approach to the talks and ensure that its deliberations are both result-oriented and highly time-bound. There could be no question of the public being treated to yet another round of lengthy and wearying talks that bring little or no results.

Therefore, the PSC talks should proceed within a time frame which is short and should prove highly result-oriented. In other words, the conflict should be fully resolved to the satisfaction of all the parties concerned. In fact, this is a moment that should be seized because the President has come out loud and clear that he would stand by a solution which the PSC works towards and would unhesitatingly implement it.

Needless to say, the present legislature is best suited to propose an appropriate solution because almost all shades of local political opinion are represented within it. This highly positive feature of Parliament must be fully exploited to the advantage of the country. Besides, the political and opinion climate could not have been better for forming common ground on a political solution because the times of conflict have been left behind and the people of this country are looking forward to a better future.

When the conflict was on, agreement at the negotiating table was difficult because developments on the ground, such as atrocities, made it difficult for the parties to talk in a spirit of understanding and compromise. There is no such pressure on the parties now. They could talk in a frictionless environment and see eye-to-eye, if the will is present, on hitherto divisive issues.

In fact we could consider ourselves as being blessed with a coalition government. The balance of political forces within the UPFA is such that without compromise and mutual accommodation among these parties, governance would be impossible. Besides, the UPFA is required to relate in a spirit of compromise towards the Opposition because the project of nation-building cannot be harmed. Accordingly, the time has never been more appropriate to arrive at a solution which could be the result of the balancing of all the interests within the legislature.

The salient feature of our current political order is that power cannot be monopolized by a single party. The current balance of political forces, on the contrary, necessitates power-sharing and this state of affairs would enable all legitimate political actors to work towards their acceptable interests. In other words, a political solution which is widely acceptable to all is now possible.

Accordingly, it is obligatory on the part of all political parties with representation in Parliament to work judiciously towards meeting their legitimate needs, bearing in mind, simultaneously, that the national interest too must be served. The overriding national needs are unity and domestic political stability. The needs of communities must be met within this larger framework of national unity and internal political stability.

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