Going along with the collective
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
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