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Wigneswaran contradicts Sampanthan

| by Manekshaw

( February 16, 2014, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) Northern Province Chief Minister, C.V. Wigneswaran, in a clear deviation from the long-held stance of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) and its Leader, R. Sampanthan, said on Thursday (13) that the Tamils cannot expect total power sharing.

He said this, while addressing the 'National Conference on Post-war Socio Economic Development of the Northern and Eastern Provinces of Sri Lanka' held at Hotel Taj Samudra in Colombo.

However, it must also be said, when the Chief Minister met UN Assistant Secretary-General (UNDP), Haoliang Xu, in Jaffna last week, he emphasized the importance of a third party involvement, especially the engagement of the United Nations, in resolving the Lankan Tamil question.

At Thursday's event, which was organized by the University Grants Commission (UGC), the Chief Minister also said a solution where at least the majority of the powers are shared, is good enough.

The Chief Minister's views clearly contradicted the speech made by his mentor in politics, Sampanthan, at a seminar in Chennai last week, where the TNA Leader had said the Tamil question in the island could be settled only through an Indias-style federal system.

"Sampanthan in India last week had said that he wanted nothing short of a federal model, but I'm personally prepared to accept something less than that. We need to change the attitudes of the people and go for the best possible solution," Wigneswaran stressed.

The very first pact to be signed between Federal Party Leader, late S.J.V. Chelvanayakam, and late Prime Minister, S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike, to fulfil Tamil political aspirations in 1957 was based on a federal system. However, with the failure of the pact to see light of day, somewhat a similar treaty was signed again in 1965 between late Premier Dudley Senanayake and Chelvanayakam, which failed badly with the staunch opposition from the Southern extremist forces.

Escalation of communal unrest

Following the consecutive failures of treaties brought to solve the ethnic crisis in the island, with the escalation of communal unrest in the late '70s onwards, India became the first country to be the third party in assisting the island nation in settling its ethnic crisis by convening the talks in Bhutan's capital Thimpu in 1985 between the Lankan Government and the Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF) with the inclusion of five Tamil militant outfits such as LTTE, PLOTE, EPRLF, EROS and TELO.

The Lankan delegation led by late President J.R. Jayewardene's brother, late H.W. Jayewardene QC had categorically denied the Tamil homeland theory tabled at the Thimpu talks and the first initiative in Thimpu by India as a third party, in solving the Lankan question, had also fizzled out.
It was very clear that right from the beginning of the Tamil crisis in the country, Tamil political parties or the individual Tamil leaders didn't take a common stance over settling of the Tamil political issues.

With the emergence of the Tamil extremism in the North and East of the island, the situation in the Tamil political scene had worsened with the scenario where moderates and extremists were at loggerheads.

Therefore, when India embarked on its second attempt with the signing of the Indo-Lanka Accord in 1987, paving the way for the 13th Amendment to the Lankan Constitution, to address the Tamil political aspirations, the obstacles emerged from the North and East even in the form of rejecting the Indian peace initiatives.

The Tamil moderates and the Tamil militants, who had accepted the Indian mediation and the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, are of the view even now that if the 13th Amendment had succeeded in 1987, the Northern and Eastern Provinces would have remained a single entity with the implementation of the powers devolved to the North and East. Following the debacle of the Indo-Lanka Accord, a second third party attempt by Norway with its facilitation process, which had lasted six years from 2000 to 2006, also failed badly, despite the international community pinning its hopes on the Norwegian attempt in reaching a durable solution to the Lankan question.

Norway's facilitation process

The Norway's facilitation process even included four co-chair members, the United States of America, Japan, the European Union and the United Nations.

Unlike the peace initiatives made by India, the peace process initiated by the West, particularly by Norway, with the wider support of the international community, had cruised in a satisfactory manner with the establishment of even a Monitoring Mission to ensure the ceasefire between the LTTE and the Lankan armed forces.

Therefore, with the collapse of the two third party attempts, by neighbouring India and Norway, with the backing of the international community in solving the Tamil question, one would wonder what sort of a third party involvement Northern Chief Minister Wigneswaran, would have sought from the UN Assistant Secretary General Xu, last week to settle the Tamil political aspirations in the island.

The dignitaries from abroad, including British Prime Minister David Cameron, and UNHRC Chief Navanethem Pillay, who had visited the post-war Northern Province, had understood the gravity of the unresolved problems with regard to the issues pertaining to the humanitarian and human rights violations.

Falling in line with international norms, while addressing the humanitarian issues such as the resettlement of the IDPs and releasing of the political prisoners, who have been put behind bars indefinitely, the international investigation into the alleged war crimes believed to have been committed during the final phase of the war in 2009 become inevitable for greater reconciliation with justice meted out to the victims.

On the other hand, to fulfil the political aspirations of the Tamils, the Tamil political leaders should come forward in taking a common stance over a solution they look forward to.

So, the speech made by the Northern Province Chief Minister over the devolution of powers differed vastly from the comments made by TNA Leader Sampanthan in Chennai last week, with veteran Sampanthan calling for a federal system and Wigneswaran saying he expects something less than that.

Since both leaders are from the legal fraternity with a vast knowledge about the country's political and constitutional matters, it is time for them to take a common stance and put their house in order, before talking on the suggestions for a political solution to the people whom they represent.

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