People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 45

November 16, 2008


Sri Lanka Conflict: Political Solution Needed

AS we go to press, the president of Sri Lanka is in India. He is here at a time when over three lakh people have been internally displaced in the three districts of the North and five districts of the East in Sri Lanka being caught in the crossfire of hostilities between the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE. The Inter Agency Standing Committee, Sri Lanka consisting of a consortium of the United Nations and international non-governmental agencies, currently engaged in relief operations in the troubled zones, have reported these figures adding that the life of the ordinary citizens is miserable given the shortages of food and medicines and the inflation rate close to thirty per cent.

As we go to press, also comes the news that the LTTE has offered a ceasefire. The government of Sri Lanka has however asked the LTTE to “lay down its arms, surrender and join the democratic political process”. This, it justifies on the grounds of previous experience when the ceasefires were used by the LTTE to regroup and launch fresh assaults.

On October 26, a joint Indo-Sri Lankan statement was issued when the special envoy of the Sri Lankan president visited India. The agreement on the fishing arrangements between the two countries involving the livelihood of lakhs of fishermen from both sides was a significant development. The joint press release reflected the Indian concern “at the humanitarian situation…… especially civilians and internally displaced persons caught in the hostilities and emphasised the need for unhindered relief supplies”. As a gesture of goodwill, India had sent around 800 tonnes of relief material.

We have consistently maintained that a lasting solution for the conflict in Sri Lanka can only be a political solution based on granting maximum autonomy to the Northern and Eastern provinces of Sri Lanka within the framework of a united Sri Lanka. While reiterating this position, it is important to draw the distinction between the LTTE and the beleaguered Tamil population in these two provinces who are the victims of such hostilities.

A day after these joint statements were released, the Sri Lankan president, on October 27, told media: “let me reiterate that my government is firmly committed to a negotiated political solution – based on devolution of power and ensuring the democratic, political, including linguistic rights of all our Tamil brethren within an undivided Sri Lanka”. Further, “I am absolutely clear that there is, and can be, no military solution to political questions. I have always maintained this. A military solution is for the terrorists; a political solution is for the people living in this country.” However, there is not much evidence of this taking place.

The Sri Lankan president himself concedes that the All Party Representative Committee (APRC) which was constituted by him to evolve a consensus on the resolution of the ethnic conflict is progressing very slowly in coming up with its final proposals. Further, as the Indian government continues to maintain the implementation of the 13th amendment to the Sri Lankan constitution granting greater devolution of powers to the provinces is yet to proceed in right earnest.

From the humanitarian point of view, it is absolutely essential that the hostilities must cease at the earliest and proper relief, urgently needed, must be ensured to the hapless people caught in the cross fire of hostilities. Towards this end of finding a lasting political solution to the continuous conflict that has plagued Sri Lanka for many decades, the Indian government and the people must extend support and assistance.

We sincerely hope that the current hostilities will cease immediately and the Sri Lankan government will proceed with the implementation of the 13th amendment and speed up the process of the APRC coming out with its final proposals to evolve a consensual solution.

(November 12, 2008)