NO FUTURE IN THE SLFP PROPOSALS:
Dear Mr. President,
It is with great disbelief followed by disillusionment and despondency that we read the SLFP proposals to the APRC. And we write this letter to you, as the President, of the entire country and its peoples, and not just as a person representing a minority political opinion of the population, in the most sincere hope that you will act with integrity, intelligence and with a sense of responsibility, despite the stance that your own party has taken viz a viz the ethnic conflict and a negotiated settlement.
In this country, the people have been witness to a long drawn out war that has been characterized by a miserable lack of wisdom and foresight. Time and again, valiant leaders, thinkers, activists fought hard for a meaningful solution. Time and again, they were defeated, by opportunistic forces that cared none for the people. In this regard we remember Kethesh Loganathan who died less than a year ago, and who gave an entire life time to solving the conflict. In his book Lost Opportunities he traces all of the moments of opportunity that were missed by the leaders in bringing peace to the country. In the end, he joined the Peace Secretariat early last year, in the hope that this government had the will to solve the conflict. He sacrificed his life, living and dying for peace. So have scores of others. Yet, we have, in the face of all this thought, activism, struggle and sacrifice, and the suffering of the people, in the north and east, and in the south, a miserably dilettantish effort, by a principal political party of the country, the majority party today. It is not merely disappointment that assails us but despair. We are surprised that you as the President, and the leader of the government, have given your approval to a document that goes against the grain of all recent efforts toward arriving at a solution.
The SLFP proposals demonstrate that its leaders have, on the one hand, no sense of history, no sense of political resilience, no sense of vision for a united Sri Lanka, and on the other, no empathy with the people of this country, and heinously and outrageously, no accommodation of minority interests at heart. The SLFP itself and you, Mr President, had been party to a much more progressive set of proposals that provided a constructive framework for strengthening a pluralistic and united country. Yet, the party seems to have forgotten its own historical and bold initiatives as a part of the People’s Alliance to devise a political solution that would create a power-sharing arrangement within a united and federal Sri Lanka. Why this U-turn now?
The present SLFP proposals reassert the supremacy of the centre, despite their lip service to orientalist tacks, asserting that their model proposes an indigenous solution, based on grama rajya. But if one read the scanty set of guidelines set down, by way of proposals, one could see that it is really a very ‘western’ oriented model, with all powers given to the centre, and under the executive presidency, to the President. When the SLFP proposes the unit of devolution as the district, it completely undermines the hard work that has so far gone into in devolving some measure of power to the north and the east on the basis of ethnicity and language. The district as the unit of devolution is part of a very old story, in that when it was tried through the District Development Councils it proved to be a total failure. Surely, Mr. President, you should know that the district as the unit of devolution is not going to be acceptable to the vast majority of the people in the north and east. Why have you forgotten them? The proposals are at best, unrealistic and in pathetic denial of all the lessons learnt in history, and at worst, so viciously anti-minority, that if taken seriously, will catapult the country onto a dangerous, no return path of further blood shed.
Here, Mr. President, we appeal, in the sincerest hope that you do have the interests of the people at heart, to take cognizance of the realities around us, and to address the fundamentally flawed approach of the SLFP proposals, proposed in your name and in no other, with a commitment to peace in the country. The proposals are set in your name; they invoke the Mahinda Chintanaya. At a time, when even high ways are built in the name of the Mahinda Chintanaya, one does not know how serious the architects of the proposals are in their commitment to any kind of intellectual thought. Mr. President, we appeal to you to take stock of the situation and to assess, what your government has offered us today, after nearly 25 years of conflict and war. You have a personal responsibility for what has been put on the table.
Today, the people of the country are facing many different kinds of authoritarian forces assailing them. We are a country at war with ourselves. Aided in no small measure by the fascism of the LTTE, the general tenor of the country is one of fear. The government in its bid to win the war against the LTTE, at any cost, has not fared well at safeguarding the basic rights of its people. It seems to be in a contest with the LTTE, in a mad drive to surpass it in violating individual rights. Today, the mass of people have been rendered passive bystanders, while intimidation of media personnel and other activists carried out by high ranking government personnel goes unchecked. For the minorities, this trend strikes terror in their hearts. As Muslims and Tamils, from the north and east, we long for peace, we long for democracy. We don’t believe that democracy can be won or secured through suppressing dissent and brutalizing entire communities. We want an end to the killings in our midst by all quarters. We want to live in amity with our brethren of all communities. Toward this, we need an equitable solution to the ethnic conflict, where we would feel we have a chance to move on as full fledged people of this country. The SLFP proposals have dashed all our hopes on the ground. The minorities have been given short shrift and have become total non-entities.
Once again, dear Mr. President, we hope you will rise above the short sightedness of the proposals and demonstrate to the world, the people of this country, especially the minorities, that despite appearances, you are really committed to the material notions of justice, equality and peace. We need a strong assurance from you that you wish to lead us into an era of reconciliation and not into further bloodshed, hostility, and eventually the total collapse of dialogue.
Coalition of Muslims and Tamils for Peace and Coexistence (CMTPC)