Completion of the Work of APRC and Progress with the Political Process
The Sri Lanka Democracy Forum
SLDF Demands Completion of the Work of APRC and Progress with the Political
Process The Sri Lanka Democracy Forum (SLDF) demands that the Government
of Sri Lanka (GOSL) facilitates the completion of the APRC process and
the prompt announcement of its conclusions arrived at through its inclusive,
transparent and democratic deliberations. SLDF demands that the GOSL
no longer impedes the natural progression of the APRC deliberations
set up to explore solutions to the issue of justice for minority communities
that has been festering for 60 years, since independence. Recent news
reports suggest that the APRC is being subjected to intense pressure
by the ruling party and its Sinhala Buddhist nationalist allies, the
JVP and the JHU, to abandon the conclusions reached through discussions
over 18 months. Instead, the APRC appears to be under pressure to announce
proposals that do not go beyond the twenty year old 13th amendment,
which disregards the debates over the last two decades and the discussions
that have taken place within the APRC.
SLDF regrets that the President has decided to take this arbitrary
and undemocratic step to undermine the satisfactory conclusion of the
APRC deliberations, much against his original stated aims for the APRC.
The imposition of any formula outside of the APRC deliberations is undemocratic,
an attack on the inclusive character of the APRC, and exhibits total
disrespect to the parties involved, particularly those parties representing
the interests of the minority communities. SLDF regrets that the ruling
party has descended to such deplorable levels of political expediency
and opportunism at a time of serious political and security crisis when
courageous leadership and political integrity ought to be shown by the
countrys political leaders.
For sixty years, the minority communities have faced discrimination
and ill treatment at the hands of the Sri Lankan State and Sinhala Buddhist
nationalists. The Sri Lankan States failure to resolve the concerns
of minorities has dragged us into a thirty year civil war and the accompanying
devastation to all communities. Unless the State makes its commitment
to arriving at serious proposals for constitutional reform that would
guarantee a just and equitable political solution, the country will
remain in turmoil, despite the military gains the government has made
over the LTTE.
SLDF reiterates that the only way out of the current debacle is for
the GOSL to meet the demands of the minorities and the democratic forces
in the country and offer substantial devolution to the regions, power-sharing
at the centre, and institute far reaching state reform, as proposed
by the Chair of the APRC and the broad agreement reached over the last
eighteen months of APRC deliberations.
The LTTE, which claims to be the sole representative of the Tamil people
having wiped out almost all of its parliamentary leadership, has waged
a war for an independent state for nearly thirty years. The armed campaign
for secession was begun challenging the parliamentary path as being
too moderate and as not yielding any results. A settlement through negotiations
has been anathema to the LTTE till now. There are no signs that it will
change its view in the near future. Despite its claims the LTTE has
not been able to achieve anything for the Tamils, and indeed has set
the community back in its quest for equality and justice. It has depleted
the numbers of the Tamil community, exacerbated divisions within the
Tamil community that will take a long time to heal, and has also set
the Tamil community at loggerheads with the Muslim community. Today
the LTTE suffers from total political bankruptcy and isolation, and
is in no position to lead or represent the Tamils.
War propaganda, ethnic polarisation and the imperative of a political
solution The governments unashamedly jingoistic campaign over
the war has unleashed Sinhala Buddhist extremist forces, and has polarised
the communities more than ever. The Sinhala Buddhist nationalist leadership,
which conflates the Tamil people with the LTTE, is representing every
LTTE military set back as a political and ideological blow against the
claims of Tamils and Muslims to live in the country as equal citizens.
This is no recipe for a sustainable peace.
SLDF demands that the political process, which requires compromises
on all sides so that each community can come out a winner, is given
primacy. The discourse around the war and excessive militarization portrays
the interests of the majority as being diametrically opposed to the
interests of the minority communities, suggesting that minority interests
somehow will have to be met at the expense of the majority, which is
not the case. Only an immediate and sincere commitment to the APRC -
the only political process in motion - and its due completion will take
the country away from this destructive and polarising logic of war.
Senior government officials and their political supporters within the
Sinhala Buddhist nationalist lobby are presenting a two stage formula
to resolve the ethnic crisis: the demise of the LTTE first, and addressing
the grievances of the minorities later. This relies on the stereotypical
Sinhala Buddhist nationalist slogan that all problems of the minorities
began with the advent of the LTTE. There is no acknowledgement of the
historic injustices meted out to the minorities which continue till
today, and that the State has the fundamental responsibility to address
minority grievances, war or no war with the LTTE. This is essentially
a political problem that has given rise to a crisis of serious proportions
that threatens the country. Such developments cannot be neatly compartmentalised
and dealt with schematically into military victory first and political
process later. The only way the LTTEs fascist politics can be
totally defeated is if the political process is taken forward.
State reform and devolution
The APRC deliberations have been conducted in the context of an ever-deepening
crisis of democracy in constitutional and political terms. It is looking
into the question of overall state reform that could set off processes
of democratisation, that our deeply divided and militarised country
needs. The fundamental reform of the state and changes to the system
of governance being proposed by the APRC would serve the whole country
well for the 21st century.
The APRC is not simply proposing piecemeal reform that would be put
together to satisfy the Tamil communitys concerns alone. It is
envisaged that addressing minority grievances and devolution from the
centre to the regions, particularly to the North and East, ought to
be couched within the overall reform of the State. This kind of reform
will not benefit one communitys interests at the expense of the
other. It is only through an inclusive political process of give and
take, where everyone benefits, that a lasting peace could be achieved.
Over the last year and a half, even in the face of manipulation by
the President and his Sinhala Buddhist nationalist allies, the APRC
was moving towards consensus on important issues. These features, which
were also articulated in the Majority Report of the Experts Committee
in December 2006 and the Vitarana Report of January 2007, should be
addressed in the final APRC proposals if it is to have the necessary
legitimacy and acceptance among the minority communities. We summarize
below some of these crucial issues:
-The structure of the state to ensure a united Sri Lanka, without
emotive labels such as federal and unitary.
There is a growing consensus within the international community both
in the West and in Asia that progress with the APRC and the announcement
of credible proposals for state reform will enable them to assist with
reconstruction and development processes. The Government, having abrogated
the CFA, has a duty to expedite the internal political process through
the APRC. While there was much that was wrong with the failed Norwegian
peace process, the Sinhala Buddhist nationalists cannot continue to
rely on their portrayal of the international community as the bogey
man to renege on their obligations to the minority communities of this
On 21 October 2003 the joint statement between India and Sri Lanka
If Sri Lanka is to gain from such a principled international consensus
on a political solution developed through internal processes, the GOSL
should show the necessary leadership within the country to move on a
political solution and thereby gain the international support necessary
for reconstruction and development.
Sri Lanka Democracy Forum
For Media Queries Only Contact: [email protected] SLDF Spokespersons: Rengan Devarajan and Ahilan Kadirgamar Sri Lanka Democracy Forum Mission Statement Sri Lanka Democracy Forum is a community that shares a commitment to a democratic and pluralistic vision of Sri Lanka.
We recognize that in addition to the loss of lives, the costs of war also entailed the erosion of democracy, the demobilization of pluralistic and independent social movements, and the further victimization of marginalized communities. In that context, we believe that movement towards a just and sustainable peace must be accompanied by the reconstruction of a democratic community that protects and promotes social justice, and the individual and collective rights and freedoms of all communities in Sri Lanka.
We are in solidarity with, and have a commitment to support the efforts of marginalized communities to address past injustices, whether such injustice was based on the suppression of dissent, economic disempowerment, and/or on ethnic, gender or caste discrimination at the national or regional level.
Among other efforts, we seek to proactively support grass roots movements
that seek to expand and revitalize conditions for a vibrant, pluralistic
and independent civil society that nurtures freedom of conscience, diverse
political affiliations and an independent media. Thus, we believe that
the terrain for engagement is not merely macro-political policy, but
also economic decision-making, cultural production, and diverse local
struggles furthering democratization in all spheres of life.
The Sri Lanka Democracy Forum had its inaugural meeting in Toronto,
Canada in 2002.
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