Keen to solve Tamil community problems in Sri Lanka by next year: President Wickremesinghe – The Siasat Daily
Colombo: Sri Lankan President Ranil Wickremesinghe on Saturday said that he is keen to solve all issues, including land and housing, pertaining to the Tamil minority community in the country’s Northern Province by next year when the island nation celebrates its 75th anniversary of Independence.
Speaking in Vavuniya, a Tamil dominated district in the Northern Province of Sri Lanka where he opened up the president office’s northern co-ordination sub office, the president said the move would help in expeditiously dealing with the outstanding issues such as lands, housing and agriculture relating to the community.
“First we must dispel the people’s mistrust. Once we all start working together this mistrust will fade away,” Wickremesinghe said, commenting on the conflict with a protracted history.
Wickremesinghe said that eight committees would be appointed at the provincial level to resolve the land issues, the Colombo Page reported.
The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) ran a military campaign for a separate Tamil homeland in the Northern and Eastern provinces for nearly 30 years before its collapse in 2009 after the Sri Lankan Army killed its supreme leader Velupillai Prabhakaran.
According to the Lankan government figures, over 20,000 people are missing due to various conflicts including the three-decade brutal war with Lankan Tamils in the north and east which claimed at least 100,000 lives.
International rights groups claim at least 40,000 ethnic Tamil civilians were killed in the final stages of the war, but the Sri Lankan government has disputed the figures.
During Saturday’s visit, Wickremesinghe said that the government must provide solutions to the problems caused by terrorism.
“We must provide solutions to the problems caused by terrorism and the problems of the Northern people. Muslims too have questions about their rights in Sri Lankan society. The upcountry people also have various problems. There is a social opinion that all these problems should be solved. So this is the best time to solve all these problems,” he said, adding that the matter needs to be solved strategically.
“These issues must be systematically resolved. I intend to discuss these matters with the Sinhala, Tamil, and Muslim communities. I intend to provide solutions to resolve these issues without dividing the country,” Wickremesinghe added.
During the visit, special attention was focused on the housing problem of the people in the Northern Province and the officials present with Wickremesinghe pointed out that the housing projects initiated to address the issue in the three districts have reached different stages of construction and an additional sum of Rs 3,000 million is required for its completion.
The president pointed out that many housing projects have commenced across the island and he expected to provide quick solutions to the housing problem of the people in the North.
Wickremesinghe said people who suffered due to war will get solace.
Recalling the anti-Tamil riots in 1983, Wickremesinghe said the country had moved on from that as well as from the time the military conflict ended in 2009.
“We have come a long way since 1983. We have also come a long way since 2009. It brings to mind a line from the national anthem which states ‘living as children of one mother’. My wish is that we can live as children of one mother at least by the 75th Independence Anniversary,” he said.
Sri Lanka’s efforts to solve the Tamil minority issue through negotiations had historically failed due to political opposition from the majority Sinhala community parties.
Wickremesinghe as prime minister of Sri Lanka between 2015 and 2019 tried a brand new Constitution to incorporate Tamil demands for political autonomy but met with resistance.
Recently, Wickremesinghe also announced the appointment of a committee to find ways to integrate the Indian-origin workers in the plantation sector into the society.
In 2019, the Sri Lankan government released about 90 per cent of the military-acquired land belonging to the minority Tamil community held during the brutal civil war with the LTTE.
At the end of the military conflict 13 years ago, some 84,675 acres of Tamil civilian land were under military control and by the end of March 2019, some 71,178 acres of land were released, according to the Sri Lankan government.