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Talk at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, India – 29 October 2010

All this will contribute to reconciliation and the full inmcorporation of all our citizens in the body politic. So too we need to ensure structures that promote political influence for the minorities, not only with regard to decisions that affect them closely in areas in which they are predominant, but also with regard to national policies, since as we saw those affected them adversely in the past.

One way of achieving this last is through a Second Chamber weighted towards the regions, as with the American and Australian Senates and the Indian Rajya Sabha. Sadly, though the President has expressed his desire to establish such a body, the main Tamil opposition party does not seem interested. While it is all very well for them to say that they want other matters settled, the impression created is that they see no role for themselves or those they represent at the Centre. This is a dangerous attitude. It also suggests that they are still stuck in the mould of the politics of confrontation, since they showed themselves perfectly willing to get involved in national politics through support for the main opposition candidate in the Presidential election. Given his previous pronouncements about minorities, and indeed about Tamil politicians in India, the decision seemed perverse, explicable only in terms of a wholesale cynicism based on hostility to the incumbent President.

This is the sadder, in that they should also be working towards ensuring involvement in the national cabinet for representatives of the people whose interests they claim to uphold. Sadly, whilst the Muslims played their part in all cabinets after independence, Tamil politicians from the North withdrew after the divisive games played by their Sinhala brethren in 1956, and we did not have them, until the advent of Douglas Devananda, contribute to cabinet decisions. This we hope will change, with Tamil politicians from the North exercising influence on the lines of our two Foreign Ministers from the minorities, Mr Hameed from an area far from Colombo, and the brilliant Lakshman Kadirgamar who was from the capital’s multi-racial elite.

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Rajiva Wijesinha

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