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I was pleased that Laksiri Fernando had picked up on my publication of documentation with regard to the negotiations between the government and the TNA way back in 2011. I suspect he is right in saying that some might think this is betrayal, given that even my efforts to defend the Secretary of Defence against Sarath Fonseka’s allegations in 2009 were described as betrayal. But this was by those such as Wimal Weerawansa who wanted to take political advantage of those allegations and therefore did not mind insinuating that they were true.

However I trust that those concerned with political reconciliation and long term peace, as Prof Fernando is, will realize that these notes are meant to make clear how easy it would be to reach a consensus with the TNA. But this needs negotiations to be conducted in good faith, and systematically, with appreciation of what the other side might fear. It is also important to move swiftly on whatever is agreed, as Nimal Siripala de Silva tried to do in 2011 with regard to the Concurrent List, only to be rebuffed by G L Pieris., even though we had obtained the President’s agreement to proceed.

To illustrate what I mean, I will look at the question of a Senate, which seems to have been a priority only for the President and me on the government side. To go into the history of that proposal, when I was appointed to head the Peace Secretariat in 2007, I should perhaps have participated actively in the discussions of the All Party Representatives Conference, which SCOPP hosted. But the Chairman, Prof Tissa Vitharna, thought that someone new should not be involved, so I stayed away. My main contribution was to cut down on the food bill, which had been enormous when I took over, largely because the practice previously had been to stuff up the delegates while waiting for the proceedings to start. This took for ever given prevailing standards of punctuality, and with the orders being placed beforehand, much went to waste when hardly anyone turned up.

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UPFA parliamentarian Prof. Rajiva Wijesinha says the reconciliation process is essentially a multi-pronged approach, as the government approach to anything should be. However, he noted that although there is no guarantee that the proposed PSC would bring about the final political solution there is a trust feature if all parties including the TNA participated in it. Referring to the Eastern Provincial Council election, he observed that the government should have initiated a dialogue with the TNA on a national government since the party had expressed its willingness to discuss. “I think it should have been tried, but I also understand the difficulty. Managing a coalition is not easy. The government should however take note of the results,” Prof. Wijesinha said.

Following are excerpts of the interview:

Q: How confident is the government that the Indian government would put pressure on the TNA to participate in the reconciliation process?

A: I am not privy to what happened in India but I do know that India would like a reasonable solution.  From what I know, while they sympathise with the TNA position they also understand our position and might take a basic line between the two positions.  It is simply that the more dogmatic personnel on both sides perhaps would like to push their points of view; I think we must take all views into account but aim to satisfy the moderates on both sides.

Q: The TNA has questioned the government reconciliation process. What is the reconciliation process proposed by the government?

A: The reconciliation process is essentially a multi-pronged approach, as the government approach to anything should be. The government assumed, with some justification but I think it needs fine-tuning, that they needed to do quick restoration which is also what is prioritized in the National Reconciliation Policy document my office prepared  In that, we divide the reconciliation process into different segments. Of which the most important is restoration, which is based on the enormous physical suffering that the war brought; the bulk of which was borne by the people of the North. The government assumed that a lot of the macro stuff would lead to people returning to normal life; this happened in the East where the remarkable development programme was picked up by the state.  By and large they gained satisfaction, this does not mean that there are no questions but by and large there is satisfaction with the President.

In the North we have two separate problems, neither of which did we address carefully enough.  The first is in the Wanni where I think we did a fantastic job in restoration, and again I think the people are very satisfied, but we are not giving them the extra skills development to take advantage of the situation. I told the Indians we had to introduce local labour for their houses and they agreed.  But when I went up last time there are three contractors in one particular area, one is using local labour the other two are not.

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Rajiva Wijesinha

November 2018
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