COLOMBO: Faced with the challenge of showing by September this year, concrete progress towards reconciliation with the Tamil minority, the Sri Lankan government has taken several steps to take the reconciliation process forward.
President Maithripala Sirisena set the ball rolling by announcing that he would give back to the Tamils of the Northern Province, 1000 acres of land and the hand back to the Tamils of the Eastern Province, more than 1000 acres.
These fertile lands had been appropriated by the Lankan military and other government agencies making use of the Tamils’ inability to resist seizure. Sirisena has already handed over 425 acres in Jaffna.
Subsequently, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe announced that former President Chandrika Kumaratunga will head a national committee in reconciliation. He also said that the foreign experts invited by the Rajapaksa government to assist the Disappearances and War Crimes Commission could continue to tender advice.
On Friday, Wickremesinghe visited Jaffna, Point Pedro and Kilinochchi in the Northern Province, and talked to former combatants of the LTTE, war widows, civil society representatives, and parliamentarians. In his speeches, he said that he will see to it that the various communities in Sri Lanka live together in amity.
However, the stand off between the Prime Minister and the elected Chief Minister of the Northern Province may hamper the reconciliation process.
Chief Minister C.V.Wigneswaran was conspicuous by his absence at the Prime Minister’s functions in Jaffna on Friday. They have spoken of each other in disparaging terms publicly. Observers fear that reconciliation moves may get stalled if the PM and the CM are hostile to each other and avoid meetings.