The Tamil question cannot be settled by merely regarding it as an economic issue, Mano Ganesan, one of the three Tamil Ministers in the Sri Lankan government, has said.
“There are people who even now argue that by providing jobs to the youth, putting up more hospitals and promoting economic development there [in the Northern and Eastern provinces], the ethnic problem will be over. But it is not so,” the 55-year-old leader said, in an interview with The Hindu at his residence, a few days after he was sworn in as the Minister for National Dialogue.
Though he feels that sharing of maximum power is the way out, Mr. Ganesan, who heads the Democratic People’s Front and the Tamil Progressive Alliance, is firm that it is up to the Tamil National Alliance and the government to deliberate on the problem and arrive at a solution acceptable to all.
“If President [Maithripala Sirisena] and Prime Minister [Ranil Wickremesinghe] want me to be part of the process of negotiations, I am prepared to do it.”
He said Mr. Wickremesinghe, who briefed him about his work on Monday, wanted him to work closely with civil society organisations.
“My main job is to accomplish reconciliation and social integration,” he said, adding that a secretariat for non-government organisations would function under his Ministry.
Born in the Sabaragamuwa province, considered a part of south Sri Lanka, Mr. Ganesan, who grew up in Colombo as an activist pursuing social and human rights issues, described himself as a “bridge between the north and the south.
“I will continue to perform the role.” He got elected to Parliament from Colombo on the United National Party ticket. Pointing out that bringing together various ethnic groups had always been troublesome because of “several blockades,” Mr. Ganesan said: “I will go to any level to remove them.”
His plan would be to ensure that every Sri Lankan, irrespective of ethnicity, would be able to transact business with the government at various levels in the language of his or her choice.
“No citizen of Sri Lanka will be denied equal opportunities on the basis of one’s religion or ethnicity.”