Opposition Leader R. Sampanthan hopes the government’s efforts to rewrite the Constitution would find a permanent solution to the ethnic issue.
“An effective substantial devolution will give people a sense of self rule, a sense of belonging to the country, and that the country belongs to them,” he had said in an interview with the Hindu.
In the interview Sampanthan says he feels if the late Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi had not been killed, the matter (ethnic conflict) would have been resolved.
Sampanthan goes on to say, “the historic Indo-Sri Lanka Peace Accord that mooted a permanent solution to the decades-long-ethnic conflict in the island nation was signed on July 29, thirty years ago”.
Sampanthan recalls how the then government and TULF, the main Tamil party, had marathon negotiations for 20 days during 1986 that brought about the 13th Amendment of Constitution.
“The Tamils’ struggle for self rule had been in the political arena shortly after Independence. When the accord was signed in 1987, it was almost 40 years. The accord itself was preceded by various rounds of negotiations between the Sri Lankan government and Tamil side under the auspices of the Indian government after the riots that took place in 1983,” says Sampanthan who was involved in the negotiations.
Though the agreement acknowledged the unity and territorial integrity of Sri Lanka, it also emphasised that the autonomy of various cultural groups should be preserved. There were Sinhalese, Tamils, Muslims and Burghers living in Lanka, each having a distinct culture and linguistic identity, says Sampanthan.
The accord paved way for the 13th Amendment of the Sri Lankan Constitution which is considered the first significant step towards devolution of powers between the Sinhalese and Tamils.
The accord also favoured holding a referendum, which the Tamil parties opposed.
Sampanthan also says that India’s interest in Sri Lanka is not limited to economy or strategy and strongly feels that his neighbour remains committed to in resolving the Tamil issue.