Most Lankan Tamils wary of Rajapaksa’s outreach

May 20th, 2009 - 1:52 pm ICT by ANI  

Pune, May 20 (ANI): Several Sri Lankan Tamils based in India have responded warily to President Mahinda Rajapaksa outreach after the elimination of the LTTE and its chief Vellupillai Prabhakaran.Mariasoosai Sakkariyas is one such. He and his family fled Sri Lanka 29 years ago in a flimsy boat across choppy waters to Tamil Nadu. He longs for the day he can return to his homeland.”I will only return if there is evidence that all Tamils displaced by the recent fighting are rehabilitated, and are given a free, democratic space to exist. I don’t want to return to a forced democracy where Tamils have no voice,” Sakkariyas told the Christian Science Monitor.

He was not impressed by President Rajapaksa’s promise to protect the Tamil-speaking people of Sri Lanka.

Sakkariyas’s skepticism hints at the uphill battle Sri Lanka faces in achieving political reconciliation now that the conventional phase of the war between the military and Tamil rebels has ended.

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) had fought for a separate homeland for the island’s Tamil ethnic minorities.

Some Tamils in Sri Lanka also viewed Rajapaksa’s conciliatory tone warily.

“If the president’s speech had announced a tangible political package for Tamils, I would be a million times happier,” says Chris Kamalendaran, a Colombo-based reporter of Tamil origin, adding that other Tamils he had spoken with echoed his dismay that the president didn’t offer a more concrete political vision.

“After 26 bloody years, the conflict is over - that’s great,” continues Kamalendaran, noting that he had never supported the LTTE. “But the cause of the conflict still persists.”

The resentment between Sri Lanka’s ethnic Tamil minority (who make up 18 percent of the population) and the Sinhalese majority (74 percent) stretches back decades.

P. Radhakrishnan, a Tamil politician and a deputy minister in Rajapaksa’s government, offers a more optimistic take on Sri Lanka’s future. He hails the president’s message as a “confidence-building speech.”

The end of the war could allow Tamil politicians to work more actively to improve conditions for the Tamil community, Radhakrishnan says in a phone interview. (ANI)

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