Sri Lankan Tamil parties want ‘proactive role’ by India

January 17th, 2009 - 5:49 pm ICT by IANS  

Colombo, Jan 17 (IANS) A slew of Sri Lankan Tamil parties with diverse views on the country’s protracted ethnic conflict has urged neighbouring India to “play a proactive role” in finding a lasting political solution to the problem.The leaders of these parties met visiting Indian Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon separately here Friday.

“During our meeting with him, we asked India to play a proactive role that would ensure a just and permanent political solution to the Tamil national question,” Dharmalingham Sidharthan, leader of the People’s Liberation Organisation of Tamil Eelam (PLOTE), told IANS Saturday.

Sidharthan, along with Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF) leader V. Ananadasangari and Eelam People’s Revolutionary Liberation Front (EPRLF) leader S. Sritharan, met Menon and briefed him on “the ground situation here”.

These three anti-Tamil Tiger parties have now formed an alliance named Democratic Tamil National Alliance (DTNA) and are looking forward to elections in the northern and eastern provinces.

“He gave us a patient hearing and during the discussion we understood that India was really concerned about the safety of Tamil civilians in the war-zone and the devolution issue,” Sidharthan said.

Asked what exactly his party wanted India to do, he said: “India, having been personally involved in the conflict over the past quarter century, knows better what to do and how to find a just solution for the Tamils here.

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) has been fighting against the Sri Lankan government for a quarter century to carve out a separate state for Tamils in the northern and eastern parts of the island. Thousands have died since late 2005 in the escalating fight between the LTTE and the Sri Lankan army.

“A reasonable and lasting political solution which can give meaningful devolution to the Tamil people living in the northeast is something that our people expect,” Sidharthan said.

A parliamentary group of the four-party Tamil National Alliance (TNA), which is widely considered the political face of the rebel LTTE, held talks with Menon separately and “explained to him the plight of civilians in the Wanni” region.

Claiming there seemed to be “a change in India’s attitude” towards the island’s conflict, TNA’s parliamentary group leader Rajavarodayam Sampanthan expressed confidence that India would play a “positive role in Sri Lanka’s conflict resolution in future”.

“We found him very positive with regard to an urgent need for a political settlement. My assessment is that India is seriously considering its own role in evolving a political solution to the Tamil national question here,” Sampanthan said.

The Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC), the major Islamic party in the country, also held talks with Menon and stressed there should be “a specific directive” from President Mahinda Rajapaksa to conclude the All Party Representative Committee (APRC) deliberations and present its report on a credible power-sharing package.

The APRC, set up in 2006 by Rajapaksa, is tasked to suggest a system of devolution to end the ethnic crisis.

Ironically, the main opposition United National Party (UNP) and the Marxist Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) have boycotted the APRC while the TNA is yet to be invited.

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