Sri Lanka's Tamil parties to meet to push for federalism ahead of talks with government
Colombo, Nov 25 (PTI) Sri Lanka's all Tamil political parties based in the East and the North are set to meet on Friday to push for federalism ahead of President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s proposed all-party meeting next month to address the long-held demand for political autonomy for the minority community in the country.
The meeting will be held at the Colombo residence of R Sampanthan, the 89-year-old leader of the Tamil National Alliance, sources in the party said.
Wickremesinghe told parliament on Wednesday that it was important to build trust between the majority Sinhalese and the Tamils to resolve the long-standing conflict.
He proposed the all-party meeting under his chair to discuss the issue to strike a solution by February 4 next year which is the 75th anniversary of the country's independence from Britain.
"Regardless of inter and intra-party differences, the bottom line is that all Sri Lankan Tamil nationalist parties are firmly supportive of a power-sharing arrangement based upon federal principles of the federal idea," M A Sumanthiran, a leading Tamil politician tweeted.
The Tamil and the main opposition parties have expressed willingness to meet to discuss the issue while at least one Sinhala majority hardline parliamentarian objected to the proposal.
Sri Lanka has had a long history of failed negotiations with the Tamils.
An Indian effort in 1987, which created the system of a joint provincial council for the Tamil-dominated north and east, faltered as the minority community claimed it fell short of full autonomy.
Wickremesinghe himself tried a constitutional effort between 2015-19 which too came to be scuttled by the hardline majority politicians.
India has been consistently calling upon Sri Lanka to fulfill its commitments to protect the interests of the Tamil community and preserve the island nation's character as a multi-ethnic and multi-religious society.
Over the years, the Sri Lankan government has been aggressive against Tamilian groups following its war with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).
The LTTE ran a military campaign for a separate Tamil homeland in the northern and eastern provinces of the island nation for nearly 30 years before its collapse in 2009 after the Sri Lankan Army killed its supreme leader Velupillai Prabhakaran.
According to Sri Lankan government figures, over 20,000 people are missing due to various conflicts including the three-decade brutal war with Lankan Tamils in the north and east which claimed at least 100,000 lives.
International rights groups claim at least 40,000 ethnic Tamil civilians were killed in the final stages of the war, but the Sri Lankan government has disputed the figures. PTI CORR FZH NSA AKJ FZH