May 20, 2009

UNIQUELY WELL-POSITIONED TO CONCEDE THE REBELS' POINT:

War over, Sri Lanka must win peace: The island nation must reconcile both sides of an ethnic divide after 25 years of civil war. Reprisals are feared. (Mark Magnier, May 20, 2009, LA Times)

President Rajapaksa, elected in 2005, is in a good position to tackle the reconciliation challenge. As a hard-line leader who did what it took to win a war, he's got the credentials to extend a hand to the other side without facing accusations of being soft on militants.

He has had no shortage of advice from Asian and Western envoys urging him to be magnanimous in victory. "The big question is whether he'll listen," said one South Asian diplomat. In his speech Tuesday, Rajapaksa pointedly warned foreigners not to meddle.

An early bridge-building step, analysts said, would be to streamline humanitarian aid and quickly allow Tamils to return home from displacement camps. This would help blunt suspicions that they'll be locked in for years or that their lands will be redistributed to Sinhalese.

"For Tamils, land is crucial," said a religious leader who asked not to be identified for fear of government reprisal. "It's more important than anything."

Another step would be to empower local councils, approved in 1987 but never implemented. Turning more power over to their districts would give Tamils a degree of autonomy in the northern and eastern parts of the country where they are in the majority.


Recognized territory + Autonomy = Sovereignty = Nationhood

Posted by Orrin Judd at May 20, 2009 7:33 AM
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