Says it will be ‘equal rights to all communities’

The solution that Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa has in mind for the Tamil quest for a greater say in their own fate — which he said soon after the war in 2009 that he will reveal at an appropriate time — involves “equal rights to all communities”.

Ruling out granting minority Tamils of the North any political autonomy as a solution to the three-decades-long ethnic conflict, he said when people lived together in unity there should be no racial or religious differentiation. “It is not practical for this country to have different administrations based on ethnicity. The solution is to live together in this country with equal rights for all communities,” he said.

In his address to the nation on the occasion of the Sri Lankan Independence Day on Monday from the eastern port town of Trincomalee, Mr. Rajapaksa claimed that though nearly four years had passed since the Tamil Tigers were routed, Sri Lanka “had to face continued challenges to protect the freedom and independence of our motherland. For this very reason we have now come to a very strong situation. Similarly, facing up to these challenges have increased our desire to be committed to our freedom”.

Mr. Rajapaksa’s announcements come in the same month as the sitting of the United Nations Human Rights Council begins in Geneva.

The UNHRC’s Universal Periodic Review will take stock of progress since the last session, and to what extent Sri Lanka has shown progress on issues related to reconciliation.

The United States has announced that it would bring a procedural resolution in the 2013 UNHRC session — which will merely be an extension of the resolution against Sri Lanka last year — and expects all countries that supported the resolution the last time to support it. India had supported the U.S. move last year.

The U.S. move has clearly stumped India. This time around, India is under pressure from Sri Lanka to help it during the session. India had successfully negotiated the 2009 session of the UNHRC on behalf of Sri Lanka. India has maintained that the 2012 anti-Sri Lanka vote was because Sri Lanka did not deliver on most of the commitments that it made in 2009. Sri Lankan leadership saw the Indian vote against it as an act of betrayal.

Canada, Great Britain and U.S. lead the international group for devolving power to the Tamil minority as a way to achieve reconciliation. Sri Lankan leaders have accused leaders in these countries of applying pressure in order to garner Tamil votes in their countries.