South Africa to keep India posted on reconciliation efforts in Sri Lanka

"South Africa’s initiatives were complementary to the Indian effort"

July 09, 2014 11:50 am | Updated November 16, 2021 07:52 pm IST - COLOMBO:

South Africa's deputy president and special envoy to Sri Lanka Cyril Ramaphosa (centre), arrives at a hotel for talks with Sri Lankan government representatives in Colombo on Monday, July 7, 2014.

South Africa's deputy president and special envoy to Sri Lanka Cyril Ramaphosa (centre), arrives at a hotel for talks with Sri Lankan government representatives in Colombo on Monday, July 7, 2014.

South African Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa has told the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) here that he would keep India informed of South Africa’s reconciliation efforts in Sri Lanka.

Mr. Ramphosa called on President Mahinda Rajapaksa on Monday, and met TNA leaders on Tuesday. “We met his delegation this morning and discussed all matters in detail,” TNA leader R. Sampanthan told The Hindu  on Tuesday. “The South Africans are prepared to help Sri Lanka in the reconciliation process. Our meeting today was positive. They have said they would keep India informed [of the developments],” he said.

TNA parliamentarian M.A. Sumanthiran told reporters here that the discussions centred broadly on addressing the ethnic question and the post war environment.

Following the meeting with the TNA, Mr. Ramaphosa flew to Jaffna to hold discussions with Northern Province Chief Minister C.V. Wigneswaran.  

Mr. Ramaphosa told him that South Africa’s initiatives were complementary to the Indian effort, and to the Geneva resolution and certain Western countries engaging with Sri Lanka on the issue of reconciliation, it is reliably learnt.  “I pointed to the issue of militarisation, I told him 1,50,000 soldiers are still in the area of offensive after five years since the war ended. I pointed out to the fact of the Army being involved in all civilian life initiatives,” the Chief Minister told The Hindu about the meeting. 

Mr. Wigneswaran also spoke of the President appointed the Chief Secretary of the province reportedly without the concurrence of the Chief Minister, creating a “parallel administration.”

The high-level visit to the island follows South Africa’s offer to assist Sri Lanka in its reconciliation process, drawing upon its experience in reconciliatory efforts. At the Commonwealth summit held in Colombo in November 2013, South African President Jacob Zuma said he was ready to help Sri Lanka, based on his country’s own experience of recovering from a “deeper and more complex conflict.” Following that, in February this year, President Zuma told the South African parliament that he had appointed Mr. Ramaphosa as special envoy to Sri Lanka to mediate between the government and the Tamil minority for reconciliation in the island.

Five years after the brutal war between the Sri Lankan armed forces and the rebel Tigers ended in the island, the Tamil minority continues expressing concern over the lack of substantial political devolution. India has been playing a mediatory role in regard to Sri Lanka’s efforts towards post-war reconciliation. When Prime Minister Narendra Modi met President Rajapaksa in New Delhi, he urged Sri Lanka to fully implement the 13th Amendment – an outcome of the Indo-Lanka Accord of 1987, it speaks of devolving more powers to the provinces – and go beyond it, as was promised by Sri Lanka in 2010. 

While New Delhi has been encouraging the Sri Lankan government and the TNA to resume talks in order to address the Tamil question, the Sri Lankan government has maintained that the matter was being discussed by a Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) constituted specifically for the purpose.  The PSC, however, has only coalition partners in President Rajapaka's ruling coalition as constituents. 

The United National Party, the main Opposition here, the Janathā Vimukthi Peramuṇa (JVP), and the TNA have boycotted it, asking the government to spell out the terms of discussion clearly.  

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