Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe is confident and hopeful that the political situation in Sri Lanka following the August 17 general election, although complex, is favourable for forging an enduring political solution to the Tamil question.
Noting that the two main national parties, his United National Party and the Sri Lanka Freedom Party, and the Tamil National Alliance were “the three key players” in formulating the proposals for an enduring solution, he said he had “tried to keep the UNP position flexible so that we can bridge the differences.” Responding to a question on former President Chandrika Kumaratunga, he confirmed that she would have a significant role to play in this regard.
The Sri Lankan political situation has taken an interesting turn with the narrow victory of the United National Party in the general election, its leader being sworn in as Prime Minister for the fourth time, and the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the two main parties, the UNP and the Sri Lanka Freedom Party, paving the way for a ‘unity’ or national government.
A day after he assumed office, Prime Minister Wickremesinghe spoke to The Hindu at Temple Trees on a wide range of issues, including the project of working out a new Constitution for Sri Lanka, finding an enduring political solution to the Tamil question, and livelihood, development, and human rights issues.
Asked about time lost after the war with the LTTE ended in 2009 and the prospects of moving towards an enduring political solution now, Mr. Wickremesinghe responded: “There have been a lot of administrative barriers, which have to be removed. Secondly, there has been a request by some of the Provincial Councils that as far as the powers exercised jointly, by both the Centre and the Provinces, concurrent powers, are concerned, some of it could be transferred to the Provinces. Those are the main issues and we have to work this out.”
To a question about how the two sides could avoid getting caught in a terminological dispute over a ‘unitary’ versus ‘federal’ solution, he said: “Substance is what we have to look at. The formula which was accepted by India also, let’s see how we work it out within the 13th Amendment, maximise it. Let’s build on this. That’s what we are talking about now.”
The Sri Lankan Prime Minister also expressed hope that a political consensus could be reached within months on a new Constitution for Sri Lanka, especially because the issues that needed to be resolved were fairly narrow.