Sri Lanka
EPRLF seeks merger of Sri Lanka's northeast
Mar 30, 2007 - 9:51:09 AM

Colombo, March 30 - A Sri Lankan Tamil political party has called for re-merger of the northern and eastern provinces to create a larger Tamil-majority unit as part of steps to end the island's ethnic conflict.

'Tamil people's demand for the united northeast province is to enable them to protect their lives and properties and to preserve their political, economic and social existence,' the Eelam People's Revolutionary Liberation Front - has said in its proposals to Science and Technology Minister Tissa Vitarana.

'It is the long years of discrimination and the misery created by the prolonged war that has exacerbated the feeling of insecurity of the Tamils,' said the former militant group in its suggestion to an all-party grouping studying ideas related to devolution of powers.

'In our view, the vast majority of the Tamils aspire for a period of stability and yearning for a sense of security. This can be created by restoring the merger -.'

Sri Lanka's Supreme Court last year called for a break up of the northern and eastern provinces. The two provinces were made one administrative unit following the India-Sri Lanka peace pact of 1987.

There are two factions of EPRLF. While one group is allied with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam -, the other opposes the Tigers and has submitted the proposals.

The EPRLF document said that most Tamils in Sri Lanka desired 'a dignified political solution based on a meaningful devolution of power' to the minorities.

'Permanent peace can only be achieved by a political solution which satisfies the basic aspirations of the people. Failure to address these issues will only help to strengthen the secessionists and extremists on both sides.'

The EPRLF said the 'so-called military strength of LTTE or its ability to perpetrate terrorist violence will never advance the process of finding a justifiable solution to the ethnic problem. On the contrary, it will only bring more death and destruction.

'EPRLF also firmly believes that the removal of LTTE factor from the Tamil political arena will only help to hasten the process towards a meaningful and genuine devolution.'

At the same time, the EPRLF hastened to add that the origin of the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka, which has consumed over 65,000 lives since 1983, was not 'LTTE terrorism'.

It said: 'The exclusion of the Tamils in the process of constitution making, the alienation from and discrimination by state institutions, and feeling of insecurity gradually pushed them to demand constitutional and institutional measures to ensure meaningful participation in the nation building process.'

It argued that while the LTTE was a temporary phenomenon, 'the majoritarian Sinhala-communal hegemony is comparatively a permanent one because the Sinhala people account for more than 70 percent of the population'.

The numerical superiority, it said, worked against the Tamil and Muslim minorities.

'Therefore, there must be provisions and system to accommodate reasonably sufficient representation to and balancing mechanism which can control any particular racial/communal hegemony over the numerically minority nationalities, not only in the provincial governance but also in the central governance.'

The EPRLF admitted that Muslims needed special security and political guarantees even in the Tamil-majority northeastern province.

Among other things, the EPRLF has suggested that the name of the country should be United Democratic Republic of Sri Lanka and argued that there should be inbuilt steps to prevent Sinhalese majority rule.

It said there was a need for a bicameral parliament and that the combined strength of the representatives of all minority communities should not be less than 40 percent in the house.

It said the Sri Lankan president should be made answerable to parliament and a vice president should belong 'to a national community other than that of the president'.

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