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Tamils disillusioned on SLanka power-sharing talks

Tamils disillusioned on SLanka power-sharing talks

Sri Lanka's main Tamil opposition party has told senior U.S. officials that the island nation's government is not serious about power-sharing and probing allegations of war crimes, a visiting lawmaker said Friday.
The complaint from the Tamil National Alliance comes ahead of a Sri Lankan government-appointed panel's findings expected this month on the 26-year civil war. If it fails to address the reported deaths of thousands of Tamil civilians in the last months of the war, international pressure is likely to grow for a U.N.-backed investigation.
Ahead of the panel's findings, lawmakers from the alliance, a proxy of the defeated and now-defunct Tamil Tiger rebels, have been meeting with senior officials and lawmakers in the United States and Canada and at the United Nations.
The alliance, which swept July local council elections held in areas ravaged by the war, has abandoned the rebels' demand for an independent Tamil state and instead is calling for more autonomy within a federation. Tamils who have historically faced discrimination at the hands of the ethnic majority Sinhalese who dominate the government.
"The message that we have given is that we are disappointed and disillusioned at the Sri Lankan government's failure to show the political will" in sharing political power and postwar rehabilitation, lawmaker M.A. Sumanthiran told The Associated Press.
Speaking by phone from New York, Sumanthiran expressed frustration over the 12 rounds of power-sharing talks since January and what he said was the government's failure to respond to the alliance's proposal for more Tamil authority over security, land, education and cultural issues.
The alliance has already pulled out of the talks once. It returned to the table in October, but Sumanthiran said if the government did not make clear its position by year's end, the alliance would again reassess its participation in the negotiations.
Sumanthiran, who is a prominent human rights lawyer in Sri Lanka, also expressed skepticism about the government-appointed Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission, which is due to report its findings to President Mahinda Rajapaksa on Nov. 15. He said it lacked the mandate to probe allegations of atrocities.
"The truth as to what happened must be ascertained and laid bare for reconciliation to take place," he said.
In September, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon sent an expert report to the U.N. Human Rights Council that concluded that tens of thousands of people were killed in the last five months of the war in 2009, primarily by government troops.
Ban has said he needs a mandate from the U.N. Human Rights Council, Security Council or the General Assembly to initiate an international inquiry.
The Sri Lankan government has rejected allegations of atrocities and says it brought stability to a nation wracked by a quarter-century of conflict and terrorist attacks. It also says it has moved to resettle some 300,000 Tamils who were interned in camps after they displaced by the fighting in the east and north of the island.
Sumanthiran said more than 200,000 of those Tamils have been unable to return to their homes, and are staying in makeshift shelters or with host families. He also complained about a still-pervasive military presence in the region and occupation of land.


Updated : 2021-03-04 12:02 GMT+08:00