Lanka vows Tamil au­ton­omy de­spite Bud­dhist re­sis­tance

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

Sri Lanka vowed yes­ter­day to grant greater au­ton­omy to its Tamil mi­nor­ity in a new con­sti­tu­tion af­ter an in­flu­en­tial Bud­dhist monk said the clergy op­posed the plan. Pres­i­dent Maithri­pala Sirisena has said the new con­sti­tu­tion will grant ex­ten­sive au­ton­omy to Tamils con- cen­trated in the is­land’s north­ern and eastern re­gions. He has said he wants to pre­vent a re­peat of a bloody sep­a­ratist con­flict that claimed 100,000 lives be­tween 1972 and 2009.

On Tues­day the se­nior monk Ana­maduwe Dham­madassi said the clergy op­posed the plan, which would “cre­ate un­nec­es­sary prob­lems”. But gov­ern­ment spokesman Ra­jitha Se­naratne said the na­tional par­lia­ment would not roll back the process which be­gan in April last year to draft a new statute that will be put to a ref­er­en­dum. “The monks can have their views, but the peo­ple’s man­date at two elections in 2015 was to change the con­sti­tu­tion,” Se­naratne said. “We will not work against the peo­ple’s will just be­cause Bud­dhist monks want us to do so.”

Nearly 70 per­cent of the is­land’s pop­u­la­tion is Bud­dhist and the monks, who hold huge sway, have gen­er­ally op­posed any po­lit­i­cal con­ces­sions to the mostly Hindu Tamils com­mu­nity. Dham­madassi said se­nior monks were united in their op­po­si­tion to con­sti­tu­tional re­forms. The lat­est move by the Bud­dhist lead­er­ship is seen as a new chal­lenge to Sirisena, also a Bud­dhist from the Sin­halese ma­jor­ity, who is com­mit­ted to eth­nic unity. Hard­line Sin­halese op­pose a fed­eral sys­tem that would en­sure more po­lit­i­cal power for mi­nor­ity Tamils.

The is­land’s Tamils took up arms in 1972 claim­ing they faced dis­crim­i­na­tion in ed­u­ca­tion and em­ploy­ment. While many of the griev­ances were ad­dressed over the years, the militancy grew into a full-fledged guer­rilla war with Tamil Tiger rebels con­trol­ling a third of the coun­try’s ter­ri­tory be­fore they were even­tu­ally crushed in May 2009. The of­fen­sive that de­feated the rebels prompted al­le­ga­tions of wide­spread war crimes, in­clud­ing ac­cu­sa­tions that at least 40,000 Tamil civil­ians were killed by gov­ern­ment forces. Sirisena came to power partly on the back of sup­port from Tamils af­ter pledg­ing rec­on­cil­i­a­tion and promis­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tions into war-time atroc­i­ties. —AFP

A Sri Lankan stilt fish­er­men work on their poles in the south­ern town of Galle. The num­ber of for­eign tourists vis­it­ing Sri Lanka has swelled since the is­land ended a 37year sep­a­ratist con­flict with Tamil Tiger rebels in May 2009. —AFP

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Kuwait

© PressReader. All rights reserved.