SL Govt.'s chance fading: US official

[TamilNet, Monday, 01 December 1997, 23:59 GMT]
The Sri Lankan government may have lost its opportunity to win support amongst the Tamil people according to the US State Dept.'s Director for South Asia, Mr. Steve Mann. He was speaking during discussions at a conference on Sri Lanka held at Harvard University recently.

"The government has a small window - which may already be closed - to win over the people of Jaffna." he said. "If the government does not make Jaffna a showcase in the eyes of the whole Tamil population, then it is a useless acquisition of real estate."

Mr. Mann was speaking at a conference titled 'Political, Economic & Social Reconstruction of Sri Lanka' organised at Harvard by the World Peace Foundation, a part of the Harvard Institute of International Development from November 20-22.

Most of the speakers from Sri Lanka were Colombo-based, except for Mr. D. Nesiah, a former Government Agent for Jaffna.

Much of the discussion focused on the situation in the south in the context of the war which the conference generally agreed was 'unwinnable' from the Sri Lankan government's viewpoint.

Several US government officials (including the new US ambassador to Sri Lanka) and international agency staff were amongst the audience, as were local academics.

Issues that were discussed included conflict resolution approaches, the prominence of Buddhism in the Sri Lankan constitution, the lack of an independent judiciary, amongst others.

Dr. P. Saravanamuttu of the Colombo based Centre for Policy Alternatives said that the Sri Lankan government's devolution proposals had been drafted without consulting the Tamil and Muslim people of the island, who apparently were simply expected to go along with them.

He criticised the proposals which he said not take into account the Thimpu principles and noted that they did not create a federal structure.

He felt that the government would eventually find the war unsustainable and would have to negotiate with the LTTE and suggested that the audience consider what kind of peace was possible with the LTTE's involvement and what kind was possible without them.

The papers from the conference are expected to be published within a few months.

 

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