In its statement the GTF said it welcomes the democratic transition process initiated by the new government under the leadership of President Sirisena, which includes the increased space presently available for freedom of expression and rule of law. The 100 day program initiated by the government that aims to crystallise the new governance norms through constitutional amendments is of huge significance for the long term future of Sri Lanka.
The appointment of civilian governors for the Northern and Eastern Provinces is a very important step in the right direction. The demand for these appointments was consistently ignored by the previous regime. It is our belief that these positive developments, if garnered properly, will provide stepping stones to resolve the long standing Tamil national problem in Sri Lanka.
Unfortunately, the record of the government to-date, in addressing most pressing Tamil and other minority issues has been somewhat disappointingly slow. A sense of despair is slowly creeping up among sections of the Tamil population, particularly among those who have been displaced from their land, or kept imprisoned for years, or lost loved ones during the war and waiting for justice, or those still searching for their missing relatives.
GTF does not underestimate the mammoth task the government faces in several fronts and its notable achievements within a two month period. Nevertheless, we are also concerned that any delay in addressing the Tamil problem can only give scope for hard-line attitudes from all sides to re-emerge, and this will make the task of achieving meaningful progress more difficult in the future.
In this context, it is important that the government immediately takes meaningful steps to address a few pressing issues that includes reducing the excessive military presence in the North and East, transferring the land back to the rightful owners from whom the land was expropriated, and releasing Tamil political detainees who have been incarcerated for years without ever being charged. It is also important that the government makes public commitment to comprehensively address the war crimes and reconciliation issues in active collaboration with the UNHRC, and reveal its blueprint to achieve a political solution by negotiating with the elected Tamil representatives.
We welcome President Sirisena’s forthright acknowledgement that the people in the North and East suffered the most during the war, when he visited the North this week. We request President Sirisena to act on the issues highlighted here, as that will help foster a positive environment and build confidence among Tamils, both in Sri Lanka and in Diaspora. Global Tamil Forum, for its part, is fully committed to play a constructive role, in collaboration with other stakeholders, in making all these reality.