Sri Lanka’s Minister of Fiannce and Media Mangala Samaraweera admitted that the island “has been in crisis, remains in crisis and will continue to be in crisis until we can create a just and equal Sri Lanka,” in a speech to parliament last week, where he called for federalism.
“Following the attempted coup and Easter Sunday bombings, many of our fellow citizens ask why our country continues to veer from one crisis to another,” said Samaraweera. “They are right to do so. The history of Sri Lanka is a history of crisis.”
He went on to add,
“The stakes could not be higher. It is our inability to resolve the national question that is at the very center of our failure to make Sri Lanka peaceful and prosperous. Sri Lanka has been in crisis, remains in crisis and will continue to be in crisis until we can create a just and equal Sri Lanka for all Sri Lankans.”
“Despite new constitutions, countless committees and endless debates, we still have majoritarianism entrenched in our politics and law.”
Samaraweera then praised former Sri Lankan president Chandrika Kumaratunga, who herself stands accused of overseeing war crimes, for being “brave enough to stand on election platforms and speak truth to power”.
“She had the courage to boldly state in public what the political class said in private: the solution to the national question was federalism,” he added.
See the full text of his speech here.
Samaraweera’s comments come despite a long history of Sinhala nationalism from the veteran politician.
Initially, he was a leading member of the SLFP and participated in several Sinhala nationalist rallies, including a 2003 demonstration alongside Mahinda Rajapaksa that marched against the "betrayal of Sinhala nation” by signing a ceasefire with the LTTE.
Samaraweera was also an aide of then Sri Lankan president Chandrika Kumaratunga, when he lashed out at Norwegian peace brokers claiming they had "not shown any sensitivity to the feelings of Sri Lankans”.
"Of course we can't expect anything better from a nation of salmon-eaters who turned into international busybodies,” he added.
He then rose to the post of Mahinda Rajapaksa’s foreign secretary as the Sri Lankan military began a massive military offensive that killed tens of thousands of Tamils.
Samaraweera also spoke out against peace monitors from the Sri Lankan Monitoring Mission (SLMM) who stated that Sri Lankan security forces were responsible for the murder of 17 ACF aid workers in Muttur.
"I am not calling him [SLMM] a liar, but I am calling it a very, very irresponsible statement," he said in an interview with the BBC.