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Fundamental issue of Tamil status in Sri Lanka remains unresolved - Former peace mediator Eric Solheim

The fundamental issue of the status of Tamils in Sri Lanka remains unresolved said the former  Norwegian peace-mediator between Sri Lanka’s government and the Liberation Tamil Tigers of Tamil Eelam.

In an interview with Indian News outlet DNA India, Mr Eric Solheim said that despite the end of the war . “still the fundamental issues in Sri Lanka – the status of Tamils, and the influence of Tamils within the state of Sri Lanka are not resolved.”

A main hurdle of conflict resolution in Sri Lanka was that the Sinhala community was divided into two main parties that fought for power within each other without seriously reaching out to the Tamil community added Mr Solheim.

Speaking on obstacles to Sri Lanka’s peace process Mr Solheim said,

“The first of two main hurdles was the fact that the Sinhala community was divided into two main parties, the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) and the United National Party (UNP). Through independence, these two parties fought for power and both were much more consumed by the power struggle than with outreach to the Tamil community. Whenever one party was in power, the other party would oppose whatever the rival party did. Then the power would shift and so would positions. That was a huge problem. The Tamil community couldn’t really place any confidence in any single offer from the Sinhala leaders because they didn’t know whether it would last”

Sympathising with the causes behind an armed struggle fighting for Tamil rights, he added,

“And we should obviously find an amicable peaceful solution to any conflict. If the Sinhalese and the Tamil leaders had been able to do that in the 50s or 70s, the conflict would not have come. And of course, fighting for Tamil rights — I have a lot of sympathy with that but — I have no sympathy with suicide bombing or, killing Rajiv Gandhi or, planting bus bombs or attacking the holy temple of Sinhala Buddhism in Kandy.Tamil Tigers made such horrible decisions, killing people. But we should all have some sympathy with the Tamils in Sri Lanka. If you are a Tamil there and you want to go to the police, the police just speak Sinhala so you can understand —that’s not easy.”

Responding to question on whether he was conflicted negotiating with the LTTE after they committed suicide bombings, he said,

“We also negotiated with people on the Sri Lanka government’s side who committed huge war crimes and evil acts. Despite all that I used to just ask myself one question: what do the victims of the crimes want us to do?”

Questioning extrajudicial killings during the ‘White Flag’ incident that saw the executions of surrendering members of the LTTE’s political leadership, Mr Solheim said both his government informed Sri Lanka of the political leadership’s intention to surrender, stating,

“Absolutely for sure. We informed Basil Rajapaksa, the advisor to President Rajapaska. We were not alone – the tigers did the same through some key Tamil contacts and also I think with some Indian interlocutors to send a message to the Sri Lankan leadership. Unfortunately for the Sri Lankan armed forces and to put it very nicely there’s a big question mark on these killings – why they didn’t accept surrender and bring these people into court, rather than killing them.”

See full interview here.

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