Invites Tamil parties to resolve minority issues internally
President Ranil Wickremesinghe on Thursday said Sri Lanka does not need outside intervention in its internal affairs, as he invited the country’s Tamil minority parties to hold talks next week to resolve some of the outstanding issues they faced.
“I invite all of you to have talks next week and settle all outstanding issues before the 75th anniversary of independence”, Wickremesinghe told the Tamil party lawmakers while addressing Parliament.
Sri Lanka will be celebrating its 75th anniversary of independence from Britain on February 4, 2023.
“We don’t need others to intervene in our country’s matters. We can solve our issues and that’s what we are attempting to accomplish,” Wickremesinghe said, without naming any country.
India has been consistently calling upon Sri Lanka to fulfill its commitments to protect the interests of the Tamil community and preserve the island nation’s character as a multi-ethnic and multi-religious society.
President Wickremesinghe said the government had already discussed issues that had resulted in the release of some of the Tamil prisoners who had been held due to links with the LTTE acts of terror.
“We discussed the issues of the people in the North. Already, we have released some of the prisoners and there are several others to be released”, Wickremesinghe said.
The government released several Tamil prisoners last month who had been held under the draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) without a charge over decades.
The Tamil and international rights groups have backed the demand by the European Union to repeal PTA.
Wickremesinghe also told parliament that a new Counter-Terrorism Act and new anti-corruption legislation would be passed in January or February.
The President said he was keen to develop the North and the East, the former battle zones of the economy to give benefits to people.
“I am getting an assessment done on the renewable energy potential in the North and the possibility of having green hydrogen. Now if you get green hydrogen on a competitive basis, the whole Northern economy goes up”, he said.
There was no immediate response by the Tamil parties to the president’s invitation.
Over the years, the Sri Lankan government has been aggressive against Tamilian groups following its war with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).
The LTTE ran a military campaign for a separate Tamil homeland in the northern and eastern provinces of the island nation for nearly 30 years before its collapse in 2009 after the Sri Lankan Army killed its supreme leader Velupillai Prabhakaran.
According to the Lankan government figures, over 20,000 people are missing due to various conflicts including the three-decade brutal war with Lankan Tamils in the north and east which claimed at least 100,000 lives.
International rights groups claim at least 40,000 ethnic Tamil civilians were killed in the final stages of the war, but the Sri Lankan government has disputed the figures.