Development is critical for resolution of conflict, says Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Peiris

January 22, 2013

New Delhi: As a nation transiting from a society in conflict to a society aiming at peace, Sri Lanka is gearing up for meeting all these challenges in its own way, stated the Minister for External Affairs, Sri Lanka, Prof GL Peiris. He was delivering a lecture at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA) on ‘The Rise of Asia and Sri Lanka’s Role’, on January 22, 2013.

He argued that as a nation coming out of 30 years of ethnic conflict, Sri Lanka was not expected to resolve the issue in three and half years. However, it had done substantial progress in economic and developmental sectors, especially in building physical infrastructure like roads, highways, railways and communication networks in the areas affected by the conflict. He thanked India for substantial contribution towards the development of railways in the country. He invited people from India to visit Sri Lanka and see for themselves the changes taking place in the war ravaged areas. Development was the key to resolution of conflict, he argued.

On the issue of reconciliation Mr Peiris said that all previous attempts at resolving the issue have failed mainly because they were top-down attempts and no effort was made to galvanise popular support behind the proposals. Moreover, there was a lack of political consensus over the implementation of various proposals that were made in the past. He referred to the instance of one of the bills he presented in the Lankan parliament, which was burnt by the opposition. He held that the ongoing talks with the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) had identified certain issues which would be taken up for discussions by a parliamentary select committee (PSC) and hoped that some solution would be worked out in near future. However, over the issue of devolution, he argued forcefully that since majority of the Tamils lived outside the North and the East, there was no need to make devolution a critical issue in the negotiations.

On India-Sri Lanka relations he held that the two countries were engaged in a whole range of issues, which made the relationship quite robust, vibrant, “rich and satisfying”. During the course the 8th Joint Commission meeting the two countries agreed to cooperate on matters relating to counter terrorism, food and energy security. He considered people to people contact and cultural linkages as the bases of a solid foundation for continuing process of engagement between the two nations.

Earlier in his lecture, he dwelt on the daunting challenges confronting his country as it was making substantial progress on the economic front. He identified the challenges as economic, cultural, security-related and political in nature. Emphasising on the economic challenges the minister said that the fruits of economic development should be equally distributed to the urban and the peri-urban sections of the society and argued that economic development in a country can be sustainable only when complemented with social equity. He also stressed that a nation’s progress depended on sound functioning of institutions like judiciary and legislature. A major problem facing all societies today was how to reconcile freedom with security, he stated. He held that as Sri Lanka was transiting from a society in conflict to a society aiming at peace, it was gearing up for meeting all these challenges in its own way.