The Sri Lankan President, Mahinda Rajapaksa, has said that if only power had been devolved to the District Development Councils (DDCs) in the early 1980s as promised, Sri Lanka would not be facing a separatist Tamil movement on Thursday.
In a special article in Asian Tribune on Thursday to mark the 17th death anniversary of the assassination of the moderate Tamil leader Appapillai Amirthalingam by the LTTE, Rajapaksa said that Amirthalingam had agreed to President JR Jayewardene's proposal for DDCs with devolved powers as an alternative to an independent Tamil Eelam.
Amirthalingam had done so, despite the fact that his party, Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF), had won the 1977 parliamentary elections on the platform of an independent Tamil Eelam.
He had agreed to the DDCs in the teeth of opposition from the Tamil militant youth.
Amirthalingam had gambled politically and this was because he believed in the unity of Sri Lanka, the President said.
But the ruling United National Party (UNP) failed to devolve power to the DDCs though the DDCs were the brainchild of its leader, President JR Jayewardene.
"The country still suffers the tragic consequences of this failure of the UNP to share power at the lowest level of the districts," Rajapaksa said.
Assassination by LTTE
On Amirthalingam's assassination by the LTTE in Colombo on July 13, 1989, the President said: "It is part of the tragedy of our politics, poisoned by terror and violence, that the LTTE which claims to seek liberation for the Tamils saw in Amirthalingam, one of their biggest enemies."
"Irrespective of language and ethnicity one will always lament the loss of persons of moderation such as Appapillai Amirthalingam, and more so, their forcible and violent removal from amongst us."