A post-conflict Sri Lanka has the opportunity to usher in permanent peace and stability for all its communities by ensuring that minorities enjoy the same rights and privileges as enjoyed by the majority community, union finance minister Pranab Mukherjee said in Colombo on Friday.
"The effective elimination of terrorism and secessionism from Sri Lanka offers…an opportunity to address the legitimate grievances of all communities," Mukherjee said.
"Thousands of Tamils have come out of the conflict zone traumatised by the conflict (against the LTTE) and harbouring deep concern and fear of what the future holds for them. These citizens need reassurance," Mukherjee said.
Mukherjee added that the Indian political system was relevant to Sri Lanka as it had chosen a democratic system designed to preserve the unity and integrity of its country. Clear separation of powers, rule of law, social justice, secularism, free press and vigilant citizens and civil groups had ensured that India effectively tackled both internal and external threats to its sovereignty.
Mukherjee is in Colombo to deliver the fourth Lakshman Kadirgamar Memorial Lecture. In August, 2005, Kadirgamar, during his second tenure as foreign minister, was shot dead by LTTE snipers inside his home.
Mukherjee said India welcomes the Lankan government’s efforts to resettle thousands of refugees. "However, many more await their turn for resettlement in camps. We are confident that their speedy return is receiving the highest consideration of the government," Mukherjee said.
Mukherjee added: "A political settlement means only one thing – a victory for all people of Sri Lanka irrespective of their religion, ethnicity, numbers or race. It need not and should not come at the cost of another."
The issue of resettlement and rehabilitation of Tamils would figure in Mukherjee’s talks with President Mahinda Rajapaksa when they meet for breakfast in the scenic town of Kandy on Sunday. Indications are that the leaders would exchange views on bilateral relations between Sri Lanka and India, issues thrown up by conflict and the developing political atmosphere here in view of the impending elections.
Though Mukherjee’s one-day visit was decided about two months ago, it has acquired added significance after Rajapaksa on Thursday granted permission to the chief of defence staff (CDS), general Sarath Fonseka, to retire with immediate effect. Fonseka is likely to contest the presidential elections against Rajapaksa.