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Sinhalas see Rajapaksa as peacemaker: Survey

Eighty-seven per cent of Sinhalas say the Sri Lankan President has the strength to take peace bid forward, reports PK Balachandran.

india Updated: Mar 17, 2006 12:27 IST

An overwhelming majority of Sinhalas, the dominant community in Sri Lanka, think that President Mahinda Rajapaksa is committed to a negotiated settlement of the ethnic conflict, and that he has the strength to bring it about, according to a survey conducted by the Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA).

Eighty-seven per cent said that Rajapaksa had the strength to take the peace process forward and 80% said that he was committed to finding peace through talks.

The survey, conducted by Pradeep Peiris, head of the Social Indicators section of the CPA, found 95 per cent were of the view that the government and the LTTE should go in for a negotiated settlement, instead of letting the current stalemate continue indefinitely.

The survey was conducted from February 17 to March 3, among 1300 respondents in the island excluding the Tamil-speaking North Eastern Province, which is disturbed because of the armed ethnic conflict.

The peace constituency has in fact increased over the last few months, the survey says.

Since September 2005, there has been a 10 per cent increase in people who say that a "no-war, no-peace" scenario is not good and that the government and the LTTE should start talking about a permanent solution.

The survey finds that the rural Sinhalas are more strongly in favour of a negotiated settlement as compared to the urban Sinhalas.

More people now say that they have gained by the peace process as compared to September 2005. In September 2005, 57 per cent said that they had gained by the peace process. But in February-March 2006, the figure had gone up to 67 per cent.

Seventy-two per cent said that the Geneva talks held in February this year were a success.

However, there was a marked difference between the rural and urban Sinhalase in this regard. It is the rural Sinhalas who were the more optimistic about Geneva.

Increasing acceptability of Norway

Peace Facilitator Norway has improved its image among the Sinhalas.

In November 2005, at the time of the presidential elections, only 26 per cent thought that the Norwegians were doing a good job. But in February-March 2006, the percentage had gone up to 44 per cent.

The Sinhalas seem to continue to have a somewhat dim view of the Norwegian Peace Envoy, Erik Solheim.

Only 38 per cent of the respondents, who were aware of Solheim's role in the on-going peace process, thought that he was doing a good job. 45 per cent said that they were dissatisfied.

Peiris says that fuller acceptance of Norway as the peace facilitator will depend on what steps the Norwegian government takes to raise the level of confidence that the Sinhala community has in Solheim.

Peiris concludes by saying that the coming weeks will show the extent to which President Rajapaksa is able to use the prevailing favourable climate among the Sinhala masses to successfully push the peace process forward, regardless of his hard line political allies like the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) and the Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU).

First Published: Mar 17, 2006 12:27 IST