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Majority of Lankans want military solution to ethnic conflict

A poll finds great support for military solution to the conflict, reports PK Balachandran.

world Updated: Apr 05, 2007 12:10 IST

The latest opinion poll conducted by the Colombo-based Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA) has found that there is great support for a military solution of the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka among the majority Sinhala community, and that such support has risen "dramatically" since the last opinion poll in November 2006.

"Support for a military solution continues to rise dramatically amongst the Sinhala community with well over half of those polled (59.2 per cent) in support of a military solution," the CPA says in its website

In the last poll in November 2006, the level of support for this policy had been 55 per cent.

Not an all-island poll

The poll was not all-island, and did not include the Sri Lankan Tamil community, a substantial part of which lives in the war-torn Northern and Eastern districts.

It included only three communities, namely the Sinhalas, the minority Muslims and Up-country Tamils of Indian Origin (UTIO).

However, the survey does give a clue to the thinking of the most important political constituency in Sri Lanka, the Sinhalas, and a section of the minorities.

All out war was not supported by the UTIO and the Muslims. It was opposed by 87.9 per cent of UTIO and 50 per cent of the Muslims.

When asked if peace could be got through talks, only 46 per cent of the Sinhalas answered in the affirmative. In contrast, 88 per cent of the Muslims and 95 per cent of the UTIO believed in the efficacy of peace talks.

Nearly 50 per cent of the Sinhala community is confident that President Mahinda Rajapaksa will be able to end the conflict, the survey conducted in February says.

The level of confidence in this regard had gone up from 26.3 per cent in November 2006 to 48 per cent in February 2007.

Rajapaksa, man of peace

However, 73.8 per cent of the Sinhalas feel that Rajapaksa is essentially a man of peace, committed to finding peace through talks, though he has the capability to win a war.

Nearly 80 per cent of the Sinhalas said that the Rajapaksa government was committed to the Ceasefire Agreement (CFA). 90 per cent of them said that the LTTE was not.

A little over half of the Muslims (53 per cent) said that Rajapaksa was committed to the CFA, but 68.8 per cent of the UTIO said that he was not. 71.1 per cent of the UTIO felt that the LTTE was committed to the CFA. The Muslims were divided on this issue. The Sinhalas had a dim view of the LTTE.

Clearly, the majority Sinhalas see Rajapaksa as a man of peace who can, at the same time, successfully fight a war.

Minorities favour Indian role

The minorities want foreign facilitation to achieve peace, but the majority community would rather not have foreigners interfering.

76 per cent of the Muslims and UTIO want foreign facilitation. Only 46 per cent of the Sinhalas favour foreign involvement.

The Sinhalas (55 per cent) are not happy with the current peace broker Norway. And 57 per cent of them want to jettison it. But the majority of the minorities (60 per cent) are satisfied with Norway's role.

20.8 per cent of the Sinhalas want India as the mediator and 15 per cent want the US. But India is more favoured by the minorities (57 per cent in the case of the UTIO and 25 per cent in the case of the Muslims).

81 per cent of the UTIO and 65 per cent of the Muslims feel that India's participation in the peace process will be beneficial.

This view is shared by only 46 per cent of the majority community.

Rajapaksa has not violated rights

Sinhalas do not think that Rajapaksa is trampling upon human rights. 53.2 per cent of them are happy with his rights record.

The UTIO, however, have a very dim of his record with 71 per cent not satisfied. The Muslims are sharply divided on the issue.

Lanka's population profile

As per the 2001 census, the Sinhalas are 13.8 million in a total population of 16.8 million (81.9 per cent).

They live mostly in the South, West, and the Central part of the island. The Sri Lankan Tamils of the North and East are 730,000 (4.3 per cent).

The Muslims are 1.3 million (8 per cent) and the Indian Origin Tamils of the Up-country (UTIO) are 856,000 (5 per cent) (see Statistical Pocketbook, Department of Census and Statistics, Govt of Sri Lanka, Colombo, 2004).

First Published: Apr 05, 2007 11:47 IST