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Thursday, July 29, 1999 Published at 15:56 GMT 16:56 UK

World: South Asia

Analysis: Sri Lanka's voice of moderation

The conflict in Sri Lanka has so far defied a solution

By South Asia analyst Rashmee Ahmed

In the death of Neelan Thiruchelvam, the Sri Lankan peace process - such as it was - has lost an important link between the Sinhala and Tamil communities.

Mr Thiruchelvam was a leading member of the Tamil United Liberation Front, which is accused by the LTTE of betraying Tamil interests.

He entered parliament through the indirectly-elected national list and could, therefore, hardly be called a mass leader.

But he was a moderate and reasonable politician who used his expertise in constitutional law to argue for constitutional reform and greater flexibility in the devolution of power on the Scottish and Welsh pattern.

[ image: President Kumartunga: Mr Thiruchelvam was a close ally]
President Kumartunga: Mr Thiruchelvam was a close ally
Mr Thiruchelvam, who was known to be a close ally of the Sri Lankan President Chandrika Kumaratunga, played an important part in putting together the government's political package - quickly dubbed "The New Deal" - in 1995.

It proposed a wider list of subjects for provincial governments, establishing a structure to resolve disputes between centre and provinces and greater recognition of disparate minority communities.

But in one of his last speeches on the need for a new deal for Sri Lanka, Mr Thiruchelvam warned that even constitutional reform was not enough - instead, politics itself would need to be, in his words, re-imagined, away from the prevailing adversarial culture.

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