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Thursday, 24 August, 2000, 10:20 GMT 11:20 UK
Sri Lanka: Time for constitutional reform?

A solution to the conflict in Sri Lanka seems no closer.
South Asia
For 17 years, groups linked to the Tamil minority in the north have waged a violent campaign to push for self-rule.

Should opposition Members of Parliament accept the proposed constitutional changes in a bid to end the conflict?

Should more autonomy be given to Tamil majority areas? Can a political agreement be reached with such groups?

A World Today debate on this subject will be broadcast on BBC World Service Radio on Thursday 24 August at 0045 and 0245 GMT. A selection of your emails will be read out during the debate and on daily on the programme leading up to the debate at 0040GMT and 0240 GMT. HAVE YOUR SAY

The nationalistic movement has to have realistic objectives

Rajiv, USA
Nationalistic ideology always stems from the reality of suppression and subjugation. The crisis in Sri Lanka is no different. However, the nationalistic movement has to have realistic objectives too. The concept of 2 states in the tiny paradise island appears to be a farfetched idea. Constitutional reforms and the enforcement of the political process is the only dignified solution towards peace for both, the Singhalas and Tamils.
Rajiv, USA

Let's face the facts; the Tamils have been facing an uphill battle against the constitution. So change the constitution and try to set things right. However, this does not imply increased autonomy to the Tamils. Every minority in every country in the world can't be given a separate state or increased autonomy.
Shailesh, India

The ethnic problem existed even before the independence of the country from Britain. However, at the time of independence Tamils trusted the Singhalese as their brothers and that trust was misused time and again. I think that trust can only be re-established when Tamils and Singhalese are equal partners and good neighbours in two separate countries.
Chinniah, Australia

Is it not time we learnt to live together peacefully rather than kill one another?

Sampath Fernando, Canada
Is it not time we learnt to live together peacefully rather than kill one another? In my opinion Singhalese and Tamils have more in common than differences. We share important cultural events, traditions, music and art. Many of us have relatives from both communities and almost everyone has good friends.
Sampath Fernando, Canada

It is only Tamils who want to divide the country and need a separate state whereas in Colombo and other areas, Singhalese and Tamils live together peacefully.
Nihal Adikari, Sri Lanka

Armed struggle never solves anything. I would say that Malaysia has a very good system the Tamils in Sri Lanka should follow. So while Malaysia continues to attract many foreign companies who set up plants in a peaceful country, Sri Lanka is in turmoil with no development and the standard of living of the Tamils in Jaffna slides even further.
Gopal Sambamurthy, Malaysia

There is a need for statesmanship, which is sadly lacking on both sides of the ethnic divide. There will be no lasting solution to the bloodshed unless people decide what's right for Sri Lanka and not just what is best for each individual community.
Dinesh, Sri Lanka

Given a chance, the Tamils of Sri Lanka will choose to overcome their problems by the ballot rather than the bullet

Kavan, USA
Dividing a small island (240 miles by 140) where the "different" communities live side by side, will make matters worse. It will only help the LTTE and other extreme elements and never bring peace to the Tamils, Muslims (let's not forget them) nor the Singhalese. I suspect most minorities around the world have grievances. Given a chance, the Tamils of Sri Lanka will choose to overcome their problems by the ballot rather than the bullet.
Kavan, USA

It is beyond me to see why the Buddhist monks exert so much influence in Sri Lanka's politics. In any case, isn't Buddhism all about love and that sort of thing?
Bill Norella, USA

There cannot be peace and trust until the government begins to treat Singhalese and Tamils as equals. They have think and act Sri Lankans.
Vinod Dawda, UK

The Tamils in Sri Lanka are a minority who enjoy a lot of perks in the Singhala-dominated areas in Colombo and the suburbs. Meanwhile, they also claim a separate state which they say can only belong to them. What the international community is not aware of is that even as a minority, the Tamils have been given equal status.
Dinujaka Ratwatte, Sri Lanka

The Singhalese have ignored the problems faced by the Tamils in the island for the past 50 years. Any constitutional change is too late now. The only permanent solution is to separate the country.
Andrew Evans, France

I am a Sri Lankan Tamil and live in Colombo side by side amongst the Singhalese, the Muslims, the Malays, the Burghers, the Chinese and the Indian traders. I have no problem mixing with this multicultural crowd and recognising that Sri Lanka is the only country in the world that gives national holidays to every religion.
Thulasi Sathyananda, Sri Lanka

Tamils should be given more autonomy but they also need to understand that they are part of the Sri Lankan family and should not abuse what has been given them by the majority through a democratically elected government. It is important to bear in mind that the LTTE has not agreed to the new measures and is not the true representative of the majority of Tamil people.
H. Rodrigo, Sri Lanka

The only option left to Tamils is to go it alone

Devan, UK
The only option left to Tamils is to go it alone and establish a separate state - there is no other solution.
Devan, UK

The devolution of power should be similar to that found in Scotland, whereby the Scots manage their own affairs while continuing to participate at the central (Union) Parliament on common issues.
Vish, India/ USA

The Tamils waged democratic war for some 30 years before resorting to armed struggle for the last 20. The world needs to recognise the legitimacy of their cause. Cultural genocide has been transforming the island and Eelam is the permanent solution.
Hari Haran Siva, USA

As a Tamil from Jaffna, my childhood memories are of living in an land occupied by an alien army, who do not speak our language or practice our way of life. When you are shot, hacked to death and bombed by the Sri Lankan security forces, how can anyone including the Sri Lankans expect us to be citizens of Sri Lanka?
Sivalingam, UK

From what I have read and heard, there's only one thing that I can conclude - neither the Tamil Tigers nor the Sri Lankan Government want a compromise. There's too much at stake for them as the Tigers want to keep fighting until they get a separate state and the Government has its pockets filled by rich arms dealers.
Giri Giritharan, Australia

Interestingly, the Tamil parties do not support these changes, saying that the reforms don't go far enough. Sinhala organisations oppose these changes, suggesting that they give too much to Tamils and LTTE stayed away. In the end, the Government seems to have chickened out. Now, whose fault is this?
Bala Vigneswaran, Australia

Tamils in Sri Lanka have the same privileges as the majority Singhalese. When the terrorists started their activities, the Tamils moved to live among the Singhalese in the south. This is proof that the Singhalese do not discriminate or harass them. As this is a small island, there is no need for devolution of power in such a way. It only needs international support to end the terrorism.
Vishvajith Wijesinghe, Canada

It is obvious that the politicians in Sri Lanka are more interested in holding on to power than resolving a problem

Douglas, UK
It is obvious that the politicians in Sri Lanka are more interested in holding on to power than resolving a problem which has claimed lives, driven talented individuals to other countries and has left Sri Lanka still as a Third world country.
The masses seem to care more about oppressing the minority and about there pride than actually moving the country forward and joining the 21st century...and the politicians just follow the masses. Separate state for the Tamils is the only solution for both the races.
Douglas, UK

The Singhalese do not understand the word 'justice'. Their politicians will never be able to pass a federal state system because of their "noble" Buddhist Monks and its people. Even the 'rubber stamp council put forward by this president failed. The LTTE offers the only practical solution to this otherwise never-ending conflict.
Krishan Canagasabey, UK

Sri Lanka can achieve a permanent peace only if substantial autonomy is provided for the Tamil minority, and an attitude of inclusiveness is emphasised. The common history of both the Tamils and the Sinhalese have to be stressed in schools, rather than crowing about ancient inter-ethnic wars as has been done until now. It is also important to marginalise the radicals in both communities to effect a lasting solution.
Shiran Vyasa, Canada

The so-called Devolution Package is nothing but an idea/scheme to hoodwink ever-gullible international community (especially the donor countries). Mrs. Chandrika Kumaratunge is not really worried about addressing the ethnic conflict, because she's also another one on the long list of Sinhala leaders who pander to the Sinhala chauvinists for their political survival. After all these years of suffering our people have endured, the only meaningful solution is the creation of Tamil Eelam.
S.Pillai Pio, Canada

The ethnic crisis in Sri Lanka cannot be solved unless the major Sinhalese parties decide to give the Tamils, internal autonomy and equality. Now it is election time and both the UNP and the PA will vie with each other in "Tamil bashing" to win votes. Further unless the Buddhist monks, who the late leader of the LSSP called the "yellow menace" keep away from politics, the carnage in Sri Lanka will continue.
Robert, Australia

The proposed devolution of power does not even address the basic question of the Tamils' right to self-determination

Andrew Lawrence, USA
The government of Sri Lanka does not have the strength, willpower, honesty nor the vision to solve the ethnic problem by giving equal rights to Tamils. It just plays election-time politics where it tries to appease the masses immediately before the elections. It also tries to appease the international community while pursuing a destructive warpath. The proposed devolution of power does not even address the basic question of the Tamils' right to self-determination.
Andrew Lawrence, USA

I believe that the International Community should apply pressure on the Sri Lankan government to recognise the Tamil homelands in the north and east of Sri Lanka. Until then, the war will continue. It is sad to note countries like the US, Russia, India and Pakistan providing military support to the Sri Lankan government despite there being a lot of incidents of human rights violation.
David Peace Lover, Australia

As long as the Buddhist monks play an active role in SL politics, there will be no peaceful solution to this conflict. The government could not even satisfy the Tamil parties in the parliament, how can they satisfy the LTTE and the Tamils? The aim of this constitutional reform is to fool the international community in order to get more money for their war.
Anpan Rajan, USA

Nobody can be fooled that an agreement between government and the opposition will bring about peace, unless the warring parties are brought to the negotiating table. It's the government who has really benefited from this whole exercise.
Sathyanathan Illangeswaran, Australia

Clearly, giving political autonomy to the north and eastern areas makes sense. It is very silly not to do it since this present Sri Lankan govt has been pressing India to make India-Sri Lanka a free trade zone. It is ridiculous on the part of Sri Lanka to ask for open access to India but deny the same to the Tamil dominated parts of India/ Sri Lanka.
Ashesh, USA

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See also:

09 Aug 00 | South Asia
Sri Lanka to pursue peace effort
08 Aug 00 | South Asia
Setback for Sri Lanka peace hopes
10 Jul 00 | South Asia
Olive branch to Tamil Tigers
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