Sri Lanka’s President Maithripala Sirisena in an interview speaking on his achievements, challenges, and the importance of a judicial mechanism, stressed that he seeks to have the confidence of Tamils.
Emphasizing his commitment to resolving Sri Lanka’s Tamil question, Sirisena said he has an obligation to address the concerns of the island’s Tamils, most of whom voted for him.
About 90 percent of the people in Sri Lanka’s Tamil-dominated north voted for him in the January 2015 elections, Sirisena said. “They have confidence in me that I will solve their problems. So it is not only my responsibility, but also my obligation to solve their problems,” he told The Hindu in an exclusive interview on Wednesday at the Presidential Secretariat in Colombo.
Amid growing concern over the apparently slow-paced reconciliation efforts, President Sirisena said: “Reconciliation is not something that can be done in a few days.”
The government’s endeavor must be acceptable to the Sinhalese, Tamils, Muslims and other communities. “That is not an easy task,” he observed.
Asked about accountability for alleged war crimes, which many Tamils believe is integral to reconciliation, President Sirisena ruled out participation of international judges in any probe, as suggested in the UNHRC resolution co-sponsored by Sri Lanka. However, he added: “We can obtain advice from foreign judicial experts.”
He dismissed the view that as leader of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party, running a consensus government with the United National Party, he was facing pressure from the faction led by Mahinda Rajapaksa. “There is no pressure or influence within the party that I cannot withstand.”
In January 2015, nearly six years after Sri Lanka’s brutal civil war ended, President Maithripala Sirisena came to power deposing Mahinda Rajapaksa, on the promise of good governance, the abolition of the executive presidency and reconciliation with the Tamil minority. His election, to many at home and abroad, heralded hope of a new beginning for the country. Almost two years later, he is grappling with old and new challenges — ranging from an open split within the Sri Lanka Freedom Party he leads, to the frictions of coalition politics in the country’s first national unity government, to growing impatience of the Northern polity — even as he tries to move ahead with his reformist agenda.
Speaking to The Hindu in Colombo, President Sirisena discusses the progress made so far, the problems that linger, and his political vision for Sri Lanka.