Sri Lankan President Ranil Wickremesinghe wants to settle the ethnic conflict with the minority Tamil community by the end of this year. He believes that the country can only move forward with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) bailout if this issue is resolved. The president hopes to reach an agreement by the end of this year to solve the country’s long-drawn ethnic conflict with the government’s commitment to policies that benefit all communities in Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka has witnessed a three-decade-long brutal war with Lankan Tamils in the North and East, which claimed at least 100,000 lives.
Wickremesinghe emphasised that Sri Lanka must try to achieve 6-7 per cent GDP growth. In March, the IMF agreed to release a 2.9 billion dollar economic bailout over four years, which allowed the country to move forward. The president also stressed the need to fully implement the 13th Amendment to the Constitution to grant political autonomy to the minority Tamils in the country. The 13A provides for the devolution of power to the Tamil community in Sri Lanka. India has been pressing Sri Lanka to implement the 13A, which was brought in after the Indo-Sri Lankan agreement of 1987.
Wickremesinghe’s effort to initiate talks with the minority Tamil political groups in order to achieve reconciliation by February 4 did not meet success as the country was grappling with an economic crisis. Although provincial councils were formed and elections were held since 1988, the Tamils say full powers to the councils have not been devolved by the centre. Earlier, the Sinhala majority bitterly opposed 13A, claiming it would lead to the separation of Tamil regions to form their own state. Sinhalese, mostly Buddhist, make up nearly 75 per cent of Sri Lanka’s 22 million population while Tamils make up 15 per cent.