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Home > Struggle for Tamil Eelam > Conflict Resolution: Tamil Eelam - Sri Lanka > All Party Conference, 1983/84 > Sri Lanka Proposals at All Party Conference, 14 December 1984 > Statement by TULF after collapse of All Party Conference, 21 December 1984 > An Assessment by Patricia Hyndman - Report to Law Asia Human Rights Standing Committee, June 1985
All Party Conference, 1983/84
7 June 1985
Due to the disturbances it was not held then, but it was promised again after those disturbances. After many delays the Conference was eventually convened on January 10th, 1984. Nine political parties were invited to participate in the proposed Conference meetings. These parties were: - the All Ceylon Tamil Congress, the Ceylon Workers’ Congress (C.W.C.), Communist Party for Sri Lanka, the Democratic Workers’ Congress (D.W.C.), the Lanka Sama Samaja Party (L.S.S.P.), the Mahajana Eksath Peramuna (M.E.P.), the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (S.L.F.P.), the Tamil United Liberation Front (T.U.L.F.), and the U.N.P. (United National Party), together with a delegation of government ministers.
During the early meetings of the Conference it was decided to enlarge the participation and to invite representative bodies and associations other than political parties. As a result of this decision the following organisations were invited to participate in the deliberations:— the Supreme Council of the Maha Sangha, the Christian Organisations, the Sri Lanka Buddhist Congress, the Sinhala Associations, the Hindu Organisations, the All Ceylon Muslim League and the Council of Muslims of Sri Lanka.
Early in the proceedings two of the political parties, the S.L.F.P. and the M.E.P., withdrew from the deliberations.
The meetings of The All Party Conference were held throughout 1984. During this time there was discussion of various proposals which were put forward for an acceptable scheme of regional autonomy. One proposal, Annexure ‘C’, had been drawn up towards the end of 1983, consequent upon discussions which had been held in Colomho and New Delhi.... It had been agreed as the basis for discussion at the All Party Conference.
Proposals contained within the Annexure include the possibility of an amalgamation of district development councils within a province into regional council. Regional Councils were to have legislative and executive powers over specified subject areas. Details of this proposal were to be worked out later but, as a general policy, the powers of the regional councils were to include the maintenance of internal law and order in the region, the administration of justice, social and economic development, cultural matters and land policy. The regional councils were also to be empowered to levy taxes and mobilise resources through loans, in addition to this means of funding they were to receive allocations of funds from the central government.
Provision was to be made for constituting High Courts in each region. The Supreme Court of Sri Lanka would exercise appellate and constitutional jurisdiction.
In Annexure ‘C’ it was proposed that the membership of the armed forces should reflect the national ethnic composition of the population. At thepresent time Sinhalese form a much higher proportion of the armed forces than their 74% of the total population, and it has been suggested that one way to reduce the tensions between the civilian population of the north and east and the members of the armed forces, would be to post Tamil service men to those regions. It was further proposed that the police forces stationed in the north and east should reflect the ethnic composition of those areas. This has already been tried to some extent in Jaffna. The proportion of Tamil policemen in Jaffna was greatly increased a few years ago, and relations between the civilian population and the police force were reported at the time to have improved a great deal.
It was proposed that Trincomalee port and harbour should be administered by a port authority which would be controlled by the central government.
It was agreed that a national policy on land settlement, and the basis on which the government is to undertake land colonisation in the future, would have to he worked out. The proposal was that settlement schemes should he based on ethnic proportions so as not to alter the demographic balance. Agreement was to he reached upon settlement schemes for major projects.
It was agreed that the present laws concerning the Sinhala and Tarnil languages were to he accepted and implemented.
Despite general agreement at the outset upon these important basic premises, the All Party Conference collapsed in acrimony, without any agreement having been reached in December, 1984.
On December 14th, before this happened, the President set forth specific proposals in the form of draft legislation: the Tenth Amendment, the District and Provincial Councils Bill, and the Local Authorities Bill - which together contained a proposal for local authorities, and further tiers of District and Provincial Councils. The Tenth Amendment also contained a proposal for the establishment of a second chamber of Parliament, to be called the Council of State, with seventy-five members to be mainly appointed from the District Councils...
In putting the draft legislation before the All Party Conference, and commending it to the careful consideration of all the delegates, the President described it as representing the considered views emerging from the negotiations. On December 21st, President Jayewardene told the All Party Conference Plenary Sessions that the leaders of all the delegations which had attended the sessions had agreed to his decision to put forward the legislation, saying that no objection to this step had been made by any delegate.
The President’s position on subsequent events is outlined in the following terms in the address which he made to Parliament on February 20th,1985,
December that the proposals are totally unacceptable to the Tamil people. At its meeting on Wednesday 26th December 1984, the Cabinet therefore decided that, as the TULF has said that there was no purpose in discussing these proposals further, nothing could be achieved in discussing or arriving at a decision on them and therefore the Government will not implement these proposals”
In conversations which I had with Mr. A. Amirthalingam when he visited Sydney in May, 1985, he told me that the T.U.L.F. had been consistent in its position throughout the negotiations that proposals such as those put forward by the President in mid-December would not be acceptable. He said the statement to the effect that the T.U.L.F. had accepted, and then suddenly rejected, these proposals was incorrect...
On Sunday, December 23rd, The Island reported,
and the SLFP leader Mrs. Sirima Bandaranaika yesterday issued statements rejecting the proposals put forward by the government, for a solution to the communal problem following the Round Table Conference.
Mr. Mathew questioned the introduction of the Second Chamber, the position of Buddhism under the proposed amendments, the powers vested in District Councils and the official language used in District Councils under the proposed legislation.
Mrs. Bandaranaike said the legislation would not be a basis for a political solution, while the TULF said the proposed legislation would not result in autonomy or a genuine devolution of power ...
Mr. Mathew said ... he was ‘unable to advise anyone to agree with the proposed legislation’ on the ethnic problem ...“
The Daily News, of Sunday, December 24th, reported,
Later, the L.S.S.P., (Lanka Sama Samaja Party), the Communist party and the S.L.M.P. (Sri Lanka Mahajana Party), were reported in The Island, February 10th, as saying,
the UNP government has not shown any serious desire to find a just and democratic settlement of estranged and embittered ethnic relations through political dialogue. Instead, it has followed policies that have made matters much worse and strengthened racist, divisive and separatist tendencies.
It dragged on the Round Table Conference for nearly a year and terminated it abruptly after the President had presented his own proposals in the form of a draft Parliamentary Bill. In these proposals, both the suggested devolution of powers from the centre and the twist sought to be given to them by the creation of a Second Chamber were designed more to perpetuate the ruling party in power than to find a lasting settlement to the ethnic problem. Even so, these proposals were repudiated by the President’s own cabinet and party which untruthfully sought to pretend that they emanated from the Round Table Conference and not from the President.”
Mr. N. Sanmugathasan, General Secretary of the Communist party, gave a press statement on the All Party Conference which was reported in the Saturday Review, an English language newspaper based in Jaffna, on 12th January as follows,
irs in the Northern and Eastern Province. But the autonomy must be real ..."
This is the crucial factor, that, to provide any possibility of a solution to the present problems, the autonomy conferred must be real. An examination of the proposed legislation reveals that it is too far removed from conferring any real devolution of power to ever have had any prospect of being acceptable to the Tamil people.
It is urged that immediate consideration be given to the provision of genuine regional autonomy. From conversations which I had in February, 1985, with Tamils from different sectors of society it was plain that many still feel that real devolution of power would be an acceptable alternative to a separate state. However, the longer the passage of time which is allowed to elapse before effective regional autonomy is granted, the more likely it is that more and more Tamils will refuse to compromise upon the demand for a separate state."