ELECTIONS come and go but the Government has a new set of challenges this week that will test it seriously. Quick on the heels of the poll comes the UN review mission that is here to decide on the Government’s progress on reconciliation and implementation of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC).
Before this visit is the arrival of the United States Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Robert O. Blake, who will be in town for a short two days that will see him meeting External Affairs Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris. Blake will no doubt be keen to update himself of the progress the Government has made in the Action Plan launched early last month that outlines the process for the LLRC implementation.
Blake will also hold a roundtable with civil society representatives and meet with business community leaders at the American Chamber of Commerce in Colombo, followed by a press conference at the American Center. Both these meetings could pose a challenge to the Government that has been under increased pressure from stakeholders to fast track a solution to the ethnic issue.
Readers will remember that the US backed resolution on Sri Lanka was carried through largely because it was supported by India. Therefore the two back to back visits will also push the Government to put forward its most impressive commitments to finding a political solution. One aspect that is sure to come under the limelight is the stalled talks between the Government and the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) and the possibility of their resumption.
Providing convincing progress on the reconciliation front will be helped by the provincial council election win, which will help the Government legitimise itself before the international community. Another silver lining is the ongoing Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference that gives the chance for the government to showcase its post-war progress to 54 nations.
With this in mind, the Government is encouraging nearly 800 participants to travel to the north and east regions to see for themselves the progress that has been achieved during the past three years. This is likely to provide a balance if Blake and the UN review mission should point out shortcomings in the reconciliation process.
Using China to counterbalance India and the international community is a strategy that Sri Lanka has used well in the past and no doubt plans to set it in motion once again with the arrival of the Chinese People’s Congress Vice President U. Bango. It is reported that he will be arriving with a strong delegation of about 100 officials and businessmen.
This is the second high profile visit from China in the space of three weeks after Defence Minister General Liang Guanglie, pointing to stronger relations between the two countries. It is also the first time that two such high profile officials have toured Sri Lanka within such a short period of time.
With an ever-increasing number of projects under China funding and growing interests between the two countries, it is likely that the Sri Lankan Government will bank on its ally’s support to iron out any issues that might be raised by India or the US.