Event ReportsPublished on Oct 15, 2010
Sri Lanka is considering a power-sharing mechanism at the Centre, said Prof. G.L. Peiris, Sri Lanka's External Affairs Minister, while delivering the second R.K. Mishra Memorial Lecture in New Delhi.
Power-sharing at the Centre in Sri Lanka vital, says Prof. Peiris

Sri Lanka is considering power-sharing mechanism at the Centre, said Prof. G.L. Peiris, Sri Lanka’s External Affairs Minister, while delivering the second R.K. Mishra Memorial Lecture at the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library on 15 October 2010. He noted that Sri Lanka needs a “hybrid system” that combines both first-past-the-post system and proportional representation system. He said that the country has experimented with both systems and likened it to a “constitution museum”. Prof. Peiris pointed out that in devolution of power, the structure is incomplete and there was need for mechanism for sharing of power at the Centre in Sri Lanka.

In his opening remarks, Mr. M. Rasgotra, President, ORF Centre for International Relations, described Mr. R.K. Mishra as a thinker and scholar statesman. He noted that Mr. Mishra wanted to build a think tank of international repute and founded the Observer Research Foundation. He also pointed out that the topic of Prof. Peiris’ lecture “Growth, Equity and Security: Constitutional Imperatives in South Asia” was apt as South Asia was one of the areas very dear to Mr. Mishra.

Prof. Peiris described Mr. Mishra as a “repository of knowledge” and a person “passionate about public discussion” whose contribution to public discussions were of “the highest quality.” Prof. Peiris focused his lecture on the recent developments in Sri Lanka. He pointed out that after decades of civil war, the people of Sri Lanka have been “celebrating their emancipation from terror”. He noted that this process has to be strengthened and that there are both external and internal dimensions of security in strengthening this process.

At the external level, he said the government of Sri Lanka has been cooperating with other countries in maritime security and safeguarding sea lanes. Another external factor, he said, was to reach out to the Tamil diaspora and engage them to play a role in rebuilding the northern and eastern parts of the country. He noted that there has been positive response from the diaspora community. On the internal dimension of security, he said the government has been working on the resettlement of displaced persons as a result of the war. The Sri Lankan government has also been working on building credible interlocutors among the Tamils to find a resolution to problems.

Prof. Peiris noted that the Sri Lankan government had adopted a post-conflict strategy combining political, social, economic and cultural measures. The economic growth rate of the country increased to 8.5 per cent in the second quarter of this year, he noted. In the South Asian context, Prof. Peiris said that the role of the state in the economic growth was “indispensable” and that state intervention was required. “Growth has to go hand in hand with equity and the government has a critical role to play”, Prof. Peiris said.

Citing the Sri Lankan case, he noted that the government was able to achieve growth with equity by its massive investment in infrastructure, which he said was the “surest way to bring economic development to the poor”. The other step initiated by the government was “direct action” or affirmative measures such as free education. Prof. Peiris pointed out that to ensure access to education for the underprivileged was through the quota system. The quota system, he said, should to be for those sections of society who had suffered “historical injustice”.

Prof. Peiris also spoke about the judicial role. He pointed out that the Indian Supreme Court has been able to devise mechanisms to make the legislature responsible. Mr. Lalit Bhasin, ORF Trustee, said the judiciary in India has played vital role but there were aspects that need to be addressed including long delays of cases and lack of transparency, particularly in areas of appointment of justices. The lecture was attended by several distinguished politicians, diplomats, journalists and scholars. (This report has been prepared by K. Yhome, Associate Fellow, ORF)

Text of the Lecture delivered by Prof. Peiris

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