To all intents and purposes, the All Party Conference (APC) has seemed a waste of time, with parties playing for time all the time. Periodic boycotts and exits of parties based on factional agendas have added to the delays, and the situation has been made worse by a lack of political will and courage among those in authority.
Now at last there appears to be a ray of hope, coming from a new political climate based on the progress of the war in the north and the performance of various political parties at the recent provincial council elections, not to mention international pressure.
The media reports that the APC has made up its mind to implement the 13th Amendment, and that it is writing to the UNP to ascertain the Opposition’s views on the proposed move.
There is no reason for the UNP to boycott the APC, in the developing context. Their main reason for avoiding the APC is the argument that the government should first table its own proposal before the UNP participates in the work of the committee.
Now that the government has put its cards on the table, the UNP is obliged to attend the APC and participate in a positive way with a view to solving our most vexing national problem, the ethnic conflict.
If the TNA too can make up its mind to attend the APC, the committee would assume a legitimacy it has not possessed so far. The presence of the UNP and the TNA would give the APC a meaning and a clout that would automatically silence the divisive forces that are thriving on the absence of consensus among the major parties.
The presence of the protagonists at the APC is vital. What is important is that they participate. The TNA should know that the 13th Amendment is as close as things are likely to get for now in satisfying the party’s demands. So why not at least consolidate the position they have, and build on it as the situation gets clarified?
A consensus reached by a body representative of the majority of the people would have a legitimacy and a force that could break a deadlock that has lasted for six decades. Political sagacity should convince the TNA that working with the moderate majority, even if is only to disagree with them, is their best guarantee against the roadblocks put in their way by trouble-makers.
If the majority in Parliament agree to the immediate and complete implementation of the 13th Amendment, they would be laying the foundation for building an Edifice of National Harmony.
However unattractive the foundation stone may appear, it is our only choice for now. Once consensus is reached, the parties involved should take an oath to allow it a fair chance and not exploit the situation for their own political advantage.
At this stage it is counter-productive to argue about the ultimate shape of the Edifice of National Harmony. Present constraints may not allow us to visualise its final form, nor do we have at present the men, the material and the environment to complete that mansion.
Our immediate duty should be to lay that foundation stone as soon as possible, and implement policies that would facilitate nation building.