Peace beneficial, says majority

By Ranga Jayasuriya
Published January 7th 2004 in Sri Lanka Daily News

The majority of Sri Lankans believe a lasting peace will bring peace dividends of which economic benefits are the most sought after by the public, according to the latest opinion survey by the Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA).

A close to a majority (43%) believes that peace will bring a lot of benefits and another 40% say it will bring at least some benefits. Only 10% say that peace will bring very few benefits, the survey titled Social Indicators have revealed. Two thousand nine hundred and eighty people have been interviewed in the survey. When asked who will benefit most from a final solution, the majority of respondents (51%) say that everyone will benefit equally. Only 19 percent say that Tamils will benefits most, 16% say those affected by the war and 8% say the majority Sinhalese will enjoy the greatest benefits.

Asked to list the benefits from peace, economic benefits (37%) rank on the top followed by freedom from violence (35%).

The survey has also revealed that Sri Lankans are divided about the peace process including on their willingness to compromise and also their readiness to protest against a final agreement that they think is unfair,

Most Sri Lankans are willing to make at least some changes to the status quo for the sake of peace and a substantial minority is willing to make multiple proposals, the opinion poll known as Social Indicator revealed.

Opinion is divided on the topic of federalism. However, with little support for asymmetric federalism, amnesty for political crimes or a rotating presidency.

Forty four percent supported an increase of powers for the regional governments even if those of the government at the centre have to be decreased whereas an equal percentage disagree with the proposal 21 percent vehemently.

Only 18 percent expressed agreement to a form of asymmetric federalism in contrast to massive 68 percent disagreeing including a strong 36 percent.

A Rotating Presidency - where the President for one term will be someone from one ethnic group and the next term by someone from another ethnic group-enjoys only 24 percent support while 65 percent disagree.

A Majority of respondents support the increase of the rights of local minorities, even if the majority disagrees. Only 12 percent disagree or strongly disagree with the proposal.

A substantial majority of citizens also say that for the sake of peace, they are willing to accept some form of proportional representation based on ethnicity in Parliament.

There is broad support for each ethnic group to have the right to elect a certain number of members to the Parliament. In contrast to the massive 62% consent, only 26 disagree and 12 are undecided.

Overall two-thirds of Sri Lankans either embrace multiple proposals for peace or indicate they are willing to accept (i.e. unwilling to protest), a final agreement even if they do not think that is fair.

Support for the peace proposals is predictably varying based on ethnicity. The majority of Sinhala respondents oppose most peace proposals while the majority of Tamils, Up Country Tamils and Muslims support the majority of proposals.

The strongest opposition to the peace proposals are concentrated not in the South, but in the North Central and North West regions bordering LTTE controlled area.