Sri Lanka president offers pre-vote concessions to Tamils

January 12, 2010 (AFP) – Sri Lanka’s president on Tuesday offered concessions to ethnic Tamil demands for greater autonomy ahead of elections in which the minority community could play a decisive role. But as the architect of the military victory, Fonseka can also lay claim to credit for ending the conflict.

Fonseka has offered to scrap the all-powerful presidential system and revert to a parliamentary democracy, while Rajapakse is offering more representation for minority Tamils in new legislative arrangements.

“All this will require amending the constitution and seeking the approval of the people at a referendum,” Rajapakse said. “The ordinary people simply want to live in peace, but there is a demand and a need for a political settlement.” President Mahinda Rajapakse, who is seeking a second term, said he was proposing power-sharing arrangements to give minority Tamils a greater say in the legislature and address long-standing demands for devolution of power.

Tamils account for 12.5 percent of Sri Lanka’s 20 million population and have long pushed for regional autonomy.

The quest for an independent homeland was the main plank of a decades-long armed insurgency by Tamil Tiger separ