21 October 2017

Division of Sri Lanka for ethnic-autonomy ruled-out – What then are the ‘genuine concerns of the Tamils’

Leaders of a country must have pluck to categorically say what can and what will not be accommodated under whatever terminology it is dressed in. Thus, Sri Lanka’s leaders must say and all others must be made to understand that Sri Lanka will not be divided to be given ethnic self-autonomy under any form. Having said that, given that many claim that only the Tamils have grievances it is now opportune to list these out instead of simply saying they have grievances which are not being addressed. For too long we have wasted years compromising over unjustifiable demands and propaganda that has made everyone believe that the Sinhalese are to be faulted for all ills. None have yet explained why calls for a Tamil state came during colonial rule & before 1956 Sinhala Only Act which even affected Sinhalese & Burghers while calls to take up arms came well before 1983 riots. It should clearly establish that plenty of lies and propaganda has been at play which is why it is important that we stick to facts and demand proper answers without promoting more lies and propaganda.

To understand that a lot of mischief and a lot of mischief makers have been involved in this so-called ‘ethnic problem’ a quote from Prof. A J Wilson is important.

"A second tactic is to destabilize the internal political situation. Political murders, acts of sabotage, and inflammatory and provocative speeches are the established forms and these have been tried. The Sinhalese masses and their lower-level ethnic leadership are needled by such acts and urge their rank and file to take retaliatory action. Nothing is more satisfying to Tamil militants” (p 301 Sri Lanka and its future: Sinhalese versus Tamils).

Its chilling to think how low these Tamil leaders will stoop to which is why it is important to keep these ground realities in any negotiations with them.

1.    The demands by Tamil leaders started well before independence & rooted in the disappointed that 76m world Tamils do not have a State to call their own. Blame the British not the Sinhalese!
2.    Armed militancy & Tamil political aspirations are inter linked.
3.    Tami caste riots have numbered more than the claimed riots by Sinhalese against Tamils (at least 6 such Tamil caste riots before 1956) not to mention Tamil high caste going against the Social Disabilities Act of 1957 opposing the right of Tamil low castes to enter school and study! Tamil leaders even wanted caste included to the constitution
4.    India’s role using Tamil card to leverage its own geopolitical aspirations
5.    West’s role using Tamil minority card to leverage its geopolitical neocon agendas.

The divide & rule legacy
The divide and rule policies of the 3 European Christian occupiers created the menace of communal division that we suffer from today. The superiority complex in the minorities derived from purposely establishing missionary schools in minority areas, giving English missionary education to Tamils and installing them in British controlled government sector. TIME magazine of 5 August 1966 indicates the creation of an ‘administrative overclass’ 

Prof. S Arasaratnam says there were over 10,000 Tamil public servants in the British administration. “You Sinhalese govern but it is we Tamils who rule” (K C Nithyanada) In other words it mean that Tamils have the ability to rule whoever governs the country. How right he is.

Yet there are scholars from Prof. A J Wilson to Prof. S Arasaratnam accept that Sinhala Buddhism arose and developed as an anti-Western and anti-Colonial force and not against Tamils.  So why is it that Christian Sinhalese and many others always want to blame the Sinhala Buddhists!

Tamils were included as Malabars in the 1824 Census under Governor Sir Edward Barnes, where Malabars were 195,697 and total island population was 851,940. In 1835 under Governor Horton the total island population was placed at 1,241,825. In 1857 under Governor Emmerson Tenet the total population was 1,697,975. This figure excluded the Europeans, their families and the Malays. 1881 Census showed a population 2,759,738.

The Census of 1901 was taken under the superintendence of Mr. P. Arunachalam & the population showed a substantial increase 3,565,954. The census of 1911 was 4,106,350 an increase of 71% to 1871 census. It was only during the 1911 Census that 2 categories of Tamils emerged separated by Ponnambalam Arunachalam. Those born in Ceylon were to be called Ceylon Tamils & Tamils born in India were to be called Indian Tamils

It was Governor Manner who began encouraging ‘communal representation’ promoting minority & majority politics.

The facts – Tamil Language
Before Portuguese, Dutch, British invaded and ruled parts or all of Sri Lanka – Tamil language was NEVER the official language in Sri Lanka.
After Portuguese, Dutch, British rule – the Tamil language was NEVER an official language in Sri Lanka or even language of administration. Where then is the grievance that Tamils can use that the Tamil language was discriminated? Wheras, Sinhala language was used by rulers before foreign invasions. Sinhala language lost its official status following foreign occupation.

The facts – Sinhala Language & Buddhism
The Official Language Act no 33 of 1956 declared Sinhala language ‘shall be the one official language of Ceylon.’ But the ACT was to come into effect only on 1 January 1964. It was abrogated and never fully implemented while reasonable use of the Tamil Language was also enacted in 1958. Contrary to the promotion being made that it was purposely targeting Tamils, the Act forced Sinhalese who had been studying in English to learn Sinhala too and the Burghers had to learn Sinhalese as well. Therefore, it is a fallacious assumption that the Sinhala Only Act was meant to target only Tamils.

While everyone loves to snub SWRD for bringing the Sinhala Only, it would come as a shock to UNPers to know that JR Jayawardena in 1944 brought a motion to the State Council that Sinhala should be made the only official language.!

The 1815 Kandyan Convention key clause included the commitment by the British to retain the foremost place to Buddhism – no such commitment was made by British to any other faith. The Kandyan Convention was signed between the Sinhale rulers & the British. Had there been a separate Tamil kingdom as is promoted the British should have signed a separate agreement with them which they did not!

The facts on Tamil separatist demands  

Demands for a Tamil Nation, Tamil state came about well BEFORE the 1956 supposed official language act.

In 1923 Ceylon Tamil League was formed by Ponnambalam Arunachalam.

Politics of caste was prominent over politics of race. Racial representation was begun by the British, who appointed representatives to the Legislative council, based on race and restricted to the ""highest" castes. The Sinhalese were further split into Low-country and Kandyan, an existing division which was exploited to weaken their power.

In 1927 when the Donoughmore Commission was about to offer Universal Franchise giving everyone a right to vote irrespective of caste, the Tamils were first to oppose because they realized that they would lose their dominant position. GG Ponnambalam began a campaign against Universal Franchise & the Sinhalese. It was during a Nawalapitiya meeting when he was attacking the Sinhalese that the first Sinhala-Tamil riots broke out in 1939. This led to SWRD forming the Sinhala Maha Sabha adopting the Sinhala national dress that led to the temperance movement. The takeaway from this is to highlight that it was Tamil action that resulted in Sinhala reaction.

G G Ponnambalam demanded 50-50 representation when Sinhalese were 75% of population and minorities were 15%. This culminated in the formation of the All Ceylon Tamil Congress in 1944. What is not mentioned often is that when GGPonnambalam demanded the absurd 50-50 the Sinhala Board of Ministers offered a ratio of 57 to 43 which was refused and many Tamil leaders believe that had that been accepted the 1949 ITAK demanding a separate Tamil state or Vaddukoddai Resolution may not have resulted. The same is said of the offer by Chandrika to Prabakaran to reign for 10 years without election!

The Ceylon Tamil Congress alleged before the Soulbury Commission that between 1931 and 1943, out of a total expenditure of about eleven and a half million rupees on major irrigation works, the Northern and Eastern Provinces (where the Tamils are most numerous) received a little more than two million rupees or about nineteen per cent of the total. Exactly similar to the lies present day Tamil leaders promote.

1935 Hansard (column 3045) shows Ponnambalam Arunachalam claiming to be a proud Dravidian rejecting Ceylonese concept that embraced all ethnic groups (ref Dr. Jane Russell, Communal Politics under the Donoughmore Constitution). Nothing to be surprised GG Ponnambalam says ‘We are not Ceylonese we are Dravidians’. Ok fine, but then why ask a homeland in Sri Lanka!

The racism of GG Ponnambalam included opposition to universal franchise, demanding 50-50 representation, upholding caste system making visits to London to include caste system in the constitution! Promoting notion that Tamils ruled Sinhalese and Vijaya was a Tamil and King Parakramabahu was Tamil. No different to Wignesaran claiming King Devanampiyatissa was a Tamil. Ponnambalam refused to accept Tamils as a minority on account of his Dravida allegiance. Racism was fashionable in Europe in 1930s and GG imported it to Sri Lanka to replace casteism. It was because D S Senanayake craftily managed to get GG to the UNP camp that Chelvanayagam went on to form ITAK in 1949 –Arasu meaning League of Tamil Federations (the present confederal demands aligns perfectly with this objective)

E. M. V. Naganathan (born in Madras & ITAK’S Secretary & President in 1966) claimed he was a descendant of the Cholas. It may be opportune to make a list of all the obnoxious claims by these Tamil leaders over the years!

A separate Tamil identity was promoted by the ITAK and they began to invent grievances which was meant to purposely provoke the majority.

We seem to have also conveniently forgotten that ITAK in fact did seek a separate Tamil autonomous state in 1973. To strengthen this in 1975 ITAK joined hands with TULF and culminated in the 1976 Vaddukoddai Resolution. Noteworthy too is the assassination of SLFP Tamil Mayor of Jaffna Alfred Duraiappah in 1975.

TULF contested the 1977 General Elections on the separatist ticket. Registered voters were 6,667,589 and TULF won 421,488 with 18 seats (Tamil population was roughly 1.1m). TULF formed an alliance with the Indian-backed paramilitary groups, Eelam National Democratic Liberation Front (ENDLF), Eelam People's Revolutionary Liberation Front (EPRLF) and Tamil Eelam Liberation Organization (TELO), to contest the 15 February 1989 election. But it secured only 188,593 votes! At the 1994 General elections too TULF won only 132,461 votes. The vote patterns do not show Tamil general public to be aligning with the racism of their leaders!

What we have is the continuous of what GGPonnambalam began claiming that Tamils ruled Sinhalese & Sinhalese were offshoot of the Tamils none of which he or any other could prove!

This is how GG Ponnambalam scored at elections he contested.
1947 General Elections. Registered voters - 3,048,145 / 14,324 votes(46% voter turnout)

1952 General Elections. Registered voters - 2,990,912 / 12,726 votes from Jaffna (71% voter turnout)

1965 General Elections. Registered voters - 4,710,887 / 9,350 votes from Jaffna

Even S. J. V. Chelvanayakam contesting Kankasanthurai received only 12,126 votes

Even TNA in 2001 received only 348,164 but ended up getting 15 seats! While in 2004 TNA received 633,654 though the European Election Monitors in their report established LTTE and TNA as one and the same.
In 2010 TNA obtained 233,190 but got 14 seats (14million registered voters)
In 2015 TNA obtained 515,963 and got 16 seats (15million registered voters).

And there are supposed to be 2.2million Tamils in Sri Lanka.

What is noteworthy is that far from these racist Tamil leaders being accepted by the Tamil people the results at elections shows clearly that the Tamil people have rejected them. This is also evident when taking the election results of the TNA. So, why are Sinhala leaders and supposedly smart political analysts trying to promote Tamil racist politicians whom the general public resents and rejects. Why are we even accommodating the demands of these racist leaders?

What is important to this discussion is that it is the Tamils that on their own sought to separate without any solid reasons for doing so and create the fictitious and mythical background for doing so. One or two incidents surely does not warrant any minority group to be seeking separation while reserving the rights to remain & live in all parts of the island!

These actions are crucial to understanding the root causes of the issue and why these aspects need to be dealt with first. There is no better time than now to stop the compromising based on lies and myths and to ask these leaders to lay down the exact grievances they have without continuing to live in a cuckoo land.

What is clear is that the quest for a separate Tamil state first initiated in Tamil Nadu was passed on to Sri Lanka well before independence and 1956 Language Act and its link to militancy emerged with the 1976 Vaddukoddai Resolution again before 1983 riots. No constitution can be allowed to incorporate any of these separatist demands under whatever nomenclatures it is promoted. Advisors cannot bring Euro-Centric international terminologies that they have coined for their benefit and plug them to Sri Lanka’s scenario. We need to be realistic and practical. Sri Lanka is a small island. India is 48 times larger than us. Whose bright idea is it to bring federal solutions befitting countries the size of India to Sri Lanka? To even consider this as a compromise replacing unitary with federal is ridiculous. These compromises will bring further chaos and therefore what needs to be asked is to completely thrown out all of the past solutions and compromises and to start afresh by coming out with what the Tamils are suffer that other communities do not. Without this basic and fundamental questions answered we are going nowhere. In terms of a viable solution what needs to be said is that we don’t need political solutions (these are to benefit politicians only) we need administrative solutions that directly affect and will solve 90% of the problems the general public faces on a daily basis)

Some memorable excerpts

‘Take the Sinhalese nation. I have served the race all my life. In my twenty-eighth year I entered the Legislative Council and never once have I thought myself to be a member of the Tamil community only — I supported the Sinhalese interests and every other interest and treated every subject with the same sympathy and desire to do the best for all communities. I knew through and through the men and women of the Sinhalese community of all classes. They have all the characteristics of a great people. They are decidedly considerate and peaceful.’
Sir Ponnambalam Ramanathan (Tamil Leader)

"The Ceylon Tamils had no written document on the lines of the Mahavamsa to authenticate their singular and separate historical authority in Sri Lanka, a fact which Ceylon Tamil communalists found very irksome". Jane Russel

Shenali D Waduge

19 October 2017

“Federalism bad for Ceylon, worse for the Tamils” – G. G. Ponnambalam

H. L. D. Mahindapala

One of the main reasons that exacerbated the North-South relations in the post-independent era has been the total distortion of historical realities by a sizeable segment of our intellectuals who believed that history was a train of events, somewhat like the Yal Devi, that ran up ONLY (emphasis mine) to the North from the South and stopped there without coming down. That is to  say, it is the South that sent all the troubles to the North. The fact that Yal Devi also came down and interacted with the South has been ignored or denied. Had these intellectuals been more realistic and objective, recognising the North-South dialectics and emphasising the interplay of North-South forces in escalating the rising tensions, it would have been possible to avoid the longest war in Asia which ran for 33 years – from the declaration of war in the Vadukoddai Resolution (May 14 1976) to its disastrous end in Nandikadal (May 18, 2009).
Our intellectuals had a moral duty to be more responsible and truthful in informing the political class and the public at large. Unfortunately, the discourse was dominated by hired intellectuals hawking a mono-causal theory to blame only one side of a multi-layered narrative in which the two main actors – the North and the South -- were inextricably intermeshed. The nation had to pay dearly for the hypocritical and the mercenary tendencies of our intellectuals who were bought and sold in the NGO market for a fistful of dollars.
Hired intellectuals, lodged mainly in foreign-funded NGOs, led a partisan campaign of denying, twisting or  hiding the basic facts. By and large, the arguments were tailored to put the blame on the South with the sole objective of extracting the maximum power for devolution as a first step towards separatism. For instance, the English-educated, Vellalar Jaffna Tamils of the North have been the most privileged community in Sri Lanka. But they managed to persuade the world that they were denied their dignity and basic rights by the Sinhala majority. They also promoted successfully the notion they were the most oppressed victims of the Sinhala majority.
Steering a crafty campaign to demonise  the  South they hid the fact that they have been the worst oppressors and killers of the Tamils. S. C. Chandrahasan, son of Chelvanayakam, the father of separatism, and V. Ananadasangaree, leader of the TULF, have both condemned Velupillai Prabhakaran as the villain who had killed more Tamils than the others put together. Hiding their history of brutalising the low-caste Tamils has been a carefully cultivated strategy to  protect their image as victims of the Sinhala majority. The hidden story of the Tamil Vellalar elite brutalising the hapless low-caste is the darkest chapter  in Sri Lankan history.
Apart from hiding the hideous history of the North the  hired  intellectuals engaged in either distorting the realities and the perspectives, or in redirecting the basic facts away from the truth to glorify the partisan agenda. Take the case of Dr. Jehan Perera, the head of the National Peace Council, who bestowed a doctorate on Anton Balasingham, the LTTE ideologue, knowing very well that he had not earned one from any known university.  I met him in a bus in Geneva and when I asked him why he resorted to such deceitful practices he replied that he was merely following the others. When I asked him whether he would jump into well if others jumped he grinned sheepishly. But he  promised to drop the fictitious post-graduate doctorate. One expects a moral high priest like him to honour his own words. But he didn’t. He repeated the lie unashamedly. He continued to write articles referring to him as “Dr.” Balasingham. That’s why I called him “Pacha” Perera.
Though this may sound like a miniscule incident it cannot be dismissed lightly because it is symptomatic of the larger pattern of our so-called intellectuals distorting realities to elevate and sanctify Tamil heroes in their version of Sri Lankan history. Jehan Perera not only knew that he was selling lies to the public but he also knew that if he repeated the lies long enough it had the potential to be accepted as the truth down the track. It is mainly this technique of repeating, ad nauseam, the lies of the North that gave them the upper hand in manufacturing a mono-causal theory to paint the South as a hell filled with demons who had victimised the sweet angels of the North.
Victimology has been moulded into a sophisticated pill, wrapped in Western theories to make it easy for the naïve and the gullible to swallow. Over the years victimology has been the most marketable theory to promote federalism / separatism. Our intellectuals have gone along with the theories of victimology mainly because there were no perks, privileges or pecuniary gains in the alternative narrative that challenged the Northern political agenda.
Consider also how they manipulated their arguments with imported theories and distorted facts to justify the Northern agenda. Whenever they were pushed into a tight corner in the debate for devolution they raked up the pro-federalist statement made by S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike in his salad days in the 1920s. In it he suggested federalism as a means of satisfying aggressive communalistic demands. Taking cover behind this Bandaranaike’s statement has been the common ploy of the federalists / separatists. Practically every partisan activist and theorist campaigning for the North has repeated it. But for obvious reasons they never quoted the diametrically opposite point of view expressed by G. G. Ponnambalam, the acknowledged leader of the Tamils until his junior, S. J. V. Chelvanayakam, displaced him.
Here is the direct quote from the pen of Prof. A. J. Wilson, the leading Tamil political scientist, and son-in-law of the father of Tamil separatism, Chelvanayakam, who, with his intimate knowledge of his father-in-law’s mind, knew the intricate and the inner workings of Northern politics like the back of his hand. He wrote: “Ponnambalam and  his ACTC  denounced federalism as ‘bad for Ceylon and worse for the Tamils’, and at the general election of 1952 some of his ACTC followers warned that under federalism no trains would run beyond Elephant Pass (the isthmus connecting the Jaffna  peninsula to the rest of the island).” (p. 63,  S. J. V. Chelvanayakam and the Crisis of Sri Lankan Tamil Nationalism, 1947 – 1977, A Political Biography, A. Jeyaratnam Wilson, Lake House Bookshop, 1993). 
This categorical rejection of federalism by Ponnambalam throws all the arguments for constitutional changes leading to devolution of power into the dustbin. He was, after all, the founder of the demand for a greater share of power to the Tamils. He outlined a disproportionate mathematical formula of claiming 50% share of power for 11% Tamils of the North without carving out ethnic enclaves on the ground which came later with Chelvanayakam’s federalism / separatism.
Ponnambalam rejected this formula of Chelvanayakam and went as far as to say that it was “ ’midsummer madness’ for the Tamils to ask for partition of the country and segregation of different communities….”. (Ibid – p.30). His declared policy was to demand 50% of the seats for the 11% Tamils, disguising it as claim for 25% of the minorities. This too was a fake claim because the Muslims and the Indian Tamil minorities refused to join Ponnambalam’s “50-50” claim. He made it unmistakably clear that his demands were within the unitary state, without ethnic segregation. Though he laid the foundations for mono-ethnic extremism – he created the first communal riots in Navalapitiya in 1939 with his racist attacks on Sinhala history and the people – he was not for division of the country on ethnic lines. As he said, ethnic segregation would be “worse for the Tamils.”
There is a critical difference in Bandaranaike merely suggesting federalism in the 20s and Ponnambalam categorically rejecting federalism in the 50s. Bandaranaike put forward federalism as a possible formula for appeasing what he called “the outrageous” demands of the Tamil communalists of the day. Nor was he speaking as the acknowledged leader of the Sinhalese with substantial authority for federalism to be accepted as the expressed wish of the Sinhalese. He was in the formative stage playing  with ideas. And federalism, in his  context, was merely a fanciful spark that flew out of the mind of a young returnee from Oxford who had not yet found his feet in Sri Lankan politics.
Ponnambalam’s rejection of federalism for the Tamils comes from a totally different context. His rejection should be taken seriously because, unlike Bandaranaike, he was the acknowledged and established Tamil leader of the time. Besides, he was making a strong political statement in the interests of the Tamil people. It was meant to be a total rejection of Chelvanayakam’s politics of federalism / separatism. And it did have an impact because Chelvanayakam could not sell his idea to the Jaffna people at the time. Ponnambalam was also playing an anti-Chelvanayakam  role. To be or not to be for  federalism was a key issue  in Tamil politics and Ponnambalam coming out against  it should  be considered as a serious statement  of intent. In other words, Ponnambalam was giving political directions to the Tamil community saying that the way forward is neither federalism nor separatism.
Ponnambalam’s rejection of federalism was not a brash statement of an excited political neophyte like Bandaranaike in the 20s. When he rejected federalism in the 50s he was a mature Tamil leader at the peak of his political power. He was also at the peak of his popularity. It was time when Chelvanayakam was still hovering in the shadow of the towering personality of Ponnambalam. His rejection of federalism carries a far greater political weight than Bandaranaike ‘s fanciful flirtation with federalism.
This rejection of federalism by Ponnambalam has been kept out of the debate on devolution of power. The political pundits craftily avoid factoring in Ponnambalam’s rejection of federalism because that would knock the bottom out of their case for federalism / separatism. Ponnambalam’s statement stands out as the voice of the Tamils looking for an alternative way out. He doesn’t fit into the political  agenda of the federalists / separatists. He doesn’t help  them to doctor the texts to advance the Northern political agenda.
So they resort to the flimsy, flighty statement of Bandaranaike to grab territory, history, supremacy, moral purity, impunity from  their crimes against  their own people etc. But, of course, Ponnambalam’s weighty statement  overrides that of Bandaranaike.

This leads to the final question which needs a decisive answer : if Ponnambalam, a pioneering leader of the Tamils, rejected federalism as “the worse” solution for the Tamils why should the Sinhala leadership re-write constitutions to grant federalism?

17 October 2017

Conceivable Flaws & Drawbacks in
The Interim Report of the Steering Committee

Kanthar Balanathan, Australia

While being silent on the interim report of the steering committee, as a mark of respect the author gives to the members of the committee, it is a time dilated event, and request people of SL come forward to make comments, so that repeated slipups and bungles does not happen in the life of the republic called, SriLanka.

First of all, in the 40s, the UNP was formed. Ie United National Party. එක්සත් ජාතික පක්ෂය. The meaning of race is ජාතියයි. Nation is ජාතිය. National is ජාතික. Nation is built into the words. So, who is uniting with who? Does the party reflect that there are many nations united? Possible fundamental flaw in naming the party. While SWRDB named his party as SLFP. SriLanka Freedom Party. The concept of one nation, one country, is built into the party’s name, SLFP.

SL’s constitution is like cheap third world edition, repeatedly drafted, amended many times. What is the possible cause?

SL is driven now to draft another constitution. Is the interim report drafted by ROBOTS, who are being programmed by some superpower? Are these members patriots of the “one nation”, SriLankan Nationals?

It is driving readers to presume that the report is drafted in a frenzy to satisfy some power. With due respect to the committee members and readers, some questions the author wants to raise.

[Quotation from the interim report:
The President whilst speaking on the Resolution to set up the Constitutional Assembly stated that whilst people in the south were fearful of the word “federal”, people in the north were fearful of the word “unitary.” A constitution is not a document that people should fear.
 The classical definition of the English term “unitary state” has undergone change.  In the United Kingdom, it is now possible to Northern Ireland and Scotland to move away from the union. Therefore, the English term “Unitary State” will not be appropriate for Sri Lanka. 
The Sinhala term “aekiya raajyaya” best describes an undivided and indivisible country.  The Tamil language equivalent of this is “orumiththa Nadu”.
 In these circumstances, the following formulation may be considered:
 Sri Lanka (Ceylon) is a free, sovereign and independent Republic which is an aekiya rajyaya / orumiththa Nadu, consisting of the institutions of the Centre and of the Provinces which shall exercise power as laid down in the Constitution.
 In this Article aekiya rajyaya / orumiththa Nadu means a State which is undivided and indivisible, and in which the power to amend the Constitution, or to repeal and replace the Constitution, shall remain with the Parliament and the People of Sri Lanka as provided in this Constitution]

If we observe, in one place, aekiya raajyaya, is placed in the report, and below, aekiya rajyaya is placed, which is misspelled. Hope in an international court of law this is adequate to be thrown out.

The word Orumiththa Nadu is not the Tamil equivalent of aekiya rajyaya.  It could be construed as එක්සත් රටක්, which is “United Country” and NOT “Unitary State”. The question is, which country is uniting with which another country? Does this direct to Tamil politician’s Two Nation theory. The Sinhale politicians are giving the Two Nation theory accepted in a golden tray.

Even the Unitary State is not acceptable as the United Kingdom was a United State consisting of Scotland, Ireland, England, and Wales. Scotland went for a referendum and was defeated. What is the guarantee that the North and East will not go for an irresistible, inevitable referendum? Therefore, the definitions should be redefined and come up with the correct words.

[Article.154A (3)] should be readdressed.

The existing provisions of the Constitution [Article.154A (3)] relating to the possibility of two or more Provinces forming a single unit, should be retained, with the additional requirement that a referendum of the people of each of the Provinces concerned should also be required.  

The Constitution should not provide for the merger.

The Constitution recognized the Northern and Eastern Provinces as a single Province.

The above are contradicting.

“No Provincial Council or other authority may declare any part of the territory of Sri Lanka to be a separate State or advocate or take steps towards the secession of any Province or part thereof, from Sri Lanka.”  

The report does not suggest that any Province shall not make any effort to go for a referendum for secession like Catalonia.

The report does not state or identify that the Provincial Councils are not a government, but has been created to perform administrative function. The Chief Minister is not the Chief Executive of the Province.
The words and meaning as follows:
unitary government                            ஒற்றை அரசாங்கம்
unitary state                                        ஒற்றுமை நிலை/நாடு
One nation                                          ஒரு நாடு
Single government                             ஒற்றை அரசாங்கம்
One country                                        ஒரு நாடு
Unity                                                   ஒற்றுமை

Well, the interim report clearly indicates that the job has been done under direction and not by patriots. It is good not to act like robots when it comes to patriotism and National minded living. The Tamil Diaspora should not have any inputs to this report, as this is purely a patriotic effort to maintain the sovereignty and democracy through a sound constitution.

It will be appropriate if all have some input to this report, that is comments.
More devolution or more integration?

By S. Navaratne

It is curious how obsessed the political class is today on how best to handle the long standing Ceylon Tamil issue. The facts indicate that the Ceylon Tamil population, currently a tad over 11% of the total population in the country, has declined, is declining and will continue to decline as a proportion of the total population.

All the anecdotal evidence suggests that the youth of Jaffna wish to get "the hell out of the country" to white-ruled countries where a critical mass of Ceylon Tamils reside; and that Jaffna youth and their parents do not look for spouses for their children in Jaffna but with those with residence permits in Western countries so to enable them to move to those countries legitimately.

Yet the National Question relating to the Ceylon Tamils with diminishing numbers in the country is considered widely as the over-riding priority to be dealt with in the country.

Still more puzzling and incomprehensible is the attempt to solve the so-called National Question through a rigid, almost unchangeable, Constitution that provides, for practical purposes, almost irreversible devolution of power to all nine provinces of the country.

First, there is no demand, let alone clamour, for such extensive devolution envisaged by the framers of the Constitution from the Sinhala or Muslim or Indian Tamil communities in the country. The Prime Minister`s appointees are trying to ram down, partly by stealth, partly by obfuscation, extensive devolution to the Provinces purely to satisfy the Tamil bourgeoisie in Sri Lanka and abroad and Western countries.

Second, and equally telling, is that more Ceylon Tamils live outside the Northern Province (55% of Ceylon Tamil population). Extensive devolution to the Northern Province would not benefit them directly. Indeed they would be left high and dry under the proposed Constitution to fend for themselves as minorities in the other eight Provinces in the country.

Third, extensive devolution to the Northern Province is a time-bomb. Sooner or later extremists may well take power through the ballot in the Province and demand independence. It will be argued if Catalonia could do so, why not Jaffna?

The Constitution envisaged in the body of Steering Committee Report makes dealing with separatist activities of Tamil leaders in the Northern Province, and elsewhere, extremely difficult for the State and its security apparatus at the Centre to curb and control. Restriction of the powers of the Government and Parliament at the Centre envisaged to deal with separatist activities goes far beyond what prevails elsewhere, particularly India. There is a risk that irresponsible devolution of power and authority to a minority of Ceylon Tamils in the North could lead to unintended consequences destabilizing the country.

Is there an alternative to the grandiose scheme for redesigning the Constitution, largely if not wholly, to fulfill the demands of the Tamil bourgeoisie and their foreign backers as the only way of reconciling the Tamil population to the Sri Lankan State? Is it too late for a U-turn to kick the can of constitutional reforms (except at the fringes) to the long grass?

The alternative is for the Government to deliver the things that are directly under its control to promote reconciliation and integration of the communities instead of proposing a new Constitution that will be mired in politics and divisiveness.

The Prime Minister of all people with his in-depth reading and knowledge of British political history, should recognize that wisdom at this juncture demands the adoption of a Walpolian policy of "letting sleeping dogs lie" when it comes to constitutional changes. The 13th Amendment is functioning. Tweak it by all means from time to time consensually in Parliament to provide incremental authority and powers to Provincial Councils (as well as Districts and Pradeshiya Sabhas) to better manage their own affairs. Leave well alone other Provincial Councils that make no such demands. That is a practical way of asymmetric devolution that the Prime Minister once talked.

If the Prime Minister hauls down his colors on the Constitution there will be no dishonor. The facts have changed relating to the Sri Lankan Tamil problem since 2009. He could insist that he has been guided by the changes in the political reality in the country today.

An alternative approach to the problems faced by the minorities should have fairness and altruism of the majority community towards the minorities at its heart.

What are the measures that could be taken without legislation? Taking account of the fact that the Tamil and Muslim minorities account for 25% of the population, the Government could announce something it should have announced nearly three years ago when it came to office instead of the tortuous route it took in framing a new Constitution.

1. 25% of Cabinet (and other ministerial posts) posts would be reserved for the minorities. Additionally, by convention, 25% of the candidates of national political parties at Parliamentary elections should be from the minorities.

2. For a start 25% of all the categories of the public service recruitment and appointments should be from the brightest and best applicants from the minorities based on merit. That would extend from the grade relating to secretaries to ministries, diplomats, judges, senior army and police officers down the scale right down to the category of unskilled laborers.

Such pro-active measures would lead towards correcting the gross under-representation of the minorities at all levels of the public service (now numbering 1.4 million and rising). Once minority representation in the public services reaches the target of being proportionate to their numbers in the population (say in 5-7 years or so) all public service appointments should be made on merit, albeit bearing in mind proportionality.

3. Planning by the State should take centre stage in the rehabilitation and reconstruction of the North and the East. Plans should be developed by local and foreign experts for tackling the major concerns of Tamils in war-torn areas. These would include separate plans for relief and rehabilitation of war widows, full funding of orphans, crop subsidies for cultivation of foodstuffs at remunerative levels, reconstruction of damaged infrastructure (housing, schools, road and rail networks), setting up technical schools and technological institutes, cottage hospitals and English language schools).

The finance required for these separate plans would be substantial. Government should fund a major part of each of the plans. The balance should be sort from Western powers and financial institutions. This is the more productive way for the West to help the reconciliation process in Sri Lanka than the manner they have pursued since the end of the separatist war. So far their actions have fanned animosity between the majority community and the Tamils rather than bringing them closer.

4. English should be made the link language between the communities. Substantial financial inducements should be provided to officers of the higher rungs of the public service who are tri-lingual.

Would an approach such as suggested satisfy the Sri Lankan Tamils and their local and foreign backers? Absolutely not! Doing the right thing to bring communities closer to each other is what matters. If that means calling the bluff of those (local and foreign) who advocate extensive devolution or else predict dire consequences, so be it.

16 October 2017

Sri Lanka’s New Constitution is not going to be Unitary or Federal but Confederal

To understand the danger of what those drafting the new constitution is plotting to do, it is important to understand the features that make a Unitary, Federal & Confederal Constitutions. The countries that initially had confederacies abandoned them in view of its weaknesses and impending dangers. Why is Sri Lanka then walking into a future of chaos and instability and to satisfy whose wishes? 

Features of a Unitary Form of Government
·      All powers centralized in Central Government.
·      Local government system prevails where powers are delegated with strict central control/supervision
·      Unitary systems does not have list of distribution of powers in the constitution
·      Unitary systems are more responsible than federations as Centre is the sole responsible entity for the entire nation
·      France, Japan, China, Italy and Britain are unitary states.

Features of a Federal Form of Government
·      Dual system – Central Government at one level and State/Province at another.
·      Power is distributed between the centre & provinces except for subjects that have common interest which is in the charge of the central government (foreign affairs, defence, currency & coinage, etc)
·      One constitution prevails for both Central and Provincial Governments. All laws created by the provinces are subordinate laws and valid within the authority conferred by the constitution. If they go beyond limits the centre can deem it a violation
·      Central government can reach direct to the citizens in a State or Province
·      Fundamental rights of the citizens of a country is granted by the Central Government not State governments.
·      Only the federal government can negotiate treaties with other countries. State & local authorities cannot.
·      Under a federal set up unilateral secession is impossible while under confederalism unilateral secession is possible.

Features of a Confederal form of Government
·      Union of independent and sovereign States
·      formed with an intention to create independent and sovereign States
·      In a confederacy the Central Government can only reach upto the Governments of the confederation. The central government cannot directly reach the citizens.
·      The states of a confederation retain all the powers of an independent nation ex: right to maintain a military force, print money, and make treaties with other national powers.
·      can have their own currency
·      can have own military
·      can enter trade agreements with external sources
·      government of a confederation can withdraw from the Union
·      US, Germany were confederal before they adopted federal systems

Sri Lanka’s unitary constitution as established in the 1972 and 1978 constitutions changed in 1987 to a quasi-federal model with the signing of the Indo-Lanka Peace Accord and the 13th amendment creating 9 provincial councils.

Presently Sri Lanka follows a Quasi-Federal model following the 13a as there is a distribution of powers to the provincial councils though these are under control of the Centre.

A Quasi-Federal constitution has elements of Unitary & Federal features (India’s constitution is one such) However key elements to be noted is that there is single citizenship, a single judicial system where the Supreme Court is the highest court, powers are vested with the Centre, states have only powers that the Centre gives which the Centre can take back, the States do not have separate constitutions and their powers are derived from the Constitution relevant to the entire country, states do not have independent sources of income, and even the administration is under purview of the Centre.

Demands by Tamil parties showcase Confederal features & not Federal  

In Federal systems, States/Provinces cannot seek referendums but Confederacies can. In 2008 Sivajilingam sought a referendum at a Pongu Thamizh event in Australia. TNA leaders have made similar demands.

TNA/ITAK uses phrases ‘United Sri Lanka’ ‘co-existence’ ‘collaboration’ which are terms used when US experimented with confederacy. In a confederacy states are bound together based on mutual cooperation. The moment that ceases they can decide to separate from the union.  

The Northern Provincial Council demands direct foreign aid and direct diplomatic relations. ITAk leaders constant reference to bogus Tamil province/Sinhala province, demands for mono-language and religious rights are all aligned to confederate secession objectives.

It was because of the quasi-federal system that the Centre was able to annul the merged NE PC and take it under the direct control of the Centre when Varatharaja Perumal declared unilateral declaration of independence while in 2006 the merger of NE was declared illegal. The new constitution is proposing to not only allow two or more provinces to merge but says any powers devolved by the Centre is permanent and cannot be taken back by the Centre. This is virtually giving 9 provinces carte blanche autonomy.

What makes present Constitutional Proposals Confederal

·      If as per proposed recommendations powers devolved to the provinces cannot be taken back or revoked

·      Why should key elements in the present constitution like the name ‘Republic of Sri Lanka’ and ‘Unitary State’ be changed? Why should colonial words which have no roots in the history of the country like ‘Ceylon’ be inserted as a replacement? When there is a translation for ‘Unitary’ in Tamil why is another word which connotes ‘United’ and ‘Orumiththa nadu’ in Tamil being inserted. United falls into the category of a confederal system!

·      If ‘maximum devolution’ is giving control of even the local government authorities to the provincial councils directly instead of the Centre this too is not a federal feature but a confederal feature. In a federal system the Centre should be able to directly reach the citizens not go through a provincial council.

·      In a federal system there is only ONE COURT and that is the Supreme Court therefore by introducing a new Constitutional Court which is above the Supreme Court and cannot be challenged by the Supreme Court, this too is not a feature of a federal government

·      In both a Unitary and even Federal system the Centre decides national policies and not the states or provincial councils. Therefore, the proposed constitution that says the Centre’s National Policies cannot override statues enacted by the Provincial Councils means that the Centre has no control over the Provinces and what they enact. This is clearly a feature of a Confederal system. It is further proved by the proposal that the Centre has to even seek permission to use land for national projects from the provincial councils and the National Land Commission created to oversee disputes has cases channeled not to the Supreme Court but the new Constitutional Court that the new constitution is proposing to create.

The most shocking feature that completely proves beyond doubt that the proposed new constitution is neither unitary nor federal but confederal is the provision to claim that whatever is devolved to the provinces cannot be taken back, the Governor the nominee of the country’s President cannot dissolve the province and the removal of the concurrent list that has given the list of shared powers between the Centre & the Provinces which also ignoring the 2006 Supreme Court verdict to enable two or more provinces to merge.

The other laughable feature is that the proposals claim to abolish the Executive Presidency by removing the right of the People to vote for a President and enable the Parliament to vote for the President among them!

Why did America abandon its Confederate constitution that bound 13 states? The Central Government was designed to be very very weak (same case being proposed for Sri Lanka) The power to the states to operate independently from the Central Government often conflicted with the nation’s best interest (exactly what would happen to Sri Lanka when provinces begin directly dealing with foreign countries many of whom do not deal unless there is a political advantage to them & the chaos that might result thereafter). Rivalries emerged between the 13 states (same likely to happen in Sri Lanka especially if foreign countries begin funding rebels to attack other provinces in a bid to merge and expand the province!) The Central Government couldn’t collect taxes to fund its activities which greatly impeded national security requirements like maintaining the nation’s defense (a scenario that will certainly arise in Sri Lanka). The 13 states conducted their own foreign policies (same is going to happen in Sri Lanka and imagine the status quo if that happens) The 13 states had their own money systems – there was no common currency which made trade between the states extremely difficult (imagine such a scenario in Sri Lanka – we know LTTE had their own currency & TNA is LTTE’s political agent).

The above reasons were why the US abandoned its confederate constitution and formulated the present one.

Sri Lanka is trying to apply a failed system to a small island whereby creating 9 mini semi-autonomous provinces of which in one province will hold the Centre and questions the conflict that the Centre and Provincial Government may have in time to come!

Given that Sri Lanka is a small island 5 if the 9 provinces have direct access to the coast and they will have both advantage and disadvantage as a result none of which the Centre will have control over thereby further weakening the county’s national security, sovereignty and even territorial integrity.

Clearly by looking at the proposed recommendations of the new constitution it is easy to establish that it is neither unitary nor federal but confederal which immediately should suffice as reason to reject it in toto.

Shenali D Waduge