SL’s Sovereignty, Devolution of Power and Separatism
By Lakshman I. Keerthisinghe
We have the character of an island nation independent, forthright, passionate in defence of our sovereignty. We can no more change this British sensibility than we can drain the English Channel. And because of this sensibility, we come to the European Union with a frame of mind that is more practical than emotional.
David Cameron –British Prime Minister
The most successful of the nations of the world are those who do not fall into the lure of secession but who through thick and thin, forge unity in diversity
Yemi Osinbajo-Nigerian Politician
It was reported that President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, addressing a ‘Gama samaga Pilisndara’ or (Discourse with the People) programme at Pitabaddara recently stated: “…the sovereignty of Sri Lanka would not be betrayed by allowing other countries to achieve their geopolitical needs by introducing separatism under the guise of power devolution… We are not ready to bring back separatism in the name of devolution of power and betray our sovereignty to fulfil their political needs. The people of this country gave power to us to bring these basic things back on track.”
As the Nigerian politician Yemi’s statement quoted at the outset hereof advises “the most successful of the nations of the world have forged unity in diversity.” It is significant in this regard to note that in Sri Lanka Sinhala, Tamil, Muslim, Burgher, Malays and other communities have shown promise of being able to live and work towards common national goals in peace, harmony and unity.
They had worked together in the past, to gain independence from the British despite the fact that they followed different faiths, spoke different languages and followed different cultures. The failure to manage the justifiable grievances of our Northern brethren led to conflict and violence.
Sri Lanka’s post-independence leadership was unable to come to terms with her diversity as a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural, multi-religious and multi-lingual nation. As a result the grievances were transformed into inter-communal resentment and feelings of discrimination and unfair treatment.
Our post-Independence leaders, who were acutely aware of the diverse character of our island, sadly faltered at decisive moments and failed to stand up to extremists. From time to time our leaders fanned communal feelings and openly supported racism to gain petty political advantages.
These unfortunate short sighted policies of some of our leaders led to a disastrous situation resulting in a colossal loss of life and ushered in an era of misery as shown in nearly three decades long ethnic conflict Sri Lankans have to learn from the bitter experiences of the past and work together so as never to permit such calamities to engulf our nation again.
For true reconciliation to be ushered in a genuine dialogue between our people in the North and the South in particular and also of the East is the need of the hour. As the renowned Australian politician, Malcolm Fraser stated, “Reconciliation requires changes of heart and spirit, as well as social and economic change. It requires symbolic as well as practical action.”
The ‘Tamil Guardian’ reported that “In Sri Lanka, reconciliation between the Sinhalese and Tamils is seen as one of all people adopting a ‘Sri Lankan’ identity… That such an identity should be seen as the righteous and natural state of the island has long been enshrined within the country’s Constitution.” Thus, it is seen that the main grievance of our Tamil brethren appears to be that the ‘Sri Lankan’ identity the Government proposes to establish appears to be based on a Sinhala Buddhist perspective..
It is evident that as emphasised in the recently passed UNHRC resolution against Sri Lanka in Geneva as well as official statements of India, made in Delhi, Colombo and Geneva, India is insisting on the devolution of power as articulated in the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution.
Sri Lanka has consented to the Provincial Council system to implement its requirements and the elections are to be held in June. With Provincial Councils established in the North and East our Tamil and Muslim brethren can achieve control of their areas.
The new Constitution is in the offing and in reforming the Constitutional provisions all the grievances of other communities have to be kept in mind by the framers and parity of status should be granted to remove all such grievances thereby achieving a true and lasting national reconciliation in our beloved motherland where all communities could live together as one undivided unified nation in peace and harmony forever without splintering our beautiful island known as the pearl of the Indian ocean into tiny separate States.
In conclusion, it must be stated that all patriotic Sri Lankans should co-operate with the State to achieve unity in diversity in promoting national integration and as the President has stressed without betraying the sovereignty of our motherland.
The writer is an Attorney-at-Law with LLB, LLM, MPhil.(Colombo)[email protected]