A frightening future for Sri Lankans
By Shenali D. Waduge
The scenarios that are being projected is to draw the attention of citizens to the possible dangers and implications of the short-sighted and selfish decisions and actions of leaders and their inability to comprehend and learn lessons from history and the international crisis and conflicts taking place globally. These scenarios afford an opportunity for people to take a step back and imagine if the scenarios can happen in Sri Lanka and if they do, what would be the consequences.
It also enables people to think of ways to counter or devise alternative solutions and remedies that would prevent or mitigate the likely chaos. At the back of our minds should be the never to be forgotten reality of what we have gone through since independence, the carnage and killings, deaths and injuries and the resolve that we should never return to that horrible past repeating the mistakes from which we should have learnt lessons.
Prior to independence, we cannot discount the unfair demands made by a group that had coined its name as Ceylon Tamils only in 1911 and started to demand 50-50 representation with the Sinhalese when they were disproportionately less than the Sinhalese and even less than the Indian Tamils brought by colonials. The formation of the Illankai Tamil Arasu Kachchi (ITAK) party in 1949 seeking a Tamil State culminating in the 1976 Vaddukoddai Resolution and the emergence of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in the same year alongside the clandestine training India provided to Sri Lankan Tamil youth cannot be taken in isolation given that calls for self-determination for a Tamil Homeland, which first emerged in South India. Do our politicians, advisors know this background and keep this awareness in their negotiations and briefings to the international community?
Since independence, a series of unfortunate pacts without taking stock of who were making the demands or why, had been ventured into. As such, we cannot ignore the Bandaranaike–Chelvanayakam Pact (1957), because it first promoted the concept of devolution using the guise of language, when in reality Tamil was never an official language and the calls were to reverse the discrimination suffered under over 400 years of colonial rule never to target the Tamils, whilst it was agreed to allow reasonable use of Tamil. Then came the Dudley-Chelvanayakam Pact (1965), soon the norm came to be granting political concessions to demands by minorities simply for electoral and political survival. The agreements did not look into the authenticity of the demands, repercussions or impact on others once signed.
Then entered militancy seeking virtually the same demands with the gun that the Tamil politicians sought politically. Therefore, in dealing with Tamil politicians these ground realities cannot be ignored so long as they have not declared that these demands are permanently laid to rest.
The Thimpu Talks took place in 1985. The Eelam People's Revolutionary Liberation Front (EPRLF), LTTE, Eelam Revolutionary Organization of Students (EROS), People's Liberation Organization of Tamil Eelam (PLOTE), Tamil Eelam Liberation Organization (TELO), and Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF) participated in this. They came up with a list of demands. All but the last was rejected by the government. The Tamil parties and LTTE have not budged from placing virtually the same demands worded differently:
•Recognize Tamils of Ceylon as a Nation
•Recognize existence of an identified homeland for the Tamils of Ceylon
•Recognize right of self-determination of the Tamil Nation
•Recognize the right of citizenship and the fundamental rights of all Tamils of Ceylon
Then came the Indo-Lanka Accord signed under virtual duress in 1987, which many say was drafted in India and sent only for signature. The Accord has historical fallacies and paved way for the 13th Amendment and the Provincial Council system. India failed to disarm the LTTE in 120 hours, India promised to protect Sri Lanka's sovereignty. India assured its territory would not be used for activities prejudicial to Sri Lanka, but the LTTE was using Tamil Nadu for all its logistics. India assured its Navy would assist Sri Lanka to prevent LTTE activities, but the LTTE was getting arms, medicines, and even supplies from Tamil Nadu.
The preamble to the Indo-Lanka Accord is the false belief that the North and East used to belong to the Sri Lankan Tamil speaking people in the past. Such fallacious thinking ended up creating unilateral declarations of independence in 1990. The same fallacies cannot be repeated through this new Constitution, which almost occurred in 2000 (GL-Neelan Package)
Why are advisors scaring political leaders when it comes to removing the 13th Amendment. A sovereign nation has every right to remove any amendments made to its Constitution.
The removal of Sri Lankan Army camps is nothing new – Tamil leaders demanded the same in 1987 too and this is similar to what the TNA presently demands. The calls to merge the North and East are because of the Trincomalee Harbour. This is evident when the Accord mentions Port of Trincomalee and Indian High Commissioner, Dixit minced no words and demanded that Sri Lanka should reduce intelligence and training with Pakistan, Israel, not allow seaports/airports to be used by foreign powers antagonistic to India, that India be allowed to maintain the Trincomalee Oil Tank Farms – demands made in 1985 by both Minister Chidambaram, Dixit, and Natwar Singh in 1986.
The 2002 Ceasefire Agreement is another detrimental agreement giving legitimacy to the LTTE's de facto state, placing the LTTE on par with the National Army. The Interim Self-Governing Authority (ISGA) proposed by the LTTE for the 'North East' of Sri Lanka in 2003 is another detrimental agreement. The ISGA was to cover eight districts of the North and East – Ampara, Batticaloa, Jaffna, Kilinochchi, Mannar, Mullaitivu, Trincomalee, and Vavuniya (North and East). Sri Lanka was to be secular, but virtually all decision-making would fall into the hands of the LTTE and it received Western applause.
Then came the other detrimental agreement in 2004, the Post-Tsunami Operational Management Structure (PTOMS) which came with an aid carrot of US$ 3 billion.
One has to only take the demands of the LTTE, the other armed militant groups, the ITAK, LTTE Diaspora fronts and their websites, the TNA manifestos, the TNA/ITAK resolutions, the resolutions by the TNA passed after winning the Northern Provincial Elections, the comments by the TNA Chief Minister Wigneswaran to realize that not only have their demands remained the same, but their demands are likely to get worse and more frightening the moment any compromise is made as these demands have no basis or validity to be even accepted.
Both the LTTE and Tamil politicians have been surviving promoting a mythical homeland and using their illegal/legal international networks to project the notion of discrimination by Sinhalese to justify their cause, but how does that explain the killing of Muslims?
This has aligned with external forces whose objectives can be advanced by using Tamils to justify their interference in Sri Lanka's internal affairs – the West and India as well as the United Nations (UN) are guilty.
The war crimes tribunals (sans evidence of war crimes), resolutions based on illegal reports are all cunning methods to use the Tamil card for their own political objectives. This is understood by the fact that LTTE fronts function through offices in foreign countries, their representatives openly meet foreign Parliamentarians and UN officials and they even hold events with the Eelam flag next to the US national flag and nobody says anything about this!
The general public, politicians, and advisors must be aware of how illegal interventions and interferences have divided the former Soviet Union, Yugoslavia, created an independent Kosovo, South Sudan (both in virtual turmoil and economic collapse) and identify the modus operandi used against all of these nations which are identical to methods now being rolled out in Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka's politicians and advisors have also ignored the historical quest of India to annex Sri Lanka and present the Indian objective of economically, politically, and socially influencing Sri Lanka using the 'Tamil' card, while the West on account of Sri Lanka's geopolitical positioning wishes to use Sri Lanka for its strategic purposes. We have also ignored the other major factor of another historical objective in the territorial expansion competition between Islam and Christianity and its loggerhead with Buddhism.
We should therefore not be surprised that immediately after bringing the present government into power, the US, UK, EU, and India are all promoting a new Constitution and the provisions and clauses fit perfectly into their overall plans as a disintegrated and divided Sri Lanka is perfect for their interference. This explains why USAID and the EU are paying the salaries of the staff who are drafting the new Constitution! With this background in our mind, let us move forward to imagine the future scenarios.
The formation of a new Constitutional Court, which is above the country's Supreme Court and is to be the sole authority to decide on disputes between the Centre and the Provinces only makes matters worse. What is then the role of the Supreme Court?
The Centre's National Policies cannot override statutes enacted by the Provincial Councils which means the Centre has no control over the provinces. Even national projects must first seek permission for land usage from the province. For this, a new National Land Commission is being created to oversee land and water issues. Disputes will be channelled to the Constitutional Court, not to the Supreme Court. The Governor appointed by the President is a nominal role unable to dissolve the province. The proposals claim to abolish the Executive Presidency by removing the provision for the people to vote for the President, and instead Parliament will vote for the President.
The proposals speak of a National List giving authority to the Centre, but no itemized list of subjects are given – so we do not know who controls National Security, Defence, Immigration, Citizenship, Education and Higher Education, Minerals and Mines, Foreign Trade, Census and Statistics, Posts and Telecommunications, Ports and Harbours, Aviation and Airports, and Archaeology.
Imagine embroiled in controversies surrounding these important subjects – who would suffer in the end? The people. The other shocking feature is the removal of the Concurrent List that provides details about shared powers between the Centre and provinces.
There is also provision for two or more provinces to merge though the 2006 Supreme Court verdict declared the merger illegal.
Put all these dangerous scenarios together, and the proposal that claims all powers devolved cannot be taken back, which means that the Centre is ceding powers to the provinces which it cannot take back. The ruse to camouflage the objections is to claim that if a province attempts to secede, the President by proclamation can assume 'all or any functions of the administration of the Province and dissolve the Provincial Council' but the proclamation is subject to approval by Parliament and after judicial review by the Constitutional Court. What is confusing is that the proposals suggest that the Executive Presidency should be abolished. The President will be elected by Parliament and not by the people.
What is the point in having a Centre when the powers are devolved to the provinces and cannot be removed, the Centre cannot annul a province, it cannot override statutes, it has to get the permission from the province to carry out national projects, it cannot directly govern the local authorities, it has no power to stop two or more provinces from merging? Why should such a Centre even exist?
In the context of what the TNA and other racist MPs are presently demanding inclusive of the demands being made by Muslim groups and the rising extremism in the East also being ignored, what is the future when ethno-religious groups start fighting or expanding territory when resources like water, electricity, or spread of disease become an issue?
If provinces are to have their own Police what will be the outcome if rebel groups emerge and external forces begin arming them?
What if one province refuses to recognize the educational qualifications of another and given that we don't have universities in all nine provinces what is the future for students who have studied enough to enter university, but cannot. What if provinces decide to declare their own laws and rules contradicting and conflicting with other provinces – who is going to suffer thereafter?
Freedom of movement
What if freedom of movement is also denied – even taking a holiday or going on a pilgrimage will become an issue – Wigneswaran has already told the Sinhalese not to come to the North and to remove Buddhist structures while a man of his learning is stooping low to claim King Devanampiyatissa was a Tamil. What if provinces decide to bring in foreign labour, but cannot curtail the influx of people without visas or bringing in illegal items – how will provinces control these issues? What if provinces end up in the hands of extremist political parties and leaders and they change statutes that cannot be even challenged by the Centre.
And where is this Centre going to be located since it has to be in one of the nine provinces and how will the laws of that province conflict with the Centre regarding land and other issues. We are coming with more problems than solutions in taking the interim report and recommendations to account which flags dangers to all citizens of their likely frightening future. Let us not be naive enough to put these dangers aside and think some good will come out of it. Our follies have always been not to think of the dangers and repercussions.
Those who have been hiding behind the no new Constitution performance, but subtly promoting the enactment of the 13th Amendment cannot explain why or how far one party should compromise or assure that the other party will not demand more than what has been compromised.
These advisors' mumbling words have led politicians astray without taking ground realities into consideration.
No new Constitution can be accepted given the ground realities, the demands by racist Tamil MPs who are part of the Constitution making process and the countries that are promoting it. When a small nation like Sri Lanka is broken into parts where multiple authorities prevail, we can assume that we are heading for a very frightening future. In taking the demands and the recommendations we can also confidently say that these proposals are not even federal, but confederal because all the powers ceded by the Centre cannot be taken back, which a federal structure allows. Imagine the chaos in nine mini States!
Look at the recommendations and ponder. See what is at stake and question why such a small island nation such as ours should be cut into nine pieces. This new Constitution is not only going to divide communities, but it will also create lots of mini wars, with no central authority to take the responsibility on behalf of all the citizens.
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