18 November, 2017

Ahead Of The Curve: Wigneswaran’s Visit To The Mahanayakas

By Sanja De Silva Jayatilleka –

Sanja De Silva Jayatilleka

Chief Minister Wigneswaran’s breathtakingly bold move to visit the Mahanayakas in Kandy was an unexpected piece of footage on the evening’s news on all TV channels. He was brisk as he approached the Chief Prelates and confidently direct in his communication with them and the journalists afterwards.

What he said was very clear: he wanted Federalism for the North. He explained to the Prelates and the gathered Sangha that the Supreme Court had just given the decision that Federalism was not something that divided a country but brought it together; it was not separatism.  He was referring to the decision given by the SC on a petition that urged the courts to make illegal the ITAK as its demand for federalism was separatist. He also declared that with the 13th amendment they, the representatives of the Tamil people of the North, couldn’t do anything. He was clearly unwilling to negotiate on the basis of the 13th amendment and regarded it as a non-starter.

At least from what the TV stations showed, the members of his audience seemed to be taken aback at this brashness. They certainly didn’t have the arguments to counter his claims except to reiterate that they will not endorse any process that would put the country in danger of division.

Wigneswaran’s move was rendered all the more audacious when one considers that his travelling companion for this encounter was Northern Provincial Council Minister Ananthi Sasitharan who has openly supported the LTTE and has not distanced herself from the call for Tamil Eelam. One can’t but admire the self-assurance of Chief Minister Wigneswaran as immediately proceeded, just as briskly, to visit the former LTTE suspects held in prison in Kandy.

The whole set of moves was made with supreme confidence, as the Chief Minister smilingly strode through the programme, never once losing his composure in what one might have thought was hostile territory.  This venturing into the national political space in an unusual move with document in hand praising Federalism which he handed over to the two epicenters of Sinhala Buddhist consciousness is truly creative political theatre, and it behooves us to analyze its motives if we are not to be taken by surprise by the next set of such moves.   

Was this shrewd political maneuvering or a bow in the direction of the current tradition of beating a path to Malwatte and Asgiriya for endorsement as a first step in any political process? Was there something significant in the timing of this visit?

The proposals for a new constitution were being considered in Parliament for several months and the deadline for submission of proposals by the political parties had just closed. The public submission had closed much earlier. The document in Chief Minister Wigneswaran’s hands was not that of the TNA, his official party. It was prepared by a group of civil society activists. Had they handed over a copy to the Constitutional Assembly earlier? Why make the visits so publicly? What is the TNA’s stand on this visit? Mr. Sumanthiran had earlier declared that the TNA was did not insist on the removal of the term ‘Unitary’ as long as the content met the criteria of and thereby ensured Federalism. Wigneswaran however, vehemently declared that unvarnished Federalism was what he was after.

Why did he choose to visit the Mahanayakas first with his document? It was a very public affair. What are his options, consequent to this move? Is it the first of a series of steps that would show that all avenues to obtain a political solution within a united Sri Lanka acceptable to his constituency were pursued and exhausted?

This appeal, going by all signs from other political parties and civil society groups representing the majority view, will inevitably fail. The abandonment of the unitary state in favor of Federalism is not on the agenda in Parliament– at least it is not, going by the proposals presented by all political parties.  In this context the move by the controversial Chief Minister of the Northern Province is interesting, to say the least.

Chief Minister Wigneswaran sounded eminently reasonable in his argument that his appeal was not for separation and besides, it (federalism) was not illegal. What are the arguments that are currently presented against this position? None of the ones proffered by politicians sound adequate to counter his. 

There doesn’t seem to be a sound legal argument against such a demand, only a geopolitical one. The geopolitical consideration is critically important to Sri Lanka. The location of this island is the determining factor. With Tamil Nadu just 18 miles from the North, with co-ethnics of 100 million around the world but 80 million of them just a boat ride away, Federalism is an existential threat to this island and is likely to lead to and result in separatism even though it is right to assert, as has the Supreme Court, that it is not separatist per se. On this island, it most certainly is a legitimate fear and a consideration the Sri Lanka people and parliament cannot discount.

While the North represented by the Chief Minister pulls daringly in one direction, which to all appearances seems an unrealistic one at this time,  some in the South pull it in another which seems just as unrealistic  given the unraveling they demand of existing provisions in the Constitution which emerged from bilateral agreements with India. 

Between these two positions lies what this parliament can achieve without going for a referendum. But if referendum is exactly what each side is looking for, then it is not difficult to guess at the next bold steps of Chief Minister Wigneswaran.

One has only to remember the one member of the Darusman Panel whose expertise is in new borders, as in new borders of new states carved out of existing ones.  That would be Prof. Stephen Ratner, an international law expert, formerly of the US State Department. He argues that where a state (often motivated by majoritarian considerations) seeks to roll back existing levels of autonomy, then that province is likely to resort to separatism, and if so it qualifies for borders which are the formerly existing borders of the regions or provinces.

Abolition of the 13th amendment could be construed as a reversal of existing levels of autonomy. The other route would be to deploy the results of a referendum as a mandate for that province to declare that it had won a plebiscite for federalism and self-determination. 

All these are the possible routes, which neither Mr. Wigneswaran nor his fellow Minister Ananthi Sasitharan may be considering yet because all they want for Christmas is Federalism (at least this year). However, it would be foolish not to anticipate what could form the logical next steps if these efforts fail. Further moves could be triggered in an effort to prove the intransigence of the ‘Sinhala governments’, the Sinhalese politicians and the Sinhalese people since Independence, in view of the infamous genocide resolution of the Northern Provincial Council.

This is especially relevant considering the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Al Hussein has just declared at the on-going September sessions of the Human Rights Council thatThe absence of credible action in Sri Lanka to ensure accountability for alleged violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law makes the exercise of universal jurisdiction even more necessary.”  This call for the indictment of those alleged of war crimes in any court anywhere in the world, was in addition to his assertion that “In the North, protests by victims indicate their growing frustration over the slow pace of reforms. I encourage the Government to act on its commitment in Resolution 30/1 to establish transitional justice mechanisms and to establish a clear timeline and benchmarks for the implementation of these and other commitments.”

It is incumbent on our parliamentarians to give a sensible, rational and internationally convincing enough reply to the eminently reasonable sounding queries that Chief Minister Wigneswaran posed during his visit to Kandy, which has brought no response from them thus far. People of all political persuasions need to hear it.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Latest comments

  • 0
    2

    [Edited out] Comments should not exceed 300 words. Please read our Comments Policy for further details.

    • 4
      0

      Dear Sanja and other sceptics, I can assure you that Ceylon Tamils will never have a political union with Tamil Nadu. They may have cultural and economic union but not political, as they wish to preserve their identity. So your arguments to deny Tamils a form of sharing of power and territory based on federalism smacks of racism. Now that Supreme court have given the correct interpretation of federalism, it is the inborn atavistic fears and inferiority complex that is preventing Sinhalese to move forward. Since Tamils have extended the hand of friendship, please accept it without giving lame excuses to deny Tamils their legitimate rights to rule themselves.

  • 8
    1

    “The location of this island is the determining factor. With Tamil Nadu just 18 miles from the North, with co-ethnics of 100 million around the world but 80 million of them just a boat ride away, Federalism is an existential threat to this island and is likely to lead to and result in separatism even though it is right to assert, as has the Supreme Court, that it is not separatist per se. On this island, it most certainly is a legitimate fear and a consideration the Sri Lanka people and parliament cannot discount. “

    This sort of fear mongering tactics played by Sinhalese leadership is nothing new to this island since independence starting from 1956 march 1956 to the recent march by Mahinda group. Sanja’s fear about Tamil Nadu is also nothing new to CT readers. She is repeating her husbands argument again and again. Tamil Nadu is a state within a united India and it is not an independent country like Srilanka. Tamils are living in this island of Srilanka for more than 1000 years along with Sinhalese and Tamils are also living in theTamilnadu for many years. There was no threat to Srilanka from TamilNadu until now and there is no valid argument for that unless it is from India. India is not a Tamil Nation. Tamil Nadu did not have the power even to stop the massacre of Tamil civilians of Srilanka in May 2009 by Srilanka. Even during the time period after massacre of Tamils including Indian origin Tamils in July 1983, the Indian central govt and Tamil nadu govt gave support to militant groups there was no attempt to create a seperate state for Tamils in Srilanka. The threat is not from Tamil nadu or India but the real threat is from those who create fear mongering and organise massacre of innocent tamils of Srilanka. The purpose of fear mongering of Sinhalese is not in the interest of the nation, not in the interest of soverignity, not in the interest of democracy, not in the interest of Sinhalese people but only in the interest of Mahinda family.

    • 1
      2

      For those alien to history, LTTE theoreticians, Tamil racists, MR haters and for Ajit himself, Ajit is a hero, for his stupid points. But for others, he is a below zero.

      • 3
        0

        max

        “But for others, he is a below zero.”

        Is he below, par or above your genius the saffron clad thug Gnanasara?

  • 12
    1

    “Wigneswaran’s move was rendered all the more audacious when one considers that his travelling companion for this encounter was Northern Provincial Council Minister Ananthi Sasitharan who has openly supported the LTTE and has not distanced herself from the call for Tamil Eelam.”

    What is wrong with Wigneswaran going with Ananthi? Both are elected by people democratically. Both are not criminals like Karuna amman or Pillaiyar? Yes Ananthi is a LTTE supporter, her husband was a LTTE leader. Did she murder any Sinhalese civilian or Sinhalese military? No. Karuna was the second in command LTTE leader, who murdered 600 policeman and he directed the attack on Daladamaligawa, he attacked Katankudi mosque and he recruited large number of youths to LTTE in the east and even after he left LTTE he was responsible for number of murders of parliamentarians, human rights activists. If he can meet Asgiriya mahanayake, he can become a ministereven after he served prison in UK for 9 months why cannot a politician who was elected by people meet asgiriya Mahanayake? Can she or Wigneswaran seperate the nation? But the contuned policy of fear mongering Sinhalese, violence against innocent Tamils inorder to bring back Mahinda can help to divide the Nation.

    • 7
      1

      Revised history by the wife of a War monger, and a public racist , ‘Mission Impossible: Geneva’ by Sanja de Silva Jayatilleka . This little racist islander thinks he won the war at UN. Thanks to Hindians backed by USA the victory or some sort was attributed to this little islander and made him to feel proud of himself.

      Hindian Diplomats are well trained in the oldest Indian Basket Trick.

      • 2
        4

        Native
        What is the percentage of Tamil speaking people Vingeshwaran represents? And what is that percentage out of the total population of the country. Does that include those who practice Islam, those who practise Christianity and those arrived during the British? Those are the clarifications Mahanayakas should have sought from Vingeshwaran.
        Soma

        • 3
          1

          somass Ji

          “Those are the clarifications Mahanayakas should have sought from Vingeshwaran.”

          Had the Mahanayakes observed and taught what the awakened one preached them to and expected them to comply with, you would not be asking stupid questions like the above.

          The failure of Sangha as an institution and collection of individuals had produced more stupid racists (like you ) than what should have been the average. Its time all those Mahanayakes are sent to Dharamsala where they could learn Buddha’s teaching. Assgirian should be sent to forest monasteries on a long term basis. You should be sent to the Sinhala/Buddhist ghetto in the south for an indefinite period where we will find a suitable boot camp for you. You are free to take Dayan, Wimal Sangili Karuppan, Dr MR, Dr GR, Double Doctor WR, Champa, sach, …………………….etc with you.

        • 2
          1

          Soma,
          what is the percentage of Sinhala people you represent? The writer herself acknowledged that % of Sinhala people compare to Tamils are very small.I don’t know the pedigree of Mahanayakes but I am sure you are one of the pedigree of Viyaja who came from India. I look at Srilanka as part of India Sinhala is originated from India. Mahanayahas should be more clever than you because he must be aware well about all available statistics.

        • 0
          0

          Wigneswaran and the gang represent only the Tobacco farmers and the LTTE supporters. therefore, armed forces, buddhist viharas in those areas should support those who are neglected. that is so-called Dalits.

  • 4
    1

    Federalism is nothing new to Srilanka. Historically, Srilanka had Federalism. Even before the merger of different kingdom ( one of them is Jaffna Kingdom), there was federalism. Even during the period of last phase of British rule, Federalism was advocated by Sinhalese leadership. Even after independence the Sinhalese leadership proposed and agreed devolution of power and federal based soloution. The recent 2002 peace accord between Srilanka & LTTE with the mediation of Norway sponsored by USA and other Nations agreed for a federalism solution.This is what Professor GL Peries said in his speech at Oslo :”So we now have a very clear indication of the nature of the political solution that the parties are working towards in order to bring peace back to our trouble d country, to put the war behind us and to put Sri Lanka the on path to peace and prosperity. So, we are talking of a federal solution. It is not separatism, it is not confederation… it is a federal model.
    Now, if we believe in a political solution, if we a re renouncing war… if we believe in a political solution… there could not be any other rural tribal except power sharing – except the
    basis, the character of a federal solution.

  • 0
    0

    SdeSJ says “………………………….He (Wigneswaran) explained to the Prelates and the gathered Sangha that the Supreme Court had just given the decision that Federalism was not something that divided a country but brought it together; it was not separatism. He was referring to the decision given by the SC on a petition that urged the courts to make illegal the ITAK as its demand for federalism was separatist……………..”

    What I understand is SC has decided only that the “ITAK HAD NOT VIOLATED THE CONSTITUTION BY ADVOCATING A FEDERAL FORM OF GOVERNMENT”. It does not say anything about federalism or separatism, unitary etc. with regard to our constitution.

    Am I wrong?

  • 3
    1

    To put it short CM Wigneswaran’s move was like showing the Colombo Telegraph to someone that regularly only reads tabloid garbage of Daily Mirror.
    They just cannot understand, confused and scratching their head.

    The whole country even the Sinhalese know that it is the Buddhist that have always been a road block to a just settlement and peace in Sri Lanka.

    So where better to start a conversation if you really want a solution and not just worry of votes and being elected again.

  • 2
    1

    Wigneswaran calls a spade a spade. This is not brashness.
    Had he chosen to call a spade a bleeding heart, he would now be the modern day Kathirgamar and probably heading a High Commission.
    Federalism is a creative solution but many skeptics see the proximity of Tamil Nadu as the danger (only??). India is in one piece because of federal form of government. Separation is almost impossible because the main players who won the civil war will not support this.
    The concern regarding Ananthi Sasitharan is a red herring. She is NOT a fugitive harboured and under protection of Ministers and JO.
    Thank you Sanya for the last paragraph. Will the greedy politicians ever try and understand this?

  • 2
    0

    India and TNA is back with Joint Comedy club!

    Can somebody tell the difference between the Modayas who vote for UNP-SLFP, SLAP-UNP and the Modaya TNA who is going between the UNP-SLFP, SLAP-UNP .

    Didn’t we asked Modaya TNA to stay out of going for UNP Yahapalanaya. Now they feel cheated?

  • 1
    0

    The Chief Minister had to tell the Mahanayakes what the Sinhalese politicians should have been failing the Sinhala masses a long time ago.

  • 3
    1

    Her husband is a terrorist. He betrayed this country and joined the EPRLF.
    Now he talks about sinhala Buddhist. Traitor!!!

  • 3
    0

    When Children get married and leave their parental home to live their own life, is it a division of the Family. It is not. Like wise when Tamils ask for a federal Constitution it is not a division of the Country-but a division power to live amicably as in the case of a simple family who get together for occasion without any enmity. If you don’t understand your own family you can’t understand federalism.

  • 0
    0

    Let’s cut this crap out:

    1. WHY do we have 13th Amendment ?
    Answer: Because of Thimpu Declaration.

    2. WHY do we need Thimpu Declaration ?
    Answer: Because the Tamils and the Tamil speakers have been asking for SELF RULE. That is Tamils Ruling Tamils.

    So what should be do ? WE need to define a Sinhala Area Sri Lanka. Ask the Tamils and The Tamil speakers and the Muslims to agree to this unconditionally.

    There is NO need to have provincial councils , which is a design by the COLONIAL POWERS.

    There is a NEED for a SINHALE (Which existed before the arrival of COLONISTS)…

    SHOULD THE SINHALE and the SINHALA people be scared of SINHALE (ABSOLUTELY NO !)…

    DEFINE SINHALE for the SINHALESE…..NOW !!!!!!

    The division of the COUNTRY is a PROBLEM for the SRI LANKAN POLITICANS …….NOT FOR SINHALA-BUDDHISTS (The THOSE WHO HAVE CONVERTED TO CHRISTIANITY CAN CHOOSE to support or wait in the background or JOIN the FORCES that OPPOSE SINHALA-BUDDHISTS YOUR CHOICE “Friends”……..

    This is the END GAME let’s PLAY To WIN

Leave A Comment

Comments should not exceed 300 words. Embedding external links and writing in capital letters are discouraged. Commenting is automatically shut off on articles after 10 days and approval may take up to 24 hours. Please read our Comments Policy for further details. Your email address will not be published.