31 January, 2023

Blog

All Party Conference, Division Among Tamil Politicians & The Ethnic Question

By C.V. Wigneswaran

Justice C. V. Wigneswaran MP

A Journalist from Colombo asked me: There seems to be a polarisation among you Tamil Politicians after the President invited you for discussions on the ethnic question. Some have condemned you “Et tu Brute” for attending the Conference. Do you think apart from dividing the Tamil politicians anything constructive will come out of this exercise?

My response was: The division among Tamil Politicians is not a strange phenomena. Their keen intellect and selfish motivations keep them always divided. They air many varied views. For example many think Ranil is a Fox and therefore Tamils must not trust him and go for discussions. That thought is erroneous. What comes by refusing to discuss or refusing to engage? Our points of view would be ignored or lost to the government and to its Leader. So the polarisation is a fact. But it is not recent. It is endemic among Tamils. We have to proceed despite such organic inheritance if we are to find a solution for our affected people. Our problems are over seventy years’ old.

Refusing to participate in a discussion takes us nowhere. Some have asked why we did not stipulate a condition that unless the President is prepared to grant federalism we would not participate in any discussion. The discussion that took place on 13th instant was not with the leaders of Tamil Parties only. It was with all Party Leaders. It was a preliminary gathering to initiate discussions on the ethnic problem with the consent and concurrence of all Parties represented in Parliament. Majority of Party Leaders Sinhala, Muslim and Upcountry attended the meeting. Refusing to attend such a meeting would have only hardened the feelings and reactions of the leaders of other communities. Nothing would have prevented the Government from continuing with the Meeting with the available Tamil Speaking Party leaders including the Muslim Parties and Upcountry Tamil Parties. Have the Leaders of Tamil Parties from the North and East been elected only not to present their views to a Government in power, allowing only quislings from the North and East to air our People’s views? Are these critics hand in glove with the quislings?

Furthermore boycotting does not solve problems. Engaging does. There were many complicated problems such as the opening of the Bustand at Vavuniya and the problems of the Private Bus Owners and CTB which we were able to solve when I was Chief Minister, Northern Province, because the Parties were prepared to engage with each other under our facilitation. Each Party aired their views and their fears and we as facilitators were able to sort them out.

Some ask us even after publicly saying that India should be brought in to facilitate discussions why we went for discussions without stipulating that condition. Simple answer is that we have not reached that stage yet. We are still at the point of understanding our immediate needs and the manner of solving them. Stopping land grabbing in the North and East is an immediate need. Reviewing the numbers of the Military and the articulation of the need to keep a Military in such large numbers in the North and East are responsibilities of the government. We cannot get relief/answers to these questions if we boycott. 

It would be premature to call in India at this stage. India’s role would be absolutely essential at the time when the existing Constitution is to be changed. Any attempt at changing the present Constitution must ensure that the role of India at the time of evolving the Thirteenth Amendment to the present Constitution is not lost sight of. At that time Sri Lanka needed the services of India very badly. The LTTE were in a commanding position then. India signed the Indo-Sri Lankan Agreement of 1987 by implication on behalf of the Tamils of Sri Lanka. Any change in the existing Constitution must ensure a greater, independent  status to the Tamils. At that stage of deliberations we should no doubt ask for the facilitation of India.Indeed we would! There is no question of the Government of Sri Lanka trying to avoid India and grant us less than what has been granted under the 13th Amendment under a Unitary Constitution. We have already stressed the need to have a Confederal Constitution for Sri Lanka.

In fact there had been a draft Constitution prepared during the Yahapalanaya Government to which TNA too was a Party. I have been asking Mr. Sumanthiran to send me a copy of same. But he had delayed sending it until the time of our deliberations on the 13th instant. We had a look at that draft. 

1. The proposed Yahapalanaya constitution we found is worse for us, the Tamils, than the current Constitution.

2. The draft given to me is not a federal constitution, but a unitary constitution with a seemingly powerless “Second Chamber” added (Art. 111). We could find no actual powers accorded to this Second Chamber. Ekiya under any interpretation implies unitary. Unless we have an eksath constitution giving equal rights to all communities we just cannot accept this so called ekiya draft constitution. I can understand why Mr. Sumanthiran delayed sending a copy of same to me.

3. Overall, this proposal is burdened with procedural specifics, and often simply repeats the current constitution’s provisions in more flowery words. There is little substance in the proposals.

Let me elaborate – Inter alia (a) Art. 14(3)(a)(para 2) of the proposed constitution openly allows for non-arbitrary discrimination against non-citizens. This is not good for the Tamil diaspora – but more to the point, it could be a rationale for treating foreign investors poorly, and could violate trade and investment treaties that contain non-discrimination provisions. (b) Unitary or Federal State? It is certainly Unitary. Article 1 says it would be undivided and indivisible. That would mean the continuance of the hegemony of the Sinhalese throughout the Island. (c) Article 4 gives powers to the Central Government to acquire territories and legalise illegal land grabs. The continued usage by outsiders after 2009 would give the Government the right to legalise their illegal usage. Furthermore this Article repeats the Sixth Amendment shamefully.(d) Most land rights seem to be transferred to the Central Government. (Vide Article 295 et seq.)(e) Buddhism has foremost place, with dignity to other religions, but not equality. At least the North and East could be allowed to be sane, sensible and secular (f) In the proposed Constitution: “Where a statute is enacted by the Provincial Council, it shall be forthwith referred to the Governor for assent.”(Art. 245(1)).Governor means nominee of the President or the Central Government. Where is the power sharing contemplated? By implication all Laws by the Province would be under the scrutiny of the Central Government. Theoretically the Central Government could sabotage the progress of the Provincial Administration. This happened to us when I was Chief Minister. An International Company called in, to grow vegetables and fruits for export was refused permission on non existing or false grounds.

Therefore we must be careful that those among us who helped to bring out this draft would not compromise our rights and powers. At that time we need to call upon India to help.

Whether anything constructive would come out of this process would depend upon us. The Government cannot be allowed to bamboozle its way to inform the World that we have compromised on our essentials. We need a confederal constitution with the rights of the majority Tamil speaking people of the North and East confirmed and ensured. Of course within the Tamil speaking areas there could be the Tamil and Muslim divisions. As for the Upcountry Tamils their rights as minorities in the Sinhala areas must be adequately ensured under a confederal  constitution. Switzerland is confederal and has 20 cantons which function independently. Switzerland is smaller than Sri Lanka in its area. Confederal system ensures every community occupying defined areas in majority would be responsible for their governance and administration with minimum interference from the Centre. Unlike the other minorities in Sri Lanka the Tamils of the North and East are not minorities in their traditional areas of residence. They have been majority in their homelands continuously from over 3000 years. Despite recent occupation by members of the majority community with State assistance within the Eastern Province and the stupendous population boom among the indigenous Muslims of the Eastern Province, still the Tamils of the North and East are the majority community in the North-East. 

If the Government does not view our problems sympathetically or tries to cajole or coax us to accept an Unitary Constitution, or refuses the participation of India as a facilitator, we would at that stage have no alternative but to appeal to the International Community to hold a plebiscite in the North and East under their supervision. Of course we would not make secession an option. It would be whether a confederal or unitary constitution that the North and East want. Under a confederal system the Muslim interests in the East and the Upcountry Tamils’ interests in the Hill Country would no doubt be given recognition and ensurance.

We have therefore engaged ourselves with the Government in finding a solution to our problems which have lasted for over seventy years. How cunning and dubious the Government is, is of no consequence so long as we are firm in our desire to get the best for our People. I have confidence that something constructive will come out of this exercise.

*Justice C.V. Wigneswaran M.P.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Latest comments

  • 5
    5

    Wigne,

    So you want Confederation for Combined North east?. If the govt does not grant it you are going to ask for a plebiscite. wow…You are putting Velupillai to shame

    • 6
      2

      Sadly, none of the Tamil politicians have political acumen. They are only big talkers and non achievers. You have to pit the Sinhalese against the wall by producing alternatives to hard line position on Unitary state and north east merger. Indo-lanka accord on provincial councils was sabotaged by US with the help of Prabaharan. Oslo accord arrived with US mediation was not to the liking to India, but before India could take measures to sabotage it, Prabaharan rejected it and Chandrika dissolved the government. Oslo accord is welcomed by US and western countries and will not oppose it now. Take it to India and find out the clauses in it which India does not like and amend it to get concurrence of India whether we like it or not, without which peace is not possible, and present it to Srilanka government. Sinhalese cannot reject it without falling foul of US, west and India. IMF bail out is not forthcoming without settlement of Tamil problem and Geneva is at the throat of Sinhalese. To circumvent them, this sham reconciliation business is being paraded, and nothing will come out. Sumanthiran is being used to paint rosy pictures, and now Eric Solheim is being used to mislead Tamils.

      • 5
        0

        Wigneswaran, read my article on development of northern province, published below in Colombo Telegraph. This was written one year ago and published in various media abroad. This is what you should have done when your were chief minister of northern province. You wasted five years doing sweet nothing indulging in unwanted things and then blaming others. You brought in a relative of yours Nirmalan Karthigeyan as your economic adviser who was useless. Did he ever tell you to do what I have given in detail in that article.

        • 0
          1

          GS
          The prospect of CVW not reading you raises him a little in my regard, but not nearly enough to compensate the mess he has made of things.

      • 2
        3

        Yet another sermon on belling the cat.
        The is one about how to catch a stork by placing butter on its head, just as clever.
        Think of a practical way if possible..

        • 2
          3

          There is one about how to catch a stork by placing butter on its head…

      • 0
        0

        dr.gnana
        “IMF bail out is not forthcoming without settlement of Tamil problem and Geneva is at the throat of Sinhalese. “

        The bail out is not comng through because of the chinese who do not want to get a haircut.If they do that with sri lanka they will have to do that with all the african countries.They are prepared toalways give fresh loans to pay use and the balance to pay back the old loans like in a pyramid scheme.Sri lanka may have to go that way.

  • 4
    3

    India is responsible for our plight today. India is keen only to open businesses in Srilanka to develop their own country. Once their interest is established here the need to solve the Tamil problem will not arise. They will not hesitate to hit back at the Tamils as they did during the war.

    • 10
      5

      Do not blame others, but blame yourselves. Prabaharan is the root cause of the current plight of Tamils. He had no business to fight IPKF after receiving money from CIA despite Tamil civil society members asking him to accept the Indo-lanka accord and work with India. Tamils never told Prabaharan to kill Rajiv Gandhi, which crime has put Tamils into jeopardy. Every time Indian government is approached this matter is brought up and is a hindrance to get help. Prabaharan fought a foolish and selfish war supported by sycophantic crowd, taking Tamils along garden path, and then abandoned them with total failure to reach the goal. Now India wants Tamils to ward off Chinese presence and unfortunately there are no Tamil politicians who can handle this for the benefit of Tamils.

      • 4
        4

        GS
        “He had no business to fight IPKF after receiving money from CIA”
        What exactly did the CIA pay them for?
        More details please with supporting evidence.
        In fairness to VP, he signed the papers expressing consent under duress. So he had the moral right to change gear on that.

        • 4
          5

          Sivasegaram, you do not have the mental capacity to understand these things. Balasingham was CIA agent planted into LTTE who gained the confidence of Prabaharan and directed LTTE towards US. Premadasa did not give weapons to LTTE on his own accord or with state money. Though Prabaharan was forced to consent by India despite that he did not like it, he cannot go against the wish of Tamil people who wanted the accord to go ahead. Instead of joining with India and hammering Premadasa, he joins with Premadasa to attack IPKF, which brought disastrous consequence to Tamils.

          • 0
            0

            GS
            Your mental capacity for fantasy is matchless.
            But harder to match is your skill to make a picture out of pieces from different jig-saw puzzles. Of course scissors and glue will be needed.
            But for someone with a story already made up in the mind (like the Pallava navy that sailed to Cambodia), it is effortless.
            Thanks for the entertainment.

      • 1
        6

        Tamils never told IPKF (Rajive) to kill the Tamils, rape the Tamil Ladies, and kill the nurses and doctors at the hospital. Tamils never told Rajive to arrest Prabaharan to be kept in a hotel arrest and bully him to accept his point of view. He went up to the extent of saying “Who is Prabaharn I will teach him a lesson” when Prabha refused to fall in line with Rajive’s thinking. Who is Rajive? He was responsible for suicides of 17 LTTE leaders at the commencement of the ‘PEACE KEEPING’ by trying to hand them over to Lalith Athulath Mudali.

        • 0
          1

          Well said Kanapathy. Inexperienced and arrogant Rajiv was listening to the advice of many anti-Thamizh in Delhi and Colombo and wanted to prove himself signed an agreement with cunning fox JR, as well as all other Chingkalla leaders who followed, as usual, were always going to sabotage it and were not going to honour the agreement, without consulting the Eezham Thamizh, forced it on Prapakaran and sent the North Indian largely Sikh IPKF, not to safeguard the Thamizh in the north and east but to see that they toe the line or else and we know what happened. They were there to do the dirty work of the Chingkallams. The so-called peacekeeping, Sikh regiments were deliberately let loose on the foreign Eezham Thamizh, who were fighting for their just rights on their own soil, to take their revenge and blood lust on the hapless largely Hindu Eezham Thamizh for what happened in the Golden Temple and Punjab, as many Madras regiments from the South of India were used to storm the Gloden Temple and break the Sikh rebellion in Punjab.

          • 1
            0

            Sikh regiments were under great cloud and suspicion and many of them were resentful, of what happened, therefore this deliberate decision to send them to Eelzham Tamil lands in the north and east was taken, so that they could take their revenge not on Thamizh Nadu Thamizh but on a foreign Thamizh population and return home as patriotic heroes. This was a deliberate move. Why didn’t they have South Indian/Thamizh regiments, culturally close to the Eezham Thamizh and who understood the language? All this would not have happened if his mother was still the leader, she was made of sterner stuff and was very shrewd and would not have listened to this anti-Thamizh. Even now India, as usual, is playing a double game with the Thamizh and trying to please the Chingkallms, who as usual will get everything from India and discard them. Notice from the time of independence, India has never really helped or sided with the Thamizh, only has used them and their misfortune, to bring the Chingkallams into line but when it comes to the crunch have sided with the Chingkallams, at the UN and everywhere and will keep on doing this.

        • 0
          0

          kanapathy
          “He went up to the extent of saying “Who is Prabaharn I will teach him a lesson” when Prabha refused to fall in line with Rajive’s thinking. “

          Now we all know that rajiv was a mutt but what we did not know is that prabha was also a mutt.Tow mutts are playing chess,what do you do.They are both havinga high megalomaniacal opinion of themselves but are unable to play chess because chess requires brains,not brawn and these 2 buffaloes are full of brawn only.

          Now if prabha was willing to listen to others which i very much doubt i would have first told him before he challenges rajiv ask himself the question whther it is in the interst of the tamils or not in the interest.If the answer is no it is not in the interst of the tamils then don’t do it.If prabha says the indolanka accord may be in the inyerest of the tamils but not in the interst of the LTTE ,then i would have told him to be patient and pretend to go along with rajiv and see what happens,because the accord could very well be brought down by the sinhalese and the wrath of india would have fallen upon them,not on LTTE.Rajiv was nearly killed by a navy sailor.

    • 4
      3

      KV
      If India fooled you, the first thing to blame should be your stupidity.

      • 1
        1

        Indians walked into Srilanka not because of our stupidity of the Tamils. But with the concurrence of Srilanka to Rob whatever they can by showing to the government that they are with them. Today they are creeping in slowly and steadily. Because of it, they won’t speak about the genocide, jointly committed by Srilanka and India during the war. Maybe they are concerned about the Chinese intervention welcomed by Srilanka now. Perhaps they are regretting their action. If a settlement was reached with the Tigers the need to fear China may not have arisen. What India sowed they have to reap.

    • 4
      1

      You are correct Kanapathy Varunan. The recent photograph of the Indian naval Chief or Admiral with war criminal Sharvendra smiling together and shaking hands and the backdrop is a huge photograph of the Sri Lankan Military, during the northern offensive of 2009. An offensive that is very controversial, with the horrible and deliberate killing of almost 145000 innocent Thamizh civilians and war crimes accusations and India’s role in these killings and war crimes. Speaks volumes about the Sinhalese/Sri Lankan and Indian mindset and what they think about the Tamils. Will this Indian naval chief go to another country smile and take a photograph with a huge background of a photograph or portrait of an offensive that is closely associated with war crimes and deliberate killings of hundreds of thousands of civilians? The answer will be definitely no. This shows what India really thinks about Thamizh, their lives and their opinion. They do not respect or care for them. Has always played a double game and when it matters sided with the Chingkallams, despite constantly being rebuffed. The LTTE may have been at fault too but the LTTE may have realised that India was indeed playing a double game with the Thamizh, the behaviour of the IPKF confirms this. India will never help the Eezham Thamizh as North Indians, Malayalees and Thamizh Brahmins make all the decisions.

      • 2
        6

        Pandi,

        If we deliberately killed 145000 civilians, surely you can get the Americans to give satellite pictures. Everything else you stated is correct.
        For your information, Around Feb 2009 Sonia Gandhi directly spoke to Srima Dissanayake and requested the dissanayake familys support to the then government.In the conversation between Sonia had mentioned that they should some how make sure LTTE is defeated. This was revealed by Navin Dissanayake in an interview.

  • 3
    0

    “Their (Tamil politicians) keen intellect and selfish motivations keep them always divided.”
    Keen intellect? ALL of them?? Let the jury decide.

    • 1
      1

      Jury decide?
      OC, for starters, there is no case to plead.

  • 5
    0

    Ex-Chief Minister of Northern Province C.V. Wigneswaran is blowing off steam and looks as though he is living in a world of his own! He is in the habit of picking holes in anything M.A. Sumanthiran, MP says or writes. 

    A federal system is ideal, but the Sinhalese politicians suffer from anti-federal phobia. May be we need another economic meltdown.

    When federal is a hard sell among Sinhalese he is talking about confederal! No Sinhalese leader has come forward in support of a federal constitution, leave alone a confederal one. Leader of the Opposition Sajith Premadasa has already declared that he will support a settlement of the ethnic problem by devolving maximum power to the provincial councils, but only within a unitary constitution.   

    The substance is more important than style.  Although the United Kingdom is a unitary sovereign country, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales have gained a degree of autonomy through the process of devolution.

    The United Kingdom Parliament and British Government deal with all reserved matters for Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales, but not in general matters that have explicitly been devolved to the Northern Ireland Assembly, Scottish Parliament, and the Welsh Senedd.

    • 1
      0

      If the Sinhalese accepted Federalism today Srilanka will be flowing with milk and honey. But one drawback would have been that Tamils may not have left the island and earned foreign exchange. On the other hand, they would have developed the country and earned foreign exchange ‘seated’ here. and lived happily with the other communities.

  • 2
    0

    C V W is right in saying that we Tamil Speaking citizens of SL ( that includes Muslims) should interact with Singhalese in order to see our beloved country becoming a peaceful progressive one. We need the Buddhist Monks belonging to various Chapters TOO take part in the resolution of ethnic differences. If the LAWS are equally applied & upheld to all SL citizens, may be we Tamils do not need for SEPARATE RIGHTS!

  • 1
    0

    I would say to thetamil politicians to see whther the indo lanka accord can be implemented in full.

Leave A Comment

Comments should not exceed 200 words. Embedding external links and writing in capital letters are discouraged. Commenting is automatically disabled after 5 days and approval may take up to 24 hours. Please read our Comments Policy for further details. Your email address will not be published.