24 August, 2019

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Amending The 13th Amendment: Immorality Of Mahinda Rajapaksa Regime

By Sumanasiri Liyanage

Sumanasiri Liyanage

President Mahinda Rajapaksa and his closest associates have shown their determination to amend the 13th Amendment to the Constitution that was enacted in 1987 as a part of an agreement between India and Sri Lanka. Whatever its political implications and repercussions this attempt has proved blatant immoral nature of the present regime. However, there is a glimmer of hope as this immoral determination was questioned and challenged within the governmental front by 8 ministers. The Muslim Congress, the Lanka Samasamaja Party, The Communist Party of Sri Lanka and the Democratic Left Front, those are constituent parties of the governmental coalition have already recorded their opposition to any amendment to dilute the 13th Amendment. Naturally those who were politically associated with late Vijaya Kumaranathunga have also expressed that they would oppose vehemently such a move. I welcome the courage of Ministers Rajitha Senarathna, Reginald Cooray and Dilan Perra. I hope, they will be joined by Ministers like Ms Pavithra Vanniarachchi, Mr S B Disanayaka and many others. There is no doubt that the constitutional dilution of the 13th Amendment that has been already diluted in practice by all the governments since 1987 will be a major political blunder that would bring about more dangerous outcome than those of the abrogation of the Bandaranaike-Chelvanayaham Pact of 1958. I would portray the decision to dilute the 13th Amendment if put into practice as the most immoral and dissolute act in recent Sri Lankan political history for four reasons.

First, the 13th Amendment was enacted as part of an agreement between Sri Lanka and India in 1987. Two countries came to an agreement after many rounds of talks and constant consultation with the Sri Lankan Tamil political parties that included Tamil militant organizations. So the 13th Amendment is a compromise outcome of a long process of consultation and discussions that took in to notice the conflicting interests of different parties. The argument that Sri Lanka is a sovereign nation so that it has every right to change its constitution is a weak one since when two or more sovereign nations enter into an agreement they all are equally abide by it in order to maintain their sovereign status in the global order. So it should be emphasized that the agreements cannot be contravened unilaterally by the whims and fancies of politicians who come to power for a specified period of time. Hence it is totally immoral to dissolve an agreement without consulting the parties that are party to the agreement, namely India and Tamil political parties.

Secondly, Mahinda Rajapakse government and the president himself promised the country and its closest neighbor, India, that the government would take steps to improve the 13th Amendment mechanisms that it portrayed as 13+. True it was not clear what it meant by 13+. However, once the government media spokesperson, Minister Keheliya Rambukwella, informed the media that what government and the President meant by 13+ was 13th Amendment + a second chamber. One may pose a question whether 13+ defined in this way would be adequate to deal with the Sri Lankan national question, but, it is not my intention here to deal with that tricky issue. None of the Mahinda Chinthana documents informed the people that it had an intention for the dilution of the 13th Amendment. Well, it is interesting to note that the two documents did not tell the people that it would pass an amendment to negate the 17th Amendment to the Constitution. Hence, the government is going not only to break the agreement reached with its neighbor but also to breach the promises it had given to its own people. Does such a government have a moral ground stay in power?

Last week, I saw a poster at Wijerama junction about a meeting that was organized to support the dilution of the 13th Amendment. It said that ‘the victory that was gained by soldiers (rana viruwan) should not allow to be betrayed’. If we recollect the statements of many army officers in the past, they all had a view that the security forces in Sri Lanka could achieve military victory over the LTTE but that military victory could be protected only if the politicians take necessary political steps in achieving and maintaining peace. It should be noted that was the moral ground for the sacrifices made by the members of the security forces. If someone reread the interviews given by the prominent military leaders such as Major Denzil Koobbekaduwa, my point would be clear. Once I went to a military academy to give a talk, and many junior level army officers were in hundred percent agreement with this position. If it was the way in which the military encounter was legitimized by the security forces or at least its conscious leaders, it would be a moral duty of the politicians to deal with the political dimension of the national question after the military victory. As Winston Churchill, war time British Prime Minister once said the party that achieve victory should be magnanimous. Rajapaksa regime is doing the opposite.

Last, but by no means least, the immorality of amending the 13th Amendment stems from very simple and uncomplicated human reasoning that is valued it any civilized society. When we were kids, we were taught by or parents, teachers and Buddhist monks that when thou give something to someone thou shall not take it back. It has been argued that the many promises given by the governments dominated by Sinhala political leaders for were broken by them due to multiple reasons. The post-colonial history has ample evidence to support this contention. In the late 1970s, district committees were set up to give a semblance of self rule to provinces. We are all aware how district committee elections were conducted in the North. In 1987, the provincial council system was established with limited powers enabling provinces to make decision on provincial matters. It was somewhat hilarious that Mahinda Rajapaksa regime wants to take those limited powers back from the provinces. Do these politicians acting on chosen ignorance have an iota of civility? This reminded me what John Keane once said “If democracy is a continuous struggle against simplification of the world, then nationalism is a continuous struggle to undo complexity, a will not to know certain matters, a chosen ignorance, not the ignorance of innocence.”

*The writer is a co-cordiantor of Marx School, Colombo, Ratmalana, Negombo and Kandy. His email: sumane_l@yahoo.com

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    Dr. Liyanege,

    It is apparent that many of our political leaders have not been taught the simple lesson you mention, as children. it holds no meaning to them. Their parents probably were setting the wrong example. They also lie, contrary to another lesson we were taught as children. MR has inherited this abhorrent tradition from his predecessors starting with Don Stephen Senanayake and is determined to make it a fine art. Being not the brightest among those who have ruled us, he is being caught at his broken promises and lies quite early, to the point that he is making huimselg and his party not electable yet. Even the Simple Simon in the backwoods, is quite aware of this President’s cheap tactics and lack of scruples now. I am increasingly reminded of the ‘ Parangiya Kotte giya’ story, about which many take pride, not understanding that the ‘ Parangiya’ was quite aware of the fact that the ‘ stupids’ were trying to hoodwink them!

    Dr. Rajasingham Narendran

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      Do the democratic thing – put it to a referendum. Problem solved.

      Only the Apartheids fear a vote!

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        Attempt to dilute or amend the 13th amendment will never be successful.

        It is impossible to get a two thirds majority for dilu8tion. Government can try complete removal of 13th amendment, they might get adequate votes with JHU, JVP and some UNP votes. JHU, JVP and some UNP votes will not be available for a dilution.

        People would approve complete removal of the 13th amendment in a referendum, patch work and dilution will not be approved by a referendum.

      • 0
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        Referendum in each province sepately! Each province can express its opinion.based on its own needs and wants, without trespassing on the right of other provinces to decide what they need and want.

        Dr.Rajasingham Narendran

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          No. Referendums are held for the entire island nation!

          Why fear a referendum?

          Please lets have a referendum at least now.

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            Referendums need not be national. In Switzerland each canton can decide its position through a local referendum. We have had experience with JRs referendum to extend his term ! Why do the likes of you want to thwart the thwart the democratic expression of the wants of a section of Sri Lanka’s citizens? Why are you afraid to find out whether the ordinary Tamils and Muslims want devolution of political power? Why do you want to drown their voice? Democracy without pluralism is a hoax in a country like ours.

            Dr.Rajasingham Narendran

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              Yes, being on Switzerland passing this to you.. not only Canton levels, but also smaller units what they call it here ” Bezirk”, the swiss are used to do such opinion polls. You are right saying that why to fear holding any referendum within provinces.

            • 0
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              A correction: referenda instead of referendums.

              Dr.RN

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              HO YES SRILANAKA ONLY ONLY TAMILS AND MUSLIMS LIVE SINHALA PEPLE LIVE IN TOILET NADU GO AND GET LOSE

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            What is already in the constitution does not require a referendum. A referendum may be needed if you are introducing new amendments. For instance the 18th amendment in fact needed a referendum but the supreme court played ball.

            • 0
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              Fully Agree.

              It seems now people remains unsure since the fact that they did not call a referendum before passing the 18th AMD.

              Situation will become like this not only focusing on passing amdments but also in many issues today- not knowing who is doing what is correct etc.

              This is the reason I see that many would even dont care even if their lovely ones are gun down at broad day light…. so indifferent as no seen in the past.

              Thanks go to NATION^s embarracement who is none other than MR MR.

            • 0
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              SUPREME COURT TURN DOWN 13 AMENDMENT IT ALREADY DONE.
              SUPREME COURT RULE 13 AMENDMENT NEED REFERENDUM WHY DONT WE GO FOR REFERENDUM AND LETG PEOPLE TO DECIDE WHAT THEY WANT.
              WHY TNA AND DISPORA AFARAID TO REFERENDUM.
              UNDER DEMOCRACY EVERY CITIZEN HAVE EQUAL RIGHTS.
              INDIA AND TOILET NADU WANT TO GO BACK DOOR AND DO EVERY THING THEY WANT
              DONT FORGET INDIA CREAT LTTE TO DESTBILIZE SRILANKA.
              INDIRA GANDI TRAINED AND GAVE WEAPONS TO LTTE BUT KARMA BITE INDIRA GANDI AND LTTE USED SAME WEAPONS AND TRAINING GAVE BY INDIA TO KILL RAJIV GANDI

        • 0
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          But the problem would be – people from remote areas are not well aware of many issues since govt has their media mechanisms to brainwash those people who are the vote base of govt. So in this case, results of referendums without proper awareness programme would be similar to what JRJ ^s decades ago. Wimal weerawanse^s wrong inaccurate propaganda has already infiltrated to southern and other areas, his way of paranoid theories have already established in people^s mind, so that it will be easy for others to change them within a short time.

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            First people should be fed with facts…

            Then the facts make open their eyes.

            Now looking at the manner that ruling coalition consolidated powers accross the country – make it clear even Gold robers, Killers, rapists and the like low level candidates have got elected in previously held pradeshiya saba elections. Many of them have no education to contest such elecitons.

            If the rulers would not pay attention to that in any NE elections, the situation would become much worst even after wrong ones will be elected to those councils.

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            Another pundit comes to the front . Where has he been all this time . He seems to have forgotten how the 13 th amendment came to be in the constitution . How the Indians forced it without a mandate from the people or the parliament . Is this democracy ?At a time when the country was in a state emergency the then President JR forcing the MP’s to write letters of resignation in case they do rebel against this unorthodox procedure. That is what is wrong with the 13 th amendment .

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          srilanka is one country it should have one election srilanka is one country. provincial system effect all country

      • 0
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        Why dont we go for an election instead then.
        Advise your bosses to go for it.

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      Dr.Rajasingham Narendran

      I suggest you invite manisekaran thangavelu to this island as your guest and show him around North East and also South.

      As you suggested earlier his visit might help him to think through the whole project which he might under take later.

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        He is welcome any time. I have invited many over the years, but they went silent after that.

        Dr.RN

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          Dr.Rajasingham Narendran

          Here is his e mail address:

          msksalem77@gmail.com

          Please send him a formal invitation.

          Lets see.

          • 0
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            I would take that as opportunity provided the safety is not an issue.

  • 0
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    Yo..Sumanasiri Liyanage, Are you alright???..Sri-Lanka’s Integrity is intact and nonnegotiable..
    what is undemocratic about proposed amendments to the 13th? Please explain..

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      Al- if you cannot see what is undemocratic in the three amendments that were proposed, then you do not know what democracy is. First merger of two provincial councils- if the people of the provinces wish to merge then there should be no impedance to it. Merger does not mean separation. When the military powers are still with the central government, giving police powers to the province should not be an issue. If you look at the time after the destruction of LTTE, you will notice that the police have become a tool of the government and especially the secretary of defense has been using the police as his “coolies”. If you have not seen this then again there is something wrong with you. Only if the provinces have the police powers it can be under an independent body and supervised by a civilian body like in all developed democratic countries. Land rights should definitely be given to the provinces as they belong to the people who live in the area, not some one who sits in Colombo. Only reason why the government does not want to give the land powers is not because the land can be removed and taken some where else, its only because the kick backs and commissions which the ruling family gets from the development of those lands will not be available to them. Now do you understand the reason. The amendments are truly undemocratic. Above all promise to the nation and the world should not be taken away. That is dishonesty. If the powers have to be taken back then it should be done only after all the provisions of the 13th amendments are implemented in all provinces as it remains today, give few years for the provincial councils to function and then assess the success or failure and only then bring the amendments. This is the democratic approach.

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      Law of the one particular country is not applicable to international treaties. 13th amendment is outcome of india-srilanka international accord. So Srilanka has no right to amend unless India agrees to it.Here sovereignty is not a point.

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        But amending it according to the country^s future is a must/mandatory. and it is the job of lanken govt respecting opinions of all othre political parties.

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          OK if you go back from that, why cant India also go back from its position and do what it wants? Your future lies in how well you accommodate all minorities with their political rights ensured, not repealing it

          • 0
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            Rubbish.

            SL is a different country to India.

            Tamils are safe in SL as long as they toe the SL line. Otherwise it is better for them to go back to India.

            The last war (Indian supported) killed 13% of SL Tamil adult men and made 13% SL Tamil adult women widows. I don’t think most Tamils want it repeated.

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              Muliyawaikkal

              “SL is a different country to India.”

              In what way?

              “Tamils are safe in SL as long as they toe the SL line. Otherwise it is better for them to go back to India.”

              Good.

              When they go let them take their Sinhala brethren with them.

              My people will be safe in this island without these two stupid peoples.

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              SL is fast becoming a hell, for Tamils.

              With 89,000 Tamil war widows, there is hardly any hope for them. :(

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            manisekaran thangavelu

            Whether the people of this island like it or not Hindians treat this island as the Sinhala state of India.

            Is there any problem with their honest approach?

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              Sorry, they started thinking that srilanka is becoming another U-Tsang for chinkies.

            • 0
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              Native,

              Does this Thangavelu know that our Jaffna cousins don’t like the Madrasis that much?.

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              K.A Sumanasekera

              “Does this Thangavelu know that our Jaffna cousins don’t like the Madrasis that much?.”

              I am sure the Madarasies know that their cousins in Sri Lanka (both Sinhala & Tamil speaking) don’t like them very much.

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        it is not legal supreme court turn down. why TNA and TAmils always usa back door lets go to election.
        JR YAYAWARDENA ALWAYS BETRATE THE COUNTRY TO STAY IN POWER

      • 0
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        WHY TNA AND TAMIL ALWAYS GO UNDEMOCRATIC WAY
        WHY TNA AND DISPORA AFARID TO REFERENDUM.
        WHY EVERY TIME WANT TO DISCUS NATIONAL ISSUE TNA LIKE LITTLE GIRL RUNNING TO DADDY RUNNING TO INDIA.
        IS TNA DONT HAVE ANY MAN TO DECIDE THEM SELVES OR ARE THEY SHEMALES
        YES WE FOLLOW OTHER COUNTRIES AS EXAMPLE
        USA NATIONAL ANTHEM PLAY ONLY IN ENGLISH IKE THAT IN SRILANKA WE SING NATIONAL ANTHEM IN SINHALA
        IN FRANCE PROSTITUTION IS LEGAL LIKE THAT WE LEGALIZE PROSTITUION IN NORTH LEGAL
        IN USA,USA DON’T LISTEN TO OTHER COUNTRIES OR TERRORIST GROUPS TO DECIDE NATIONAL MATTERS LETS FOLLOW USA AND ASK INDIA AND TOILET NADU TO SHUT UP.
        USA NEVER HOLD DIALOG WITH TERRORIST, LIKE THAT STOP TALKING TO TNA AND OTHER TERRORIST.

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    Instead of talking about the impotent 13A, let’s look at some urgent matters for the minorities: First the dysfunctional police force. When the extremists attack minority interests they don’t take action, but in some cases they aid the attackers rather than the victims. This has been going on time and again since 1983 anti-Tamil pogrom, or even before as in the 1977 pogrom against Tamils. Now this menace has become endemic against Tamils, Muslims and Christians. Some members of the force are involved in violence, torture and even murder. Many serious crimes go unprosecuted.

    There is no point in talking about lofty parliamentary bills. It is the implementation stupid, as Bill Clinton would have said. It seems that everybody has accepted the dysfunctional police force as something to be lived with. How many laws are strictly enforced in Sri Lanka?

    What Sri Lanka needs first is rigorous implementation of the laws. Then talk about participation of the minorities in governing well. Otherwise we will all be hypocrites and the country will become militarist, fascist, and eventually disintegrate.

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      That will not happen!

      Leave SL with dignity, or live in SL with indignity.

      I bet you will chose the latter.

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        Dignity cannot be given or taken away. Individual dignity, becomes communal and national dignity, when more individual exercise it even in the worst circumstances. Nelson Mandela did not lose his dignity, despite
        being jailed for 27 years. The Black South Africans did not lose their dignity despite the vileness of apartheid. They are making a dignified rainbow nation along withe white minority and the brown Indians.

        Dr. Rajasingham Narendran

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          Nelson Mandela has the support of the MAJORITY. The MINORITY govt. in SA LEFT with dignity.

          Why can’t those who allege discrimination in SL have an iota of dignity? If they opt to put up with indignity, you know what they will get.

    • 0
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      OK THEN SCAP HOLE INDU LANKA ACCORD.
      LETS START DEVELOPMENT IN SRILANKA.
      WE DONT NEED INDIA,

  • 0
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    soveriginity is always a point you idiot . It is the job of the presedent of the country to prevent seperatisum as needed . It is not up to india to tell us what we can and cannot do(We all know how good they and their pet dogs are in meddling in small countries) . preventing PCs merging is a good thing . We all know how great the the years from 83 to 09 were . It is the job , no the Bounden Duty of MR to make sure that type of thing never happens again no matter what the nay sayers say . PERIOD !

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      further marginalization and mistreatment of the tamils will only lead to more problems. your approach to solving “that type of thing” seems to be to add fuel into the fire and say “now the fire will go out!”.

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    13 amendment imposition was immoral. People were not consulted.

    Repealing it is the right thing to do!!

    Or do the democratic thing – put it to a referendum. Problem solved.

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      what people? the ones who, even now, are against tamils from having any sort of political control ever, and are still having a raging revenge-fantasy against them? that’s like asking the executioner to decide what happens to the convict.

      • 0
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        Too bad.

        Why fear the people and a referendum? Just put 13 amendment to a referendum and see what happens. Those who are against SL and the people can leave with dignity or live in indignity. This is the simple equation.

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      Joining the Tamil Kingdom with rest of the island was immoral. People were not consulted.

      Repealing it is the right thing to do !!

      Or do the democratic thing – put it to a referendum among the descendants of the Tamil Kingdom. Problem solved.

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    The writer has attempted to enunciate as clearly as possible valid reasons for not abrogating agreements that have been made. Agreements previously entered into can and should only be varied with the participation of the signatories to the original document. Anything else would be blatantly dishonest and a sign of the poor bona fides of Sri Lanka and its politicians.

    ‘My word is my bond’ a phrase that used to be heard but which is as valid now as it has always been. The information in your papers of attempts to move seized elephant tusks defying an international agreement is another case in point.

    These serve to paint, at best, a poor picture of Sri Lanka as an unreliable partner and at its worst as an openly dishonest people. As Jeremiah said ‘do not abhor us, for your name’s sake, do not disgrace the throne of your glory: remember, break not your covenant with us’.

    However the paper also raises two other important aspects:

    Sri Lanka has been through a protracted war with enormous suffering by all. If ever there was a time and indeed an imperative to be magnanimous in victory it is now, although late and becoming more so. What better words than those of Douglas MacArthur ‘…We have known the bitterness of defeat and the exultation of triumph, and from both we have learned there can be no turning back. We must go forward to preserve in peace what we won in war…. I do not stand here as advocate for any partisan cause, for the issues are fundamental and reach quite beyond the realm of partisan consideration. They must be resolved on the highest plane of national interest if our course is to prove sound and our future protected….. If we will not devise some greater and more equitable system, Armageddon will be at our door’.

    Secondly and fundamentally one should not impose constitutional change from a partisan view. Governments are elected to conduct a declared program of activities for the benefit of its populations. Constitutional change, however small, needs the new consent of the people and not the majority that a ruling party can command. Constitutional issues are best referred to the electorate for resolution and not dealt with by individuals or parties on the mistaken assumption of approval of those who voted for them.

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      “Constitutional change, however small, needs the new consent of the people and not the majority that a ruling party can command.”

      And even then, the people can be wrong- as illustrated beautifully in ’56 when the majority called for Sinhala-Only and led us down this path of ultra-nationalism and war.

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    Prof. Liyanage is one more example the fine Sinhala Nation is endowed with men of reason and intellect whose political outlook cannot be seduced by the narrow strings of positions or pseudo-nationalism. It is good to read him regularly proclaim the fruits of his learning to his wide audience. Whether this will be followed by opinion-makers on the Govt. side, however, is an altogether different matter.

    Senguttuvan

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      He does not any belonging of any social group. On the other hand, Tamils are living on Tamilness.

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    Some monks want more blood baths.

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    Is it moral to give Police Powers to Sambandan and his TNA?

    This is the team who barracked for and encouraged and condoned the LTTE and its administration which had full Police and Military power for thirty long years. .

    Now they want the same Police.

    How long would it be before they ask for or acquire Military powers as well.

    They haven’t even won the PC, but their heavy hitters like Senathiraja, and Premachandra have put the inhabitants on notice.

    No Expressways on Tamil Land says Prema.

    No Chinese will be allowed there.

    Ex General Chndrasiri must leave before Senathraja casts his vote even if it is to elect themselves

    Perhaps preventing these “moral activities” must be immoral to Dr Liyanage.

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      WOW sounds nice to me.
      Why not, we must give the people in north their freedom as we enjoy in south.
      After all we dont need another a blood bath in years to come.
      Deadly ruthless LTTE wasnt created overnight. It was created or rather enchouraged by SWRD and other SLFP brainless racists.
      Tamil people must have their freedom and live peacefully.
      they have had suffered enough.
      The question is ‘Are Gotabhaya and Mahinda Rajapaksa with JHU and other extreme wings pushing for another uprising?
      Do we need one? Can we afford ?
      We defeated LTTE not because of Rajapakss brains. But because of collective afforts of all parties involved genuinely and with the support of India. Also the international trend changes after 9/11. India didnt allow JR or R premadasa to finish this war then with brave soldiers like Denzil K, Wijaya wimalaratne etc for political and strategic reasons. Rajapaksa happened to be the leader when achieved this victory. Rajapaksas cannot even run a fish stall otherwise. Any damn fool can see that. Sri lanka is poor country today thanks to the SLFP. Its a curse for this country.
      Mr. Sumanasiri Liyanage can see it, so can we. Thank you Mr. Liyanage. Good write up.

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      KAS

      Is it morale to give police powers to Bodu Bala Sena ?. They have been given unofficial police powers to attack Mosques, churches and beef stalls. Tamils nor TNA will attack those places like Sinhala Yello Robes

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        Why no one is talking that both the Christianity and Mosques are political religions and they cause social dis-harmony where ever they are.

    • 0
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      Sumane,

      You, speaking of Morality in our political culture – post-1956???
      Buddharakhita (1956) Rice from the Moon (1970)13A ++ (2011-12)
      Surely, my friend. Is that the morality you have in mind.

      BTW, why are you so obsessed with old Sampanthan? In terms of Parliamentary contribution, integrity, the laws, ability and the capacity to speak brilliantly impromptu to the media – global and local, there is little par to him in the House or the country, if you have the honesty to admit.

      Senguttuvan

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        Senguttuvan

        “why are you so obsessed with old Sampanthan?”

        Sinhala/Buddhists suffer from inferiority complex.

        Tamils suffer from superiority complex.

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    Yet another excellent article by Sumanasiri Liyanage. The President’s deceitful and ill thought out manoevering, to take away with the left hand what the right hand reluctantly gives, as well as the drum beating of the insular and shortsighted Sinhala supremacists, are fraught with grave risks.

    Not only is there the threat to abrogate an agreement reached with India, a big power neighbour there is also the breaking of a promise publicly given and repeated often to persons ranging from the Secretary General of the UN to Indian politicians, authorities, Tamil leadership and to this country as a whole.

    Those old enough to have seen SWRD’s flirting around with chauvinistic forces in the 1950s and the terrible consequences of those actions to this country and its people in the next 50 to 60 years, see the virtual replay of that scene today, an ominous ‘déjà vu’ – egged on by pretty much the same kind of foolish and one may say even frivolous party politicking that passes off for serious governance in this country.

    In the words pf Santyana: Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

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    Nice Sumanasiri. You people very much worked to elect this regime [Edited out]

  • 0
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    23th amendment has no legitimacy unfortunately most of the comments on the subject clearly suffers from selective amnesia. This was a amendment passed by parliament with the threat of invasion by india, passed by a parliament whose MPs held to ransom by resignation letters and imprisoned in hotels in colombo before the vote by a president who is still detested with the majority of the opposition boycotting the vote, against which 75000 young people died protesting. The least President can do is to put this to a referendum .

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