18 April, 2024


An Evening With Jayampathy: A Response To Hoole

By S. Krishnananthan –

S. Krishnananthan

S. Krishnananthan

The article of Prof. Ratnajeevan Hoole in the Colombo Telegraph, “An evening in Jaffna with Hon. Dr. Jayampathy Wickramaratne”, has many inaccuracies and distortions and as the Chair of the meeting I should clarify what was actually said.

Dr. Wickramaratne was in Jaffna as a resource person for a workshop for senior officers of the Northern Provincial Council on “Provincial Administration and Finance” conducted by the Institute for Constitutional Studies. Whenever he visits Jaffna he makes it a point to meet the members of the Jaffna Managers’ Forum and this was another such occasion. The persons who accompanied him were the other resource persons who had come for the workshop and not “LSSP cohorts” as Prof. Hoole describes.

Dr. Jayampathy quoted Dr. Colvin as saying, “When a constitution is made, it is not made by the Minister of Constitutional Affairs”, meaning that the final product depends on the strengths of the various political forces involved. Dr. Nihal Jayawickrama, who was the Secretary of the Ministry of Justice at that time, has said that the first draft prepared by Colvin did not have the phrase ‘unitary state’. But Felix Dias Bandaranaike had insisted on a ‘unitary state’. Dr. Jayampathy explained that the basic resolution approved by the Constituent Assembly was for Buddhism to be given its ‘rightful place’ but, again, the rightists succeeded in giving Buddhism ‘the foremost place’ in the final version. The balance of power within the Constituent assembly during 1970-1972 was clearly against the nonracial forces. With regard to Dr. Hoole’s reference to a Professor of Sinhala who helped Dr. Colvin with the translation, it was true that Prof. P.E. E. Fernando helped in the translation.Jayampathi-DSC_0186-2

According to Dr. Hoole, Dr. Jayampathy said that the Tamil MPs contributed to the lack of legitimacy of the 1972 Constitution by being absent at the final vote. What he actually said was that the United Front failed to respond to MP Dharmalingam’s request to at least abolish Kachcheris and establish elected bodies at District level if it could not go outside the unitary state. Yet, the Tamil MPs continued to participate and kept away only after there was no agreement on the language issue. Dr. Jayampathy blamed the United Front for this and said that if the Tamil MPs stayed on, the 1972 Constitution would have had greater legitimacy even if the Tamil MPs would not have finally supported it.

This time his son Mr Siddharthan MP is in the constituent assembly but not a member of Public Representations Committee on Constitutional Reform, as erroneously stated by Prof Hoole. However Mr Siddharthan is very knowledgeable and has an important role to play in drafting the new constitution, Dr Wicramaratne added.

Prof Hoole exhibits ignorance on Dr Jayampathy’s stand on devolution and I can say without any hesitation that Dr. Jayampathy is one of the foremost consistent supporters of devolution in the entire country, coming under attack by Sinhala extremists for his stand.

On the nature of the State, Dr. Jayampathy’s view was that the content was more important than labels. When people of the South say that Sri Lanka should be a unitary state, what they mean is an “indivisible” state which is different from the meaning of “unitary” in traditional constitutional law.

On the new electoral reform, Dr Wicramaratne said that the consensus is now around first past poll within the overall proportional representation system

On the controversy regarding national policy, Dr. Jayampathy explained that when a Bill to amend the Agrarian Services Act was challenged for not being sent to Provincial Councils, Justice Mark Fernando, an eminent judge, had held that the Bill declared national policy when even the Attorney-General did not claim so. This led to the AG giving a twist by saying that agrarian services was not a devolved subject and all provincial departments being taken over by the Centre. Even though the Supreme Court clarified subsequently in 2003 that matters relating to tenant cultivators are devolved, the Centre still clings to the subject and Provincial Councils have not been interested in getting the departments back. He said that it is essential that Provincial Councils be involved in the making of any national policy so that they take ownership of such policy and it must be clearly stated in the Constitution that even when national policy is made, the subject continues to be a devolved subject administered by the provinces.

On secularism, Dr. Jayampathy was clear that as a Leftist, he was for a secular state. The Supreme Court had in two cases stated that notwithstanding the foremost place for Buddhism in the Constitution, Sri Lanka is essentially a secular state.

However I should add here that a secular state means almost irreligious and officially neutral in matters of religion, supporting neither religion nor irreligion and hence religious leaders are right in demanding that the state should not be secular, but be non-secular and the denomination head from a dominant religious community is correct in calling for the state to be non secular but non-partial for a particular religion and opt for equality of religions

On shortcomings in the 19th Amendment regarding the Election Commission, Dr. Jayampathy humbly accepted his responsibility as a member of the drafting committee but stated that the relevant part was sent to the Commissioner of Elections who had approved the same.

On the question of competency in drafting a new constitution Dr Wicranmaratne assured that the draft will be on the web and comments from everyone will be welcome, thereby any unintentional lapses could be minimized.

While thanking profusely Prof Ratnajeevan Hoole for publishing the proceedings at the Jaffna Managers Forum in some detail,. My effort is only to put matters in the correct perspectives, .

*S.Krishnananthan who chaired the meeting when Dr Jayampathy Wicramaratnae spoke at Jaffna Managers Forum on 12 June 2016, is also the Secretary, Jaffna Managers Forum and a retired Deputy Secretary/Director, North East Provincial Council, Eastern Provincial Council and finally at the time of his retirement, the Northern Provincial Council.

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Latest comments

  • 4

    S.Krishnananthan, who chaired the meeting, has come up with his version of what Dr. Jayampathy Wickramaratne had said. Will this be the end of the ‘versions’ or would there be others to follow?

    Why not present the speech ad verbatim to avoid such a back and forth.

    Whatever Krishnananthan says does not answer the queries I had posed on the version Prof. Ratnajeevan Hoole had presented. Would Krishnananthan enlighten me with the answers to my queries.

    * The constitution to be proposed will not be the best, but the best in the circumstances.

    Why should the constitution proposed be not the proper one?

    * Minorities must not ask for radical changes, only incremental changes.

    What harm befalls Tamils if the proper Constitution is proposed and get thrown out – get recorded that it was rejected – by the majority?

  • 0

    I do not see any serious correction to what I wrote. It would seem that Mr. Krishnanathan is essentially restating much of what I wrote while claiming to correct my alleged distortions. Besides, the convener of the Forum, Mr.Niranjan, and one other person went through my write-up and agreed to its accuracy before I sent it to Colombo Telegraph. I also took down near-verbatim notes of the proceedings and stand by my write-up.

  • 0

    Maybe Dr Jayampathy’s turn now!. Every one disagrees to agree?.

  • 2

    Ratnajeevan Hoole

    Methinks that you think too much about yourself. What is important is what DrJW actually said not your stupid interpretation!

    • 1

      This is a public forum.

      Speak your name first (don’t cower behind a pseudonym) when personally insulting an internationally recognized scholar) and using appropriate speech and exhibiting the required decorum defend your statement pointing out step by step saying why you are justified in saying “stupid interpretations” to the Prof.

      Otherwise your comment will be deemed as a vicious slander unworthy of a human being.

  • 2

    Dear Nathan,

    Thanks for your response,

    I will try to reply to your queries one by one to the best of my abilities.

    Query 01:- The constitution to be proposed will not be the best, but the best in the circumstances.

    The repel and replacement of the constitution is dealt in Article 82-84 of the present constitution.

    It further elaborates that the bill shall be passed by a two third majority and by the people at a referendum.

    strict criteria to be satisfied!

    Hence the proposed constitution has to pass two hurdles,one a two third majority and the other referendum.

    The government does not even have a two third majority.

    This reality limits the available options.

    If we consider the lessons learnt when 19A was passed, we will automatically be more modest.

    The 19 A originally proposed may be the best,but it has to undergo a lot of compromises and the final product is only the best in the circumstances.

    If 19 A has to face such a turmoil what one could expect the new constitution to face

    Query 02:-Why should the constitution proposed be not the proper one? The new constitution if passed will be a proper constitution having passed all popular and legal requirements

    Query 03:- Minorities must not ask for radical changes, only incremental changes:-Why not? Whether Tamils are a nationality. National minority or simply a minority is a different question, but they have a right to ask for radical changes. No one could prevent the minorities exercising this right.

    Query 04:- What harm befalls Tamils if the proper Constitution is proposed and get thrown out – get recorded that it was rejected – by the majority?


    but is it in the best interest of the Tamils.

    We may recall the often quoted statement of Mr S.J.V.Chelvanayakam,

    “a little now and more later”

    This is actually an incremental approach.

    The Tamils themselves have to decide the best strategy under the circumstances.

    All at once or none
    the best in the circumstances
    and more later

    We may later have to regret the missed opportunities.

    • 2

      My dear Krishnananthan,

      Thank you for your time and effort to respond to my queries.

      I am impressed with your effort, but not so of your responses.

      My main query was, what harm befalls Tamils if the proper Constitution is proposed and gets thrown out – gets recorded that it was rejected – by the majority?

      You are looking at constitutions, incrementally better every time. I am not. I am for a constitution that is most appropriate.

      Please bear in mind, that I had already predicted the outcome of such a submission. Yes, it will be rejected.

      Getting a new constitution adopted is not my priority. Right now. I wish to have on record that Tamils proposed a Constitution that would be the most suitable for the whole country, and that the majority community found it unacceptable to ‘them’.

      Query 01: I understand that the criteria to be met are near impossible.

      If incremental changes to the constitution are going to be satisfactory to you, I wish to have no part in that, at this stage.

      A formal submission of the most appropriate constitution, should precede any other.

      Once the proposal for ‘The Most Appropriate Constitution’ gets defeated, and gets recorded as having been presented and was rejected, we could think of alternatives.

      Query 02: You have taken my word ‘proper’ in the wrong way. I used it to mean, ‘of the required type; suitable or appropriate’. For me, ‘The Most Appropriate Constitution’ is the PROPER one.

      Any Constitution, to get into our books, has to overcome the hurdles you have stated. They are near impossible to overcome, I admit.

      Query 03: &

      Query 04:

      My responses to these are already embedded in my previous responses.

      What makes you believe that it is, ‘All at once or none’. Why not, ‘All at once now’, and when that gets thrown out, look at ‘The best under the circumstances, later’.


      The history of Politics of Sri Lanka is there in my defence. You must not forget that ‘a little now, and more later’ is a slogan the racist elements among the Sinhalese are already taking advantage of.

  • 0

    Jayampathy is as crooked as Mahinda in his expectations on 2/3. Bribing parliamentarians with ministerial perks and absolving them from past corruption.

    My simple question is the vote of SB Disanayake valid?


  • 0

    The Hoole family are quite resourceful; They have survived the LTTE!

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