By Brian Senewiratne –
The 6th Amendment to the Constitution must be scrapped
Introduced in August 1983 by Sri Lanka’s first dictator, J.R Jayawardena, the 6th Amendment states that:
“No person shall directly or indirectly, in or outside Sri Lanka, support, espouse, promote, finance, encourage or advocate the establishment f a separate State within the territory of Sri Lanka”.
In other words, one cannot even discuss a separate state for the Tamils.
The penalty for violating this Constitutional Amendment is severe. It includes confiscation of movable or immovable property.
While those outside Sri Lanka do not need to worry about this nonsense, those in Sri Lanka do have to worry because the full force of the law can be applied. It might, in fact, even be applied to those outside Sri Lanka who have property in Sri Lanka.
It is imperative that this absurd Constitutional Amendment is removed.
A Referendum in the North and East
It is important to have a Referendum in the North and East to ask the people what they want. Are they happy with what is going on or do they want a separate State, Tamil Eelam? It has to be a proper Referendum. A poorly conducted Referendum could be more dangerous than no referendum. It has to be a UN conducted Referendum with UN Forces replacing the Sri Lankan Armed Forces as was done in East Timor. If the result is “We want a Separate State,” then the UN will have to deliver, as was done in East Timor.
For an effective Referendum to take place in the North and East, the Sri Lankan government will have to cooperate. I cannot see any Sri Lankan government, now or in the future, conducting a proper Referendum as set out above.
The only way an effective Referendum will take place is if there is massive pressure from other countries. I cannot see this happening. The only country that might do so is India, or to be more specific, Tamil Nadu. However, India is run from Delhi, not from Tamil Nadu. As such, hoping that India will act is a futile thought.
Tamils without a leader
After the death of S.J.V. Chelvanayakam in the 1977, there has been no Tamil civilian leader worth talking about. The TNA (Tamil National Alliance) is a joke and the Sri Lankan government treats it as such. The TNA spokesman is effectively supporting the Sri Lankan government, not the Tamil people who elected him.
For several years the Roman Catholic Bishop of Mannar, Rt Rev Dr Rayappu Joseph was the unofficial leader of the Tamil people. I was worried about his survival and wrote an entire booklet: “Sri Lanka: Rt Rev Dr Rayappu Joseph and others in danger”. He had a devastating stroke and is unable to speak. Whether this was due to medical causes or whether he was poisoned I do not know. What I do know is that the Tamils lost an invaluable leader,
An upcoming leader is the former Chief Minister of the Northern Province, a former Supreme Court judge, C.V. Wigneswaran. I gather that M.A. Sumanthiran, the spokesman for the TNA, has demanded that Wigneswaran be removed from his position.
At a recent event in the Jaffna Hindu College, three young Tamil boys with exceptional courage, got on to the stage and said, “Sumanthiran must resign from Parliament since he does not represent the Tamil people any more. He is with the Government”. These are, hopefully, the future leaders of the Tamil people.
The absolute need to have human rights monitors in the Tamil areas
When there is a violation of human rights such as rape by the Armed Forces, Police or paramilitary Tamil groups working with the government, there is nowhere that the victim, a Tamil woman or girl, can lodge a complaint. To go to the Police is not only useless but might even be dangerous. In my book on Sexual Violence of Tamils by the Armed Forces, I have said that if the victim goes to the Police station or the Army Camp, there is a risk that the victim or whoever accompanies her, getting raped or the details taken, not for any action but for a midnight ‘visit’ by the Police or the Armed Forces.
The claim that international human rights groups such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and International Crisis Group are allowed into the country is not good enough. For a start, if/when these organisations visit the Tamil areas they are accompanied by members of the Armed Forces or Police who take notes of who was visited and what was said. This even happened when the former UN Human Rights High Commissioner, Navaneetham Pillay, visited the area. Before her visit, people were told that any complaints to her would be noted and the consequences could be serious.
There is no alternative to having set places manned by Tamil civilians to whom victims of human rights abuse could complain without fear.
It will take years before this serious problem is resolved and it will not be resolved until the Armed Forces are removed from the area and Sinhalese Police are replaced by Tamil Police.
The potential for development of the Tamil North and East
There are several economists who have said that the Sri Lankan North and East have the greatest potential for development. It is this that has been, to a large extent, taken over by the Armed Forces to run commercial projects.
The Sinhalese Armed Forces in the North own a 180 acre farm, many hotels and resorts, a golf course, three cricket stadiums, a ferry service, two whale watching tours, two air lines and numerous cafes that dot the roads in the North and East. These are just the ones we know about. Many have been opened after President Sirisena got into power.
Some of these can be seen in the outstanding publication by the British Tamils Forum that I have referred to.
The land for all this has been seized from the Tamil people without the payment of compensation.
Sri Lanka is up for sale
Sri Lanka in general, the Tamil areas in particular, are up for sale. The buyers are mainly from China and India. When President Sirisena came into power some of these Chinese projects were put on hold. The Chinese government simply said that the projects were run by Chinese banks and that stopping them might result in legal action. The order was promptly withdrawn.
Today there are thousands of Chinese in Sri Lanka so much so that I gather some street signs are in Sinhalese and Chinese. Sri Lanka owes China some US$ 8 billion.
The Economy in crisis
Sri Lanka is unable to service its external debt. What it is doing is to borrow more money to service the debt. Money borrowed from the International Monetary Fund always comes with conditions which adversely affect those at the bottom of the economic ladder. Raised food prices and cutting down on subsidies (always insisted on by the IMF), have serious social and economic effects on the people. Facing a balance of payments crisis, the Government has been forced to do a U-turn on its campaign pledges and cancel what it calls “wasteful Chinese-funded infrastructure projects”.
Sri Lanka is in a serious debt crisis which will end in a Failed State.
China has a stranglehold on Sri Lanka. 4 years ago Sri Lanka built Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport (MRIA) in Hambantota (Rajapaksa’s home area) with Chinese assistance of $190 million. Today MRIA is running at a huge loss and Sri Lanka is unable to pay China’s EXIM bank.
China will lend money to countries at high interest rates which the recipient country is unable to repay. This leads to China getting a permanent footprint in the country.
Not far from the loss-making airport is the sea port of Hambantota also built by China. China has recently got a 99-year lease for running the Hambantota port.
For the Hambantota port project, Sri Lanka borrowed US $ 300 million from China at interest rates of 6.3%. Interest rates for loans from India to neighbouring countries is as low as 1%, and even lower.
Sri Lanka is currently unable to pay its debt to China because of its slow economic growth. To resolve its debt crisis, the Sri Lankan government has agreed to convert the debt into equity. This will probably lead to Chinese ownership of the project finally.
Sri Lanka’s decision to hand over the loss-making airport to India is a move against China’s tightening noose of debt.
China’s “One Belt One Road” (OBOR) project is a global partnership of China. OBOR is an exploitative, colonial stratagem to gain vital assets in smaller countries.
Responsibility to Protect (R2P)
Responsibility to Protect is a global political commitment which was endorsed by all the members of the UN at the 2005 World Summit, to prevent genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.
R2P is based on the premise that sovereignty is a responsibility to protect all its population from mass atrocities and human rights violations. It is based on a respect for the norms and international law relating to sovereignty, peace and security, human rights and armed conflict.
Clearly this is applicable to the North and East of Sri Lanka where the Tamil people are in need of protection.
Anne-Marie Slaughter from Princeton University called R2P “the most important shift in our conception of sovereignty since the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648”.
Louise Arbour from International Crisis Group said that “The responsibility to protect is the most important and imaginative doctrine to emerge on the international scene for decades”.
Professor Damien Kingsbury, Deakins University, Australia, has written an entire book. Sri Lanka and the Responsibility to Protect: politics, ethnicity and genocide.
I will leave it to lawyers to decide where we go from here. As for me, knowing the talk-shop that the UN is, I will not be surprised if the Responsibility to Protect are just three words with no meaning.