17 May, 2022


Basil, Wigneswaran And Trust Building For Reconciliation!

By Austin Fernando

Austin Fernando

‘Trust’ is defined as assured reliance on the character, ability, strength, or truth of someone or something. Therefore, to consider trust as the closest relative one has, is right.

This definition is reminded as two politicians from the Government and the Opposition, worrying over trust has revealed “the extent to which absence of trust remains an obstacle to ethnic reconciliation in Sri Lanka.” (The Hindu reporting Minister Basil Rajapaksa), while concomitantly the Tamil National Alliance’s (TNA) Northern Provincial Council (NPC) Chief Minister (CM) Candidate- former Supreme Court Judge CV Wigneswaran– has told media (Lakna Paranamanna in Daily Mirror) that he firmly believed “trust can be built through mutual understanding.”

The Minister has reiterated his heightened mistrust on devolution saying “Sri Lanka would never risk a provincial government forming its own “army” through devolved police powers (PP).” Yes, it could happen only if the government does not implement powers clearly demarcated in the Reserved List and some powers in Appendix II and if NPC blocks implementation by some means. Distrust emerges again!

There had been pro-government politicians commenting that sharing land and PP to the Provincial Councils (PCs) would lead to separation. Is it jockeying distrust? Minister Rajapaksa has been charitable by dropping land powers – not mentioning even once- in his presentation. Did he mean that land powers were already devolved? Or, is he silently distrusts such finality? May be, ignoring Appendix II, he considers that the National Land Commission has to fulfill its functions consonantly with List II – “National Policy on all Subjects and Functions”.

Government’s distrust

The Minister’s suspicion on security related to PP was historically founded. He quotes the Tamil National Army (TNAR) as — “a militant outfit raised by the beleaguered 1988 EPRLF PC in the NPC” and its “futile attempt to protect itself against the LTTE.” One may counter-argue that such futility is absent because the LTTE is vanquished and former leading LTTE cadres stand with the government. The counter-argument will be that the Diaspora and Tamil Nadu will initiate destabilization and the state should shield- not the NPC.

However, I opine that the TNAR was strengthened by the presence of the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF). High Commissioner JN Dixit did not accept such coalition (IPKF + TNAR), after the Chief Priest of China Bay was killed. Like many others, he proved Sir Henry Wotton: “An ambassador is an honest gentleman sent to lie abroad for the good of his country”!

Concurrently, there had been continuous Indian interventions on Tamil rights in Sri Lanka. In the latest to CM Jeyalalithaa the Indian Prime Minster has said “We have long advocated the creation of an environment in Sri Lanka in which all communities, particularly the Sri Lankan Tamils, are masters of their own destiny within the framework of a united Sri Lanka. We will continue to work towards this end.” This is not novel thinking but provoking. He has demanded non-diluting of the 13th Amendment (13A), while Sri Lankan authorities demanded dilution. Though he has annulled the separation demand, balance statement can be added to Diaspora’s. Trust wavers between two friendly countries!

Who could provoke the new NPC to act in par with CM Vartharajah Perumal’s TNAR? The Minister’s certainty “that a TNA government in the North would be on collision course with the Centre” could be a forewarning of a “future beleaguered NPC”, attempting to “protect itself against” the government’s uncooperativeness.

As trust matters, isn’t it plausible for political authorities to identify ‘areas lacking trust’ and unite to create trust? In a way, if the government did not suffer discomfort of separation during the Eastern PC election, where TNA would have even gained control, why is this great suspicion now? Is it factual or pro-militaristic (as TNA complains) or the government’s distressing distrust on winning NPC elections?  

Transnational Government of Tamil Eelam (TGTE) and trusting

In fairness to the Minister, one may additionally reason the suspicions created by the Diaspora through TGTE. The TGTE Charter focuses on: (1) creation of an independent and sovereign State of Tamil Eelam, as the only viable option to lead a life with security, dignity and equality, both individually and collectively; (2) the long drawn conflict for protection against genocide and pacifying the demand for self-determination and receiving justice against perpetrators of genocide. (3) establishment of the North-East “territory of the State of Tamil Eelam”, and its maritime and aerial limits according to international laws, the region being the ‘traditional homeland.

The government does not accept these Charter components (e.g. genocide, Eelam, ‘traditional homelands’ etc). It believes on the right to security, dignity and equality for the Tamil population. These logical and accepted principles have to be developed further. Cannot TGTE rely on other viable mechanism than the Eelam? In a polarized background how can one expect the distanced trust to narrow with the cumulative TGTE demands? TNA spokespersons swearing that they do not adhere to TGTE is unfortunately unheard. Even non-chauvinists will rethink of trusting devolution if these are the devolution demands. But Tamil politicians hail these as lost rights which justified the conflict and not restored after May 2009.

The second demand for “self-determination” has to be achieved within the constitutional provisions and in a united country (i.e. also the Indian Prime Minister’s thinking), and not on TGTE specifications. But, Candidate Wigneswaran’s statement to media (Namini Wijedasa in Sunday Times) “…..self-determination, separation, that or this. That is a long-term plan“ could be interpreted and misinterpreted as similar thinking to TGTE’s on separation— as a part of a “long term plan”! It will create an unfathomable fissure in trust.

Louise Arbour’s prescription

Louise Arbour, President and CEO of the International Crisis Group prescribed “….we believe that the best means of ensuring the Tamils’ right to self determination is within the existing borders of the Sri Lankan state, with the Sri Lankan government improving both the conditions in which Tamils live and mechanisms for their representation in government. We even argue that the Tamil Diaspora chief source of financial and ideological support for the defeated Tigers – must not only renounce LTTE methods, but also move away from its separatist ideology if it is to play a useful role in resolving the conflict.”  This, coming from a usually anti-Sri Lanka government presenter shows Tamil rights could be won by means other than that of the TGTE.

Unfortunately the government and Tamil groups distrust interpreting the “best means.” The Minister was reported saying that his government “had given the Tamil people, “everything” — roads, railways, water, electricity, schools and hospitals.” It appears that the first criterion of Louise Arbour i.e. “improving the living conditions” is covered to an extent by the Minister with infrastructure developments.  Immediately, with distrust the TNA says that the boasted development is sans land ownership, demilitarization etc and such development has not uplifted the local community. They stand with what they perceive, i.e. Infrastructure is not an alternative to devastated minds!

But the second criterion of self-determination, i.e. “mechanisms for their representation in government” is restricted by the Minister saying “With nothing left to promise, a TNA provincial government would whip up other “emotional issues” that neither it nor the government would be able to deliver.” Therefore, Arbour’s second prescription falls by the way-side.

“Emotional issues”

The “emotional issues” as seen by the government are the proposed political solutions, i.e. 13A-, devolving power to the villages (President’s Secretary Lalith Weeratunga), resettlement, alleged war crimes etc. The Tamil groups add 13A+, merging North and East, return of the displaced to original lands, demilitarization, ceasing “land grabbing” by military, human security, disappearances, freedom of expression etc. Here again Candidate Vigneswaran’s “long term plan” inappropriately interpreted may fuel distrust. It is exactly what powerful southern bureaucrats, some Ministers, Buddhist clergy and media advocate against 13A. Tamil groups distrust such responses saying these are means of total militarization of the North. Distrust, more distrust!

The Minister, understanding this distrust, finds solace in the Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) revisiting the 13A. Again distrust envelopes. TNA distrusts the PSC as improperly selected, with ideological bias, not supported by the Opposition, thus undemocratic, possessing predetermined finale etc. No wonder they do so when Minister Wimal Weerawansa (Dasun Edirisinghe in The Island) threatens to resign from the PSC if it does not proceed quickly to find solutions for police and land powers of the PCs and on merging provinces. Thus, the PSC solution is also hindered by mistrust  

Politics and mistrust

All governments after the 13A have evaded sharing certain powers with provinces. Incumbent government follows. Instead, withdrawal of PC powers has been repeated by all governments. It had been a political drama. As some argue Tamils not aiming at national leadership may be keen to control determinations on their clientele’s localized expectations through PCs. The minority political authorities who supported ruling governments thought so, but hid their sentiments; hide even now! Hence, building trust to balance this status will be an important requirement.

Many have been involved in trust building– with the government and Tamil political groups. Unfortunately this has sometimes enhanced distrust. Louis Arbour’s prescription that Diaspora must renounce LTTE methods and move away from its separatist ideology will partly answer the problems of distrust. This has to be expanded to internationals too. Unfortunately Arbour is not listened to and continued Diaspora and international negative involvements increase distrust and extreme polarization irritating reconciliation.

I think there are wrong assumptions made by spokespersons in supporting and opposing power sharing, i.e. human security, police, land, education, resource mobilization or usage etc. These are managed within constitutional boundaries, which may need amending, improving, dilution or any other suitable remedy. But these should not be forced by the government or on the government as forcing also irritates reconciliation. Representation and sincere dialogue should erase off distrust. This is why the PSC initiations and TGTE demands are challenged by either party. Good intentions should precede and beat distrust to propose new approaches.

For example, (not being  a lawyer, thus subject to correction), the Police Commission Act No:1 of 1990 Section 9, states: “There shall be a Provincial Police Commission for every Province, with effect from such date as may be appointed by the President by Order published in the Gazette. Different dates may be appointed in respect of different Provinces.” Therefore, can trust be created by the NPC agreeing for police power sharing after ‘trust creating dialogue’? NPC and police authorities should respect mutual fears. Can one ignore all the suspicions Ministry of Defense has? Can anyone ignore all purported violations made by the Tamil groups as all bogus? Of course, both government and NPC must not be extremists with hard-nosed stances based only on security and constitutional provisions respectively. Please note ‘Extremism will be rewarded with extremist repercussions’.

Let’s hope that the obstacles to ethnic reconciliation foreseen by Minister Rajapaksa will be erased through mutual understanding envisaged by Candidate Wigneswaran. I believe both are capable of successfully steering towards that end.

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Latest comments

  • 0

    The separatist ideology will automatically evaporate when sincere and genuine steps are taken by the regime in power towards devolution. On the other hand if every little step towards devolution is interpreted as a step towards separation there will be no alternative to the oppressed but to yearn for separation.

  • 0

    Austin Fernando’s pretense at objectivity is given away by his comment about Louise Arbour: “This, coming from a usually anti-Sri Lanka government presenter…..”
    Ms. Arbour is probably Canada’s most respected living jurist and left the Supreme Court of that country to work on human rights in the UN. The people involved in the organization she now heads, the International Crisis Group, reads like a “who’s who” of the eminent, not just political flotsam and jetsam such as Mr. Fernando appears to continue to serve. In addition unlike the Mervyn Silvas of this country who are very close associates of the man Mr. Fernando identifies as a potential saviour of Sri Lanka – Basil Rajapaksa – Ms. Arbour has received SEVERAL DOZENS of honourary doctorates, all of them unsolicited!
    Mr. Fernando’s is obviously one of the “respectable” faces of “Sinhala Buddhist” chauvinism as witness some of those he identifies as potential saviours of this country!
    Intellectually and morally bankrupt camp-followers of the political establishment of this country, irrespective of whom they served, should keep their light hidden under the proverbial bushel, rather than try to illuminate the Sri Lankan darkness for the rest of us because,rather than brighten that darkness, they add yet another shroud to it. Perhaps intentionally when they identify the likes of Basil Rajapaksa as being the solution to our country’s ills and those who are likely to save us from a fate worse than …………….what?

  • 0

    Basil R. unfortunately is too cunning and lacks any integrity or credibility for the cause he was sent to represent in India. Indeed poor choice by his brother the big boss. However given the big boss’s own mistrust in his own camp of mercenaries, it is quite understandable. After all, mercenaries that are paid will always go for a bigger stake, in case India bribed them!

  • 0

    Look who is writing about Trust? Austin Fernando who sabotaged all efforts of his Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe during the peace efforts of the GOSL, and when Fernando was holding the same position as Gothabaya Rajapakse.

    The ungrateful Sinhalese stabbed his PM in the back not once but many times creating the distrust between the Tamils led by the LTTE recognized by the whole world as the true and sole representaive of the Tamils and the GOSL.

    There will be NO DAMN reconciliation unless and until there is TRUTH, Accountability and Justice. War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity has to be fully investigated not by the Silvas, Pereras and Fernandos (Portuguese) but by international, independent credible organizations since the Sinhala Buddhist cannot be trusted. Period.

    LTTE was defeated thanks to the international conspiracy and efforts of the IC using the Chemical weapons, Cluster and Phosphorous Bombs, and illegal mines. Too bad LTTE’s Anti Aircraft weapons did not have the spare parts and was obsolete and they did not have the aviation fuel. LTTE also did not use the heavy weapons they had, fearing similar retaliation by the barbarians on the 400,000 Tamil civilians. That was their mistake and it was the LTTE who installed the Rajapakses in power in 2005 after taking money from the US citizens, and campaign manager Mangala Samaraweera/Tiran Alles the broker. Wrong advise given by the LTTE’s overseas advisers and cheer leaders who are now senators of the TGTE who cannot do anything. They are paper tigers and not even guard dogs of the Tamils.

    KP the founder is living in Tamil Chelvam’s house and Tamilini is living close by waiting to go to Swiss as a new bride and honeymoon. Meanwhile her attorney Du-Shit Das is begging for nomination from the UNP supported by his law business partner and exec. committee member Ronald Perera-PC. (Appointed by the Rajapakses).
    KP, Karuna, Pillaiyan, Tamilini, Daya Master, George Master all are to be blamed for the debacle including Ali Zahir Mowlana who saved Karuna and his followers life via the MOD….. which was the domain of Fernando from 2001-2004, when Karuna/Pillaiyan defected to the MOD/SLA.
    Wheels within wheels?
    During past 5 years the Tamils have paid a heavy price and carrying a huge burden….

    • 0

      Donald Gnanakone:
      Even those of us who don’t have time for a Tiger supporter like you have to accept the facts that you state.
      It is a sad time indeed when someone who avidly supported a vicious and murderous set of Prabhakaran thugs is seen as intellectually and morally superior to the Government of Sri Lanka!

      • 0

        We were always far superior to the Sinhala-racist- chauvinist extremist who finally are facing charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

        I agree that LTTE are no angels. They are the fools who installed the Rajapakses in power, lest you fellows forget or like to forget.

        Do not also forget that LTTE were always recognized as the party and partner to peace from Rajiv Gandhi’s time of 1985 to 1991 and the Indo Lanka accord was signed thanks to LTTE’s military strength.

        Chandrika had peace talks for over a year in 1994-1995.
        President Premadasa had peace talks at the Hilton Hotel in 1988-1989 and the LTTE were the only Srilankan warriors who fought the foreign army and defeated them in 1990. They are the ones who kicked the IPKF from our homeland and your Motherfreaking land.

        It was the GOSL led by Ranil, supporterted by Norway and India-USA that signed the peace accord -CFA with the LTTE.

        What does this all mean?
        That several GOSL -govts. recognized the LTTE’s military and political strength and dealt with the LTTE as equal partner for peace. It was Ranil as PM after CFA brought peace to Sri Lanka and foreign aid started flowing in, with tourist and Tamil diaspora started flying in.

        Even Mahinda Rajapakse as President had peace talks with the LTTE from 2006 to 2008. In Geneva…..

        With the use of chemical weapons, phosphorus and cluster bombs LTTE was defeated and 100,000 Tamil civilians were murdered, and some in cold blood. (White flag case and VP’s children)…

        I have no problem about receiving recognition from people who are such cowards like you. No Thank You.

        I am in regular touch with the democratic opposition in Parliament. Not Nanayakara’s relations. lol.

        Donald Gnanakone
        Tamils For Justice.

  • 0

    Credibility has to precede trust. For instance one does not trust a snake because we know it could sting us at any time. We would not trust a man who carries a gun because we know he could shoot us. Worse if the gun is pointed at ones head. We also would not trust even a saint if we observe he is hiding vipers under his cassock.

    So credible and consistant behaviour has to precede trust. The parties must begin with a new slate by cleaning up all the baggage and garbage of previous years. The process may be hastened by a sincere embrace, handshake and words of apology. It is an act of courage and humility worthy of only statesmen and beings of exceptional character. Can our leaders measure up to this?

  • 0


    Just a short message. You are wasting your time mate. There is no trust and nothing to bulid on . The foundation crumbled long time ago and all I have for your people is nothing but utter contempt for what you have done to my family and hundreds of others. You had the means at your disposal since independance but you squandered it. IT IS TOO LITTLE TOO LATE.


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