19 April, 2024

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Black July Fiasco Highlights No Trust In Government

By Jehan Perera

Jehan Perera

President Ranil Wickremesinghe has announced that he will convene a meeting with all political parties to decide on the implementation of the 13th Amendment in full or in part. Shortly after being elected president by parliament he pledged to resolve the ethnic conflict and take the burden off the shoulders of future generations. As part of his solution he referred to the need to fully implement the 13th Amendment, including the devolution of police and land powers that successive governments have not been willing to do in contravention of the constitutional clauses that necessitate them to do so. He responded to criticisms of his stance with intellectual clarity and pointed out that the devolution of police and land powers is already a part of the constitution, and if they were not to be implemented legally parliament needed to abolish them with a 2/3 majority.

Six months later the president is once again pledging to deal with the vexed problem of a political solution to the ethnic conflict. This follows his visit to India to meet with Indian prime minister Narendra Modi and other top leaders, both political and business. The president has come back to Sri Lanka after signing a number of agreements that would bind Sri Lanka closer to India economically and also geographically. The strengthening of ties with India would be in Sri Lanka’s national interest and it requires rationality and intellectual clarity to see though the mists of history and mistrust which is the particular strength of the president that needs to be taken to the larger population.

The president will face formidable challenges in addressing issues of the past and dispelling the mindset of mistrust and suspicion, whether in international relations or in regard to the country’s protracted internal conflict and arrive at a political solution that addresses the fears and interests of all communities. He has announced that the issue of the devolution of police powers under the 13th Amendment needs to be further discussed and he will consult all the political parties in the government, opposition and the parties in parliament to make a decision. The people’s minds are steeped in mistrust of each other as communities. But like the successful nations of Europe have done, be they Germany, the United Kingdom or Switzerland, there is a time when ancient mistrusts and memories of wars need to give way to rationality and to the need to cooperate in the mutual interest of all.

CONFIDENCE BUILDING

The TNA, which continues to represent the mainstream of Tamil opinion, has reacted skeptically to the president’s latest expressions of goodwill with regard to finding a political solution. Their skepticism is mirrored in the larger Tamil population regarding the willingness of the government, or any government, to offer them a political system in which they would be treated as equal citizens. There is a strong and living belief among the Tamil people that they are treated as second class citizens by the Sri Lanka state. They see this in the communications they continue to receive in the Sinhala language only and whenever they are bypassed for promotion as government officers. This is an outcome of the experiences they have had to undergo in post-independence Sri Lanka commencing from one of the very first decisions taken under the government of the father of the nation, prime minister DS Senanayake who disavowed one of the Tamil communities and rendered them stateless.

Prior to engaging in yet another round of negotiations with the Tamil political parties as proposed by the president, the government needs to embark upon confidence building actions that would disclose to the Tamil people that the Sri Lankan state actually trusts them and cares for them. An important confidence building action would be to sharply reduce if not totally eliminate the virtually all-Sinhala Sri Lankan military from involvement with civilian life in the North and East. Here Sri Lanka has a lesson to learn from its great neighbor who, when it felt it had to, sent in its Sikh regiment into the Golden Temple of the Sikhs in Punjab to contain the Sikh separatist movement. India has an integrated military of all its communities with minority communities having a disproportionate role in the leadership. In Sri Lanka’s north and east there still continue to be checkpoints manned by Sinhala soldiers who compel vehicles to stop and unload all their luggage and cargo to have them searched. More than fourteen years after the end of the war, the north and east of the country ought not to be treated any differently from the rest of the country if there is to be true national unity of hearts and minds rather than of geography only.

Another major issue in the north and east at the present time has to do with the takeover of land on the grounds that there are archaeological monuments that are from the ancient past when Buddhism was prevalent in those areas too. This has induced both state officials and Buddhist clergy to seek to set up Buddhist places of worship at the site of those ancient archaeological finds and, in addition, claim a considerable portion of the land on the grounds that in the ancient past the land was held by that particular temple or monument. President Wickremesinghe has rightly taken the position that ancient archaeological sites, whether of Buddhist origin or not, are a heritage of the entire country and not of a particular ethnicity.

FEARING DIVERSITY

The president has stated that with regard to the full implementation of the 13th Amendment he will be summoning all political parties in parliament to discuss this matter. There is concern on the part of the Tamil political parties that this may be a way to delay taking a decision and finally to avoid taking a decision by citing the inability to get a consensus. This would only take the country back to square one. The passage by the government of several laws without division in parliament, although they were originally opposed by the opposition and found wanting by the courts, is an indication that where there is a will there is a way. It gives rise to the hope that in a similar way the impediments to an agreement on the 13th Amendment can be overcome.

However, the challenge of regaining the trust of the Tamil people will be made harder by the inexcusable violence by riot police in Colombo to break up commemorations by civic activists who sought to memorialise the 40th anniversary of Black July. The violent police break up of a memorial by the lighting of lamps in a public space which veteran non-violent civil society activists were leading sends a signal of the iron fist within the velvet glove when it comes to public demonstrations or even memorials that are not under the control of the government. Ironically, on the same day as the civil society memorialization was broken up on the streets, government ministers took part in a memorialization event in an air-conditioned hall which received the patronage of the state media.

During the week of July 23 in 1983 an anti-Tamil pogrom with sections of the government conniving took place in Colombo primarily, but also in several other parts of the country. The destruction of life and property and physical violence that followed constitutes a period of shame and sorrow that has haunted the country ever since. So far the Sri Lankan state has failed to reassure the ethnic and religious minorities that they are safe, secure and valued in the country. On several occasions there have been localized anti-Tamil and anti-Muslim riots in which the security forces have not been able to stop the rampaging mobs. The behavior of the police force under the central government belies the apprehension that the abuse of police powers under the provincial councils will be any worse. In a plural and multi ethnic society, the guiding motto needs to be “may a million flowers bloom” whether in memory of past atrocities or in the hopes for a shared future.

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Latest comments

  • 23
    3

    Sinhalese Buddhist psyche in Sri Lanka has not changed: They want hegemony over the whole island at the expense of Tamils, Muslims and ‘others’.
    Sinhalese police, military, politicians and the Sri Lankan state are there for the benefit of the Sinhalese only, especially Buddhists given the foremost place.

    Cunning political leaders coming from the majority community having been exploiting this majoritarianism from independence will continue to do so, just like Ranil is doing now. They don’t care if the country and the poor people continue to suffer as they line their pockets. They want power at any cost.

    Tamils arpersistent to establish their rights even as some prominent Sinhalese leaders threaten to unleash another Black July, or worse.

    When will the Sinhalese Buddhist hubris end? Or, do they want to be the outcasts of the world?

  • 19
    1

    Thiru

    “Sinhalese police, military, politicians and the Sri Lankan state are there for the benefit of the Sinhalese only, especially Buddhists given the foremost place.”

    If only Sinhalese benefited how come the entire country (with 16 Million Sinhala speaking people) is bankrupt and begging for food, medicine, oil, ….. and loans from ……?

    Only those who use Sinhala/Buddhism as a cover for their unethical, criminal …. activities benefited, continue to benefit. They are the racists who support fascists.

    • 12
      1

      “If only Sinhalese benefited how come the entire country (with 16 Million Sinhala speaking people) is bankrupt and begging for food, medicine, oil, ….. and loans from ……?”

      Native,
      You are right that not all Sinhalese benefited. I do not understand why majority of Sinhalese continue to beleive that those who brought bankruptcy to this country and these people. The only weapon they use is Buddhist Fundamentalism and self implemented terrorism. For example, Easter Bomb must have planned and implemented by the Fundamentalists themself and fake propaganda against Muslims. It is the same pattern used through out to put the blame on Tamils as they now in a propaganda that all those killed in 1983 violence are Tamil Terrorists.
      Still, Buddhist Fundamentalism are powerful in decidining their political leadership.
      Many wonder Why the military kept silence during “Aragalaya” over bangruptcy is another tactical change temporarily to change the leadership to Ranil and then hand over to Rajapaksas as they did to hand over to Good governance and to bring back Gota through Easter Bombing. Mahinda and Ranil are two faces of Buddhist Fundamentalism.

      • 5
        0

        Dear Ajith,
        Irrespective of race, religion or other parameters, the spirit of Sri Lanka has been destroyed more than ever in the last few decades.
        The value of people, the place given to a human life is all diminished. No honor or respect for anything, language used in public is like thorns. So how can we model a better and more caring society?

        In a family, if the parents do not take much care, the growing children will surely end up in chaos. Neither are the teachers, for most of them are based on “the trade of tutoring rather than licensed and exemplary teaching”: they have no proper guidance, so how can they expect to progress?
        The reason why all this continues is because law and order is not functioning properly. Lawyers and judges do not know what their duties are. Police are heavily involved with underworld and rogue politicians.

        tbc

        • 4
          0

          cont.
          .
          Likewise, society cannot be caring and respectful if the responsible authorities dont contribute their duties properly. COPE committee sessions reveal lot more how higher academics become helpless before cross questioning of the auditor general and the panel today.
          .
          Above all, it should be the legislators who should implement it properly because the politicians have overused their powers for their commercial and power gains. Of all the other factors, the latter is the most influential in making a society in order.

          Due to the lack of law and order as required, complete apathy and revenge are emerging in the society. You are right about the fundamentalism based on Sinhala Buddhism, however, there are various other reasons why people become complete ignorants as of today.

          • 5
            1

            Leelagemalli,
            You are right that law and order ,judiciary is completely out of control and society has become worthless within few decades and particularly after 2009. Buddhist fundamentalism and opportunism played key roles in influencing the destruction
            Of this land.

    • 9
      1

      “Tamils” got 13A and 13+ ……. at least in name …… because of Prabakaran!

      The “violence” delivered 13A: not the eternal talks the “Tamil” “leaders” are now engaged in …… and were engaged in …….. since the dawn of time ………

      In the land of the blind, Ranil is king ……… delivering hope ……. by the bucket load ……


      “Well, I guess I might have known from the start
      Could have told my imagination not to run too far
      Of all the times that I’ve been burned, by now, you’d think I’d have learned
      That it’s who you look like, not who you are” —— Jackson Browne

      What do Ranil look like? More believable than Mahinda? I bet! :)) ………. For many – even for some very remarkably intelligent people – Ranil looks like Santa Clause: deliver of hopes …… :))))

      All those believers of Ranil, wanna bet? Name ye price from cents to millions: any bet at all.

      These odds come your way ……. only once or twice in a lifetime …….

      • 2
        0

        Native,

        Watch …… https://www.dailymotion.com/video/x1sggys …… 2:17 that attractive girl gets “it’s who you look like, not who you are.”

        But do you get the meaning of the song?

        • 2
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          nimal fernando

          Thanks for the link.
          My adblocker does allow this video.
          I do not want to remove it now, later perhaps.
          Thanks again.

  • 12
    1

    Jehan, Look at the following two statements of The President.
    – “the devolution of police and land powers is already a part of the constitution, and if they were not to be implemented legally parliament needed to abolish them with a 2/3 majority.”
    – “the issue of the devolution of police powers under the 13th Amendment needs to be further discussed and he will consult all the political parties.”
    Don’t you see a total humbug!

    • 11
      0

      Nathan,
      The fact is that any amedments to the constitution can be abolished by two third in parliament. In 1972, Srimavo brought Buddhism to the Constitution and become foremost powerful in Sri Lanka. Then in 1978, JRJ had two third majority and brought executive President and they endorded that they are above the law and they can rob the country or murder any one and any one questioned will be assasinated. Even now they have the power to abolish 13th amendment if they want but they do not want to abolish it as it is beneficial them to play with Tamils and Muslims. So whatever they say are not serious and it is their usual game. Today they can say “yes” and Tomorrow they say “NO”. What can you do?

  • 12
    1

    Jehan, Finally, you have started opening up. Thank you. I hope that you don’t go back to your past ways.

    • 1
      0

      This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our Comment policy. The key to maintaining the website as an inviting space is to focus on intelligent discussion of topics.

      For more detail see our Comment policy https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/comments-policy-2

    • 4
      1

      Nathan
      Most of our so called professional journalists are actually journalistic prostitutes to politicos.
      Perhaps no one is there to bribe Jehan Perera these days, so he is writing the truth. The minute some crook rehires him he will forget all ethics and default to being a tool once again.
      I have no faith or trust in all our hingana professionals at all.
      They can and will sell their mother for a buck.

  • 4
    2

    ” …it shall be the duty of the State to protect and foster the Buddha Sasana,…”

    • 3
      0

      I think you are referring the inclusion of the following version is the reason for the current state of the country

  • 13
    0

    I think GP has completely forgotten about the war crimes with genocide intent committed on Tamils by the same soldiers he want to keep in the North and East. What is his stand on investigating war crimes and bringing the perpetrators to justice? How is he going to build the trust between communities without reconciliation for the crimes committed on one ethnic group by the other? In 1983, when the editor of Lake House Tamil Daily, “Thinakaran”, Sivagurunathan’s house was looted and burnt by the Sinhalese lived in the area, he was shattered. Under CBK’s rule, she appointed a Presidential commission to investigate the crimes committed on Tamils during 1983 July anti Tamil pogroms. The supreme court judge asked Sivagurunathan whether he is happy to live with Sinhalese who did this to him and his people. Guess what he answered? This is only after 5,000 Tamils mascaraed and hundreds of Tamil women raped by Sinhalese. But, in 2009, the number of Tamils killed by Sinhalese – soldiers 20 times higher and many more thousands of women raped. Is anyone out there wants to know whether Tamils still want to live with Sinhalese after Mullkivaaykkaal? I bet not. Because, they don’t acknowledge the crimes they committed on Tamils.

  • 14
    1

    The solution must include the following,
    1. An apology form the Srilankan government for the war crimes committed on Tamils.
    2. Independent investigation on all war crimes committed by Srilankan state and its forces on Tamils since 1979.
    3. Bringing the perpetrators to justice.
    4. Solution for the forcefully disappeared Tamils.
    5. Compensation for the loss of properties.
    6. Release of all Tamil political prisoners.
    7. Immediately stopping Sinhala colonization in Tamil homeland under the name of archeological, religious, forest and development projects.
    8. Fully implementing Indo-Lanka accord, including full police and land powers given to combined North and East provincial council as a minimum solution for the ethnic crisis.
    9. International warranty for not repeating the same genocide by Sinhala rulers on Tamils.

    If Sinhala Buddhists can do this, then Tamils will live as part of this country and can build their trust on Sinhalese. But, this can only happen in the dreams.

  • 1
    9

    There is no Tamil aspiration to fulfill neither there is any Sinhalese aspirations to fulfill. Everyone is citizen of Sri Lanka. Main stream majoritarian parties whatever they say they will be partial to Sinlala Buddhist sentiment for their own survival.
    Similar situation is in the north as TNA and few other Tamil parties must play their own ethnic card for their own survival. Muslims same in eastern province.
    Some relief can be obtained by a government led by JVP-NPP as they aim is not fulfilling aspiration of any ethnic clan weather it is Sinhalese, Tamil or Muslim. They are likely to treat every citizen equally so the feelings of minority will be change positively.
    Otherwise we have get rid of our frustration by writing lot of comments on Sunday Telegraph for long long time.

  • 16
    2

    No one should believe Ranil Rajapakse anymore. He has always been a very dishonest, unreliable and deceptive entity that does not attract any trust. If he speaks about unity or devolution you can bet its about delaying, confusing or obfuscating any national issue. I cannot understand why the author still gives some credibility to words spoken by a slimy jackal whose regime, if not the majority in the political class. It is time that the people claimed back their country from the vermin who keep people just above the desperation margin, often in abject poverty and voiceless, stifling dissent and enforcing unfair laws that only benefit gangsters and major criminals., most of whom are good friends of the national policy-makers.

    • 1
      3

      LP, Ranil says he is RW. What difference does that make to the words used here as slimy jackal and vermin. N Dhas talks of a meaningless foster buddhism, and see the state of present crisis. History has a pattern. Remembrance of 83 burning riots today 26th July, the same today as 9th of Av, when jews refused to enter their promised land, jewish day of mourning for burning of both Solomon’s and Herod’s temples in Jerusalem and expulsion of jews from England and Spain, starting date of both world wars, and several other events, all on this 9th of the month called Av. Can politics explain all this and the predicted future from Persia and the battle of Armageddon and the return of Christ to mount of olives, when jaws will start dropping.

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