By Malinda Seneviratne –
A bud is a metaphor and it is one that has naturally led to over-use because it is the party symbol of the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP), the nelum pohottuwa. ‘The bud will bloom,’ they said with as much conviction as the rhetoricians of other parties predicted its withering. The results are out but the metaphor-play has not abated.
Rajavarothiam Sampanthan is the latest to have indulged. Speaking in Parliament, the veteran Tamil nationalist attacked former President Mahinda Rajapaksa conjuring up the specter of Eelam-creation in campaign rhetoric. He has a point.
Sampanthan said that Rajapaksa, as President, had talked of ‘maximum possible devolution,’ when he inaugurated the All Party Representative Committee (APRC). He mentioned also the ‘Experts Committee’ appointed by Rajapaksa and led by Prof Tissa Vitarana. He noted that the report of this committee recommended reforms that went beyond the 13th Amendment. Of course Rajapaksa didn’t get excited about the APRC Report and Sampanthan didn’t mention this fact. On the other hand neither did he remind people that Rajapaksa had talked of ‘Thirteen Plus.’
However, Sampanthan did mention that all the members of the Joint Opposition (which morphed into the pohottuwa so to speak) had unanimously supported the Resolution to turn Parliament into a Constitutional Assembly and had participated in the proceedings of the Steering Committee appointed thereof. Neither Rajapaksa nor anyone else talked of Eelam either in Parliament or in the Steering Committee, he quite rightly points out.
All this he weighs against Rajapaksa, during the course of the election campaign saying that Tamil Eelam could bloom after the election if the people choose poorly. It was not only Rajapaksa who said it. Many of the key spokespersons for the SLPP issued that warning.
Now appointing a committee to come up with solutions does not necessarily mean that one always knew about the outcome. There was an issue with the composition of the Tissa Vitharana Committee. It was federalist-heavy. The outcome was unceremoniously dumped.
That error was repeated in the Steering Committee. Voting for turning Parliament into a Constitutional Assembly does not mean that Rajapaksa or anyone else were voting for Sampanthan’s outcome preference. There were more than one report that came out of the deliberations of the Steering Committee. Nothing concrete has come out of it.
The contradiction comes from the ‘thirteen plus’ statement and from the ‘maximum devolution’ pledge. Only Rajapaksa would know why he made such careless statements. He did make them, and that’s what counts. And that’s why Sampanthan is absolutely right in chastising Rajapaksa for what is clearly double-speak and therefore irresponsible.
Whether such irresponsibility on the part of ‘The lotus bud’ as Sampanthan puts it results in Eelam blooming is a different matter, however. The notion is interesting. What it implies is that there is an Eelam bud already which is not a product of the lotus bud.
What is this Eelam bud? Well, Sampanthan describes it unwittingly. Listen to him:
‘I want to put on record that my Party at this Election, in our manifesto, talked of a political solution within the framework of an undivided, indivisible, single country. There was no campaign carried on, anyway, in the North and East which talked of division of the country. We only talked of a solution that is acceptable to our people, that is reasonable substantial power-sharing within the framework of a united, undivided, indivisible single country.’
The bud’s right there. The Eelam bud that is. What is power-sharing if not Federalism? What is Power-sharing without talking of history, demography and geography if not devious machinations for land theft based on a myth-model? What is ‘substantial’ in this context if it is not a legitimation of a lie in its extrapolation? Rajapaksa, like others, have purchased the lie of Eelamists by indulging in vague-speak on devolution. He has bought into the Eelamist bud, knowingly or unknowingly, or else used the term carelessly and irresponsibly for petty political purposes. Sampanthan is however the real deal. He’s not playing politics-of-the-moment. He is not indulging in conveniences. He is speaking the truth of the Eelam bud.
Both men are talking ‘substantial devolution’ or ‘maximum devolution’ in a context where Eelamists have superimposed the concocted territory of ‘historical (sic) homelands’ on lines drawn arbitrarily on by the British. Such words are tossed around in a context of a constructed history, a refusal to peruse archaeological evidence to back claims, and absolute silence on demographic and geographical realities (almost half the Tamils live outside the so-called ‘historical homelands’ while even the Eelam map shrinks when we factor in territories where communities have actually lived in for long periods of time, especially in the Eastern Province).
Against this background and the considerable Eelamists posturing by Tamil Nationalists, Samoanthan included, talking of Lotus buds blooming Eelam flowers is laughable. It makes one conclude that tossing out words such as ‘indivisible,’ ‘undivided’ and ‘single country’ is nothing but eyewash. That;s just frill in whose shade the Eelam bud can be nurtured into full bloom, remembering of course Chelvanayakam’s famous strategic plan for Eelam, ‘A little now, more later’.
Let’s get this straight. Sampanthan and the Eelamists, now in defence mode and in reduced circumstances following the military rout of the LTTE, are indulging in federalist talk. Federalism is about territories with distinct peoples voluntarily coming together. It naturally implies that having come together, any of the entities thus ‘united’ (another problematic words used by Sampanthan and his ilk) can voluntarily choose to go it alone. This is bud. This is the rub.
This is the bud that the federalists in the business of constitutional reform are carefully and surreptitiously watering and fertilizing. Rajapaksa, because of his careless of ill-advised uttering, has no moral authority to cry foul over Eelam-budding, but that does not mean people need not be concerned about it. After all, when G.G. Ponnambalam was spouting communalism, few would have thought that the 50-50 bud would bloom into a rabid terrorist outfit like the LTTE which would reduced people like Sampanthan into choirboys and cheerleaders.
The Rajapaksa camp, then, does not have the moral right to raise fears over an Eelam-bud, but it does not follow that the fears expressed are without basis. He cannot talk, but others can and must. They must because Sampanthan has clearly reiterated that there is an Eelam bud and because the entire constitutional reform project is run by lackeys of the bud-blooming project. Most importantly, they have demonstrated their utter lack of integrity in ‘process’ by refusing to enumerate grievances and by refusing to consider undeniable historical, demographic and geographical factors. It has been reduced to a process of predetermining telos and constructing conditions and modeling myths to obtain that end point.
As long as the Eelam-bud exists, then it will be named as such, Sampanthan should understand this. Just because someone doesn’t have a moral right to call it such does not mean it does not exist. Sure, various people can nurture it, but the principal gardener is the federalist. Sampanthan, if you want to put a name to it.