30 May, 2024

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Budget 24: Disarmament, Demobilization & Reintegration

By C.V. Wigneswaran

Justice C. V. Wigneswaran MP

I thank the chair for giving me this opportunity to speak.

I had last year pointed out in my speech during the budget debate as to how the amount spent on the Military had steadily increased since 1961. I had also pointed out that the spending had increased despite the war coming to an end in 2009.This year too, the estimated expenditure for so-called Defence has increased. Instead of removing weapons from the hands of the members of the armed forces and helping them to reintegrate as civilians into society the successive postwar governments have spent large sums of public money on them and wish to continue to do so. If there is fear of allowing weapon trained personnel into the society, a process akin to the DDR process viz. disarmament, demobilization and reintegration, would support ex-military combatants to become active participants in the peace process.

Disarmament, demobilization and reintegration  lays the groundwork for safeguarding and sustaining the communities to which these individuals return, while building capacity for long-term peace, security and development.

In situations where it is too early or not possible to carry out disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programmes, the UN supports Community Violence Reduction programmes that lead to the right conditions for political processes to progress and armed militia to disband. Those can also run in parallel to DDR programmes complementing them and addressing the needs of communities in parallel to those of ex-military men. There has been no discussion at all about reduction of the numbers in the Military. Of the 331000 soldiers at least 200000 are stationed in the North and East.

Successive Sri Lankan Governments have not considered reduction of these armed forces at all.

I should like to point out today that such ever increasing expenditure in Defence is not accidental. It is reflective of the ethnocratic mind set of the successive Sri Lankan governments of which the present Government is no exception.

Let me explain.

A significant statement was made by an International Expert from Israel by name Professor Yiftachel a few years ago when he participated in our International Land Grabbing Conference. He formulated over two decades ago the theory of ethnocratic regimes. He did research into the nature of land grabbing taking place against Tamils and Muslims in Sri Lanka by the successive Sinhala majority Governments and came to the conclusion that Sri Lanka too like Israel is an ethnocratic regime. An ethnocracy is a type of political structure in which the state apparatus is controlled by a dominant ethnic group to further its interests, power and resources. Since the Sinhala Members formed the majority in Parliament from the time of Independence the Sinhalese leaders have been scheming and planning against the Tamils to drive them, initially out of the regions they had occupied in Sinhala majority areas during British times and now continue by several ways to take control of areas within the traditional homelands of the Tamils and drive out the locals, bent on denting the erstwhile demographic ambience of the Tamil speaking North and East.

The idea seems to be to set up a mono ethnic and religious structure in Sri Lanka so that the Sinhala Buddhists could control the entire country continuously. They forget that the North and East are the historical homelands of the Tamils and the Sinhalese have no right to foist their hegemony over the majority speaking in the North and East. The Tamil language has been spoken in the Island for over 3000 years according to evidence unearthed in recent times. The Sinhala language came into use only about 1400 years ago. Its first book of grammar, Sidath Sangarawa, was brought out only  in the 13th Century AD.

Normally ethnocratic regimes indulge in genocide. It has been true in Sri Lanka too after Independence. I brought up the Genocide Resolution in the Northern Provincial Council on the 10th of February, 2015 when I was Chief Minister Northern Province and it was unanimously adopted by the Members. Probably in consequence of the passing of that Resolution the successive ethnocratic regimes at the Centre in Sri Lanka thereafter decided no more Provincial Councils in this Country. From 2018 or so there had been no Provincial Councils functioning in this Country not only in the Tamil speaking North and East, but also in all other Provinces. Now a centralised Sinhala majority government governs the Tamil majority North and East with the help of an occupied stationary Military under a Unitary Constitution .

Even though the majority in the Southern seven provinces had been the Sinhalese speaking, the majority from time immemorial in the North and East had been the Tamil speaking. The instrument of aggression in the North and East today continues to be the Military. Through the occupation of the North and East by the Military even 14 years after the conclusion of the War, the Government of Sri Lanka continues its multi-pronged Sinhalization efforts in the North-East through the use of state-aided Sinhala settlements and irrigation schemes, economic marginalization and land expropriation by Sri Lankan state bodies, “Buddhistization,” and repression of memorialization of important Tamil events.

When considered against the broader context of decades of state-driven demographic shifts, we find that the successive Sri Lankan Governments are reengineering the demographics in the North-East of Sri Lanka with clear political implications. The systematic and strategic alteration of the North-East’s demographics is designed to destroy the Tamil concept of a homeland in the North-East and permanently diminish Tamil democratic representation from the region.

The Budget Speech the other day was very openly centralised in its approach. Forgetting, deliberately or otherwise, that there was a Thirteenth Amendment in place, the periphery was made subservient and asked to carry out the dictates of the Centre.

In Item 58 in the English version, this is what is said; ‘I propose to consider Provincial Councils as special spending units for budgetary purposes. Accordingly, the Chief Secretaries of Provincial Councils should act as the Chief Accounting Officers as practiced by Secretaries to other line ministries. The Provincial Council is responsible to the Parliament for the money spent for budget purposes.

When preparing the budget based on the Sustainable Development Goals, the necessary guidelines have been issued to fulfil the above goals to all Ministries, Departments and institutions and they should act in accordance with those guidelines.’

Obviously the idea seems to be to make the Provincial administration a Department of the Centre!

In Item 59 of the English Version under the heading Provincial Revenue he says thus;

I propose that the revenue collected from the Provincial Councils should not be limited to cover recurrent expenses but should also be used as capital expenditure for the development of the Province. However in order to avoid the practical difficulties of suddenly changing the ongoing process, I propose to only use 50 percent of the Provincial Council income from the year 2025 as recurrent expenses and to use the additional income as capital expenditure’.

Clearly the Centre now wants to use the Provincial administration to carry out its bidding. I do not know if the Finance Minister consulted the Finance Commission appointed under Article 154R of the Constitution and obtained their consent before he prepared the above said Item 59.

I doubt Provincial Council Elections will take place in the near future.

All the talk about power sharing with the Provincial Councils in the fields of agriculture, tourism and so on is simply decentralisation by the Centre to get its program implemented in the peripheral areas. The Government is not interested in power sharing. The Government does not want to share power with the Provinces, especially the Tamil speaking Provinces. The Provinces would not be allowed to think nor act outside the programme of work earmarked for the Provinces by the Centre. This is where the ethnocratic thinking of the Centre would affect the North and East which are unlike the other seven Provinces.

Under the heading Decentralised Budget in Item 12 of the English version it appears thus; ‘Due to the difficult situation in the Country and the lack of funds under the decentralised budget programme in the past, regional development programmes could not be implemented. As these programmes were temporarily suspended, public representatives could not contribute to the rural development activities. We will recommence the decentralised programme. I will provide Rs.11250 million through the District Coordination Committees for this purpose. This programme will be implemented under the supervision of the Department of National Planning using a methodical and standard approach.”

Under the decentralised budget where moneys were distributed to Members of Parliament of the respective Provinces quite a large slice of the moneys sent were returned back to the Government, unutilised. But in the Northern Provincial Council of which I was Chief Minister every cent was put to good use. The fact that the Budget Speech refers to District Coordination Committees and not to Provincial Councils lets the cat out of the bag. The Government does not want to conduct the Provincial Council Elections in the near future.

His Excellency the President not so long ago, before he went abroad, promised to set up a Committee to investigate into areas where the Centre had trespassed into the Provincial arena. He promised to allow the Committee to suggest draft statutes in areas where the Provinces have been given exclusive or concurrent powers by the Thirteenth Amendment. He has conveniently forgotten his obligation.

A President cum Finance Minister who is openly interested in using the Provinces to play second fiddle to the Centre cannot be expected to hold Provincial Council Elections nor Local Government Elections in the near future nor enhance the powers of the Periphery. The Budget has been a disappointment to the People of the North and East. Thank you.

*Speech by Justice C.V.Wigneswaran M.P. – In Parliament at Budget Debate 2024 on 15 November, 2023

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Latest comments

  • 6
    1

    Budgets comes and goes every year for past seven decades but nothing prevented the country becoming bankrupt. Within fast five decades Ranil had the opportunity to present budgets for many times but nothing stopped bankcruptcy. These budgets could not stop corruption or mismanagement by politicians or officers even in the his own presidential election. Military is a necessity to hold their power and it is a source of income for many. There is no change in the policy of any Sinhalese governments for decades which is Sinhala only Country.

  • 3
    3

    In the main photo, narcissist Ranil wants to have The Beatles’ look, 60 years after. …….. As always, he has missed the bus

    The picture tells the whole story of his inner desires ……. what drive the man ……. and the country/people to ruin ……

  • 5
    6

    Sri Lankans should mix freely and refer to themselves as Sri Lankan, not Muslim, Tamil or Sinhala etc. There should not be exclusive zones demarcated for one ethnic group. For example, if one looks at Colombo, there are probably more Tamils and Muslims than Sinhala people. As far as I know, all ethnic groups are free to set up shop or buy property anywhere in the island. If anyone obstructs that, the law should handle that and allow access to all. Then there will not be any further need to deploy the military to do anything. Also, politicians and rascals in yellow cannot then foment conflicts between each other for their own advantage. The people can also then rise as one, against oppressive governments, chuck them out or into jail and install educated young people with commitment, to run the country. compared to the slimy, sleazy, fat old bastards that infest parliament and destroy the country while enriching themselves. Sri Lanka would then be a true paradise.

    • 4
      1

      Mr. Lasantha Pethiyagoda,
      What you are calling to Sri Lankan instead of Sinhalese, Tamil, Muslims looks good but you have failed to call yourself as Sinhalese instead of Sri Lankan for nearly a century. You are telling now that Tamils are more than Muslims in Colombo. If that is the case all over Sri Lanka Tamils should govern the country instead of Sinhalese. But it did not happen. Not a single Tamil or Muslim ever elected as Prime Minister or President or Finance Minister. Why? Further you are referring Colombo city, not Colombo district or Western Province. There are valid reasons for Tamils in Colombo city because it is the Capital of this island made by British rulers and Ceylon was the name of the country which was united of three kingdoms of the island before European rulers. Further, under British rule, they employed more Tamils than Sinhalese in civil service based on merit and also Tamils bought houses instead of Government Colonisation with the intention of changing the population of North East. The census 1881 clearly reflects the reality.
      I doubt that your intention is similar to that of Buddhist Sinhala Fundamentalism. Why should you want to change the natural population distribution?

      • 2
        0

        “Further, under British rule, they employed more Tamils than Sinhalese in civil service based on merit and also Tamils bought houses instead of Government Colonisation with the intention of changing the population of North East. “
        This is the kind of oversimplification that SB racists too indulge in.

    • 6
      1

      There has never been legislated demarcation of zones exclusive to any ethnicity ——— So, what prevented the free and willing movement of the various ethnicities to meld across the country over the course of SL’s history?

      The SB Ethnocracy from the get go was not conducive to the meld. Had SL set off as a secular, equitable, and pluralistic state, the outcome will have been positive and unifying.

    • 1
      0

      LP,
      “or example, if one looks at Colombo, there are probably more Tamils and Muslims than Sinhala people.”!!!???
      Do we have statistical evidence as to this claim of “More Tamils than Muslims”, in COLOMBO??
      Are you referring to Colombo Municipal Limits, District, Colombo West, East, North, Central or South electorate boundaries or generally Colombo as perceived in “Western Province”???
      Clarification appreciated!
      Would help an intelligent discussion, and analysis, Why and How, which I believe is your intention too!!???
      Also Pertinent to the issue is such distribution of communities, Bad, Good or Needs better Management??? If so, why???
      As I believe, that in any democracy, people have a choice, INALIENABLE Right!!! I find nothing wrong!

    • 1
      0

      LP,
      “THERE SHOULD NOT BE EXCLUSIVE ZONES DEMARCATED FOR ONE ETHNIC GROUP”
      Where and by what Diktat is there if any applicable!!!??? None!!! Myth in the minds inculcated for support rationale, “TAMILS DISCRIMINATE” when “FINGER IS POINTED” at them of Discrimination!?
      There is none of that kind of exclusion. Another one resolved – “All people to STAND AS ONE”!!??
      “Also, POLITICIANS and RASCALS IN YELLOW cannot then foment conflicts between each other for their own advantage.”
      With due respects to you and all my friends, that is only and solely manageable by the Sinhala Buddhist (SB) and my recommendation too is that SB’s must have the STRENGTH OF CONVICTION and ERUDITION OF BUDDHISM AND BUDDHIST PHILOSOPHY to CONTROL those “Yellow Robed” (YR), on A TIGHT LEASH! Vinaya Rules are observed in the BREACH OR KICKED OUT OF SIGHT, when it suits the YR’s or their DAYAKAS AND THEIR BEHOLDEN POLITICIANS AND POLITICAL MASTERS!???
      One cannot understand how that relates or relevant to the issue of Political or YR Thuggery!?
      That’s where the “PROVERBIAL SLIP” is showing!!!???
      Why are people, intelligent, Erudite and Emancipated, should “COW-DOWN to the Politicians they elect and ‘YR’ Religious Leaders and subservient them???

    • 2
      0

      LP,
      “There should not be exclusive zones demarcated for one ethnic group. For example, if one looks at Colombo, there are probably more Tamils and Muslims than Sinhala people.”
      It is true that there are more Tamils and Muslims in CMC limits than Sinhalese. But this is not due to any demarcation, but free competition. If you look at stats for state employment, you will see that over 95% goes to the majority community. The others are better at business, which is why most Pettah businesses are minority owned.
      ” As far as I know, all ethnic groups are free to set up shop or buy property anywhere in the island”
      Yes, they are on paper, but in practice, there are mafias which discourage “outsiders” from setting up shop . Living in Australia, I wouldn’t expect you to know that.
      Colombo city is the only place where all compete on an equal footing.

    • 2
      0

      LP,
      “As far as I know, all ethnic groups are free to set up shop or buy property anywhere in the island. If anyone obstructs that, the law should handle that and allow access to all. “
      How would you expect that when the “law” is entirely Sinhala Buddhist? Read the list of DIG rank officers:
      https://www.police.lk/?page_id=3370

  • 6
    0

    It is very clear that the State of Sri Lanka, due to its fanatical adherence to ethnocratic and majoritarian policies, is not at all willing to adjust to peace even 14 years after the end of the armed conflict. It wants to keep the Northern and Eastern Provinces under a state of siege permanently. This it does by maintaining an oppressive military presence in those areas, refusing to hold provincial council elections and devolving power, and exercising highly centralised control over all development programmes and financial allocations.

    The 13th Amendment to the Constitution appears to be a dead letter!

    • 1
      2

      ” fanatical adherence to ethnocratic and majoritarian policies,”
      People respond to their experiences.
      In Cuba, there is no trace of the racism that dominates the US.
      Nobody blocked ‘penetration’ of other ethnic groups in the N&E.
      When the state funds settlements and subsidizes the settlers and backs them with military force, there is something to worry.

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