22 January, 2018

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Controversy Over The ‘Nature Of The State’ 

By Laksiri Fernando

Dr. Laksiri Fernando

Even after four days of debate in the Constitutional Assembly, the country is far from being in agreement on basic principles in drafting a new constitution. The reason is extremist, inflexible and confrontational politics from all sides, without any consideration for national unity or national interests. The debates have widened the gaps rather than closing them up. Only gratifying thing is that no one has burnt the Interim Report like in the constitutional debate in August 2000!

The political parties/actors are divided on the ‘nature of the state’ in the broadest sense of the term, whether they completely conscious about it or not, without limiting to the proposed articles 1 and 2 in describing the state in the Interim Report. The questions on (1) devolution and provincial councils, (2) the abolition or the preservation of the executive presidency and (3) the ‘foremost place for Buddhism’ are linked to the nature of the state. What was not discussed or neglect is the political economy behind all of them.

One may even argue that the electoral system has a bearing on the nature of the state, but it is more remote than the others. Therefore, it is possible that even without a basic agreement or understanding on the above three issues, and based on the present understanding of the state, the political parties/actors and the country coming to an agreement on the electoral system. That could be at least one breakthrough for the future.

Constitution making is about state formation and state making, while it does not limit to a written document. What kind of a state that we have at present? What are the discontents or weaknesses? What kind of a state we need in the foreseeable future? These are the fundamental questions to be asked and answered in venturing into constitution or state making.      

What is the nature of the state today? That is the key question that this article attempts to answer by looking into the past, while indirectly answering the other two questions in the process, giving much attention to the most neglected questions of the political economy. 

Historical Background   

At least since the Colebrook-Cameron constitution of 1833, Sri Lanka has been a ‘unitary capitalist state,’ but until 1948 it was directly subordinated to the British state. The political economy behind it was pure colonialism. This also meant a dependent capitalist state in the formation. It should be noted that the primary objective of the Colebrook-Cameron reforms was to liquidate the feudal system that prevailed in the country before. In terms of the political structure, it was a unitary state with one legislative body and one Governor. Initially, the legislative body was called the Legislative Council and since 1931 it was named the State Council. Many of the legislation for the country during the initial period came from the superior legislative body of the British Parliament. Most of these enactments are still in operation.

The legacy of this colonial heritage and the subordination of the state to external bodies/forces do play a role in the public ‘consciousness’ and opinion even today, while they are exaggerated by some political actors to their maximum benefit. These motives are related to power, and not necessarily to rationality or justice. 

When the British controlled the state, the majority-minority conflict was largely restrained or used for the benefit of their external control through ‘divide and rule’ policies. However, after the universal franchise was introduced, the elite of the majority community started to assert and assert at the expense of the minorities. This tendency was abundantly clear during the 1940s in the State Council and even thereafter. The majority-minority conflict or the majority dominance over the minority is a perennial challenge that any democracy has to face within particularly a highly polarized society. It obviously takes time to sort out these matters.

Although the Soulbury constitution did not spell it out, that constitution and the state behind it also was unitary. It was a unitary state of the British type however with a written constitution and without devolution of power. The political economy behind it was a dependent ‘export-import economy’ largely controlled by the agency houses. It was in a sense semi-colonialism. There was only one centre for legislation and administration in Colombo. Although the bi-cameral legislature, the entrenched article 29 and the appeals possibly going to the British Privy Council were considered safeguards to both ethnic and religious minorities those were not effective judging from the legislations enacted during this period (1948-1972). The Official Languages (Sinhala only) Act was a key example. 

Does this mean that only the minorities were dissatisfied and the majority was satisfied? It was hardly the case. In many countries, majority-minority conflicts arise as a struggle for a limited pie. This is both in economics and politics. When the competition for the ‘limited pie’ intensifies, there is room for communal violence and atrocities. The competition for land and trade was the hallmark of communal violence between 1958 and 1983, apart from interconnected political issues.

Major dissatisfactions within the majority community without much relevance to the communal competition came to the surface in the 1971 youth insurrection. This was the same in the case of the emergence of many militant groups in the North during and after that period. This does not mean that the communal violence, the 1971 insurrection or Tamil youth militancy thereafter could be understood referring to the political economy alone. There are many ideological factors in operation in such phenomena worldwide.   

Constitutional Experiments

Both 1972 and 1978 constitutions can be considered two experiments within an unsettled state system. The attempts were to refashion the state and its various institutions. First one was a ‘socialist’ experiment with nationalist distortions. A key background to the situation was the widespread dissatisfaction of the organized working classes and the trade unions with the deteriorating economic conditions since mid-1960s. Under the circumstances, the left parties decided to join the nationalists in government and experiment not only a form of ‘socialism’ under ‘state capitalism,’ but also a new constitution. The primary reason for a new constitution was considered the colonial character of the Soulbury constitution.

Apart from the rejection of any kind of accommodation of provincial or regional councils, previously agreed in the Bandaranaike-Chelvanayakam Pact or the Senanayaka-Chelvanayakam Pact, the 1972 constitution dismantled the liberal state to a great extent. It was a unitary state par excellence. It was based on a concept of ‘legislative supremacy.’ Independence of the judiciary and the public service were the major casualties. It tried to experiment a ‘democratic socialist state’ without a proper economic base or a strong socialist party. It also incorporated the primacy for Buddhism in the state, invoking the Kandyan convention of 1815. The experiment was a failure in many respects, mostly criticised was its narrow ‘closed economic’ policy.

The 1978 constitution was inaugurated on the assumption that a strong executive is necessary for economic development and resurrection of the capitalist system. Therefore, it went for a presidential system and a defused legislature based on proportional representation (PR). The political economy that it envisaged was not a closed economy but an open one, going beyond the traditional ‘export-import’ economy. Although a presidential system is a democratic system, the 1978 constitution had many authoritarian features with impunity to the President and without proper checks and balances. Inaugurated after the 1972 constitution, where independence of the judiciary and the public service had eroded, the deviation from democracy was more under the 1978 constitution than the 1972 constitution. 

The 1978 constitution also failed to accommodate a provincial or a district council system which the framers promised before drafting it. Like the 1972 constitution, it was an extreme unitary state until the 13th amendment was inaugurated in 1987. It was a badly formulated constitution and within the first ten years there were 16 amendments back and forth, making room for different interpretations of the constitution.

The political economy backed by the constitution made some initial progress, but could not prevent a civil war erupting. The type of the open economy implemented did not help the regions and the disadvantaged communities. Although the fundamental rights chapter was satisfactory on paper, the democratic rights including the trade union rights and the media freedom steadily eroded.    

What Kind of a State?

The initial misgivings of the 1978 constitution were related to its authoritarian character and the absence of devolution. There were many other factors why the civil war erupted in the country. However the way the Tamil militancy was handled under the executive presidency exacerbated the situation without resolving it. Therefore, the preservation of the presidency for mere security reasons is not wise unless the responsibility is linked to reconciliation. Reconciliation was hardly an objective on the part of JRJ or even under MR. It is also true that if not for the executive presidency, the defeating of the LTTE would have been extremely difficult.

The nature of the state does not limit to the question of the form of executive however. The centre of the debate has always been on the ‘territorial structure’ of the state. Since 1949, there has been a consistent demand for federalism on the part of the moderate political parties of the Tamil community, at times flirting with the idea of a separate state. This is a matter that the Tamil community has to make up their minds clearly. Although not very strong, there are also lingering demands even for a secular state from different quarters.

All the above boil down again to what kind of a state that Sri Lanka needs for the foreseeable future. At the Steering Committee, all have agreed to retain the characterization of the state as a ‘Democratic Socialist Republic.’ No one has objected to it at the Constitutional Assembly. That is what I have even in my passport! What do we mean by that? Is it merely a decoration or is it one of the objectives of the state? If it is the latter, what kind of socialism that we aspire for? Are we going to limit to extremely rudimentary welfare principles in the ‘directive principles of state policy’ in its name? Or are we going to make the directive principles enforceable?

Within the highly charged, acrimonious and divisive debates within the Constitutional Assembly and outside, more important questions of constitution making and state formation have been neglected. The fundamental rights, directive principles, the meaning of ‘democratic socialism,’ independence of the judiciary, strengthening of the public service and the language policy are some of them. Most of the debates have boiled down to ‘unitary vs federal state’ although there is no apparent attempt to draft a federal constitution to Sri Lanka. The devolution is not merely about concessions to the Tamil community, on which some of the advocates have most antagonistic views, but also about regional development.    

Sri Lanka is a small country of 20.9 million people living in an area of 65,610 sq.km. The Chinese President Xi Jinping once remarked, when he was abroad often asked question was ‘how can one govern such a large country like China.’ One of his answers has been ‘it is a task delicate like frying a small fish.’ It is undoubtedly a delicate matter. China is 1.4 billion people and 9.6 million sq.km. with 56 ethnic groups. Therefore, governance in Sri Lanka cannot be that difficult, if the people shred away their acrimonious ethnic animosities and unite for a common cause. That common cause can be ‘democratic socialism’ as the constitution of Sri Lanka pronounces since 1972. It can be with certain Sri Lankan characteristics, with liberal state structures and liberal freedoms.

That kind of a vision might be able to unite the country, irrespective of ethnicity, religion, language, region, caste, gender and any other distinction. It means the preservation and extension of democracy while planning and promoting the economy for moderately prosperous country not for a few but for all.       

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Latest comments

  • 2
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    “Only gratifying thing is that no one has burnt the Interim Report like in the constitutional debate in August 2000!”
    Do you know who burnt it in Parliament in 2000. Why do you beat around the bush?

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      Why? Because I don’t believe exposure, condemnation or extreme criticism should be the way out. Sri Lankans should calm down in their political debates and try their best to develop national policies as much as possible.

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        DR LF,

        It is conspicuous that you have toned down extensively on the extent of devolution to the N&E! Ever since the Caterlan regional government carried out a referendum and declaring independence, the likes of you, along with Jehan Perera, have changed your tune! The chronic insecurity that the Sinhala Buddhists espouse is not confined to the ordinary Sinhalese but the likes of your also included. It is indeed sad that, the phantom insecurity is the primary impediment to solving the national question. There is no hope I am very sorry to say.

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          Burning Issue,
          I have not toned down, but I did frankly have some misgivings after the centre-periphery sub-committee report. I did criticize that report and also pointed out the lack of leadership both on the part of the government and the TNA in not moderating that report. This is even ignoring Mr Wigneswaran’s various statements and positions. This was well before Catalan. I have never supported a confederation or devolution based on a merged N and E. This is well documented. My position derives from the need to recognize ethnic differences while trying to transcend them. I consider the East as the main laboratory for ethnic harmony. I have advocated the notion of cooperative devolution. Some of the proposals in the Steering Committee are in that direction I believe. If we try to be practical (not too ideological) there are possibilities of achieving much, even good agreeable positive amendment to the 13th. There are also practical ways of enhancing devolution through fiscal devolution even at present. At present, the allocation for provinces are around 10-12 percent of the national budget. I would advocate increasing it to 18 to 20 percent in the next five years and beyond. This is practical. I am also a socialist. Therefore, national planning is something I consider necessary for the country, the regions and the poor. It is time for me to sleep now.

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            DR RN,

            Thanks for the clarification.

            “I consider the East as the main laboratory for ethnic harmony.”

            I completely disagree. I say this because, the demography has been artificially manipulated resulting in deep-rooted disharmony. Moreover, the Sri Lankan state promoted and fostered a sustained campaign to disunite Tamil/Muslim relationships during the war periods. All three communities are polarised along the ethnic lines with language disparity and complete mistrust!

            The Tamils have a historical attachment to N&E; I do agree that, it will be logistically difficult to merge the regions and give autonomy on a federation basis. No one has mentioned confederation as far as I can see. Wigeswaran is basically of the opinion that the Sinhalese will not grant anything. Once one forms such an opinion, it will be difficult to see options! His utterances are not set in stone but can be placated to a viable solution. I also agree that along with devolving power, the centre must make and implement strategic measures to galvanise all under a nation. The language issue should be over come. Redesigning of the national flag may be the catalyst for a change!

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              Dear Dr. Laksiri Fernando, If you genuinely believe in, ‘The reason is extremist, inflexible and confrontational politics from all sides, without any consideration for national unity or national interests’, don’t you also belong to that category.
              *
              Remember , we had this discussion many moons ago.
              *
              Present demography of Eastern Province is ‘man-made’.
              *
              Your problem is that you shut yourself to history when it suits you.

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                Nathan,
                Do you think that I belonged to the ‘extremist, inflexible and confrontational’ category?
                Of course we all are prisoners of ‘what we know, what we believe in and perhaps what our backgrounds are.’ About the history of many things, we may have quite different views. History is only a guide to me. I look more to the future. Can that be our main difference?

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                  Your, ‘About the history of many things, we may have quite different views. History is only a guide to me. I look more to the future’, is like wanting to view the future in isolation of the past.
                  *
                  How can history be a guide, when you sidestep the demographic distribution of the Eastern Province of not so long ago.
                  *
                  That is our main difference.

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                  Laksiri Fernando

                  ” I look more to the future.”

                  Of course on 6 September 2009 soon after the war had ended Doctor Mahinda Rajapaksa (LLD) and Doctor Gotabhaya Rajapaksa (DSc) were considered to be our future when both were awarded Honorary Degrees.

                  I am sure history must have guided the committee that recommended both these precious awards, before the consequences/impact of war on civilian were surveyed, assessed ……………. while hundred of thousands of civilians were held in camps under appalling conditions.

                  Surely the little historical lions must have motivated the members of the committee when they decided to award two Alleged war criminals. For those who died and maimed in the 30 years of war the awarding of these two crooks were historically considered essential.

                  Of all 79 honourary degrees awarded by the University of Colombo these two stick out. Of course it symbolizes part of our hypocritical guide.

                  • 0
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                    Same old record from a person who is ashamed of revealing the real identity!

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                      Laksiri Fernando

                      “Same old record from a person who is ashamed of revealing the real identity!”

                      As long as it is not CT’s policy, no one is required to wear their identity on their sleeves.

                      Closet racism is far more dangerous than anonymity. Of course old records have to be remembered, it goes to show how wise these educated wise people have been.

                      The one who recommended the highest form of academic honour to two war criminals, had already forfeited trust of the “others”, hence must honorably restrain from giving free advice to the readers as if they needed them.

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              Burning Issue,
              I do agree that demographic changes in the East as a barrier for harmony. I know it is difficult, but we may have to accept the present reality. If we apply your statement that “All three communities are polarised along the ethnic lines with language disparity and complete mistrust” to the national context, then it is difficult to achieve reconciliation even nationally. Reconciliation is about swimming against the currents. I am also not sure whether the ordinary people are that ‘polarised’ that we seem to think. Asian Tsunami was one instance where the people got together. Cricket is another unifier. Along with their disputes, people of all communities do have some love for the country. I do see it among the diaspora. I completely agree that the Tamils should have the institutional mechanisms to protect and promote their cultural identity and heritage. Given the modern circumstances, Northern province is the place for that. Beyond that, all communities should be free to live wherever they like without demographic manipulation. I do believe the East, the traditional rice ball, should be the ‘reconciliation ball.’ In early 1980s, I have seen how all three communities interact in places like Akkarapattu. The reconciliation efforts should not limit to Colombo and Jaffna. There should be branch offices in Trinco, Batti etc. There should be young activists selected from all communities for the task. There should be ‘peace ambassadors’ selected from the wise old. The women should be allowed to take a greater role. Reconciliation should not limit to constitutional reforms. It should be a people’s movement.
              Just curious, why did you address me as ‘RN’?

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                Dear Prof Laksiri, it is indeed that the demographic changes in the east is the barrier for ethnic harmony. But this was created by the Sinhalese over the years both by settlement of Sinhalese and ethnic cleansing of Tamils. Yes we have to accept reality, but that does not mean that you should not try to rectify that anomaly. When the Sinhalese protested about the demographic changes in upcountry brought about by the British. Sinhala government did not say that you have to accept reality. They without any hesitation removed citizenship of Indian Tamils and later deported half of them. I have suggested a way out in this columns which is not drastic as the above, but based on justice. Remove Amparai electorate which consists of Padiyatalawa and Mahaoya revenue districts originally from Uva, Lahugala and Kumana AGA divisions in Pottuvil electorate and link them to Uva, Gomarankadawela and Padaviya AGA divisions in Trincomalee district and link them to north central province. When you do so 90% of Sinhalese will come out of the east and bring back Tamil majority. Here there is no change of status or physical movement of Sinhalese, but only administrative adjustments. Also permit Tamil settlements in the new eastern province by providing funds and social amnesties. This is the way to go forward to achieve peace to restore justice. The problem is that any Sinhala government will come out with excuses to deny justice to Tamils, while at the same time find reasons to satisfy racist demands of Sinhalese to impose injustice on Tamils. There is big difference in Tamils ruling east according to their wish and others ruling east and making Tamils to live as second class citizens. North-east merger is the only way out for Tamil rule of lands in the east which is legitimately theirs.

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                  Dr Sankaralingam,
                  Please go before a mirror, then you might see a Sinhala extremist, and I would not say a ‘racist.’
                  The following are some of your repeated propositions: “To bring back Tamil majority in the East” “Tamils ruling the East” “Tamil rule of land” “Tamils should have the full powers to enforce their rule.” Isn’t this what Prabhakaran attempted? Don’t encourage a new generation to do the sacrifice while you (presumably) living in a comfortable country. The notions of ‘ruling’ and ‘power’ are the main stumbling blocks for reconciliation on both sides. Perhaps you are not talking about reconciliation but another struggle!

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                    Prof Laksiri, the concept of federalism is sharing of power and land. At present the entire country is ruled by Sinhalese who have full powers to enforce their rule. Therefore there is nothing wrong in Tamils demanding that this power and rule be devolved to Tamils also. This is the concept of autonomy in various countries. It is the Sinhalese who are the stumbling block for reconciliation as they are refusing to acknowledge that they had committed injustice on Tamils which needs to be corrected. I am talking of reconciliation with justice. Will there ever be reconciliation in South Africa if justice was not granted to Blacks by empowering them. Do you advocate to keep Tamils at the mercy of Sinhala whims and fancies.

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                      Dr Sankaralingam. The basis of democracy should be ‘demos’ (citizens) and not ‘ethnos’ (ethnicities). In the case of Sri Lanka, it should not be Muslims, Tamils or Sinhalese who should govern the country but elected representatives of all of them. At the same time, the constitution, the democratic structures and the elected representatives should allow, respect and protect different cultures and communities. Those structures and mechanisms also should address the development needs of the regions and the people. That is why we need federalism or devolution whatever the people agree upon and depending on the conditions. ‘Ruling’ a country or parts of it is a wrong conception. The last regime was ousted because a few started to rule the country. They were ‘ruling’ not only the Tamils or the Muslims but also the Sinhalese.
                      *****
                      I don’t agree with the concept of ‘power sharing.’ The elected representatives should share not power but responsibilities. You may be right that if you turn a (old) text book, ‘power sharing’ is there as the basis of federalism or devolution. As far as we use the concepts of ‘power’ and ‘ruling,’ it is going to be a never ending battle. Increasingly, more enlightened conceptualizations talk about ‘shared responsibilities.’ UN uses it for environmental protection. But it is equally valid in the case of politics. What is the purpose of politics? It should not be ‘power,’ but justice. As you say, reconciliation requires justice. Justice in the broadest sense of the term. People also should not define ‘justice’ in its narrow ethnic meaning. Otherwise it leads to controversy.

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                Dear prof Laksiri, you say that you completely agree that the Tamils should have the institutional mechanisms to protect and promote their cultural identity and heritage. Firstly there is an additional need of protecting the land of the Tamils from being appropriated by others by various methods. Secondly there will never be a mechanism which will be allowed to be in place which will restore the Tamil heritage sites that have been destroyed by Sinhalese. For these to happen Tamils should have full powers to enforce their rule over the areas which they have rightfully occupied since ancient times. No Sinhala government will ever accede to Tamil rule devoid of Sinhlala interference, without foreign pressure. Yes reconciliation should not limit to constitutional reforms, but there seems to be no advancement in other areas like release of lands appropriated from Tamils, bringing culprits who committed atrocities on Tamils to book, due to Sinhala intransigence. Yes all communities should be free to live wherever they like without demographic manipulation, but that should come only after the injustice done to Tamils by demographic manipulation in east is corrected.

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                  Dr Sankaralingam,
                  I don’t think unilateral claims to justice or land are correct. (1) Lands appropriated “by others by various methods” is quite vague. If you are referring to the lands taken by the army, I understand those are (slowly) given back. ‘By others,’ do you mean the Muslims? If there are such instances, the best is to go before the law. If there are considerable cases then the Tamil representatives should ask for a special mechanism. Without taking practical steps, I don’t think just claiming and shouting by some of your representatives going to help the people. (2) It is very difficult for me to answer your claims about destroyed heritage sites. If you ask my opinion, I would wholeheartedly condemned them. TNA is in the official opposition. They should work on that. Have you written to them? (3) I don’t agree with the concepts of ‘homeland’ or ‘rightful occupation of ancient times’ etc. Historical claims by the Buddhists or the Hindus should be measured, proportional and realistic. Whatever our heritage, we won’t live more than 80 or 90 years! Do we? (4) I think it was a mistake from the beginning that many of your leaders as well your own thinking going behind the foreign powers or pressures. That has been the sole reason for much devastation for all communities. Without any disrespect, I don’t think they have solutions. Some might give dead-ropes. (4) You have not answered my question/s. Were you a supporter of Prabhakaran? I am asking this question not to condemned you, but because unless you ‘break from that thinking’ I don’t think you will have a peace of mind other than claiming and hating. One may even argue that complete disassociation with terrorism by Tamils is necessary for reconciliation. What do you say?

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                DR LF,

                Apologies it was not deliberate to address you as RN; I cannot figure as to where it came from; very sorry.

                I admire your optimism about the East. The North should not be exclusively for the Tami speaking people; people should live wherever they want out of their free will. My complain is about wilful artificial manipulation of the demography. This is what the successive governments did. I am prepared to accept the present demography and there is no other way. Ethnic harmony can only be based on Trust. The East is completely devoid of Trust full stop. The language issue is the main barrier; how this issue can be overcome I am not certain.

                Take Colombo as an example where a good size of Tamil-speaking people reside. Is there ethnic harmony? All communities exist in isolation with mistrust. What has the state done to improve this situation? Are the state institutions representative along the lines of the communal diversity? Can a Tamil speaking person conduct his/her civil matters in Tamil in Colombo 5 for example? Not at all. There is no iota of Will from the state to remedy this. What is being projected in the name of Reconciliation is to accept the status qua; Sinhalese are the owners; the Sinhala language is the language of administration; the Buddhism is the religion; accept this and come on board! This is exactly what you are advocating in the East covertly! You are prepaid to exclude the North but the rest of the country should be on the basis of what I described. Is this reconciliation or subjugation? The Tamil-skeaking people have no choices as they have little options. There is not much to swim against the current but whereas, the Sinhalese have plenty to swim against. Are they prepared to do as you suggest?

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                  Burning Issue
                  What I said about the East is a possibility. But I cannot imagine any other way rather than people fighting each other. I did visit that provincial council in December 2010 and talked to the then Chief Minister and his advisor, among others. What I have found among the (young) staff was promising enthusiasm. My visit was under a WB project. I did express my idea about exemplary effort at building harmony among all three communities. They did agree, verbally or not. What they raised was lack of funding even for routine matters and the CM showed me a recent circular. I cannot remember whether I proposed it clearly or not, but my proposition now is to formulate a special project for ‘People’s Harmony’ and seek funding. As far as I know these kind of special projects can be funded under the Finance Commission and even they can seek funding from international agencies.
                  ******
                  In respect of the language use, I know there are enormous difficulties for the Tamil speakers in Colombo etc. Even in Jaffna there have been recent instances of police summons being issued in Sinhala. You must have seen me writing about it and commenting about it. I even wrote an open letter to the Governor, as some matters come under him and it was delivered to him by a friend in Jaffna. The full implementation of the 16th Amendment is necessary until further arrangements are made. Many government officers are not aware of this language law.
                  ******
                  During 2003 and 2005, I was working for the Peace Building Project (Ministry of Constitutional Affairs). I did visit Wellawatta area with Tamil staff and our observations were things were improving even at that time. Reconciliation, as you say, is a common and an arduous effort.

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                    DR LF,

                    I do not doubt your endeavour and I also agree that Reconciliation is the way forward. Compromise is the essence of trust-building. The Tamils need to accept that, the Sinhalese are the majority and the Sinhala language is the predominant medium of civil administration. However, the Tamil historical claim and their fear must be respected in a compromised form. The East demography must be accepted as it is now and find measures to build trust.

                    The reason I talked about Colombo 5 is to highlight the unwillingness on the part of the government and ultimately the Sinhala to compromise. By making the Colombo 5, for example, representative of the communal distribution will amount to a genuine gesture. Such measures will go long way to instil confidence and will eventually permeate across the land.

                    I do not believe that there is a genuine willingness from the Sinhala to reconcile. In another words, a form of reconciliation should happen on their terms. This is where you are falling short to expand. What do the Sinhalese need to do by way of riding against the currents as you put it?

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      Gema

      “Do you know who burnt it in Parliament in 2000. Why do you beat around the bush?”

      Burning a report or a draft copy of constitution in protest is far better than burning down a Library full of books, business premises and houses in rage and envy, ………..

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        Dear Prof Laksiri, if you consider east as the main laboratory for ethnic harmony allow Tamils to rule that province. East had a overall Tamil majority, which is evident in the census conducted since 1881. Tamilized Vedddhas are the rightful owners of eastern province and Tamils are the first settlers as evidenced by archaeological findings. Therefore to deny Tamils the rule of the province is grossly unfair. It is the successive Sinhala governments which distorted the demography for political gains to deny Tamils their land. First they settle Sinhalese from other areas in eastern province and then created Amparai district by annexing Padiyataawa and Mahaoya revenue districts from Uva to east In addition to that Sinhalese have committed ethnic cleansing of Tamils in most parts of Trincomalee district. Kantalai which was a Tamil majority town is now void of Tamils. Since 1985 Muslims also have committed ethnic cleansing of Tamils. This alteration of demography is still continuing. When Sinhalese protested about settling of Indian Tamils in upcountry which denied them seats in parliament, Sinhala government did not hesitate to disfranchise them and later deported half of them to India. if you could do that fro Sinhalese to bring back their majority in upcountry, why not do the same to bring back Tamil majority in east. Still the government is not taking any interest to resettle Tamils back in their villages in east, who are languishing in refugee camps in India and in north.

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          Dr Sankaralingam,
          Your views seems to be quite archaic to me. You want to get back to 1881 in terms of demography in the East. You repeatedly talk about ‘traditional owners’ and ‘rightful owners.’ These are alien concepts to me. How can you have ‘ethnic harmony’ if Tamil rule is given on the basis of what you demand and claim for? You don’t have any concern for the Muslims or the Sinhalese in these areas it appears. It appears you are struggling for a ‘real estate.’ Why do you so narrowly focus on your ethnicity and disregard other communities and democracy. We should not allow any rule in the East or any part of the country or in the whole country. What we need to enhance and strengthen is democracy, justice on the basis of democracy not on the basis of archaic notions.

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            Mr. Fernando the east is ancient Tamil land just like the west and central provinces are Sinhalese lands. If you want the same rights for the Sinhalese and Muslims in the east then the same rights for the Tamils in the western province( especially greater Colombo area) and the central uva and Sabragamuva provinces should be given but they are denied , on the basis these lands are historically Sinhalese. Tamils have been living in these areas for far longer and were not settled on ethnically cleansed Tamil lands. Deliberate settlement of Sinhalese in the east in the past 60 years, especially in the last 30 years on an accelerated basis and still happening , the large scale ethnic cleansing of Tamils first by the Sinhalese and then by the Muslims in the last 6o years and adding various border Sinhalese majority areas to the east to further increase the Sinhalese population in the east has reduced the Tamils and the Tamilised Vedda Hindus who are the historic owners of the east and were the majority even in the early 1970s now to a marginalised minority in their own land, and they are now like the Palestinian Arab getting even more and more marginalised by the unholy alliance between the illegal Sinhalese settlers and the Muslims both relative recent arrivals to the east, who have no ancient history in the east. One illegally settled by Sinhalese Sri Lankan government and the other arriving a few centuries ago as refugees. What you are stating is to legalise ethnic cleaning and disposed the Tamils in the east of their land .. In another 390 years you will settle enough Sinhalese in the north and state the same. You have one story for the Sinhalese areas and their ancient history and right to land and another for the Tamils . Use the Sinhalese majority government power to grab their lands and then settle Sinhalese on a large scale and then state too bad Just scratch the whole lot of you and a racist appears.

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            Laksiri Fernando

            “It appears you are struggling for a ‘real estate.’ “

            Actually the Chinese, Indians, …………… Arabs have been buying land left right and centre through local proxies, build hotels, …………………apartments, ………… and stealing beach fronts, part of fisher folks’ “commons”, illegally. At times local traditional residents are being prevented from using the sea front adjoining these hotels.

            You should also show some concern for these powerless people who consider these areas as their habitat, and ask the state how this practice is possible without the connivance of those who enjoy absolute power in Colombo.

            Perhaps Dr. Gnana Sankaralingam wants to prevent such corrupt practices by claiming collective ownership of these areas. By the way he can speak for himself.

            Is it the residual Sinhala/Buddhist nationalism that is preventing many from seeing/hearing the other side of the story. Don’t you see how the state has involved itself into colonisation of many areas, just to change the demographic structure of people who considered those areas as being their habitat.

            It is not the people who are being relocated that should worry the local inhabitants but the state’s agenda that should worry all. Some times people don’t see beyond their nose, especially the one with a large majoritarian one.

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            Prof Laksiri, I have previously told that I am not asking you to go back to British times but to correct injustices done to Tamils by successive Sinhala governments since independence. At least demographic balance should be what was at the time of independence. All the lands appropriated from Tamils since Sinhala rule should be returned to Tamils, similar to the settlement reached in East Timor and Bosnia. Sinhala governments had the audacity to throw Indian Tamils on the road and give those lands to Sinhalese, in order to correct the ethnic balance in upcountry areas. It is the Sinhalese who have acted in barbaric ways in the past and are continuing to do so at present. Yes problems are only for real estate. What is the point in having power without land. It is better to have land without power. Your statement that I am not concerned for Muslims or Sinhalese in those areas. Please go through the solution that I have proposed. In that 90% of Sinhalese will not come under Tamil ruled merged north-east. It is in black and white that Muslims were refugees in eastern province, and majority of Sinhalese are recent settlers from other parts. Under what justice can you do what Sinhalese and Muslims want over the heads of Tamils who are the first settlers of eastern province. The demographic pattern of east was altered deliberately and you are justifying it.

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          Dr Sankaralingam,

          Please answer these questions.
          1. Did you support Prabhakaran?
          2. Do you still consider he was correct in his objective of a separate state?
          3. Do you still consider he was correct in his methods of using terrorism?

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            If he lives in the UK It will be early morning and he will still be asleep. Be patient

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            What ! Showed your typical Sinhalese racist colours. What the heck has Prapakaran has got to do with current Tamil rights. Like all typical Sinhalese racists when cornered immediately start branding the LTTE and Tiger card. Shame on you . I expected something far better from you but you have showed your true colours. Now let me ask you are you a Sinhalese BBS supporter? Do you also support Sinhalese Buddhist facism and forced colonisation of Sinhalese in Tamil areas by the Sri Lankan Sinhalese state and the large scale ethnic cleansing of Tamil in the north and east and then state too late now we have stolen your lands and you must face ground realities? Please answer this. Do you consider and support all these methods using state sponsored Sinhalese terrorism to steal lands from the Tamils? Do you believe that the Tamils have the right for self determination as per UN Charter ? Answer these questions?

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              They are all basically the same. Tamils have to be subservient to them. Some may be a bit more liberal in their views than the others but in the end. They all want Sinhalese supremacy. Even the ones who go to church and shout that they are born again. Tamils have been living along the western coast and in the greater Colombo area for centuries.. They did not arrive as colonists or ethnically cleanse Sinhalese from their lands.. In the greater Colombo area how many places are given for Tamils. Just one or two despite Tamils making up almost 30% of the population. Can you transact any business in Tamil? The answer is no. despite Tamil being an official language and 50% of Colombo speaking Tamil as their mother tongue. Leave Colombo the Indian origin estate Tamils have been living there for 200 years , earning most of the island’s foreign exchange. Despite this hardly any representation of Indian origin Tamils , despite them being a majority in many areas. Most of them were made stateless and forcibly deported , despite living in the island for centuries, as they stated these are historic Sinhalese Buddhist areas , and the Sinhalese want to preserve these areas as such. However in the Tamil areas m where they had no historic or any presence prior to the 1950s , they were settled in their hundreds of thousands , most of them in the last 30 years on ethnically cleansed Tamil lands and now they have changed place names marginalized the Tamils and claim the Tamils have no right to their lands. People who arrived very recently and settled on ethnically cleansed lands are now to decide on the fate of the people who had lived and owned these lands for thousands of years. One rule for them as they are the majority and another for Tamils. He has shown his true racist colours.

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            Prof Laksiri, I did not support Prabaharan as what he had done to non combatants and dissidents is wrong. if he was fighting for a cause he should have done it in a dharma way. Killing an enemy who is coming to kill you is not wrong as this is an act of self defence. Srilanka government had no business to unleash terror on Tamils. Since 1972 successive governments were only interested in finding a military solution to what was a political one. There would not have been LTTE or Prabaharan if Sinhala government acted fairly to Tamils. Years of discrimination and sponsored violence that made some section of Tamils to take up arms against the state. Please remember the objective of a separate state is not that of Prabaharan but that of the vast majority of Tamils. Even after obtaining a mandate Tamils hoped to settle the matter without any division of the land. it is the Sinhalese who were intransigent and since Tamil politicians failed, armed groups took the upper hand. Prabaharan was never given a mandate by Tamils to fight for a separate state, but usurped it and did all what he wanted without the consent of Tamils. In 1987 Prabaharan was told to accept Indo-Lanka accord and, but he refused. For your information the worse acts of terrorism were committed by Srilanka security forces and is it wrong for anyone to eliminate these state terrorists. Did you hear that EU courts have lifted the ban on LTTE, which means that the factor that made them to be labelled as terrorists were their actions and not their aims for a separate state.

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            Prof Laksiri, you are talking about democracy which is based on majority rule over others, which in most countries is based on ethnic or religious lines. As for Tamils democracy is meaningless because it is a case of Sinhalese making all decisions to the detriment of Tamils. What Tamils are asking is to devolve this democracy so that they become majority and make decisions conducive to them. This is the basis of autonomy which you are denying to Tamils. Unfortunately you are exposing yourself as a Sinhala chauvinist when you are denying Tamils land in eastern province saying northern province is enough. If you had been brain washed on Sinhala racist ideology, it is your problem. You cannot go to any intellectual forum and defend your position of ratifying years of ethnic cleansing of Tamils in eastern province. Tamil language was used for communication and administration in the entire island before the evolution of a Sinhala race and Saivaism was practiced before introduction of Buddhism. All Sinhala racist propaganda about Srilanka are being torn to pieces by modern methods based on geology, linguistics, genetics and archaeology. Tamils are asking only their legitimate share of the land which is legitimately theirs. Go through Mahabartha where the scenario is similar and Tamils will finally win.

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            Dr Fernando,
            These questions are irrelevant.
            “Without the Sinhala Only, the Tiger may have remained unborn. Without the Black July, the Tiger may not have grown exponentially. If the B-C Pact and the D-C Pact did not miscarry (thanks to the midwifery of Sinhala extremism), the LTTE, even if it was born, would have remained a fringe group” Tisaranee Gunasekara .
            Thanks to TG.
            TG has missed what happened before. i.e after independence. I can list them if you wish.

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              Anpu

              Dr Fernando may dismiss all your historically valid points being “same old record”.

              He was the proposer of Honourary degrees (LLD and DSc) to two crooked war criminals immediately after the end of the war.

              What does it show, a closet Sinhala/Buddhist nationalist, a closet war monger, a closet racist, an admirer of fascists, or another Dayan, perhaps he was sitting on the fence who has now joined the rest, ……………..?

              Make up your mind.

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                Thanks NV.

                Perhaps – sitting on the fence

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    Where in the interim report docm they say they agree to retain “democratic socialist republic”?
    My reading was that they just call the country Sri Lanka…
    Using democratic socialist etc is what most undemocratic countries do – democratic republic of Congo…

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      My information says, that they agreed but it is not in the Report like many things apparently dropped when the report was compiled. Even in my submissions to the PRC I didn’t include or proposed the formulation. But now I think it is important to retain it as the SLFP has proposed.

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    The only common cause that will unite the people across Religion Ethnicity , Caste and Creed is an iron clad guarantee that they will have a minimum Income which is not less than 10 percent of the GDP per Capita with an unemployment level not more than 5 percent….
    Deliver that first and ask them to sign off the new Constitution…….
    I am sure they will be happy to do it…….
    Can Dr Ranil pay Lankadeepa and publish bullshit figures to con them, like the recent Ad about his 400,000 jobs which he purported to have created ?……
    Can the inhabitants be duped to believe in his 20/25 Vision , when his Wealth creation program has only benefited his mate Dr Mahendran and his extended Family in Singapore……
    And the UNP Politikkas who got extra permits to bring in Alcohol…. obtain Free Land……. And get fat Commissions from re jigging existing Government Loans…..
    Plus issuing free Yahapalana Car Permits to UNP Ministers and MPs ?……

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      KASmaalam K A Sumanasekera

      “Can Dr Ranil pay Lankadeepa and publish bullshit figures to con them, like the recent Ad about his 400,000 jobs which he purported to have created ?……”

      Publishing bullshit figures is nothing new and its not going to stop tomorrow. It is one of the cultural trait of the people and politicians.

      You too floated too many bull shit figures over many years while the crooks were reigning this island with iron fist until 2015.

      Tell us something that we do not know.

      “And the UNP Politikkas who got extra permits to bring in Alcohol…. obtain Free Land……. And get fat Commissions from re jigging existing Government Loans…..
      Plus issuing free Yahapalana Car Permits to UNP Ministers and MPs ?”

      When did Basil jump ships? I thought he is running his own party Podujana Peramuna (Sri Lanka People’s Front). Please clarify.

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        Dear Native…
        Unlike your loaded UNP, Previous Mob didn’t have the dosh to pay for private Ads in news papers………

        But they had the runs on the Board for what ever they borrowed. at low Government to Government rates….

        With re jigging those loans , Dr Ranil and his Mob have not only fattened their UNP mates who are under Kabir and Mallika, but Dr Ranil has created a serious Income Stream for the UNP Political War Chest…..

        And Dr Ranil’s mate Dr mahendran’s beloved boy Aloysious Mudalali makes up any short falls ………

        And ensures the supply of free Gal to mobilize . Ravi K’s and Mangallan’s Kurundu Polu and 47 Brigades…………..

        BTW, have you noticed the Reuter’s Report on CB Sammy’s latest figures…..
        They do not look crash hot for Dr Ranil’s 20/25 to make Yahapalana suckers live like Singaporeans….

        .Unless Dr Ranil is totally focused on the Colombo Elite’s Singapore ambitions………….

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          KASmaalam K A Sumanasekera

          “Unlike your loaded UNP, Previous Mob didn’t have the dosh to pay for private Ads in news papers………”

          Then who paid for the larger than life size mostly irritating Doctor Mahinda Rajapaksa cut outs, banners, ……………………….. on both sides of the roads, ………….. bus loads of rent a supporter, …. ?

  • 3
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    These constitutional experiments and constitutions are all BS. How come British Run it only withthe PRivy council. they also have problems against Scottish, Irish, Catholic, Anglican, Protestant etc. Catalan like breakawyS are all part of economics. Even in the so-called developed world, some states are supposed to initiate separation after about 40 – 50 years. the simple reason is economics————– Sri lanka does not have proper visionary leaders. It is goverend by cunning, shamelss politicians. People are at a lost. Academcis are not honest either. From the begining politicians have screwed it up. ————— if the Orumiththanadu is their objective why most Tamils are moving even to the deep south. Tamil politicians have their fmailies in colombo and they talk about the North. So, these crap political analysis is good until the next report is written. SWRD fresh from the university had only th hunger for power. Otherwis, he should have made Sinhala the only language and facilitate Tamils to learn Sinhala or vice versa.

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    Dr Laksiri Fernando,

    Let the preamble of the Constitution declare that Sri Lankais is a Union of Sinhala Nation, Tamil Nation and Muslim Nation and then formulate a constitution in terms of the preamble.

    Then everything will fall in line.

    The name of the republic shall be simply called “Sri Lanka” or Republic of Sri Lanka rather than calling it a Socialist, democratic Republic of Sri Lanka because the word “Socialist” is not practical in the current context.

    The foremost place to Buddhism could be retained provided equality of all religions is constitutionally assured.
    But my personal view is that Sri Lanka should be declared secular and no government funds should be spent on any religion and the schools should not teach any one religion

    Laksiri ,You have erroneously came to the conclusion that the Constitutional Assembly had not addressed some important issues. On the contrary you have to read the Interim Report along with the 06 Subcommittee Reports and the Ad hoc Committee Report to have a better understanding of the entire process.

    The Language Provision was fully addressed in the Fundamental rights subcommittee report without any dissenting views.

    The Subcommittee Report on Justice addressed Independence e of Judiciary in a very cavalier manner. It has to be improved.

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    Dear Professor Jayasuriaya,

    I think that the majority of Sri Lankans do not need a constitution. The Constitution can not resolve burning problems. What we, Sri Lankans need at this stage is to resolve the basic economic and social issues. For example, we can not buy petrol after paying money in the open market. Those are the basic things that the people need. You can write articles from Australia but the reality in Sri Lankan villages and towns are different. I have asked my sister lives in the deep south whether she needs a “Vyasthawa”. She told me “Mona Buhubutha Vayasthawakda? Apita kala endala inna thiyanawa num Ae Athi”. That is the majority of the people of Sri Lanka telling these days.

    The PM and President have failed country. They can not manage the country to solve even basic things. For example, the president has to talk to the Indian High Commissioner to get Petrol from India. Is that a vice thing to at this stage?. They should have ordered the petrol from international companies operating in the gulf region. If you pay money there are many companies who are willing to provide good quality petrol to Sri Lanka or anybody. Another joke is that the President has appointed a commission to investigate the Petrol shortage and make recommendations. Is that the decision making ? I can write many more.

    Please do not try to preach us on Constitution. We do not need that > What is available is much better.

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