By A. Sivapathasundaram –
As Chief Minister of Northern Province
Justice C.V. Wigneswaran, chosen by the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), was the Chief Minister of Northern Province from 1 October 2013 to 24 October 2018 – for a full term of five years. In the said article in the ‘Colombo Telegraph’, he then laments that “in the North recently despite the 15 TNA Representatives in Parliament, workers appointed such as Electricity Meter Readers have all been Sinhalese from outside the Province”.
This is a direct swipe at the TNA and their representatives in Parliament in a transparent attempt at promoting his newly formed outfit to contest at the next elections. However, out of so many other serious lapses of the TNA Parliamentarians of which they can rightly be accused of, to accuse them of not acting at the appointment of “Electricity Meter Readers” is a bit too cheap a swipe. He then follows it up saying “if we were still in the Provincial Council we would have protested; but this was done after we relinquished office”. No doubt, TNA parliamentarians — most of them the same faces elected repeatedly for many years — have miserably failed to achieve a political solution for the Tamils nor have they uplifted them from the morass of educational, social and economic degeneration. The Tamils will serve themselves good to note the wise words of Albert Einstein: “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”.
However, one is also constrained to request CVW to provide a list of such aberrations, wrong-doings and injustice perpetuated by the Sri Lankan government which he was able to prevent during the tenure of his Chief ministership.
Required from him is also a comprehensive list of his accomplishments as Chief Minister attained by the maximisation of the provisions already vested by the 13th Amendment (the very purpose for which he was elected), except making emotive speeches, passing ‘genocide resolutions’ and giving proclamations on national politics, which are, in any case, beyond the ambit of duties and responsibilities he was elected for in the first place. By this, he can enlighten the sceptics to refrain from their conclusion that all what he did was to run an inefficient NP administration that was embroiled in inner squabbling, bickering and unfit for purpose.
His constant cover was to blame the inadequacy of the 13th Amendment. — It is true that the 13th Amendment has ambiguities and deficiencies, part also due to lack of sincerity and political will on the part of the Central government in its implementation. However, casting blame solely on the inadequacies of the 13th Amendment for any failures is akin to a “person who cannot dance blaming that the stage is curved”. – One gets elected as Chief Minister under the 13th Amendment, holds the exalted office for five full years and blames its inadequacies for his non-performance and that of the ministers and officials of NP council – as if NP governance was formed after an electoral process and a mandate to TNA, only to proclaim that the 13th Amendment is “weak and is of no use”!
It is to be noted that the Provincial councils are not just for the North & East; they are also for the other seven provinces of Sri Lanka. It is therefore in the interest of the other Provincial Chief Ministers to ensure powers that are not impeded by the Central government. CVW could have taken a lead role to have discussions with the Chief Ministers of the other Provinces, at least with that of the East, to collectively seek rectifications.
Also, as a legal luminary amongst the Tamils, CVW could have initiated resorting to the Courts challenging the usurpation of the letter and spirit of the provision by the Central government and even the validity of the de-merger of North & East, instead of merely moaning and complaining constantly. On the contrary, unfortunately, the only time he had been to Courts during the five years of his tenure was to defend himself when sued for wrong dismissal by a NP minister.
On education, CVW points to “many Sinhala speaking Nurses and Doctors been posted to the North and East”. He himself attributes it to a shortage of such professions amongst the Tamils. However, ‘Education’ is a devolved subject of the Provincial governments with a minister appointed for it. The solution, therefore, is to raise the types and levels of education and technical skills of the student populace of the North. One would like CVW to elucidate the positive and concrete steps that have been taken towards this during the tenure of his Chief Ministership through his Education ministry.
What one finds in the North is a rampant proliferation of private tutories reeking large profits and the falling standards in teaching in the schools in the North. One example is the deterioration of the two prominent schools in Jaffna — the Jaffna College & Uduvil Girls College. There have been accusations of misappropriation of funds, lack of transparency and maladministration by the Board of Directors to which a particular Bishop in Jaffna is the Chairman. The Board comprises mostly of relatives, cohorts, and accomplices of this Bishop. Mr. M. Sumathiran MP is said to be the legal advisor to him. The ‘Trustees of the Funds’ in America have suspended the release of the full funds until ‘good governance’ and ‘accountability’ are introduced and implemented. There is an on-going legal proceeding in the US courts filed by the Board, at a huge and unnecessary cost, against the Trustees This matter was brought to the attention of CVW as the Chief minister and to the Education minister of NP requesting their influence and exercise of their authority to set things right by calling the parties in the interest of the students and the community, but of no avail; they chose to keep quiet allowing the deterioration of situation further and further.
It is regrettable that the Tamils could not administer even a Province properly for the betterment and the socio-economic upliftment of the people it was elected to perform. — It ended up with corruption and inefficiency blaming each other, and with even a vote of no-confidence on the Chief Minister himself!
India & Thirteenth Amendment
CVW says “Hope India which brought in the Provincial Councils under the Thirteenth Amendment, however powerless the institution may be today, is aware of the situation here.”
The establishment of the Provincial Councils under the Thirteenth Amendment brought by the Indo-Sri Lanka Accord in 1987 is the only constitutional provision on devolution of powers in the statue books, however weak and ambiguous certain provisions and powers devolved are. Most importantly, it was that Agreement that made it possible for the merger of the Northern & Eastern Provinces as a single devolved unit. It had even the crucial support of the Muslims, led by their influential founder/leader of Sri Lanka Muslim Congress, late M.H.M Ashraff. It was only because of that the security forces vacated from the Tamil areas and an administrative unit for a combined North-East was established with Mr. Varadaraja Perumal of the Eelam People’s Revolutionary Front ( EPRLF) as the Chief Minister and a cabinet of multi ethnic composition reflecting ethnic unity — and that too in Trincomalee.
All in utter vain! — India changed its stance of active involvement to a by-stander. It degenerated into a situation which is akin to what one Tamil poet described, which loosely translated in English means : “While he was dreaming of donning a silk garment, he was robbed of even the loin cloth he was wearing”. That the diplomacy of the Sinhalese leaders and the political short-sightedness and stupidity of the Tamil leaders turned the tide of India’s support against the Tamils is history.
India would do no more; it had burnt its fingers. With Rajiv Gandhi’s killing, the support has been made more blunted. And, now India has to contend with the influence of China in Sri Lanka for which they have to ensure that the Sinhalese are not antagonised and the perceived fear of them of India is not fanned.
Solution to the Ethnic Question
On the “solution the Ethnic Question”, CVW says, “We would like to have a full-fledged federal constitution for the merged North and East which will ensure the integrity of the Island but give the Tamils and Muslims the elbow space ( his words) to look after their affairs themselves un-interfered by the South. The Muslims will have their area demarcated within the merged North and East and they would be entitled to self-government in their areas”.
This is an oft touted general verbosity as a solution to the “ethnic question” and for ethnic harmony. However, its exact connotations, implications, and practicalities in the context of the realties prevailing now is never fully elucidated.
Full-fledged Federal Constitution
True, ‘Federalism’ “is what most of the Tamil political parties have been repeatedly urging upon”. However, federal constitutions adopted by various countries in the world are many and varied, all not necessarily the same. Those who advocate it do not detail the exact structure of that “fully fledged constitution”, except only to use “self- determination”, “self-government” and “federalism” as constant but vague jargons as political solution.
It is a paramount deficiency on the part of the Tamils not to have brought out a detailed and comprehensive “white paper” as to what it all actually entails and to allay the real or perceived fears of the majority Sinhalese that ‘federalism’ as envisaged by the Tamil leaders does not lead to ‘separation’ in any way; or bickering by any of the communities resulting in constant conflict between communities or with the Central government. Surely, being a patriarch of the legal profession holding high offices, CVW could spend his time and energy in organising the Tamil legal fraternity the drafting of such a ‘federal constitution’ with the necessary safeguards to other communities.
Moreover, the introduction of such a ‘fully fledged constitution’ would mean getting the consensus of the majority of the Sinhalese and Muslim communities and passing in the Parliament with a two-thirds majority. As to how any Tamil leader who advocates it, plans to achieve it or what they have done to lobby and enlist support from the other communities, except for raising it at meetings of the Tamils (which is a mere effort of “trying to convert the converted”) and “demanding” it, is never answered, elucidated or dealt with.
Merged North and East
Be it by design or otherwise, Eastern Provincial council is now ruled by the Muslims. The Muslims in the East, let alone the Sinhalese, would not want the East merged with North, thereby reducing their sphere of political power and influence. How do those who, rightly, demand a merger of the North & East get the important consensus of the Muslims to get about, is never addressed.
The one and the only chance of the merged North-East was as a result of the direct involvement of India in the 1980’s. That too, by political stupidity, lack of farsightedness, and emotional subjugation on the part of the Tamils has become just a historical event, thrown into the dustbin of history.
Tamils had, at least as a historical reminder, the name of Varadaraja Perumal as “Ex Chief Minister of North-East Province”; and now, by their blunders, had shortened and narrowed to C.V. Wigneswaran as “Ex Chief Minister of North” (only)!
Genocide & International intervention
CVW goes on to ascribe factors that constitute the definition of “genocide” under ‘Article 2 of the UN Genocide Convention’. He also goes on to warn that at the rate of “Sinhalese dictating terms” the possibility of a future “full-fledged genocide” taking place. He thereby implies a distinction between “genocide” and “full-fledged genocide”.
Except passing emotionally charged resolution at the NP council to placate a certain Tamil constituency or as heroic stunt, and most populist Tamil leaders giving the false impression and deceptive hope to the gullible Tamils that the International community is out there ready and rearing to enforce the Tamils’ demands and ‘serve them on a plate’ and only thing for it is the Tamils have to get them elected, one is inclined to ask what further concrete and meaningful actions have been taken that would lead to convictions, remedies and attainment.
CVW then goes on to warn that “successive governments have time and time again failed to take account of our demand for a federal solution and all our hopes have now faded” and that “has created a situation for our people to call upon the international community to conduct an internationally monitored referendum to determine the solution to the ethnic question”.
Even the UNHRC resolution on “Promoting Reconciliation, Accountability & Human Rights in Sri Lanka” has been dragged on and diluted for the last 10 years without any concrete outcome. It is important that we take full cognisance of the fate of the Palestine movement and the Palestinian people: The question of Palestine was first brought before the General Assembly of UNO in 1947 and it still remains unresolved after 73 years. The international community is even unable to make Israel comply with the many UN Security Council Resolutions on Palestine. Despite the support of a powerful body as the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation member countries and an array of the international community, the Palestinian land is not free of occupation and oppression by Israel. Many thousands of Palestinians are languishing as refugees for years with the situation each year becoming worse. What chances then or why, the Tamils of Sri Lanka have?
Which are the “International powers” he is referring to?
India? – It has often clearly stated that its position is implementation of the 13th Amendment both in letter and spirit, in accordance with the Agreement signed by two countries: China? – In its unrelenting drive for international domination and supremacy, it is only interested in governments and leaders who will cooperate with the establishment and consolidation of its expansionism, commercial interests, and unhindered supply chains. It does not care nor is it concerned about the violation of human rights neither in its own country nor in other countries. It is on record that to ensure the continued support of the Sri Lankan government, the Chinese would even go to the extent of blocking any such intervention as an infringement on its sovereignty; US? — it will only do that much to rope in the subordination of Sri Lanka in its ambit or to counter the influence of China; Canada? — It has no international standing of its own and would merely toe the line of US, despite the presence of a large number of Tamils in the country. They may allow them just to vent their feelings and no more; Britain? — Except for its local political compulsions because of the Sri Lankan Tamil votes in marginal constituencies, they would limit with mere voices and no concrete actions. It has been now reported that Sri Lanka’s Special Task Force, dreaded for its atrocities and torture on Tamils, was formed with the help of the British security forces; and when this accusation was levelled, documents related to it are said to be missing.
Who else, then?
It is important that a clear and well-defined elucidation of the above is obtained. It is patently obvious that there is a serious lack of proper Tamil leadership that is capable of mobilising the masses, except to the election booths.
The voting pattern in Sri Lanka when it comes to elections is the same as ever before —The extremists amongst the Tamils with anti- Sinhalese slogans and cheap rhetoric would be elected in majority on the Tamils side; and the chauvinists amongst the Sinhalese with anti-Tamils, and now also anti-Muslims, slogans and cheap rhetoric would be elected in majority on the Sinhalese side!
And, so the tragedy that is Sri Lanka continues!!