By Ayathuray Rajasingam –
Though it is five years after the LTTE was defeated, Mahinda Rajapaksa-led government failed to place a meaningful solution to the satisfaction of the Tamils as well as of the international community. On the contrary, Mahinda Rajapaksa & his siblings have achieved a systematic and calculated murder of innocent Tamils, which demonstrates genocide on different pretexts. Murdering innocent citizens is discouraged in religious teachings to defeat an enemy. The TULF has continuously sent a hot signal in respond to the international community for truce, but Mahinda Rajapaksa is still reluctant to place an acceptable meaningful solution while reiterating that Federalism has no place in Sri Lanka, without realizing the benefits of Federalism.
The suspicion of the people in every Province that they would be oppressed by the majority community, using the powers of the government, should be allayed without any reservations. The results of the Northern Provincial & Uva Provincial Council elections demonstrate that the government failed to allay the suspicion of the people that they were oppressed by the ruling party using the powers of the government, thus signaling the frustration of the people.
Recognizing one’s basic rights does not necessarily mean conceding to the demands of the minority, but the willingness to share power in a civilized manner. Recognition of the fundamental rights of the ethnic community is only possible through the incorporation of the obligations in the Constitution. Such obligations on the part of the central government towards the Units and the obligations of the Units toward the Central Government can only be found in Federal constitutions. Thus it signals the expansion of democracy. It is these obligations which symbolize as constitutional guarantees which will ensure the people of each Province some sense of security. Even the late Dr. N.M. Perera and J.R. Jayewardene once said Federalism is suitable for Sri Lanka.
In a democratic country especially in a plural society, the system of Checks and Balances and the civil liberties are inter-related for the maintenance of peace. The quest for peace revolves round the concept of the freedom to live from any fear whatsoever from any quarters. Freedom to live from fear symbolizes the freedom of speech, opinion, movement, the right to life, etc. Such civil liberties discourage the military rule. The legislators should realize that freedom of the press is the live-wire of democracy. The government should guarantee the freedom of criticism, so that a citizen would know what is right and wrong. There should not be any censorship. It is through exchange of views that peace can be brought. Peace discourages senseless violence and murder. Peace brings joy and happiness and allows room for unity and prosperity. It develops friendship and brotherhood all over the world.
Any fear that such obligations would lead to separation is totally baseless and groundless. Mention should be made that that the right of self-determination as expressed by the Sri Lanka ruling politicians had been misinterpreted as conceding to the demands of the Tamil community at the level of street wisdom. The Thimpu Declaration of 1985 and the Indo-Sri Lanka Peace accord endorse the right to self-determination. When Sri Lanka asserted that the right of self-determination implies the right of secession and the right to create a separate State, India was not happy over it. The purpose of the Indo-Sri Lanka Peace Accord is to simplify the administration and allow the Provinces to share powers with the Centre with the passage of time. India expected Sri Lanka to comply with the Peace Accord in granting a degree of autonomy to the Tamils. But it is unfortunate that Sri Lanka was reluctant to give power and allocate funds to the North-East Province. Sri Lanka government failed to realize that the voice of the people especially of the aggrieved community is considered as an essential integral part for the preservation of democracy and unity of a country. The aggrieved community demands the right of self-determination when their fervent hopes are shattered by the ruling majority community led-Central government. The right of self-determination allows room for socio-economic restructuring without any discrimination whatsoever through popular participation on a healthy footing of the maintenance of peace and unity (rather than allowing room for fat commissions for corrupt politicians in the central government). The principle of self-determination will not result in impairment of the territorial integrity and unity of a sovereign and independent State.
Had all the nine Provinces been merged into five Provinces and Colombo into a Corporation status under the Central government, the prevailing unsettled condition would soon disappear and certain to bring peace and harmony. If the Sinhalese political leaders are of the view that Federalism will lead to separation and therefore is unacceptable, then in the alternative they can have Five Provinces with Acts for each Province as in the United Kingdom, which again signals the meaningful devolution of powers to the Provinces leading to an expansion of democracy and will strengthen the unity of the country. If however, the Sinhalese political leaders are adamant in not agreeing even for separate Acts for each Province, then it is presumed that the Sinhalese political leaders intend to survive themselves at the expense of the division between the communities. This would eventually curb the civil liberties of the citizens and paved way for a failed State.
If a country is unable solve its racial problems, then it signals the beginning of the absence of rule of law. The cause of the absence of rule of law is poor governance. Corruption, political instability, absence of rule law and ineffective government contribute to poor governance. This is what had happened after the LTTE was defeated. Rajapaksa’s government became accountable to all segments of society because it did not allow room to receive opinions and views demonstrating poor governance and signs of anarchism.
Sincerity on the part of the Government is essential because there would be a moral duty on the Tamils to reciprocate in the same manner for the benefit of the entire nation. All three communities should realize that the quest for peace revolves round the concept of the freedom to live from any fear whatsoever from any quarters. Freedom to live from fear symbolizes the freedom of speech, opinion, movement, the right to life, etc. Such civil liberties discourage the military rule. The tension prevailing among the Tamils can be minimized only when the Military Forces do not interfere on civil matters and allow room for educated moderates to emerge and participate in decisive roles in peace process.
It is common that every country has its own problems. Problems arise in a country with complexities relating to race, religion, and language when its constitution allows room for discrepancies. The main aim of the constitution is to maintain peace and rule the country for the benefit of the people without any discrimination. Therefore, a constitution should be framed with a sense of care for the adjustment of the relationship between the powers of the government and the rights of the people. It is the legislators and not the religious dignitaries who should be entrusted with the task of protecting the rights of the people. No country can prosper by mixing up politics and religion. What is needed is the role of the Professionals to mould the political thinking absolutely and decisively in keeping with the trends of the Western democratic countries where the decentralized form of government has achieved its desired goals by discouraging the deliberate marginalization of the minority community for the prosperity of the entire country. Politicians should realize that a Constitution is a living document which sets out a plan of government and should not be changed at their will and pleasure, but could refine it by way of bringing Amendments like in the United States of America and India to mention a couple of examples.
When the fundamental rights of the minorities have been suppressed by evil provisions of the constitution together with the aid of aggressive military operation, it is a fact that the minorities as freedom fighters treat the government as a foreign domination. The ruling politicians have been in the practice of resorting to communal speeches without realizing the horrors of war because it is only the people who have suffered and lost their loved ones do really realize the gravity of confrontation and war. Crying for military solution by the politicians will only result in leaving a legacy for brutality. What Sri Lanka has witnessed in the Unitary form of government for the last sixty years was and still the corrupted politicians and their stooges enjoying absolute power had been engaged in the evasion of taxes, unpaid loans to the banks, lack of transparency and accountability, threats to journalists, promoting religious animosities, destruction to lives and properties, interfering with the independence of judiciary, etc, all of which are not possible under a Federal form of government, especially because of the system of Checks and Balances. It is time for experimenting Federalism in Sri Lanka because the ruling politicians have failed miserably in solving the burning ethnic issue and other related issues for the last sixty years. In the circumstances, it need not endorse the granting of full independence to the Regions where the minority community lives as a separate entity but a regional autonomy as it exists in India, Canada, Switzerland and other Federal countries, which, if granted, will not affect the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the country. This is the expectation of the Tamils and the International Community at this hour.