28 January, 2021

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From Devolution To The Deep Blue Sea

By Dayan Jayatilleka –

Dr Dayan Jayatilleka

A political battle of major proportions, perhaps the most portentous in years, is looming in Sri Lanka this year and is being preceded by a debate amounting to a battle of ideas. The matter at hand is the much delayed and deferred election to the Northern Provincial Council.

Political forces are arrayed in four positions on the battlefield. On the Tamil side there are those who hold that the existing 13th amendment to the Constitution under which the Northern Provincial Council was established, was inadequate from the start and that therefore, contesting the election and holding office would be of no positive consequence, and may even have the negative consequence of legitimising the institution. The other position occupied within the Tamil political spectrum is of those who regard the 13th amendment to be flawed and deeply unsatisfactory, but grasp the value of contesting and winning the election, and occupying the political real estate that remains.

On the Sinhala side are those who wish to abolish the system of provincial autonomy, those who do not and support the system of limited provincial autonomy, and those who seek to retain the bare bones of the system for fear of the external repercussions of abolition, while gutting the provinces of any real measure of autonomy.

Lost opportunity

At the moment, the predominance on the Tamil side is of the more pragmatic mainstream politicians who would like to occupy whatever political space that opens up, and on the Sinhala side, of those unhappy with provincial autonomy but seek to dilute rather than dismantle it in its entirety.

The major error on the Tamil side was and remains the failure to grasp that the 13th amendment was the best that could be achieved even when the political, or more accurately politico-military, balance was far less in Colombo’s favour. It proved the best deal achievable even with a far more overtly, robust Indian role and power projection.

When the liberal administration of Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga sought perhaps imprudently to range well beyond the 13th amendment in the form of three political packages in 1995, 1997 and 2000, the efforts were opposed as expected by Sinhala hardliners, but more fatally by the conservative United National Party (UNP) Opposition headed by Mr. Ranil Wickremesinghe. Most crucially, President Kumaratunga’s risky, politically ambitious quasi-federal initiatives did not have the acceptance, still less the support, of the parties and personalities (most prominently at the time, the TULF) currently grouped in the Tamil National Alliance.

Affected talks

In its sporadic and ultimately abortive discussions with the administration of President Rajapaksa, the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) urged that these drafts of 1995, 1997 and 2000 be taken up for discussion, but those deals were no longer on the table, the Tamil politicians having proved that what was once said so famously by the liberal intellectual Israeli Foreign Minister, Abba Eban, of the Palestinian political leaders was also true of them, namely that they never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity.

Having failed to put sufficient daylight between themselves and the LTTE before the war ended with a decisive disaster for the latter, the Tamil nationalist politicians might have been expected to realise that the 13th amendment was the only fall back available, and that it should be defended doggedly against attempts by the triumphant Sinhala hawks in Colombo to roll it back. However, the TNA not only declined to take the 13th amendment as the explicit basis of negotiations, it initially rejected that structural reform as the starting line. The keynote speech by Mr. R. Sampanthan, the leader of the main Tamil parliamentary party (TNA) at the 14th Convention of the Ilankai Tamil Arasu Katchi (ITAK) [the main constituent of the TNA] in May 2012 was in many respects a landmark event. It played into the hands of the neoconservative hardliners within Colombo’s power elite and ruling troika, bringing the bilateral talks to an abrupt halt.

Absolute authority

Mr. Sampanthan’s convention address not only stated clearly that the political project lay outside the parameters of both the 13th amendment as well as the structural form of a unitary state, but also provided considerable evidence to the Sri Lankan political leadership that the goal of a sovereign state of and for the Tamils, one in which they enjoy absolute rather than shared or devolved authority, remained the goal.

The ITAK/TNA leader’s speech said “we must prove to the international community that we will never be able to realize our rights within a united Sri Lanka.” Colombo seems to believe that with such a strategic objective in mind, it is logically inevitable that Tamil nationalism will reject, discredit and undermine any solution proposed or arrived at within a united Sri Lanka, especially a solution within a unitary state such as is the 13th amendment.

Mr. Sampanthan, the most prominent local leader of the Northern Tamil community, reiterated at his party’s annual convention its commitment to achieving with the support of the international community, the same “soaring aspirations” that could not be achieved through armed struggle.

By the time the TNA collected its collective wits, the Government had commenced the siege and attrition of the 13th amendment, while the hardliners within and outside were campaigning for outright abolition.

On the Sinhala side, the drive for rollback of provincial autonomy or crippling by means of the removal of any powers with regard to land and its utilisation, fails to grasp the possible blowback of such unilateralism; a unilateralism based on the assumption that the Tamil question in Sri Lanka is a purely internal matter for a sovereign state, and oblivious to the Kissingerian category of “intermestic” issues; those at the interface of the internal and the international.

Rajapaksa factor

New Delhi, which failed to militarily support an unambiguously pro-devolution President Kumaratunga during the Tigers’ siege of Jaffna in 2000, did not extend the requested and requisite degree of military support to Mahinda Rajapaksa in an equation that would have linked such support to political progress in lockstep as it were. Instead of simply insisting on the implementation of Sri Lanka’s own constitutional provisions (obviating the need for protracted, problematic talks with the TNA and the reinvention of the wheel), it was persuaded into echoing President Rajapaksa’s promise of 13 Plus. No wonder it finds itself in a dilemma on the next steps.

The anti-Sri Lankan hysteria in Tamil Nadu is reminiscent of the foaming at the mouth in Florida for decades at any mention of Castro’s Cuba. What takes Tamil Nadu beyond Florida is the ubiquity of Tiger symbolism including portraits of Velupillai Prabhakaran, in the pan-Tamilian agitation. In a rich irony of future history, that wave of agitation which rises higher during election year and its aftermath in India may well be exactly what sweeps away his UNP competitor and gifts President Rajapaksa all he needs for re-election to a third term. Given that he is increasingly a human shield for the Sinhala hawks in his ranks or a George Dubya to their Cheney-Rumsfeld, this cannot but have decisive repercussions on Delhi’s protracted efforts to secure a modest if authentic measure of provincial self-rule for the Tamils.

*This article appeared on June 18th in the Hindu

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Latest comments

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    Hey Dayan, how about CBK for President of Lanka – third time around?!

    Don’t you think she’d make a great PEACETIME President even if she did make a hash of it as a war time president?! She understands the National Question and has the charisma and courage to deliver Lanka by providing the necessary LEADERSHIP for power sharing in the country and turning Lanka into a MULTICULTURAL DEMOCRACY!
    Presumably she is older and wiser now..
    Dayan, would you support her as come back kid – joint opposition candidate for president? Please, say yes and start the campaign for CBK as joint opposition candidate to rescue Lanka from the Rajapassa military dictatorship..

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      Kolu, I think I’ve already given as comprehensive an answer as is possible at this stage, in a recent article on the ‘UNP’s Draft, TNA’s Options and CBK’s Comeback’, in which I wrote:

      “The UNP’s recommitment to provincial devolution within a unitary state, frees any comeback project by CBK from the pressure from the federalist elements which would make it impossible for her to compete for SLFP votes in a nationalist-patriotic setting. She can thus comfortably recommit to the B-C Pact of 1957, the 1986 PPC proposals that Vijaya and she endorsed and the 13th amendment that they prominently supported. The advocates of federation and confederation comprising the ‘Sudu Nelum’-PTOMS faction of Chandrika’s supportive network stupidly or opportunistically nudged and cheered her down the path to the political disasters that robbed her and the country of the clear chance of a better future through persistence with the LRRP operations and a ‘Zero Dark Thirty’/Obama outcome. This would have possible had CBK remained consistently the head of a policy-making triangle consisting of Anuruddha Ratwatte and Lakshman Kadirgamar, opting for a Gaullist patriotism privileging the nation, instead of the mesalliance and dangerous liaisons she embarked upon in 2004-2005, negating her achievement of having rescued the State by brilliantly outmanoeuvring Ranil in 2003.

      While a CBK comeback would be welcome if only to open up the political game, making it more competitive, she stands a chance of doing a Nawaz Sharif only if she re-emerges as Sirimavo Bandaranaike’s daughter who as commander-in-chief wrested Jaffna from Prabhakaran in 1995, led the resistance to the LTTE’s push on Jaffna countermanding the order for withdrawal from that town after the evacuation of Elephant Pass in 2000, and who gave the green-light for the deep penetration operations that took down eight top Tiger commanders and would have eliminated Prabhakaran surgically (with no ‘war crimes’ outcry) if not for Ranil’s CFA. In a comeback scenario a la Nawaz Sharif, CBK could perhaps live down her “Package”-PTOMS past and restore some measure of trust among the patriotic, pre-eminently provincial post-war electorate only if she were to balance the ticket by incorporating Gen. Fonseka as the new Anuruddha Ratwatte.”

      As student of politics, that’s all I can say for now.

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        Dont forget, your erstwhile Gen. Anuruddha Ratwatta was a known murderer who with his thug sons butchered innocent youths carrying ballot boxes in broad daylight while the famous Gen.Fonseka was a known racist who at the very outset openly declared that the minorities had no place in the country. Both were darlings of your much admired CBK and it surprises me that a man of your supposedly educated and broad outlook even refers to the reviled trio in your piece in such glorious tones and even suggest a comeback of the bandit queen as a solution to the countrys present problems. What an idea, the ex-Tin Soldier and the ageing Doll of Clay , going to be put together (again) in an Art Display. You are certainly still a student of politics like you assert and I dont think you will ever graduate with your fantastic suggestions.Now I see why you have been constantly thrust from pillar to post all these days.

  • 0
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    Damn right Kolu!
    All this “history” of deal making over the minority question is old hat or water under the bridge Dayan!
    We need to DO THE RIGHT THING NOW, MAN, and DITCH Rajapassa.

    Rajapassa was good to fight a nasty and brutish war, which was like him and the enemy Prabakaran, nasty and brutish. He is NO good for PEACE, and has NO USE for PEACE.

    Afer 30 years of war, Lanka does NOT need a family centered military dictatorship now, it needs reconciliation and multiculturalism which are concepts that the Rajapassa clan does not understand..

    • 0
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      ” it needs reconciliation and multiculturalism which are concepts that the Rajapassa clan does not understand”.

      What Do the JAEAPASSA Clan Understand,

      ONLY TO LOOT, ABDUCT, TAKE RANSOME and Destroy the socity with Thugs And KUDU MUDALALIES.

      If This Fools [ like R W, K J, CBK] come to election, asking for vote,
      Will our Masses Agree?????.
      there should be a person who understand reality.

      We prefer that lawyer Sumathidaran, if he comes to presidetial nominatin.

    • 0
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      Rajapassses are just good at killing purposes not beyond anything else. MR, GR and other rajapakses are not beyond the levels of Duminda Silva´s. They can only get on with people like Mervin, Duminda, That abusive transport minister kumara and the like IRC buggers.

      See, is there any SIGNIFICANT progress with the reconciliation or any kind of finding solutions to the tamil problem ? NO, they are even far from that.

      Why cant the stupid folks get it that there is no other solution than introducing federalism to lanka. Changing all the political systems in the country today. Opposition will be supportive to that. All radical minority parties should finally be realistic with all not accusing RW or any others who are much more genuine with devolition power than the incumbent rogues. Future is through genuine efforts not half hearted, general public pleasing movements.

      If Germany´s Federal states (toal 80 mio) can work successfully for last 65 years, even becoming EU´s most stable grand nation today

      If Switzerland´Federal states (total 8 mio) can work successfully
      where even each of the cantons and their subunit have been administered with more independent manner…

      Why cant us Srilankens (20 million folk)succeed by introducing lanken style federal administration. Right at the moment, all professionals, senior politicians (genuine ones only) should come forward and make every effort to convince the nation (stupid masses across the country) there is no other alternative than doing so.

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      KOLY & TOOTS,
      This is the view of the majority of the general public in general.
      I personaly dont like CBK who was a worst administrator BUT in order the get rid of this despot, oppressor & SATANIC Regime YES I am 100% with you. Every fair minded people who love the country must gather around to Preach or urge the public to join as one force to get rid of the hopeless ruthless shameless family.

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        Yes, I strongly believe that Madam Chandrika Bandaranaike has an Obligation to rescue her fathers party which is now been infiltrated now by absolute thugs, murderers, rapists, Kasippu mudalalis,bookie owners and absolute uneducated and unqualified bunch of thieves.

        During the last few meetings she had she hit the nail on the head where some Govt. Goons had to hide their tails behind in a shock.They are still guilty, scared and feared for her.

        I was also told that there are many Senior SLFP’s that have approached her to rescue the party from the corrupt marauders.

        As Mangala Samaraweera explained earlier Madam Chandarika Bandaranaike has to bare responsibility for Appointing Mahinda Rajapakse as Prime Minister while there were many Senior Ministers who were more suitable.

        Therefore it is Madam chandrika Bandaranaike’s obligation to the Party as well as to the nation to rescue it from Thugs and murderers and she could invite all the patriotic and honest Politicians to join her.

        I am so sorry to see how our UNP party is dwindling so badly when another absolute dictator leading it. I wonder why this sicko does not understand that his age limit is already expired and why still keep licking it at this old age while there are many capable and able bodies available to take over.

        Therefore I feel that Madam Chandrika should start talking with the party members and all other political and Patriot Citizens to form a party.

        I think this is the ideal time and only solution to the problems we have now.

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    Present status of this problem is rather fluid with the various parties trying to establish their positions. The general public are still not involved in this fracas which is probably due to their bewilderment as to what these people are fighting about. Hence the rise of the Indian Bogeyman, Patriots and LTTE remnants, in order to induce some life into the supine public.

    Given the current state of the economy and problems assailing the common people it would be best to allow these worthies to slug it out. May the best man win. In the absence of 13A, will there be any devolution at all to the people of the North is the question which the government will have to answer. Also how long is this type of mistrust and arguments going to last and where will this end?

    • 0
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      Safa, surely you know that the Rajapassa game plan is DIVIDE, DISTRACT and RULE the Sinhalaya modayas with a little help from Ranil Wickramasinghe and the doddering ass Sampanthan – who are power hungry morons?!

      The fight over power sharing is a distraction for the Sinhalaya Modaya – provided by the Rajapassa brothers (also curtsey Balu Sena and Gota the white van Goon) to distract from the Rajapasssa family power grab, looting of the economy and land, and the ECONOMIC CRISIS and Cost of Living..
      Sinhalaya modayas need to be educated on the state of the crisis and Rajapassa mis- governance

      • 0
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        How about the Tamil and Muslim modayas?

        They too are in his cabinet and refuse to move out!

        Even without 13 amendment, they will stay.

  • 0
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    CKB throwing her hat in would be a great thing not because she will win but that would create the gratest opportunity for MR to lose. If CKB is in the race SLFP vote base will split for sure and with JVP outside there will be a fighting chance for a third candidate if that is not Ranil.

    • 0
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      She has a hat?

      • 0
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        Yeah, itty bitty tiny one; more like a sombrero.

  • 0
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    “With the help of the International Community, We will acchieve our soaring aspirations which can not be achived through the Armed Struggle”

    Why do our inhabitants have to wait for JJ to wave Piraparan Flag?.

    Ranil on Stage with Sambandan and digitally modified to have the B T Reverand and PM Rudrakumaran on each side will do well on a banner hoisted in the South

    Of course the Sinhala translation will give added punch..

    • 0
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      K.A. Sumanasekera aka Leela aka Harry Potter’s Ugly Brother:
      WHAT ON EARTH ARE YOU TRYING TO SAY AND IN WHAT LANGUAGE?

  • 0
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    I would add that there is a fifth line of thinking in addition to the four that Dayan has articulated. This group believes that whether or not the 13th amendment is implemented will not have an impact on the current process at the UN that seeks to reverse the war “victory”.

    There is however an ongoing debate amongst this group as to whether an implementation of the 13the amendment will help or hurt the UN led intervention that’s currently underway.

    On one hand if the 13th is implemented it will produce an indigenous non-militant Tamil leader for the first time in decades. This individual can then be invited to world capitals and paraded as the leader of the Tamil people. This is far better than the current situation where the entire TNA is invited as if they are a touring high school debating team.

    On the other hand, if the 13th is not implemented, it gives further ammunition to say that the GOSL has reneged on its word and cannot be trusted. Japan is already on record saying that they abstained at the UN only because of the promise of 13th. If there is no 13th next year’s UNHRC resolution will pass in a landslide. It would present the perfect opportunity for the inevitable escalation to the UNSC.

    Either way the Unitary state is moribund. I take no joy in the fact that I realized this back in 2009 when the foreign ministers of France and the UK (the most powerful foreign delegation that has ever set foot on this island) personally visited SL, only to be greeted by laughter and ridicule by our hero the president.

  • 0
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    In your articles in the pre-Mullivaikkal period, you wrote that after the eradication of Tigers, the government will fully implement 13A (with a plus) and Douglas Devananda would become the CM of Northern Provincial council. If someone believed your words, they would have visualised a rosy picture and pray for the end of LTTE. Can you tell me what went wrong now?

  • 0
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    According to Sunday Times and Tamilnet government has awarded Chinese fishing fleets to exploitative fishing in north western SL waters. This is where fish get to Mannar, Jaffna and Tamil Nadu. Tamilnet calls it structural genocide.

    An excellent move by the government. India will not be able to stop it because it is a Chinese state owned company doing it with more than 16 trawlers each longer than 150 feet.

    Who will lose their fishing and livelihoods now?

    Who is in the deep blue sea now Dayan! :)

    • 0
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      Yes, China will screw Sri Lanka to the Bone when the next uprising will come from the fisherman.

      Yes Rajapakses are already in Deep Blue sea, unable to travel beyond China, Japan and few African Countries.

      The next most wanted……….

  • 0
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    .
    So, TNA is wrong, Rajapakse’s are wrong, Indians are wrong …..

    In the end, we Lankans are going suffer more.

    :-)

    • 0
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      Actually with people like Dayan you will always see either explicitly or implicitly it is mentioned that the great Dayan is correct !!!
      Self promotion is the name of the game and no one does it better or more often that our dear Dayan

  • 0
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    TNA has a right to complain to India that the trust of India in the GOSL was alwyys wrong and will always be wrong.

    TNA has a right to tell India that ;

    1. They must turn silent and allow the UN to solve the ethnic problem
    2. The Sinhalese are collectively racist, anti-Tamil rights and serial killersof Tamils from 1972,
    3. The Sinhalese were not capable of solving the ethnic problem for the past 41 years
    4. And will not be able to solve it though instructed by the recent resolution of the UNHRC.

    All these are happening because of the unilateral rebellion of the Sinhala Buddhists, to dtraft the first republican constitution in 1972 illegally, without the participation of all citizens, especially the people of North-East, who decided in 1977 to form Tamil Eelam.

    This matter has to be explained to India.

  • 0
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    Dr. Dayan Jayathilake accepts that what Tamil politicians want is not the shared or devolved authority but the absolute authority.

    In such conditions why there should be wasting of all the resources and time just devolving power ?

    Why only Tamils should have power. Now, Muslims want power. Christians talk about minority rights.

    Why Sinhala-buddhists don’t deserve anything for them ?

    • 0
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      Sinhala Buddhist crook Politikkas had their day for 65 years and fuc….d up the country.

      The ever crazy donkey SB Political crooks have already screwed our country. Nothing left and now the Tamils and other Minority communities have their right to Govern themselves, their property, and rights to self governance from these SB Political absolute uneducated Alibaba thieves.

      They no longer trust these Sinhala Buddhist political Fuc…..s as their patrons like we Sinhalese and want to secure their lives and property.

      That’s why Dr.Dayan say now these no brainers are in between 13th Plus and Deep Blue sea. Rajapakse jokers with the help of BBS or Merabala sena won’t be able to hoodwink both Local and International community any more.

      This 13 plus will decide on Sri Lanka’s future as a one nation…which already broken half, quarters and 1/8 ths. Keep Joking.

  • 0
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    According to Dayan,Mr Sampanthan,is the the most prominent local leader of the Northern Tamil community!

    Not North East Tamils,but only Northern Tamils despite the fact that Mr Sampanthan himself is the Member of Parliament from the East- Trincomalee District.

    It is the long standing agenda of Dr Dayan to restrict Tamils to Northern Province and completely wipe them off from the map.

    Dayan as a realist argues that TNA had failed to grasp that the 13th amendment was the best in the present circumstances.

    On the contrary had they done so, Dayan would have gleefully claimed at international forums including Geneva that there is no problem in Sri Lanka and that everything is settled within Sri Lanka and Sri Lanka would have escaped unscathed from censure and international war rime inquiry.

    Dayan may be intelligent but it is only arrogant on his part to believe that others are fools.

    Further the Sinhala racists would have shown it as prove that 13 A is really a separate state and the Sinhalese academics would have a field day and that it would have led to total abolition of the 13 A.

    Instead the prudent stand of TNA had saved 13 A at least for the time being!

  • 0
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    Wow, look at all these intellectuals trying to fix the country. More the try, worse the country seems to get.

    Hmmm, is it possible the “experts” have no clue what they are talking about?

    • 0
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      They certainly aren’t sure about what they are talking. All are hen-pecked men kept in their rightful places by the women around them. Shame! See how they extol the virtues of a bandit queen who not long ago was the talk of the town as being the reason for the prolongation of the war and the Namibia-like status of the country.I dont like the present regime either and am disgusted with the order of things in the countr7y today. But that does not mean Iam conveniently amnesic and am in awe of her capabilities just to ensure a change-of-the-guard. This is the typical Sri Lankan mentality.Appoint a rogue to get rid of another. The taste of Kavun is still on their tongues no wonder.

  • 0
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    The absence in this article of any critical reference to Karunanidhi and Jayalalitha, who blow hot and cold on the Sri Lankan issue in their interactions with Delhi, gives rise to the speculation the piece may have been structured to be free of potential debate by a more initiated English-speaking Tamilnadu audience.

    In as much DJ gambles “it is logically inevitable that Tamil nationalism will reject, discredit and undermine any solution proposed or arrived” it would have helped the cause of impartiality if he had included in his piece some comments on why the Rajapakses are fighting shy of responding to Sampanthan/TNA’s request to identify what is on offer before joining PSC talks. After all, so far and beginning from 1956 to date, it has been a trail of broken and shattered promises from the Sinhala side.

    Kissinger’s interesting coinage “intermestic” appears to be more applicable to the Rajapakses who claim they are captives of local racial-religious hawks and, on the global arena, on the run on HR and War Crime issues. Sri Lanka’s name is dragged so much in the mud under this regime only a few hours ago – when Sanath Jayasuriya came on BBC –
    one of Tom Wilcox’s questions was why the country is being considered “an international pariah” As a Lankan I felt offended at we have gained this dubious tag.

    If DJ has India in mind when he notes “No wonder it finds itself in a dilemma on the next steps” I might respectfully suggest it is more the Rajapakses who are in the quandry than Bharat Mata.

    Senguttuvan

  • 0
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    Superb article. Two thumbs up!

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