21 September, 2020

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Government Must Also Consider Ethnic Minority Concerns

By Jehan Perera – 

Jehan Perera

The government is getting ready to pass a 19th Amendment to the constitution as an urgent bill.  For the past several weeks, the government has been engaging in internal debate about the powers of the provincial councils and how they should be reduced. The urgency arises from the government’s much debated decision to finally hold the long-postponed elections for the Northern Provincial Council in September.  The proposed constitutional amendment seeks to take away the power of two (or more) adjacent provincial councils to decide to merge together to form one merged province.    The merger of the Northern and Eastern provinces has been a sore point for successive governments and Sinhalese opinion leaders.  They see the possibility of a merged North East province to be a threat to the unity of the country.  Such a province would have a non-Sinhalese majority, and being about 30 percent of the country, could also become a viable independent state in which the majority of the population would be Tamil and Muslim.

It seems to be that, prior to the establishment of a Tamil-led provincial council, the government is keen to allay the concerns being raised publicly by its nationalist coalition partners, who see a Tamil-led Northern Provincial Council as being injurious to national interests.  Already the Eastern Provincial Council is Muslim-led, though the government holds the majority position in it.  Recent developments there suggest a weakening of the government’s position within the Eastern Provincial Council. This is borne out in a comment of President Mahinda Rajapaksa at a cabinet meeting on the issue the constitutional amendment, where is reported to have said, “I know what is happening.  They are raising anti-Sinhala cries.  They are creating hatred.  As long as I am there, I will not allow anything to happen.  I am doing this for the sake of the future generation and not for my own benefit.”

These words of the President are revealing of the government’s sensitivity to what they perceive to be national concerns.  The weakening of the government’s hold over the Eastern Provincial Council, which has a majority of Muslim and Tamil members, appears to have made government leaders more concerned about the forthcoming election of the Northern Provincial Council. There were stories being spread about cabinet ministers getting violent with each other due to heightened emotions in discussing the pros and cons of the devolutionary system of government. The dominant voice within the government has been seeking ways in which to strengthen Parliament’s power to impose its writ upon the Provincial Councils, and also to withdraw the devolved police and land powers from them.  The fact that the government is proposing to do weaken the provincial councils just before a Tamil-led provincial council is about to be elected shows mistrust of the Tamil community.

Not One-Sided 

The problem with the present government leadership is that they are so heavily immersed in the fears and apprehensions of the past with reference to ethnic separatism that they have not been able to show an ability to transcend them.  But if they are to be truly leaders of a multi-ethnic and multi-religious country, in which the minority ethnic and religious communities account for 30 percent of the population, they need to be alive to the fears and apprehensions of these communities as well.  They must not be one-sided in their affections for a section of the people, even if it be the majority section.  The proposed 19th Amendment to the constitution is an example where the government is catering to the concerns of the majority community on the issue of Tamil separatism and not to the concerns of the ethnic minorities.  The Tamil and Muslim minorities seek the devolution of power as a mechanism of power-sharing in which they too have a voice and the power to decide.

The state as protector of all citizens must be responsive to the sensitivities to those that feel alienated.  Extremist positions do not heal but only lead to more and more conflict.  To the larger world that is looking on, the proposed election in the Northern Province represents the most significant step on the part of the government towards reconciliation.  The symbolism that the provincial council system represents is greater than the power it devolves.  At this current time of great development but little effort at transitional healing, it is important that the government to not to undermine the devolution of power under the 13th amendment.  The holding of free and fair elections for the Northern Provincial Council will be symbolic to Sri Lankans and to the international community that the government has committed itself to the reconciliation process and to providing democratic rights to its ethnic minorities.

The people of the Northern Province have had to endure many years of war, and have suffered tremendously because of it.   There is development taking place in those areas that the people living there actively participate in and contribute to through their elected officials.  Last week the President opened a domestic airport, a housing scheme and a newly constructed section of the highway in the Northern Province.    He also said that when the provincial council was established, the government hoped to undertake bigger development projects for the North.    He said that “We are giving the people of the North the same that are given to the South.”  This is a very positive attitude that summarises what scholars in the field of peace building might say in many pages or even books, and is an approach to reconciliation that needs to be built upon by the government in winning hearts and minds of the people of the Northern Province.

Equal Treatment 

In a post-war situation healing the wounds and bridging the ethnic and religious divides must be foremost in any action on the part of the state.  All actions that follow a conflict must be those that take cognizance of the need for transition to a peace that heals. The statement issued by the Catholic Bishops Conference on the present crisis is worthy of note in this regard.  The Bishops noted that the 13th Amendment “provides for the devolution of power to the provinces and has been in effect over the last two decades. There have been a few examples of tension with regard to the use of devolved authority, but by and large the system has allowed greater participation of people in the matter of governance.” The statement goes on to say that the amendment to the constitution on the devolution of powers should be part of a larger scheme of constitutional reform which must not be rushed through, but should be deliberated upon.

The provincial council system has been in existence for 26 years.  The operation of the provincial councils, their weaknesses and advantages, are well known to the people residing in the eight provinces that currently have provincial councils.    During the height of the war, the government gave assurances that after the war it would implement a political solution that went beyond the existing scheme of devolution of power.    The President’s promise of 13th Amendment Plus at the conclusion of the war was an attractive reassurance to those who were concerned about the high human costs of the war.

The Bishops point out that “Essentially the problem in the North is a National question for which the solution is to be found by the local political leadership of both the Sinhala and the Tamil communities. What is needed is the proper study and careful consideration of all factors along with a broad based consultation of the different political parties and civil society groups before any changes are to be made. We are not convinced that this is happening.”

What the people of the North want is not separation but equality. The present leadership of the main Tamil political party, the TNA, has said this in public and community leaders say this at NGO organized seminars and workshops in the North and East.   They need to say this more strongly so that the Sinhalese people will be reassured and the nationalist Sinhalese politicians cannot use separatism as an excuse to deny the Tamil people their rights. The equality the ethnic minorities, both Tamil and Muslim, want would be to be resettled in homes like they used to have, to have livelihoods, to get government jobs, like Sinhalese people do, and not be a disproportionately small fraction of the public service, police and even military as they are today. The ethnic minorities would also wish the government not to celebrate the war victory year after year, just as in the United States the government never celebrates the civil war victory.  This is especially true when so many of their loved ones still remain missing and unaccounted for. What they might like the government to celebrate would be the day on which a political solution that is acceptable to all communities is made real by a government that cares for them as its own.

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Latest comments

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    13A was OK for the south for 25 yrs. But when it comes to the EPC and NPC it is not OK. Why? – because those provinces are inhabited by minorities. So doesnt this type of thinking run counter to the equality of all citizens and their equal rights under the constitution itself?

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    Mr Perera,

    “Government Must Also Consider Ethnic Minority Concerns”

    You need to understand the underlying foundation, here

    Is the Govt. the Govt of the people or that of Sinhala Buddhists only?

    “The government is getting ready to pass a 19th Amendment to the constitution as an urgent bill. For the past several weeks, the government has been engaging in internal debate about the powers of the provincial councils and how they should be reduced.”

    What we see here is Sinhala Buddhist Racism, 101, courtsey of Monk Mahanama Myths.

    Racists Abhor Breathing Space For Those who do not Belong to their Race.

    Examples:

    1. Sri Lanka Racist Sinhala Buddhists (Buddhists?). Is this the reason why there are hardly ant Tamil Buddhists?

    Amendments 13 , 19 are Symptoms. What is the core problem?

    Another reason Why the Racist Monk Mahanam Myths need to be Expunged.

    Sri Lanka’s Tamil Racist Hindus and Christians chasing out Sinhala and Muslims from the Northern Province.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MASigQJTgaQ

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BTxV8ZOGbjM

    Dr. Farzana Haniffa on North Muslim issues – SLT42b

    2. German Nazi Racists ( Christians?)

    3. Japanese Racists (Buddhists)

    4. Burma Racists (Buddhists)

    ADD YOUR LIST, but provide credible support.

  • 0
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    “Government Must Also Consider Ethnic Minority Concerns “

    Puduma andowediyaawak.

    • 0
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      Yep strange right?
      Racists/haters & ‘Hothambuwas’ like you cant digest it, can you?
      Go and die man, or be another indararathna.

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    Yes… Ethnic minorities should be given due recognition and their concerns should be taken in to consideration. If there is a specific ethnic minority, who is trying to be the majority and destroy the majority, that should be addressed first.

    Muslims for example have become a headache in the entire world. In Europe, in U.S in Asia. They grow as a minority. When there is sufficient number of them, then they attack the majority.
    So what happens is, with the protection and affection under the veil of “minority” Muslims grow, and they claim the entire country and then need sharia law.

    See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YpM6QKaAgP0

    It is good to be nice to minorities. But not evil cancers grow under the protection of been a minority, should be recognized. ISLAM is the true cancer and threat to world in the coming decade.
    It is nothing to do with individual Muslims. But what they are taught and what they are asked to do
    See what a prominent Muslim figure who gave up Islam talks about Islam ?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=flNukc31nJk
    ( isn’t this enough evidence ?)

    When someone is taught “evil” is the true faith for God, no wonder he/she believe in it and act accordingly. It is like programming for a computer to work in such a way. Nothing wrong with the computer, but the issue is with the evil program.
    Quran teaches killing infidels and making the world a Muslim world. Quran simply is the enemy of all Muslims and the entire world. Quran prohibits Muslims to enjoy the beauty of the world and see the life in a more civilized and human manner. Because Muslims are not allowed to listen to otter views and even if they do listen and understand, they cannot leave Islam, since under sharia, if you leave Islam you should be killed.

    See how Islam teach children: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bC58CDhliZg

    When you talk about this even others would say you are “racist”. It is not been racist but understanding the true source of evil and threat to world peace.

    This is simply why America is tying to defeat Islam. Thank to America, the word is still safe, if there is no super power like America to control these blood sucking monsters, do you think Muslims will be nice to others ?

    Look at history, How Muslims treated the world when they had power. They killed all the others, burnt other religious places
    Muslim friends: Open your eyes. Look at what other religions say. They don’t ask to kill infidels. Enjoy the true beauty of the world. Making the world “Islam” is not going to do any good to you. if you can understand that you are going in the wrong direction, correct it now. You are not too late.

    See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4TNhCUhPrz0

    This is what Islam is. We are doing more research on Islam and give my best by giving knowledge to people about this “evil”
    Think twice people. Be nice to everybody. Minorities should be treated better. But make sure no minority is growing under the mercy of been a minority and kill you one day
    It is like giving milk to a tiger baby. When he grows, he will kill you. that is what Islam does. Grow in a country under the mercy of the majority. Increase their population and power. When they are strong, they simply wipe out the majority.

    E.g: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Maldives, Indonesia.

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      Dear Peace Hater
      Very basic Buddhist teachings are “Don’t lie”, “Don’t hurt fish and animals”, “be kind and compassionate”
      Do most of SL Buddhist do any of these? I don’t see they do.
      How do you assume parts from Quran you picked up and interpreted are wholeheartedly practiced by majority of Muslims?
      Do you get my argument?
      Loosen your attachments to Buddhisum and Sinhalese, then you may be able see the truth and be able to love others and peace….
      Anura

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    You say “government leadership is that they are so heavily immersed in the fears and apprehensions of the past with reference to ethnic separatism that they have not been able to show an ability to transcend them” Who created it? The Tamil politicians! My question is do the Tamils living in the south have discrimination issues or any other issues which are peculiar to them? or Is it only in the North? If you wish to solve a problem then you have to address the root cause! Some say ” 13A was OK for the south for 25 yrs. But when it comes to the EPC and NPC it is not OK. Why?” this is because 13A is not required by the rest of the country! It is a white elephant for the rest of the country and the elected representatives have gone berserk. We also can’t afford it and the provinces don’t have the resources to operate on their own!

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    Where have you been for the last 25 years? Also your excuse that we cannot afford doesnt hold water.

    – We can afford a port which is losing millions by the day?
    – We can afford an airport with no income?
    – We can afford a cabinet of 100 ministers?

    etc.

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      Safa

      We can afford a cabinet of 100 ministers

      with no brains, shame nor responsibilities.

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    Mr. Jehan Perera is a NGO guru who is making a living from foreign funds.That is a fact.When he speaks whose voice is he ? His pay-masters or the real people of this country ? Mr perera is re-stating very basic things as if they are big isues, under lining his elite style and undermining the intelligence of the people of the country.Why doesnt he write about all the harrassment that minorities undergo in countries like USA, UK and France ?If he does that will he get his cheque, and invitations to cocktail parties in the western embassies ? Dont be so pathetic Mr Perera.

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    We Tamils never surrender our freedom to these evil Sinhala Buddhism or never allow Sinhala Buddhist terrorist to decide our future. struggle must go on we will win, My Tamil brothers and sisters don’t loose your hope. My believes never come ease, but end of the day will come true…yes I am avatar..i predicted so many thinks in this struggle. I never failed but may be come soon but end of the day we will win…just wait.

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      J.muthu

      “e Tamils never surrender our freedom to these evil Sinhala Buddhism “

      Are you mimicking Winston Churchill, another racist?

      “We shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills;

      we shall never surrender.”

      Winston Churchill

      Don’t forget the Nanthikkadal beaches where exactly your leader surrendered.

  • 0
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    Harryhutton or Harry and Hatton, whoever that is has taken
    the trouble to say it succintly – Jehan Perera, the Gulab
    Jamun of INGOs is voicing their concerns. His views only
    represents those of the masters who pay him. This article
    also will be cut and posted to them as part of his campaign
    for peace. Before he could digest an NGO meal, he comes up
    with another. Don’t be misled by Perera’s jujubes

  • 0
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    jehan PErera represents the Christian NGOs who are looking forward to see fully christianized Sri Lanka.

    His worry for minorities is for his own concern.

  • 0
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    Why not practice Canadian federalism. There is nothing wrong in it. Everyone is happy. No separation. If anyone feels Federalism is separation, then it amounts to backward thinking. However, if they feel Federalism is bitter, why not Sri Lanka be amalgamated into Five Provinces, like the United Kingdom consisting of England, Scotland, Wales & Northern Ireland., where Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have their own devolved governments. Had Federalism been practised at the very inception, there would not have been corruption and now the country would have prospered like Switzerland, Canada, Singapore, etc. The politicians are the main cause, because they have not realized the value of independence.

  • 0
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    Sri Lanka should first and foremost protect its Buddhist heritage. That means implementing measures for minority population control, getting rid of the missionary NGOs, and countering the influence of the pro-Eelam Tamil diaspora/TNA.

    Recently the ruins of a 1200 year old Buddhist city, Mahendraparvata were confirmed in Cambodia:

    http://thediplomat.com/asia-life/2013/06/mahendraparvata-archaeologists-find-1200-year-old-lost-city-near-angkor-wat/

    The same type of Buddhism is practiced in Cambodia as in Sri Lanka. It is all part of the same heritage. If our Islamic friends ever come to power, this heritage will be destroyed with a single stroke overnight. I do not advocate violence, but look at Burma, which did what it had to do to deal with the Islamic Bengali invaders.

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    If the Tamils are given federalism, then the Muslims will eventually ask for it. I am not fundamentally opposed to Tamil federalism, but rest assured, a Muslim confederate would resemble Saudi Arabia, complete with Sharia Law, beheadings, and lack of women’s rights. Eventually, the Muslims would raise their own army, and the rest is history. As they say in medicine, the best cure is not a magic pill, but prevention. So, if Sri Lanka does not want to end up like Singapore/Malaysia, India/Pakistan, East Timor/Indonesia, Israel/Palestine, and Serbia/Albania, then forget about federalism, at least for now.

  • 0
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    There he is again coughing out thoughts
    for dollars!!!

    Jehan the Magician plays the same trick
    all the time.The only difference is that
    they come in separate packages.

    Is this what your paymaster want JP?

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