By Malinda Seneviratne –
Leader of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), veteran politician R. Sampanthan, has stated that his reservations about joining the Parliamentary Select Committee stems from a long history of promises and assurances, made and given respectively, and consequently broken. In short, he doesn’t trust the Sri Lankan Government (just has he and other Tamil leaders have not trusted previous Governments).
Someone can easily say ‘you are one to talk!’ make a long list of actions and statements by Sampanthan, going back to at least 1977, and point out that the ‘untrustworthy’ cap fits him as well as it does anyone else’s head. That’s a game without a time frame, though.
At this point Sampanthan wants the Government to come up with its position. For his part, he has offered his position, ‘[we are] committed to finding “a reasonable, workable and durable solution within the framework of a united Sri Lanka’. That’s a position that is laughable for ‘unity’ is not something that can be constitutionally obtained. If he is using ‘united’ as a sweetener for those who are fixated with ‘unitary’ while thinking ‘federal’, then Sampanthan should realize that there such chicanery just doesn’t sell any more. And yet, Sampanthan has a point. Successive governments have skirted the issue, been careless in articulation solution-positions and worse, being consistently inconsistent!
The problem lies in the fact that all parties have started at the wrong point. They’ve all figured what their solution-preference is and are batting towards it. That’s a sure way of taking discussion to nowhere-land.
So we have people who are adamant about the 13th Amendment, those who want a ‘13 Plus’, those who want the 13th scrapped and so on. Nothing about the main unattended grievance of people who really want to put all this behind and move on: stating grievance!
Jehan Perera won’t enumerate ‘Tamil Grievances’, or cannot, and neither does or can Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu or any of the many NGO pundits who make ‘ethnic-talk’. Well known LTTE apologist and Tiger operative, Fr (sic) Emmanuel’s book ‘Agonies and aspirations of the Tamil struggle’ says nothing on the subject. Tamil politicians don’t talk grievance any more. No one bothers to factor in demography to ‘aspiration’. No one backs claim with fact. History is left out. As of now, no one has successfully linked territory-based proposal to territory-based ‘grievance’.
Those problems that are real are left out of the rhetoric and this too is unfortunate. They are left out because their resolution does not require devolution.
The ball is in the Government court. The Government can call Sampanthan’s bluff and say ‘enumerate your grievances and then we’ll see if their resolution requires a territory-based approach’. As of now, it is clear that Sampanthan and the TNA are playing on the bluff of the Government and the divergent views within it.
Logic and scientific method have been white-vanned for more than half a century. The people have had to pay a heavy price.
The beginning cannot be the 13th Amendment for many reasons: it was illegal, it was forced down the collective throat of Sri Lankans by a neighboring thug, did not take into account grievance, and sought to entrench randomly drawn lines as a basis for land theft by chauvinistic Tamil politicians.
Sampanthan can say ‘we’ve articulated grievances for decades’. That’s a lie, but he can be asked to treat the questioner as though he/she was a baby. He can surely lose nothing by enumerating! Many have asked this ‘baby-question’ for years and no one has had the intellect to respond. This is why Sampanthan and his ilk are treated with as suspicion as they have treated successive Governments.
The Government must ask. Sampanthan (or anyone else in the pro-devolution or more-than-the-13th camp) can respond.
We have to start with grievance. Period.