Colombo Telegraph

How Negotiations With The TNA Failed – Documentation From The Past

By Rajiva Wijesinha –

Prof. Rajiva Wijesinha MP

When the President put me on the delegation to negotiate with the TNA, in April 2011, I found that no response had been made to suggestions they had made a couple of months previously. I thought this was absurd, and urged a response. These are the notes I made.

Unfortunately there were no meetings of our delegation to review such matters. We could not take things further, even though I did manage, by insisting by dates for the next meeting being fixed whenever we met, to have regular meetings, whereas previously these were few and far between, and there was no continuity. It was perhaps because there was some progress that Sajin Vas Gunawardena stopped telling me about meetings.

1.   Points for discussion with regard to the proposal submitted by the TNA in February

a) While abolishing the concurrent list is desirable, there are areas in which joint action is required, for instance –

Rivers and Waterways, Continental Shelf, Mineral Resources of certain kinds, National Examinations and Quality Assurance, Energy, Tourism, Price Control, Epidemics.

Some sort of mechanism must be devised for this.

b) There are fields in which the national government must be involved, for instance –

National Cultural Activity, for instance the establishment of multicultural dance and drama institutions

National Sports activities

National Museums, which should not be confined to the national capital, and Archives

The Environment, albeit with provision for provincial and other input

c) Negotiations should also advance responsibility to the people on the principle of subsidiarity where possible, ie in education for instance the primary decision makers should be not central or provincial governments, but local schools accountable to local parents. Agreement should be reached on legislation that will take educational administration out of the control of either near of distant bureaucrats.

In this regard, it may be salutary to entrench provisions for local government also into the constitution, so that in areas such as transport there would be statutory responsibilities for the provision of basic services to the local population

d) With regard to the existing concurrent list, planning in the areas of responsibility at all levels should be entrusted to that area. Education, subject to the points above, should be devolved, and the same should go for Higher Education, subject to National Quality Control. With regard to Housing, there should be clear central regulations, relating to environmental requirements, but otherwise it can be devolved. The same should go for social services, with provision for minimum standards, though Rehabilitation as currently understood must remain with the centre. Other items in the current list, except for irrigation, may be devolved subject to the suggestions above.

e) With regard to all levels of government, provision should be made for strict financial accountability. The responsibilities of a second chamber at the Centre, and perhaps second chambers in provinces which were made up of local government representatives without separate payment, could include financial control, with encouragement of a bipartisan approach in bodies without executive responsibilities.

2.   Correspondence with Sajin Vas Gunawardena in May 2011, when I thought he was serious about trying to reach agreement with the TNA. Typically, the discussion about a Senate was not taken further, and instead G L Pieris, at the next meeting, produced suggestions about Local Government, after I had been informed that I should not suggest anything new. Again I think he had put my idea to the President, who was much more sensible about such matters, and told him to go ahead. Mr Sambandan was positive, saying that the TNA would not go against a Gandhian concept, but again the topic was not taken up again at the next meeting.

On May 14, 2011, at 5:23 AM, Rajiva Wijesinha wrote:

Just seen the newspaper accounts of our meetings on Thursday. Should we not be thinking of a way to use the press productively to take things forward, rather than allowing individual ‘leaks’ to contribute to apparent polarization?

Not sure why, after I had been told the Senate should not figure too large, it became the centrepiece of the government proposal on Thursday – which led to a predictable response in the Daily Mirror. Did you know that was going to happen? Since, after introducing the idea at the previous round, I had been mandated to send my draft to Sumanthiran, it seems strange that a new version should suddenly have been produced, without my having the slightest idea that was going to happen.

It was a pity about the pledges you had made not being fulfilled. The other two told me the reasons, but some sort of explanation earlier might have helped, whereas now the TNA can claim we are unreliable. I am sure this will accumulate until they come out with it publicly. Sambandan seems itching to do so, and that could be very worrying.

Trust you are much better now, and that yesterday’s meetings with the Indian delegation have paved the way for a positive visit when you go there. Regards, Rajiva


On Sat, May 14, 2011 at 8:25 AM, Sajin  wrote:

Dear Rajiva,

The proposal on the Senate was to be provided to them as was discussed quite some time back.
When considering the modus operandi of the TNA I think it is best that we deal with them “Collectively” rather than individually.
On the “pledges” that you have mentioned, this is factually incorrect as i did not “pledge” anything. When the matter of the “Data Base” keeps coming up I took it upon my self to answer same.  It is a matter that I am still talking with the MOD. The TNA knows the exact situation however they will as stated by you come out publicly very soon against me.

There was no meeting with a indian delegation. I think there visit was postponed. I am out of Hospital and back at work. Now that the draft of the senate has been provided lets work on same.
The concurrent list can follow……………in due course.  My perception on this is for us to take a “birds eye view” of the whole matter. Lets perch ourselves on a tree and see how the TNA act their role down below.  Devolution is a must which is accepted by all. However credible devolution as per the “Mahinda Chnitanaya” which is acceptable to the larger polity of this nation is the herculian task that MR has to face up to and take to the end and he is the only politician who can do this as well.

The TNA will be happy with the existing powers under the 13th Amendment coupled with Land (as per 13th amendment powers currently), Tamil Speaking Police force (under the national set up), senate, with a proper mechanism, they will accept. They are just playing the game now as shylock did. Let us wait and see.

Thank you for your mail and concern.



On Sat, May 14, 2011 at 11:24 AM, Rajiva Wijesinha  wrote:
Subject: Re: Newspaper reports
To: Sajin
Cc: Sajin Vas Gunewardene , Lalith Weeratunga

Thanks very much for the quick reply. I quite agree that we need to talk collectively, which is why I was surprised that a document was given to the TNA that I had not seen before, and the content and rationale of which were strange. I should add that it is not likely the TNA will be enthused by a document in which the points to be discussed concerned quotas for women.

After I had brought up the question of the Senate at the April 29th meeting, where the impression was given that this was new, and was not a priority for the TNA, it was agreed that I should send you and them the basic draft simply to look at. Later, when you and I spoke, the view seemed to be that we would put something on the table but this was not really for discussion. The decision to go further may have been due to the President, who has from the start understood the importance of something like this, but it was interesting – and predictable – how the TNA rejected our efforts to make this the central point of the meeting.

I should add that I am fully appreciative of your efforts re providing some satisfaction where possible, without compromising our interests. My point to the others is that we should not be seen – or presented as being seen – to break our word, which is when I was told the commitments were yours. With regard to Sampur too, my recollection is that you said you would check and get back to them, not that you would ensure access to the temple, which is what they seemed to suggest – another excuse for Sambandan to give us religious history, which I realized even Sumanthiran and Suresh found entertaining.

Underlying my concerns is that they seem to keep minutes, which Sumanthiran said he sent you, but we do not seem to have our version. Please correct me if I am wrong, and send me what you have. I worry because, when I took over the Peace Secretariat, I found that the SLMM kept the minutes of meetings, which I had to change, and initially I had to press very hard to have a version that could not be used against us. After a few weeks of insistence, they gave up.

In this context I brought up a couple of important points on the 12th, which might well be forgotten. One was the need to get over the Centre / Province dichotomy, which means a struggle for power, whereas we should take a leaf out of Sambandan’s book and talk about our responsibilities to the people, the Tamil people being as much the President’s responsibility as Sambandan’s. Thus we should try to move closer to the vision of the Mahinda Chintanaya, and restore power to smaller communities, as for instance with education on a school base, which he enunciated in 2005. If we really restore power to the people, the obsession with power at the Province as opposed to power at the Centre will reduce.

The other point was a mechanism for following up on decisions. We are bad at this, for institutional reasons — look at what happened to the LLRC Interim Recommendations – and this means it can be flung in our faces when opponents choose, with allegations of bad faith.

I think the strategy you enunciated might have been appropriate a couple of months back, but the Darusman report has changed things considerably, and you can see it in Sambandan’s demeanour. My great fear is that talk of the merger might once again be taken seriously, and that would be appalling for security as well as the integrity of the country.

Sorry that the Indian visit was postponed, the Tamilnadu election result will now make your task even more difficult. And we need to bear in mind that the European Union resolution was not a satisfactory one, and rest on laurels because something worse did not get through. Sometimes those opposed to us use this technique, good cop / bad cop, and we end up embracing what the good cop does, not realizing how dangerous that too can be.

Perhaps we should meet when both you and I are back.

Regards and best wishes for India,


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