20 September, 2020

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In Praise Of Sumanthiran

By Malinda Seneviratne –

Malinda Seneviratne

It is natural for members of the Parliamentary Opposition to oppose whatever the ruling party proposes. Voting in Parliament is therefore predictable, whether it is for an Act of Parliament, Annual Budget or anything else. There was a time of dissenting voices voting against party position but that was effectively quashed by a Supreme Court determination regarding the fate of Members who considered crossing over. What we have got used to seeing is all members of the Opposition using allocated time to object, with the main opposition being the most vocal and other making cursory dissenting noises.

Seldom do were here impassioned, well-argued presentations by members of parties with lesser representative power on major issues, the exception being Sarath Muttetuwegama who was a veritable one-man opposition (and an effective one at that) in the eighties. This is particularly true of identity-based parties. They tend to speak up only when constituency demands they do and do so vociferously. At least in post-1977 Sri Lanka.

It is in this context that TNA MP, M.A. Sumanthiran’s intervention in the debate on the impeachment of the (now ex) Chief Justice should be assessed. The TNA as well as other avatars of parties consciously focused on Tamil issues have rarely taken on national issues that were ‘ethnicity-free’ as seriously as Mr. Sumanthiran did in this instance. One can agree or disagree with him, take issue with his assumptions and interpretations, but there is no question that he was representating a point of view that cut across identity divide. His efforts are all the more praiseworthy because they have no impact whatsoever on the party’s electoral fortunes.

There are of course many issues which feed into communal segregation and mutual suspicion. Among the reasons why non Tamils view Tamil politicians with suspicion even when the latter talk of a ‘United Sri Lanka’ (‘United’ of course being a problematic term in the unitary-federal debate since neither formation forbids it and therefore warranting the query ‘sleight of hand?’) is the fact that they have never taken up ‘common issues’ with any degree of passion or sobriety. When Mr. Sumanthiran spoke, however, he was speaking for Sinhalese, Muslims, Burghers and Malays as well as Tamils, for Buddhists as well as Christians and Hindus. Not all, because not everyone would agree with him, obviously, but still he stepped out, one can argue, from a communal and communalist (some would say) shell.

There is a huge difference between a Tamil politician from a major party speaking on a national issue and one from a Tamil party doing the same. If Sinhalese were reluctant to listen to the TNA except to know what their views are about Sinhala-Tamil relations, Tamil grievances and aspirations, and so on, these kinds of interventions would make them listen without thinking ‘enemy’.

The Sinhalese must, for their part, appreciate that the TNA, being a ‘Tamil party,’ is obliged to articulate the problems of the Tamil people and moreover to put aside past apprehensions to treat such representations seriously because ethnic identity notwithstanding Tamils are fellow-citizens. However, whether or not anyone else is listening it is still incumbent on all Parliamentarians to be cognizant of all grievances and their Parliamentary responsibility to be the voice of all citizens. The President, for example, is not the Head of State of those who voted for him, but every single Sri Lankan, including those whose first choice he was not.

Three years after the end of the three decade armed conflict everyone agrees it is time to move on. The President has called for the forging of a national identity, a Sri Lanka where Sri Lankanness overrides all other identities. Mr. Sumanthiran’s effort, even his detractors must recognize, is an articulation of that same sentiment. He has shown that the TNA, if not in name then in action, can become a ‘national’ political entity. A concretization would be to re-think party position on the proposed Parliamentary Select Committee to hammer out a lasting solution to grievances of a communal kind. Indeed, they could turn that exercise into one which designs a new constitution, more inclusive, more democratic and better safeguards against abuse, not to mention one where the principle of power separation is less vague and less open to multiple (and wild) interpretation.

*Malinda Seneviratne is the Chief Editor of ‘The Nation and his articles can be found at www.malindawords.blogspot.com .

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    When Anura B was in JRJ parliament he was surrounded by all UNP MPs. But when I saw Sumanthiran’s speech I was so ashamed of the way joker MPs and ministers behaved. This is like a dog house for some time now. No one is allowed to talk. The Chair has become a joke.

    Recently I found somebody calling it a place of salaried agents working for the President. When you think of it this is very true. District candidate list is a party leaders list. It is like job selection list. Crooks and thieves get the name added to the list who get money from local mudalali thieves as an investment. When the man they funded wins the mudalalis get a profit.

    Also caste is creeping in big ways. Local crooks use it as they have no other power such as education, respect, public service etc.

    As a journalist you should have mentioned two things Sumanthiran said.
    1. The useleness nature of G.L. Pieris as a law professor.
    2. The way Vasudeva lost his respect and principles just because in his old age he tries to keep his minister job.

    How did you miss these two facts?

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      C. Wijeyawickrema

      You have a point or two in your comment. However the drift to parliamentary hooliganism did not start yesterday and will not end tomorrow.

      Remember JRJ brought no confidence motion against the then opposition leader Amirthalingam amid the cheerful UNP MP’s supporting the motion except one.

      The members of elected bodies think and behave once in office they are not accountable to the voters who put them where they are.

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    MP Sumanthiran should be applauded for his passionate speech on the impeachment debate even though I believe their boycott of the debate would have been more effective. We need more people like him in TNA for a better reconciliation with the Sinhalese. Most TNA MPs are hated by Sinhalese because they only talk about Tamils’ issues. But Sumanthiran is different. He was the best speaker on that Black Friday against the impeachment including UNP & TNA. Other Tamil MPs should care when national calamity of this nature occurs in Sri Lanka even though it is nothing much to do with Tamils. In fact, it is important who the CJ is when it comes to North East merger one day per 13th amendment. Tamils should understand the value of Sumanthiran who can speak in all three national languages and being a constitutional lawyer could potentially one day become TNA leader after Sampanthan. He also has good ties with international as well as Sinhalese communities. He is soft spoken and has all the leadership qualities.

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    “It is natural for members of the Parliamentary Opposition to oppose whatever the ruling party proposes. Voting in Parliament is therefore predictable, whether it is for an Act of Parliament, Annual Budget or anything else.”

    Not any more, as the recent actions of the leader of the opposition clearly demonstrate! In fact, it appears that the malleable RW is doing just the opposite.

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    What is this?
    An attempt by the resident jackass of Sri Lankan journalism to a pretense of objectivity and decency?
    Before anyone begins to believe even a tiny piece of this santimonious piffle they should CONSIDER THE SOURCE! Particularly when this unmentionable puts Sumanthiram in the same fold as the man who has countenance mosque invasions and other acts of blatant racism while talking about the “one-ness” of Sri Lankans.
    Malinda, [Edited out]

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      My own sentiments!

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    Although not an original, you are right on the money on one point.

    That is ” if not for the name, the TNA can be a National Political Party”

    I may add that it could have been the main Opposition party today if Sambandan played his cards right.

    Forget pre Nanthikadal.

    What did Sambandan do post Nanthikadal,

    Join the General who was put up to the main event ,but he was like a goat taken to a Kovil by the desperate UNP leader.

    Then the CH4.ridiculous allegations of grease covered Soldiers raping Tamil widows, even old ones,Genocide,Ethnic cleansing by land grabbing,followed by constant demands for exclusive Homelands, and continuous threats to call in the Canadian and British Bogeymen.

    One thing the peasants appreciate is that Sambandan didn’t join his mates in Geneva to plead for a lynch party.

    While this was going on,the Elite Angels ,you think are smarter than us peasants cheered the TNA all the way.

    If that old adage still applies It is never too late.

    But it has to be a total demolition and renovation job.

    Ditching the T will be a start and will bring immedeate recognotion and acceptance by the peasants. .

    The reason is, the peasants will think that the new version has nothing to do with that fearsome GFT and the Diaspora.

    Secondly Sumanathiran, who has no LTTE baggage as such except his affection,can be at least the interim leader until the party gain confidence of the great majority of the population, who happen to be peasants.

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      Jackass like you do not understnd until one day the country is dvided- do not think it is dream- LTTE is Tamils sole representatives unless you sinhala racist thugs become national statemen

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        Raja

        “LTTE is Tamils sole representatives”

        Are you being serious?

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    Why is this well known Sinhala-Buddhist chauvinist Malinda praising Sumanthiran, a TNA politician?

    Yes, it is because he is defending the Sri Lankan or rather the Sinhala-Buddhist constitution that has given everything to the Sinhalese and has given nothing to the Tamils.

    He is defending the racist Sinhala-Buddhist constitution which made the Tamils second class citizens in their own country.

    He is defending the constitution that exacerbated long standing grievances and discrimination against Tamils.

    He is defending the constitution that the Tamil people spilled blood to include Tamil as one of the official languages in it. Many Tamils sacrificed their lives against this Sinhala constitution.

    He is defending the constitution and the judiciary that are just a rubber stamp of the state on all criminal acts against Tamils.

    Defending this Sinhala-Buddhist racist constitution and judiciary is an insult to the Tamil people who sacrificed their lives against the Sinhala-Buddhist state and its constitution.

    Who gave Sumanthiran the mandate to speak in support of this Sinhala-Buddhist racist constitution and judiciary? This clearly shows that Sumanthiran will never understand the feelings of the North East Tamils and their sufferings in the past. If Sumanthiran thinks he is Sri Lankan first, he should contest for a parliament seat from a Sinhala dominated major political party in the South. It is high time the Tamils from the North East wake up and warn the TNA to remind their members who forget the fact that Tamils suffered and still suffering due to this Sinhala-Buddhist racist constitution that gave everything to the Sinhalese and nothing to the Tamils.

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      Kumar Joseph

      “Why is this well known Sinhala-Buddhist chauvinist Malinda praising Sumanthiran, a TNA politician?”

      Possibly a sacrificial lamb, decorated before it is beheaded and blood sucked. The likes of Malinda are planning to pull the rug under him.

      You say:

      “Defending this Sinhala-Buddhist racist constitution and judiciary is an insult to the Tamil people”

      No Kumar you got it wrong as generally the Tamils do.

      Tamils are an insult to the Tamil people just as the Sinhala/Buddhists are to the Sinhala people.

      You do not need Sri Lankan constitution to insult your people. Without support of outsiders or Sinhala/Buddhists constitutions the Tamils have been insulting their own people splendidly for many centuries.

      You say:

      ” Who gave Sumanthiran the mandate to speak in support of this Sinhala-Buddhist racist constitution and judiciary?”

      He is member of parliament representing Federal Party which was voted by the people in the North East and all of them took oath under the Sri Lankan undemocratic constitution and pledged allegiance to the Sinhala/buddhist state.

      What is your problem?

      “If Sumanthiran thinks he is Sri Lankan first, he should contest for a parliament seat from a Sinhala dominated major political party in the South.”

      Remember VP thought he was a Sri Lankan first and fought a futile war against IPKF on behalf of the racist Sinhala/Buddhist state.

      VP won the presidential election for MR.

      GG Ponna supported the racist Citizenship act which made a large part of the population stateless.

      VP’s highly praised commanders, and other LTTE supporters are now with the Racist state and support MR.

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      Did you read Sumanthiran’s speech? Might be worth a read or a listen (on youtube) before making such assumptions…

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    Keep up the good work Malinda. I will throw some more bones your way.

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    Malinda ..

    This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our Comment policy.For more detail see our Comment policy
    https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/comments-policy-2/

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    Beware of the wolf in sheep’s clothing. This Malinda lackey is simply trying to lure Hon. Sumanthiran and the TNA into participating and legitimizing the PSC hoax. As always, this Malinda lackey is doing the business of the Regime.

    Surendra

    Ceylon Communist Party (Maoist)

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      Surendra Ajit

      Ceylon Communist Party (Maoist)

      Oh please couldn’t you find a decent local name for your party with a few members?

      All Communists Maoist clones are fundamentally nationalistic, majoritarian, and racist.

      Does your communist Maoist manifesto mention anything about our struggle to reclaim our ancestral land from migrant Tamils and Sinhalese.

      I suppose your party believes that the island should be ruled by China.

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      Aney Pawww Malinda. Does he have a choice? See what happened to his friend Dr Dayan. Now he is shivering in the cold wind blowing across Europe from Sri Lanka and still he feels naked even though he has donned tie and suit. Better to be resident-jackass of Sri Lanka journalism than non-resident. At least no need to renew visa every 3 months.

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      There is no Maoist party even in China. It is Middle Class party polluting air in Peking with their cars.

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        C. Wijeyawickrema says:

        “There is no Maoist party even in China”

        Mao was the party.

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    Sumanthiran was not defending Sri Lankan constitution or rule of law or anything else. He is one of those lawyers closely associated with Shirani Bandaranaike from the time the impeachment motion was announced. Perhaps he was returning a personal favour to her. He, Neelakandan and other Tamil lawyers from Colombo are in the same league. They are all anti-SLFP and pro-UNP. They belong to a group of affulent Colombo Tamils who remained loyal to UNP and JR Jaywardena even after JR helped ignite a pogram against the Tamils in July 1983.

    I agree with Kumar Joseph that he has no mandate to speak in support of the Sri Lankan Constitution or for that matter in support of Shirani Bandaranaike. Did TNA as a party make a collective decision in relation to the impeachment issue? TNA does not make collective decisions. Sampathan makes decision for TNA in a very autocratic way. It appears in the absence of Sampanthan, Sumanthiran had goaded other TNA MPs, most of whom are semi-illiterates or plain morons, to vote against the impeachment motion.

    By his vociferous opposition to the impeachment motion, purely because of his own personal conviction, Sumanthiran has further strained the relationship of Tamils with MR government. Sumanthiran is there as a National List MP only because Sampanthan got TNA to nominate him. Sampanthan did not make him a TNA National List for any services he rendered to the Tamils. Sampanthan did so as a personal favour because Sumanthiran happened to be Sampanthan’s lawyer who appeared for him in some of his own court cases. Sampanthan discarded a Tamil academic from Jaffna to make way for this political upstart. Sampanthan was made TNA leader during LTTE time because Anandasangari fell out with the LTTE. Look at the way Sampanthan is still treating that veteran politician Anandasangari. Sangari though an equal partner in TNA is not allowed any prominence. Instead yesterday’s podiyan Sumanthiran is given pride of place.

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      Get a life!

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    What the **** is this idiot writing about? Cant make any sense.
    He washes the backside of the govt. and writes crap here to prove something else.
    He is sick.

  • 0
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    I thought the speech by MAS during the 18th Amendment debate was far better.

  • 0
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    This is all crap stuff written by Malinda to back the corrupt and mendacious regime of the High King.He has been backing MR for quite some time now. Hopefully he will get a better job.

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    I fully agree with Hon. Vasudeva Nanayakkara when told the Judiciary to go to Hell. This Sinhala-Buddhist biased judiciary of Sri Lanka should go to Hell.

    This same Sinhala-Buddhist biased judiciary of Sri Lanka illegally separated the Sinhala Army occupied Tamil North East. This is the same Sinhala-Buddhist biased judiciary that freed the Sinhalese who committed rapes and massacres of Tamils, while thousands of innocent Tamils are still languishing in Sinhala torture camps. Sumanthiran is NOT representing the Sri Lankans, he is representing only the North East Tamils in parliament. The North East Tamils have NOT given Sumanthiran the mandate to speak in support of the Sri Lankan racist constitution or the Sinhala-Buddhist biased judiciary of Sri Lanka.

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    I never particularly cared for Malinda Seneviratne given his political views. Many see him as a Sinhala nationalist. That in itself can not be taken against him though. I never appreciated Mathiaparanam Joseph Sumanthiran either. The latter raised the Tamil communal cry when that whole platform should have been discredited with the untold sufferings it had brought the Tamil people in the past 25 years. This said, it does not surprise me that Malinda praises Sumanthiran. The two are two sides of the same coin i.e. the politics of race that has brought so much pain to both Sinhalese and Tamils, the Tamils in particular. Nothing can redeem Sumanthiran in my eyes. He was not elected to the post of MP. He was nominated. He resides in Colombo. His legal practice is in Colombo. He has no business raising the Tamil racial cry when we as a people have suffered so much due to the politics of race since 1956. In this regard, Sumanthiran is a noteworthy successor to another dishonest Tamil extremist politician – Samuel James Velupillai Chelvanayakam who also resided in Colombo, who also practiced law in Colombo and did not have land in Jaffna until the every end of his life. Neither Chelvanayakam or Sumanthiran are proficient in the Tamil language, preferring to communicate in English instead. These were professional race baiters and its time we say good bye to these folks.

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    a quick correction – I meant to say Mathiaparanam Abraham Sumanthiran.

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      DD
      Yours is a quick decision. Please correct it

      Mathiaparanan Abraham Sumanthiran (born February 9, 1964), commonly known as M. A. Sumanthiran, is a prominent Sri Lankan Tamil human rights lawyer, politician and Member of Parliament his mother tongue
      being Tamil had his education in the Tamil Medium, being a Christian attended a Tamil Christian is also a popular preacher in Tamil Christian Churches. Being born in City of Colombo and Educated in Colombo Schools having many Sinhalese Friends, his command in Sinhalese too is very good

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        AMT

        You indicate that Sumanthiran speaks English, Sinhalese and Tamil and is a Colombo resident having grown up there.

        The point remains he never lived in the North or East, never won an election in the North or the East but has nonetheless continued the racial polemics of a Tamil nationalism that has not served the Tamil population. He does not represent anyone and the sooner such people are out of the legislature the better. Malinda’s appreciation of the man is also suspect – two sides of the same diehard chauvanist coin.

        I would also like to comment on Siva’s point on Mohan Peiris and Kshenuka Senewiratne. I agree with him on both issues.

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      Whatever you meant to say, you certainly seem to have got the wrong end of the stick. In the crisi we’re in, we don’t need unwanted confusion or suspicion. Its pretty obvious that MAS’s goal is not for himself BUT THE NATION AS A WHOLE.

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    What ever is said by these SinhalaBuddhist racists, Chief Justice Mohan Peiris is a good/moderate man. We (Tamils) should welcome him and tell this Sumanthiran to go to hell.

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    Even the acting Secretary Kshenuka Senewiratne was very good to the Tamils when she was in London. Both Mohan Peiris and Kshenuka Senewiratne are good/moderate and decent people. Let the Sinhala racists bash them but we Tamils know who these people were. We should praise them.

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      WHAT ARE YOU ON MAN???

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    Native Veddah,

    In its fascistic nature VPs LTTE presumed and demanded all Tamils bow down to its dictate it is the only voice of the Tamil Nation. It certainly was not, in that sense, although many Tamils felt grateful to it for the bulwark role it played in resisting armed injustice to its people in the form of majoritarianism practised by the State with its armyh of reactionaries – both cleric and lay – behind it.

    It is de-humanising in any society for any individual to surrender his political rights to any entity with the declaration they are his sole representatives. That is one of the reasons why the democratic process insists on free elections every 4-5 years so that the citizen can chose freely in the moving scene and fastly changing circumstances.

    Senguttuvan

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