22 June, 2021

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Politics Has Hijacked Our Vocabulary

By MA Sumanthiran

M. A. Sumanthiran MP

Why does a dark cloud of derision continue to linger in Sri Lanka with no signs of dissipating?

The problem lies with our perceptions. Our political reality is mirror of how we as citizens view our neighbours, our government and ourselves. The political notion of ‘unity’ is hollow if we fail in the simple task of seeing each other as equals. The notions of ‘representation’ and ‘accountability’ are vacant if we come to view government as the source and not the steward of power. It is in these simple tasks that we as Sri Lankans have most tragically failed. Instead of defining our politics, we have become a society defined by politics.

Politics has hijacked our vocabulary. It tells us that the collapse of state power is the dictionary definition of “power-sharing.” Politics tells us that “de-evolution” is a four letter word and inimical to nation building. In similar fashion, much of the language that dominates national discourse has become politicized to the point of distorting intended meaning. The tragedy is that in many cases, these distorted words were our first words.

Modern Sri Lanka defines ‘sovereignty’ as a matter of State autonomy. In that context, it is no wonder that calls for Federalism and de-evolution of the power of the State is viewed as a threat to the same. But a true description of sovereignty is found in our Constitution, Article 3: “In the Republic of Sri Lanka, sovereignty is in the people and is inalienable. Sovereignty includes the powers of government, fundamental rights and the franchise.” Sovereignty, properly understood, lies with the people of Sri Lanka; the government is only a steward of that sovereignty. It is for this reason the Constitution assigns to the people all legislative, executive and judicial powers, which are to be exercised out of logistical necessity by government instruments. The Parliament, the Presidency and the Courts are properly seen as tools of the people.

There is no escaping the fact that the people of Sri Lanka have differences. These differences naturally manifest in our representative tools of government. It is the task of government to represent and consider these differences with the aim of arriving at equitable accommodation of all constituent interests. This process is predicated on the understanding that cooperation creates mutual benefit in much the same way that trade creates wealth. However, if the differences of the people are poorly managed or represented by government, then the mirror of politics – whose task is to reflect constituent values – becomes instead a magnifying glass serving only to amplify and potentially ignite divisiveness. For this reason, it is important that the people of Sri Lanka accept their differences but clearly and publically put aside their prejudices – especially when it comes to political vocabulary. That is the standard that the people must hold themselves and their government accountable.

Peace is possible, but it has to start with the citizen. Sri Lanka must get back to her first words. When you poke through the ashes of civil conflict you will commonly find embers of skepticism and mistrust. The approach of the Sri Lankan Government has been to sweep that smoldering ash under the carpet where they hope it will be smothered. Instead their efforts have created friction and stirred discontent. If we are to realize a strong society we cannot run from the past. We must acknowledge the past and be reborn from it together.

Sri Lanka had no unifying War or Conflict to conceive a national identity. Post-colonialism, Sri Lanka inherited a system that was neither uniquely suited nor organically grown to meet the needs of a bifurcated society. The insufficient accommodation of distinct political entities was inimical to fostering a national identity. Instead of forging a singular vision, the Island reverted to segregate imaginations. Now some sixty years later, we still have not learnt our lesson. Any viable long-term solution to Sri Lankan politics must seek to create a national identity not by imposing a uniform whole, but by acknowledging and empowering the diverse parts. The imposition of one identity over another will always be perceived and opposed as subjugation. In contrast, acknowledging the parts creates a demand for participation in a common system. This participation alone can foster a sense of national identity. This process is not the enemy of a united Sri Lanka. It is the only viable means of attaining a united Sri Lanka.

In this context, it is clear to see that the efforts of measures like the 13th Amendment to accomplish the goals of devolution are wholly inadequate. The 13th Amendment does not devolve Executive power to the people or even to their elected regional representatives. Instead Executive power is ‘devolved’ to the person of the Governor who is appointed and maintained by Executive. The devolution of legislative power is stymied by its subjection to the approval of this unelected official. The ability to make statutes is likewise limited by the profound caveat that the Central Parliament has overlapping and superseding jurisdiction. This is not the sort of acknowledgement and empowerment that demands participation of the parts in the whole. The scant measures of the 13th Amendment do not return power to the people and will not beget national identity. Sri Lanka needs a homegrown solution that reflects the political reality that “all persons are equal before the law and are entitled to the equal protection of the law (Article 12).”

Prior to the failure of the Sri Lankan State is a failure of the Sri Lankan Peoples across every tongue and creed. We have forgotten our first words. We have come to accept as immutable reality the centrifugal nature of State power which seeks to compound and consolidate. Sri Lanka has further accepted the subsequent whirlwind of infringement that has disturbed every sector from the Economy to Education.

We have come to accept measures like the 13th Amendment as “the best the Government can do.” But it is not the best the government can do because it is not the best Sri Lankans can do. The Peoples of Sri Lanka must exercise their power to reclaim the language of ‘equality’, ‘representation’ and ‘popular sovereignty’. If the dark cloud on Sri Lankan politics is to be lifted, Sri Lankans must be reborn from their shared history and reclaim their first words.

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    The foundation for good governance is justice and equality. Without a good foundation you cannot build the edifice of society and nationhood. So it is back to basics for Sri Lanka after our laws and constitution have been irrepairably mangled by our political animals.

    It is neccesary to include what is required in the laws and constitution and discard the rubbish that has been implanted by succesive regimes. It is neccesary to have an independent judiciary, human rights, a free media, good governance, responsibility to protect, right of information.

    All these are not mere words or slogans but internationally accepted practices which impact on the quality of life of the individual citizens. These facilitate the individual to achieve his true potential leading to the development of the whole nation. Otherwise we can choose to remain a closed and backward nation under the boots of a familial dictatorship.

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    Mr. Sumanthiran,

    I agree with your position in this instance totally. Unfortunately, deliberate or ignorant use of words, coupled with actions which give new meanings to otherwise ‘ innocent’ words, are a historical reality in this island of ours. All communities within Sri Lanka are terribly guilty on this score. This is the reason I have repeatedly pleaded the abandonment of such terms/words from our political discourse. You have to take a lead in this matter, as you are fortunately a successful professional , who is also above vote-catching politics. Please articulate the issues that matter to the Tamils in an honest, truthful and realistic manner. Acknowledge the positive developments and point out the negatives in a non-confrontational manner in simple language. Please refer to specific problems accurately, without generalisations . Please also lay out a realistic vision for the Tamils within Sri Lanka. If you can do this, you would be remembered forever by the Tamils and Sri Lanka . You may be cursed and hounded in the short term, but in the long term you will win and ‘ We’ the Tamils and all other Sri Lankans will win. Please use the God-given opportunity to do what is right. Many Tamils are longing for an honest, sane, intelligent and visionary voice-a leader-to represent their real concerns. I pray you can become that leader. You have considerable among the Sinhala and Muslim populations too. This is an asset very few Tamil politicians have today. It is not an easy challenge, but is a challenge worth taking at this juncture of Tamil and Sri Lankan history.

    Dr.Rajasingham Narendran

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      All languages 2 dimensional therefore the ambiguity except Chinese script with a tilt to 3.

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    Author author!
    A politician is one who speaks the truth and sandwiches them with lies – Bernard Shaw.
    Therefore, Parliament is where all the Hypocrites who are democratically (who knows) elected in Sri Lanka gather. There is nothing called democracy but hypocrisy at its best.
    It is a pre requisite there cannot be sovereignty without responsibility.
    Quote “Sri Lanka had no unifying War or Conflict to conceive a national identity.” Unquote
    You have heard of the Great Partition forced on by the US and implemented by Mountbatten. It left 1.5 million dead until the priest did the Om Tat Sat to the naked fakir. Aren’t they still at war after several wars??
    Almost every baby’s first word is “amma” in Tamil or Sinhalese because one can only have a single biological mother.
    I think the immediate case for Sri Lanka is the undervalued dollar at Rs 130 which is harming the main foreign exchange earners mainly the amma’s ex. Sewing girls, house maids, tea pluckers etc. but not the walauwa aunties and the Aban like women to import and travel low cost.
    Money is the root cause of all good.

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    A correction: — considerable respect among—

    Dr.R.N

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    Dear Sir,
    I am saying this for the good of the sri lankan tamil people in sri lanka. Until and unless you the TNA learn to live in brotherhood with the rest of the sri lankan people by that I mean the sinhala buddhists, sinhala catholics, muslims, malays, up country tamils, burghers you will not be able to achieve this peace you say you want. You guys and the LTTE have destroyed the sri lankan tamil people’s happiness and peace of mind for now over thirty years for want of a better word and leading them even now up the garden path.

    Take a leaf from the muslim and up country tamil leadership in sharp contrast to you. They have always worked alongside and with successive govts and whereas before these communities were very backward now they are even at the heart of the decision making processes in sri lanka and these communities are exemplary citizens of sri lanka even better than the majority sinhala community and works hard to make sri lanka a success. Same with the sinhala catholics, exemplary citizens.

    These communities by that I mean the muslim up country tamil or catholics didn’t wait for so called solutions but worked with and alongside and even as part of the govts of the day to make their lives and their country sri lanka a success from the very beginning.

    Please learn a lesson from them, please avoid this confrontation politics, it hasn’t worked for over fifty years and done no one no good and it never will. For the sake of the sri lankan tamil community at least now stop this confrontation politics and try to work to make the lives of the sri lanka tamil community better and a success at least form now onwards.

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    Dear Sir,
    I am saying this for the good of the sri lankan tamil people in sri lanka. Until and unless you the TNA learn to live in brotherhood with the rest of the sri lankan people by that I mean the sinhala buddhists, sinhala catholics, muslims, malays, up country tamils, burghers you will not be able to achieve this peace you say you want. You guys and the LTTE have destroyed the sri lankan tamil people’s happiness and peace of mind for now over thirty years for want of a better word and leading them even now up the garden path.

    Take a leaf from the muslim and up country tamil leadership in sharp contrast to you. They have always worked alongside and with successive govts and whereas before these communities were very backward now they are even at the heart of the decision making processes in sri lanka and these communities are exemplary citizens of sri lanka even better than the majority sinhala community and works hard to make sri lanka a success. Same with the sinhala catholics, exemplary citizens.

    These communities by that I mean the muslim, up country tamil or catholics didn’t wait for so called solutions but worked with and alongside and even as part of the govts of the day to make their lives and their country sri lanka a success from the very beginning.

    Please learn a lesson from them, please avoid this confrontation politics, it hasn’t worked for over fifty years and done no one no good and it never will. For the sake of the sri lankan tamil community at least now stop this confrontation politics and try to work with the govt and most importantly with the sinhala buddhists, sinhala catholics, muslims, malays, up country tamils, burghers and others to make the lives of the sri lanka tamil community better and a success at least from now onwards.

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    A powerful and philosophical narrative of the tragedy of our times by a younnger, able, educated lawyer-politician who shows signs of being able to offer some badly needed solutions to our many decades of accumulated pain. But will it be heard and understood. Will prompt and appropriate action taken in a political environment where those who hold the keys to the resources of the country have established they have a more sinister and self-centred agenda to corner the meagre resources of the State for themselves, their immediate family and their army of sycophants.

    Some Tamils read the time has come for the Tamil Nation to be freed and enabled to develop their legitimate part of the Island. This is not to ask for Separation. It is to ask for that part of the traditional Tamil Homeland to be freed from the fate of the Sinhala land that is doomed for the next few generations by the very act of their leaders in recent times recklessly emptying the treasury – for starters. Worse, for mortgaging generations to punishing loans taken from the outside world at outrageously high interests and terms.
    It was reported in a loan of US$500 million received recently over half has been utilised for the service of debt interest. The Tamil Nation did not benefit from these loans and, therefore, should not be penalised to pay them. They should be allowed to design their own future.

    This is why we see the formulae of the Two Nations in One undivided Country formulae should soon come into play. On the face of it, this looks frightening to the Sinhala Nation – but it has been a reality in as recent times since 1987 is something they must remind themselves.
    The full potential of it being realised was sabotaged by hawks in the Sinhala extreme who had the mischievous support of an ambitious individual. This person is believed to be planning a post-retirement political entry. The hawks used him to sabotage the successful working of a careful plan of two Govts calculated to bring peace, unity and prosperity to the Tamil-speaking people in their Provinces. The hawks used their considerable media advantage to mislead the Sinhala masses. Needlessly to emphasis, that was the ground reality prior to the advent of the first colonial invader.

    The crushing direct and indirect taxation imposed on a much-suffering people in the Budgest, introduced personally by the President a few days ago, should prove even to the most gullible amongst us the state of the finances of the country has never been direr. In a regime short of learned and managerial skill in high finance some of the answers in the form of investments from/in and expanded trade with Swaziland and Uganda are matters that belong to the realm of comedy. Will we soon have a State Visit from Robert Mugabe and an entourage from Zimbabwe here for investment and trade development?

    The international community flexing its muscles is not for regime change but in that concern to save their investments and loans given to Sri Lanka in a scenario where the government is unable to honour its commitments.

    The Tamil Nation, free of the huge burden of these un-necessary mega loans, has the means to develop fast and provide a more prosperous, peaceful and working democracy for its smaller population. This is further fortified by the resolve and declared desire of a large number in the Tamil diaspora to invest and build in this entity. The coming of the Lankan Tamil Nation thus described cannot be denied for long – unless the Sinhala South gets its act together.

    Senguttuvan

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      @senguttuvan

      The reason 1987 accord didnt succeed is not because of any special hawks that u talk abt but because of the acts of LTTE. The accord was rejected by sinhala ppl but JR was able to bring it using an iron hand. The ones who really failed the accord is LTTE and not because of any chauvinist elements, GOSL or even failure by the Indian gov. It is well documented that LTTE deliberately made it a failure. They initiated war with the IPKF. I was not born at that time yet one can learn if cares enough to read a book. Seriously i expected more from an elder like u.

      Have u ever read about the contents in 1987 accord? It is not frightening. I wonder why the sinhalese people reject it at all. Even i would have agreed with the contents back then and wonder why GOSL was waiting until India force it because i expect a decent gov to have done that already. Even an indian type devolution set up is OK for me. Even Federal set up is not frightening. The problem here is both the Tamils and Sinhalese think Federal set up is disastrous for SL, but none understand it. U think 1987 was a big defeat for sinhala ppl, no it is not.

      The argument many Tamils put forth in favor of separation is that they want pre colonial N&E. But do we have pre colonial N&E? Do we see a sinhala nation in SL? SL has changed a lot since 1505. It is more than 500 years. what about indian origin Tamils in central Sl, they were not here during pre colonial times and many such changes. Tamils asking for a pre Colonial N&E is extremely hypocrite. The problem with both Tamil nationalists and sinhala nationalists is they both ask to undone the changes during colonial times. They fail to realize everything is changed. SL is not a sinhala country. sinhala is only a component of the larger set called SL.

      How can we divide SL as sinhala land and Tamil land? Would u recognize all tamil speakers as citizens of tamil nation? would u accept muslims, upcountry tamils and other tamil speakers as tamils in ur ‘tamil land’? wouldnt that make u a minority in ur own ‘Tamil Land’? If SL is to divide among tamils and Sinhalese what abt the others? Dont talk nonsense.

      We have been extremely unlucky when it comes to our leaders. If u think Tamil leaders were any better we wont be having this discussion. The dark clouds of economic and social problems that prevail in SL would definitely drag both the people down together. Never think you would be better off when there are probs in the neighbour’s house.

      A long as you people have covert designs for the separation of SL, the power devolution would not be on the table. There cannot be any agreement between 2 ppl that doesnt have trust.

      Finally as a sinhalese i wish all the best for Tamils in an undivided country.
      As a young SLn born in late 80s, i expected more sense from an elder like u.

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        The news in the west is Mugabe is itiching to come too as he loves rajaporkistan. The SL’s must never forget that Zimbabwe was the food bowl of Africa when the west ruled it. He will teach how to pick the rice that falls from the moon to the bins without disturbing the grease devils. During 70/77 many SL’s did it but failed to catch it at the right time because of poya and pre poya.

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    Signing the Indo-Lanka pact and introducing the 13th Amendment to the SL constitution cost India a huge sum of money and thousands of lives (IPKF) including the life of a good Prime Minister. Now, the Rajapakshe government wants to teach India a lesson for voting against SL at the United Nations Human Rights Council by abandoning the 13th Amendment and rejecting the joint statement issued on May 17, 2009 together with the Indian Government. Not only that, the Sri Lankan government has once again made overtures towards China. China and Sri Lanka had firmed up their defense relations during a meeting of their top officials who pledged to make efforts to boost relations between the two countries and their militaries. The spineless Indian government is helpless and keeping silent.

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    Dear Monkey,

    You write courteously and with evident sincerity, however i feel without sufficient thought and analysis. The Muslims and the up country Tamils who have always ‘worked alongside successive govt ‘ have had their heads bashed on more than one occasion, at the will and pleasure of the govt and the majority community. Need one remind you of the recent incidents in Dambulla and Elpitiya ? ….and the Sinhala Catholics? When it suits the the govt. and the majority community churches can be burnt with impunity and priests can vanish from the face of the earth.

    We had a neighbour dear Monkey, a Tamil gentleman working in the Survey Dept. Never asked for a separate state, paid his taxes, smiled at everyone just put his head down meekly, merely wanting to educate his children and live at peace with all men, Sinhala Buddhist, Catholics, Muslims, Burghers and even Malays. In 1958 his house was attacked, he handed over some of his valuables to us for safekeeping and ran to the refugee camp with his family to escape physical hurt. Came back and rebuilt his life thinking it was his fault for not being a sufficiently meek and mild neighbour. Come 1977, lo and behold, his efforts at being a good meek neighbour are perhaps not appreciated; his house is attacked again. The poor man tells himself, “Well it’s an aberration, maybe I have not been good enough to my Sinhala Buddhist neighbours”. He starts again determined to do better. 1983 dawns, this time for his pains his entire house is burned down, including his precious possession, the books he has collected over a life time. He holds his hands in his head and weeps. He barely escapes being burnt with his house and runs dutifully with his traumatized family yet again to the refugee camps. But this time he doesn’t return but runs for good with his family ….. to South India. Spends his life there away from all what he has known and loved since his childhood, but at least with no fear of being misunderstood and his house attacked again !

    Well he certainly leant his lesson, a very costly and painful one. Even the worm dear Monkey has to turn someday don’t you think ?

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      Yes sir I am telling these TNA with all sincerity that the only and I am saying it here and now the only way that the sri lankan tamil people can prosper and live in happiness (and I think they deserve to as much as anyone else) in sri lanka is to work alongside all the other communities in the island. I have given examples of two very (in my opinion) successful communities i.e. the up country tamils and the muslims and their leaderships and it is up to you to accept this or not.

      Lets put it this way, are you right or am I right when you think about the destructive path that the LTTE has taken the sri lankan tamil people on and the repercussions of that for all sri lankans? The TNA are still now committing the same mistakes, again and again. They should build bridges with the other communities in the island especially the sinhalse buddhists and they are not doing that. Think about the success stories of the up country tamil people for example or the muslims and the situation of the sri lankan tamil people in sharp contrast. The only way to succeed is to build bridges and not to destroy them in all sincerity. It is up to you to accept what I am saying or not. Increasingly I see that there is a great opportunity for sri lanka to move forward in the context of the the increasing importance of asia in terms of economic growth and stuff. So I think in all sincerity the TNA should not yet again rob the sri lankan tamil people of this great opportunity to take part in this success and not to make the mistakes of the past because the ultimate losers of their mistakes would be the sri lankan tamil people which is quite said to be quite honest.

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    The TNA leader Sambanthan has suggested that Sri Lanka be divided into 4-5 regions instead of the present nine provinces for effective and less costly devolution. I suggest the regions should be:

    1. Greater Colombo: directly under the Central government.

    2. South- Western: the present Southern and North Western provinces, excluding greater Colombo

    3. Central- Present Central, Uva and Sabaragamuva provinces

    4. North- present Northern province + parts of North Central province (Anuradhapura and Madwachchiya districts) adjoining it.

    5. Eastern- The present Eastern province + parts of the North Central province (Polonaruwa detsrict) adjoining it

    This will also roughly divide the country on a terrain and climate related basis and will avoid a linguistic or communal separation of the people.

    While other alternatives can be considered, the following considerations should be avoided:

    1. A linguistic or communal identity for the regions
    2. Reverting to historical names.

    Dr.Rajasingham Narendran

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      While other alternatives can be considered, the following considerations should be avoided:

      1. A linguistic or communal identity for the regions

      But isnt this exactly what is needed by Tamil?

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        Sach,

        I think Tamils can be Tamils and be successful Sri Lankans, without seeking ‘ Reservations’. The north, the east, parts of the hill country and areas where the Muslims live in high concentrations will have the Tamil flavour, unless there is a greater calamity than we have experienced over the past thirty plus years. What I find particularly appealing about the Muslims is that they have kept their Tamil language identity despite learning Sinhala and living among the Sinhalese. Many Tamils in similar circumstances remain Tamil only in name!

        Further, what the Tamils really need is different from what their politicians, militants and terrorists have portrayed it to be and what the Sinhala polity thinks they want. What the Tamils need is the right to be full fledged Sri Lankans, sharing the good, bad, ugly and the terrible equally in our blessed land.

        Dr.Rajasingham Narendran

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          ‘Further, what the Tamils really need is different from what their politicians, militants and terrorists have portrayed it to be and what the Sinhala polity thinks they want. What the Tamils need is the right to be full fledged Sri Lankans, sharing the good, bad, ugly and the terrible equally in our blessed land.’

          If it is different then i am happy but the things we see really dont say that. Politicians never 100% represent their ppl. But the way i understand it, the Tamils need N&E to have a linguistic and communal identity to the region which is Tamil. Actually the root of the whole conflict is that with Tamils wanting tamil identity for these regions while sinhala leadership reject it.

          And when u said,
          the following considerations should be avoided:

          1. A linguistic or communal identity for the regions

          i was confused. i dont think majority of tamils would agree with u.

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      Dr. Narendran,

      I agree with you about the 4 provinces. But the boundaries you mention make no sense. If partitioning were to happen, it should happen on some logical basis. And that basis is the desire of Tamils (and Perhaps the Moslems) to govern their own affairs and resources democratically according to their wishes (and not according to the wishes of a head of state elected by an antagonistic Sinhala community). Therefore the most sensible thing to do is to keep the provinces mono ethnic as far as possible. The Northern Province should be as close to 100% Tamil as possible for any chance of success. So with the Eastern Tamil Province and Eastern Moslem province. The Sinhalese are not asking to be devided up. So the rest of the country can remain monolithic and do away with the rather pointless Provincial Councillors.

      I also believe the provincial entities should be proportionate to the populations that live in it so entitlement to land and resources are equalised across the communities and. Population densities should be eqal to maintain equality of entitlement. Once the provincial boundaries are defined maximum devolution should be granted including land and Police powers.

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        Sach and Dingiri,

        The new north I suggest will be Largely Tamil with a sizeable Sinhala population . The new east will also be largely Tamil and Tamil-speaking with a sizeable Sinhala populations. This sort of mix is desirable,but cannot and should not be engineered through colonization schemes. However, it can be brought about by re-making the provinces.
        Those who are a majority in some provinces will be a minority in other provinces. This will teach us lessons in terms of co-operative group living. This will also help us unlearn communal politics- a scourge in modern Sri Lanka.
        What most Tamils want to be are citizens equal in every way to the others, while being Tamils. They wanted the whole of Sri Lanka as their turf and were moving in that direction until communal politics rolled back this unfolding phenomenon. Once the siege mentality is cured, the Tamils will become outward looking again. The Tamils of the north have over the past two centuries made their fortunes outside the north. However, they invested this wealth largely in the north. This investment has been destroyed over past three decades. There is even now a large amount of Diasporan Tamil wealth invested in and around Colombo, because it was safe to invest it there during the war. The recently ended war has also taught the Tamils that the north and east cannot be the safe havens they had imagined. Their safety lies in a safe, prosperous and democratic Sri Lanka. Homeland concepts have no meaning in this scenario.

        Dr. Rajasingham Narendran

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          Dr. Narendran.,

          You and I may think alike that but unfortunately the majority of Sinhalese and Tamils cannot think beyond their own narrow nationalisms. If the new provinces have ethnic mixes it will only exacerbate the problem we have today with the current ethnically mixed nation and will at best be as bad the system we have today. What is there to stop the Tamils and Sinhalese quarreling in the newly declared provinces? There will inevitably be conflict over land, jobs and education. If the Sinhalese in the south see that the Sinhalese in the other provinces are being victimised in whatever way (and I am sure they will find a way) they will in turn victimise the Tamils in the South. If you have observed how ethnic politics works this is exactly what will happen.

          Therefore it is far better to demarcate enclaves where the minorities feel secure and have total power over their affairs. And cannot tread on the toes of their minorities. You are unlikely to find any Sinhala volunteers who want to be part of a Tamil governed province where they will find themselves in a position where the Tamils find themselves today. So I believe membership of the province should be largely voluntary and not enforced. If the communities can accept that, together with the principle of equal land sharing I believe there could be a deal.

          However two Nationalisms are miles from agreeing on the equality of the other (in terms of entitlement to land and resource and power) And this is why we keep failing.

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    do not speak out of turn. It can destroy you as well as the party that you represent.The Govt is trying to divide the TNA

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    I do not understand what Sumanthiran means by “home grown” solution to the problems of the Tamils. If he means a solution to be found internally without anyone thrusting a solution on Sri Lanka, I am with him. I believe this is what he meant. This system of government we inherited from the Briish, the so called parliamentary democracy, or any variation of it like the present Sri Lankan system with a superimposed Executive Presidency is still a foreign system. No former British colony except Australia and Canada and perhaps the United States really adopted itself to this alien system of government imposed on them by the British colonial power. India is another example of an imperfect but still functional Parliamentary democracy. Almost all the former African colonies have now become dictatorship of one kind or another. Pakistan has been a military dictatorship on and off. Malaysia and Singapore have become one party states. Burma has been a military dictatorship for the past five decades. Bangladesh, the break-away state from of Pakistan, is another country struggling to be a democracy. The Carribean states are minor actors showing some resemblance to real democracy.

    The system that the British tried to impose on its foreign colonies did not flourish anywhere except where whites were majority like in Australia, Canada and the United States. On the other hand, there is no alternative to the democratic system to revert back to. Sri Lanka or for that matter any former British colony did not have any system of government where people ruled themselves. Thus there cannot be a home grown solution. We have to tinker with the present Parliamentary Democratic system and make it workable. However, the problem with the parliamentary democracy is that it is the rule of the majority. Essentially the Sinhalese, the majority community in Sri Lanka, will be the rulers what ever system we introduce. What ever constitutional safeguards we may provide for the minorities these can be jettisoned overnight like what Mrs Bandaranaike’s government did in 1970. So long as we have race based political parties and power hungry politicians who want to grab state power at whatever costs there will be no equality for Tamils or any minority groups. Before changing the system we have to change the politicians. The real salvation will come only when educated and enlightened Sinhalese, Tamils, and Muslims join hands with the support of the masses and dump these power hungry politicians. There is no hope of that happening any time soon. What we need today in Sri Lanka is something similar to the Arab Spring. There is no way now to chase away these corrupt thugish power hungry politicians. That includes Sumanthiran’s TNA parliamentary colleagues.

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      Naga:

      The Americans had a revolution and created they model of republican democracy using the classic Greek model like the British did. You may be aware that classical Greek is the forerunner to Latin, English French and Spanish. Almost all medical and horticultural terms are still in Greek.
      The British after the Gulliver in the land of Lilliput’s became the most powerful force and they got most of the colonies by agreement from the Dutch. With WW2 London was blitzed and needed American money the Marshall plan therefore GB had to reluctantly agree to the sub-continent partition and the creation of Israel.
      Only revolutions create constitutions by the people for the people like USA and France while most former colonies did not have one but got it on a platter so they tinker and keep on buggering because that is what they are. We say hard earned money stays that it.
      If you go to Bihar or UP campus and speak in English they would say “angreji ka putra” what it means is not just you are son of the English but we are together fighting for our rightful land now called Pakistan. The Tamils of Manipay were no different back in the 60’s either if one just said “mokade ban” means what’s up? Now try and appreciate the extremes in literacy and I.Q of both these places in India and Sri Lanka.
      Because of SARC commitments India will not allow a revolution in SL like it assisted Sirimavo. I know the IPKF Air Force of the north (95% Brahmins) too well and they have a bone to pick of total Sri Lanka since they were hood winked and they see their disabled men due to landmines every day.
      Chinas and Sri Lankas largest export market is EU and that’s in the hands of Ashton bLiar’s (he had the LTTE proscribed) nominee. When Lakshman came to the UK just after the Tsunami for a felicitation at Oxford by bLiar he gave an interview to BBC he said “we have not received one cent of Tsunami money” kids in England who had broken their piggy banks too were shocked (UK contribution which was doubled by the government stood at £1billion) but not anymore- Indonesia yes. So it’s an economic Tsunami worse than 70/77 can make everyone think.
      Oh yes once again they can say “apey sudata gahanva” and Weeravansa has his kid at Eaton costing £40k per year. The average income of a worker in central London is £48k and he can’t dream of Eaton. I stop this here I seen many nations the west has become small and one and I love them too for their diversity and unity which I saw in Colombo way back – the world is big nothing lost Samsara.. good luck to you.

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    Dr Narendran and Naga,once again, make useful observations. It is good to read the former beginning to see TNA in different perspective as he recognizes one of its front line men – Sumanthiran.

    From views emerging from Govt Ministers, it looks like they are looking at changes in the Provinces system. They really should be concentrating more on producing a better performing economy.
    This is probably more to save themselves from the 13th Amendment “problem” as well as the need to give in to the popular pressure from sources that matter to bring Tamils into the fold.

    Tamils being left out of the EP/PC Cabinet further complicates matters and questions the validity parts of the 13th Amendment – that would have maintained its integrity, now sabotaged by the viscerally motivated Supreme Court politics yielding to pressures of Sinhala chauvinism. Unfortunately, Sinhala chauvinism in that instance was given substance by that great legal luminary – the late HL de Silva.
    That the latter had to fight the same foes on the Conversion Bill is yet another strange part of our politics.

    I cannot see the Sinhala majority agreeing to any demarcation of Anuradhapura or Polonnaruwa Districts to come within what the Sinhalese would insist as “Tamil Majority” Provinces. The options, therefore, are limited now to allowing a re-merged NEP – whatever nomenclature the regime employs to call it. One remembers here earlier suggestions to change the Provinces on the basis of River basins and so on – that did not find popular discourse.

    How I too wish if we could avoid a linguistic or communal identity. The fact is Scotland today is seeking a separate identity – an exercise in which the Irish have taken to arms for a very long time. The truth is in today’s world there are no philosopher-kings the old wise Athenian Plato figured would be around, if matters turn awry.

    I share the lament of reader Naga Tamils are left with Hobson’s Choice of majoriatanism. By the way, any effort to separate the EP from the NP is against the wider interest of the Tamil Nation – although we must, in time, find solutions to the latter phenomenon of the Muslims seeking their own political indentity via a new PC.

    India is not only the near-success story of the British style of governance. Malaysia and Singapore are not entirely despotic. There is much democracy in both countries although there are occasional autocratic features in both countries. But the proof of the pudding is both multi-religious/racial countries are doing better than us although they started behind us in 1948. The choice to us, as I see it, is a mixture of the Western type of republican democracy and salient features of our own. As Churchill reminded us in spite of all its faults the democratic form of government is the best system available to us so far. Francis Fukuyama does not appear to disagree.

    Senguttuvan

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    Sach – Normally, I would have ignored the angry and senseless comments you make. But since you are a post-1983 youngster let me show where you are wrong so that you learn matters in perspective.

    “The reason the 1987 Accord did not succeed is not because of any special hawks” say you. Have you heard of the JVP under Wijeweera. Ask your father about the damage they did from 1987 to 1989 until Ranjan Wijeratne saved the Sinhalese.They are not my idea of some Gandhian response. More peaceful men like the late gentlemanly Gamini Jayasuriya were hawkish too although they expressed their opposition in a more civilized manner. That may be because he came from a cultured background.

    “The Accord was rejected by the Sinhala people” you astonishingly misdirect yourself. Your father will tell you JRJ won with a 5/6th majority of the Sinhala people. JRJ, identified by many as anti-Indian, entered into the Agreement on a Sinhala mandate to save the Sinhala people/Govt then under attack simultaneously by the JVP and LTTE.

    You may learn at some point in the future when the Indian army entered Lankan soil they were received by hundreds of LTTE cadres with garlands. If you visit the libraries of the ICES or the CPA and speak to some of the researchers there, they will make you wise why the LTTE worked both against the IPKF and the Accord. You will then learn while JRJ used his cunning to trap Rajiv G to send in the army it was the UNPs Premadasa who armed the LTTE with Indian arms to chase the Indian army – merely to win the Presidency against a hawkish JVP. If and when you come to learn Somawansa Amarasinghe escaped from the country in his amude in a Kallathoni to India (enroute the UK with British intelligence support) allegedly helped by a senior Cabinet Minister working in cohorts with RAW, you will learn shades of the complexities of the world we live in. That is provided you have the necessary intellectual grasp.

    You arrogantly ask me if I know the contents of the 1987 Accord. Assure yourself one of the senior Ministers during that period was a close friend of mine and we exchanged views on a wide variety of subjects – a fact known to many in the readership here. The answer is in the affirmative.

    No Tamil or organized grouping today will call for Separation, as you allege in blissful ignorance. Even the TNA, widely accepted as speaking for Lankan Tamils, has adjusted its position in line with changing times.

    Who asked for the Island to be divided now into Sinhala and Tamil enclaves or Reservations? They have remained and identified as distinct areas occupied by Sinhalese and Tamils from time immemorial until Colebrook-Cameron did their piece. In as much as there is no bar for Tamil people to come and live in any part of the South, there shall be no objection to Sinhala, Muslim and others to live in any parts of the island where the majority is Tamil – now or in the future. But the matter is different if the exercise is done with State resources with deliberate intention at demographic change.

    I will not proceed anymore to engage the rest of your piece lacking in subsrtance except to advise you if education and the learning of contemporary history is in your agenda, you should go about this with much more calibre and evidence of propeer upbringing. Even with your limitations, you will concede the vulgar Mervin Silva approach takes one nowhere. A qualitatively better grasp of English, grammar and writing style will be of use to you, as I can see. This pretended omniscient approach you adopt will result your being treated as a joke in learned company. I am sure there will be many reasons for you to change to a more urbane and lettered person.

    Senguttuvan

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      I have heard about what JVP did and what their intensions were. Having lived among sinhalese all my life i know how brutal they were in the 88-89 period. The JVP was against the accord, but the gov never let the JVP sabbotage it. JVP protested against it and turned violent but still gov controlled it by suppressing the JVP.
      After accord was signed between SL and Ind, IPKF was bound to maintain peace in the N&E, which they failed.(The LTTE killed many civilians during 1987 to 1989, but IPKF did not stop it, which is against the accord.)
      The SL army was limited to barracks and they had to even give up important places captured in operation liberation. The LTTE expected the IPKF to install them in power and Ind had different designs. When Prabhakaran realized he cant get the Eelam via this accord, he wanted to sabbotage it.

      The main reason, accord was not successful was, war broke out between IPKF and LTTE. LTTE wanted war with IPKF and wanted to send it back. The whole Pulendran drama was done with that purpose. The JVP was on the run at the backlash from SLA and do u mean they sabbotaged the accord. And do u mean the hawks in SL made Prabhakaran to instigate war with IPKF? I know you will point out to Premadasa giving arms to LTTE to fight IPKF (which prabhakaran paid back by killing 600+ policemen in east as soon as IPKF left.) Premadasa was never a clever leader both he and Prabhakaran wanted IPKF out.

      I have seen in many instances many Tamils, claim that stupid boy prabhakaran was decived by sinhala hawks and the rift was created by sinhala machinations. No uncle that really is not the case. Prabhakaran sabbotaged it soon as he understood India is not gonna deliver eelam.

      ‘“The Accord was rejected by the Sinhala people” you astonishingly misdirect yourself. ‘

      This sums up how knowledgable you are on this.
      The people in South went onto streets protesting against the Accord. Even the JVP’s 88-89 insurgency was a result of this.JR signed the accord because India forced it. Remember how a soldier hit Rajiv with the butt of his gun. The accord was forced on SL by India.

      By the time 87 accord was signed SLA had destroyed most of LTTE’s capabilities in Operation Liberation. If anybody needed to save themselves that was LTTE. India intervined and stopped the SLA military offensive. In Dixit’s memoir he has mentioned this clearly. He also claims had not india intervene in 87 LTTE would have been destroyed.

      You may have known any number of ministers at that time, but it was the 87 accord i was talking about. Do u mean just bcos u were a friend of a gov minister at that time ure an authority of 87 accord. I believe u meant 87 accord had the potential to evolve into a Tamil nation within SL. I do not think so. The 1987 accord was/is not frightening to sinhalese as u and many sinhala hardliners believe.

      “No Tamil or organized grouping today will call for Separation, as you allege in blissful ignorance. Even the TNA, widely accepted as speaking for Lankan Tamils, has adjusted its position in line with changing times.”
      It is hard to agree with you on that. I wonder what the aims are of GTF, TGTE or whatever TE. TNA not advocating seperatism would be welcoming but at times it is doubtful whether they are acting at the whims of Eelamist elements abroad.

      I doubt how successful it would be to declare a tamil nation and a sinhala nation in a multic ethnic country. SL is not the same that it was in 1505.

      I have never claimed or meant that i know every thing. But i know enough to assert ur perception was wrong regarding 87 accord and why it was unsuccessful.

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    I am providing two links on Arun Thambimuthu’s thoughts in devlution and other related matter below, because of their relevance to the topic under discussion.
    http://www.island.lk/index.php?page_cat=article-details&page=article-details&code_title=66374

    http://www.island.lk/index.php?page_cat=article-details&page=article-details&code_title=66431

    There are three ways in which which the minoity issues can be discussed in the context of the current circumstances:

    1. Devolution
    2. Power sharing at the centre
    3. A combination of the two.

    Mr.Sambanthan’s idea of reducing the number Provincial Councils makes much sense. If this approach is taken the PC’s will become Regional Councils and can transcend communal identifications.

    However, Arun Thambimuthu’s suggestion that the basis for devolution should be the districts is not argued well. The District Secretariets should become the arms of both the Provincial/regional Councils and the Central government. For this to happen the Councils and the government should have clear and non-overlapping functions. Further, the system should be designed to bring in a consensual approach to issues between the periphery and the centre.

    A power sharing arrangement would imply creating a mechanism for the members of parliament elected from the provinces/regions to have a group identity and a role at the centre. A member from each provincial group can be inducted as a minister to the cabinet.

    A system to combine the devolution and power sharing approaches will be ideal. An elected upper house- Senate, will be ideal.

    Arun Thambimuthu’s idea about selecting a cabinet of experts and experienced persons, who do not serve in the parliament/ peripheral councils has much merit. The Presidential system should also be retained, but more circumscribed. The hybrid system we presently have (based on the French and British models) has not served us well. The Westminster system was also a faulure. A shift towards the American system should be considered, based on our needs and circumstances.

    Dr.Rajasingham Narendran

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    The “you are entitled to your opinion, but not entitled to your facts” reply by Senguttuvan to wet behind the ear types like Sach should serve as bar for anyone who insist in trying to be too clever in this forum.

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    This is actually my random thoughts as an outcome of reading a very interesting article written by a rising star.

    But as usual he put all the blame on the Government, that makes it as a traditional approach from the leading Tamil spokesman..

    Even President Mahinda Rajapakse is not the permanent leader of Sri Lanka or even of the Sinhalese people.

    He was given a time bound mandate. His mandate could last a minimum of five to six years- naturally he is bound to be cautious when he does anything that will affect the future generations, and this makes any political solution extremely difficult.

    Mr Sunanthiran tries to address the entire issue from the Tamils side as if governance is the problem of Tamils only.

    Today the entire country faces problems of governance.

    Is it possible to resolve the national question without addressing the issues of Governance?

    For instance is it possible to solve the National Question without having an independent judiciary?

    The parts could not be resolved without the Whole!

    Do the Tamils still think in terms of Tamil nationalism? if, no is the answer then there is ample opportunity to explore different permutation and combinations –even a district based devolution may be feasible.

    If that option is available the Tamils may not be in the present plight in the Eastern Province where the concept of devolution is not applicable to the Tamils in the East.

    None of them is in the Board of Ministers and almost all of them sit in the opposition like in the National Parliament. Devolution has become meaningless to the Tamils in the East.

    The whole question is bound to how we define Tamil nationalism.

    The Indian Tamils have comfortably accommodated Tamil nationalism within a quasi- federalism.

    Could Tamils think out of the Box?

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      Sri Krishna,

      A well thought out and sensible comment.

      Dr.Rajasingham Narendran

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    Sri Krishna’s thoughts are ideal – but will the majoritianism permit this desirable reality? Though you think Rajapakses term is for a limited period he/they think differently and want to go on for long. A robot-like Parliamentary majority has given him the right under the 18th Amendment. While I agree it is a crisis of governance, the Rajapakses and the Sinhala Buddhist chauvinists, insist governance is their sole prerogative and is none of the business of Tamils and others. That is seen in Tamils being kept out of the governance structure except for a few instances of deceit in the form of various Committees, which are hardly reliable.

    The absence of a Tamil in the EP – until recently the predominant racial group in the Province whose demographic pattern has been changed by State intervention – is a further example some of the featureas of the 13th Amendment have to be revisited. Unless Tamils wake up this can be repeated in the Northern Province too – over the years.

    Yes. Indians have done well to meet the aspirations of the Tamils within a Federalistic structure, which is being viscerally denied here.
    It is this thoughtful realisation that prevented Tamilnadu from breaking away from the Indian Union – that, if allowed, would have resulted in the secession of Andhra and possible Kerala.

    The fault is not with Tamil Nationalism but with an obstinate majority that refuses to yield to reason. There can be many interpretations of Tamil Nationlism but all of them must encompass the safety, security, social and economic well-being of the Tamil-speaking people in the NEP – all of which desecrated by the State using its armed might and resources for many decades. And still, with encouragement from the international community, Tamils are willing to settle for reasonable sharing of power within an undivided country but the other side is playing ducks and drakes – clearly with the next General Election in mind. I know I shound apocalypsical- but where is the alternative for hope from the other side.

    Senguttuvan

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    Dingiri’s thoughts on devolution are practical and not structured to please State actors to advance their political fortunes. The current demographic reality in the North should not be disturbed. So in the EP too, changed by the State using State resources to a point to harm Tamil interest where the EP has none in the Cabinet of Ministers. This is an outrageous travesty. Muslims displaced in the North should be encouraged to return and resettle with the State providing facilities for homes and to rebuild their earlier occupations. So the Sinhalese who had to leave in the late 1970s. In brief, we must reach out and regain the ethnic harmony of bygone years.

    I am glad more of our friends in the Sinhala South are beginning to see the National Question afresh and in perspective – as we see even in the changed stance of the JVP and some sections of the JHU. Accomodation such as this is sure Insurance to the Sinhala Nation about the delusive fears of Separation – now and in the future. For starters, the powerful Buddhist Clergy should be canvassed to change their views in Nation Building and reconciliation.

    Senguttuvan

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    Correction to my comments on Nov 19. Singapore started around 1965
    although I wrote Malaysia and Singapore started after us in 1948.

    Senguttuvan

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    Sumanthiran should be happy with the full implementation of the 13th amendment without rejecting it like a fool.Tamil politicians since independence have been greedy and asking for ‘ellam”(all)and getting ‘kaakka pee'(crow’s shit)on their heads in return.

    They must understand the political system.No sinhalese leader can give everything that the tamils want in one go without getting kicked out by the sinhalese. Thondaman senior understood this while his Jaffna counterparts with all their education did not.Though Thondaman used to turn the screws he would not cross the line and would wait patiently till another election to get some more.

    What is lacking at the moment is the trust between the communities.This has been greatly exacerbated by the fact that the The TNA was supporting a person like Prabhaharan who was disdainful of the democratic process,and therefore was derisively labelled as Tiger Nominated Agents by Douglas.As far as the sinhalese are concerned they will view the TNA merely as extension of the LTTE and rightly so.They will say now that you could not get what you wanted with the bullet,you are trying to get with the ballot.

    If Sampanthan had been like Mahmoud Abbas who broke away from Arafat because he did not believe in violence and terrorism,then the sinhalese would have respected him and would have trusted him.Unfortunately Sampanthan is no Abbas and would shamelessly lick every arse more powerful than his including at that time Prabha’s and now Mahinda’s and Singh’s and Blake’s and Hu jin tao’s etc etc and the list goes on.

    So my advice to Sumanthiran is be content with the 13th amendment and when the TNA is no longer in power in tamil areas,or one day it has been completely purged of LTTE supporters,then further incremental devolution on top of the 13th amendment can be put forward to the sinhalese leader at that time for his consideration.

    It is going to take some time to clean up Prabha’s shit my dear,so take the shovel and do your part of cleaning on the tamil side while the sinhalese clean it up on their side like example the demining etc.

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