31 October, 2020

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Reconciliatory Process And Political Realities

By Austin Fernando 

Austin Fernando

‘Democracy works in Sri Lanka’ is the message one gets from the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) electoral victory, even with complaints of violation of election laws and other harassments. Nevertheless, TNA must be thankful to President Rajapaksa for the opportunity afforded to show their real strength. This election result opens a new difficult path to reconciliation. The reconciliatory process goes hand in glove with emerged political realities.

As the US Embassy recently stated “Democracy is not simply about elections, however, and more must be done to ensure that Sri Lankans of all communities can live in the peace and dignity that they deserves.” This is the initial guide to learn by the TNA and the Government of Sri Lanka (GOSL). What is tried here is to explore what GOSL and TNA should pursue to reach that “more” that “must be done” for peace and dignity for all.

There are several emerged post-election political realities with which the parties have to function.

One is the loud orchestration of polarization. TNA won 30/ 38 seats in the Northern Provincial Council (NPC). Similarly in the North West and Central Provinces the government won conveniently. One may say that respectively the former was the outcome of Tamil nationalistic euphoria and protest against ethnic suffering; and, the latter as GOSL’s war rhetoric nationalist euphoria, mixed with established southern enjoyment caused by terrorist annihilation.  Quick dilution of this mutual polarization cannot be expected, unless political catastrophe strikes.

Another reality arises from the government spokespersons identifying the TNA Manifesto as a ‘separatist document’ and continuing to repeat it even after the election. If their reasoning is true, the overwhelming northern mandate can be interpreted by a pro-separatist like V. Rudrakumaran, as endorsement of ‘separation’. Parallels to Rudrakumaran like Vaiko and Ramadoss in Tamilnadu conclude the election result as a vote for a separate Tamil Eelam. Fortunately, when these allegations were made the TNA leadership publicly rejected them.

However, immediately after the election, MA Sumnathiran MP urged the government “to grant a measure of autonomy to Tamil speaking people within a united undivided country.” It also nullified separation. The required extent of autonomy was hidden. If it is the power and authority to statute making (Article 154G), financial resourcing (Article 154R), establishment issues (PC Act- Part IV), some ‘measure of autonomy’ is automatically available, because these are legalized essentials for  power sharing; if beyond 13th Amendment, the Constitution and PC Act, it will be problematic.

Already Minister Basil Rajapaksa has cautioned, reminding the TNA / NPC of its great responsibility for “safeguarding the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country.” While negating ‘separation’, Minister Rajapaksa in turn indirectly demands the TNA to share with the Sinhalese what the TNA Manifesto demanded for Tamils and Muslims re: equity, equality, peace and security. Security is a Reserved Subject. His mentioning it would have been even a veiled threat. Therefore, both parties should trudge carefully and meeting of minds becomes a crucial requirement.

Some ardent supporters of the TNA campaign were the former “separatist” LTTE cadres. For instance, some of them –even Ananthi Sashidaharan (without any disrespect to her) fall short of comparative political experiences. Elilan (Vavuniya/ Trincomalee), Elamparithi (Jaffna), Lakshman (Mannar) were highly trained, outwardly soft, but internally extra-hardened cadres, I officially knew. Perhaps, Ellilan’s disappearance would have carved an inerasable epitaph in Sashidharan’s mind, robbing her sobriety. Now she represents: the severely affected women; kinsmen of the disappeared; and, the vanquished LTTE. She will most probably be a NPC Minister, though that too is being suspected. Her interactions with the civil administration, Military who have allegedly harassed her, political personalities, if turned sober will be most welcome. If her wrath and hardened revenge seeps to the grassroots she might become the problem child attracting disintegration, nullifying reconciliation. It may be that this eventuality from LTTE cadres hovers in Minister Rajapaksa’s mind to react as quoted. It will be up to TNA seniors to have sufficient controls to ensure things do not go out of hand. If they fail it will be inviting hard times which counter reconciliation and development.

A fourth reality is that the TNA Manifesto had prima facie intentions that seemed unconstitutional. Will the NPC attempt implementing them on victory rhetoric that their Manifesto had been overwhelmingly endorsed? The Chief Minister (CM) candidate, being a legal luminary may not embark on these constitutionally impossible. He has already stated that they will not proceed on illegal courses. If he breaks away, GOSL’s confrontational venomous fangs will open. Such confrontation is advantageous for GOSL’s popularity in the south due to extreme polarization. However, I still have confidence that CM Wigneswaran would prove that the victory at the NPC election is not the final solution to the crisis.

However, a fifth reality is that some other intentions in the Manifesto, publicly disseminated in the election campaign will certainly be pushed by the TNA. They are: mainly: the antagonistic Governor’s issue, controversial sharing of land and police powers, demilitarization, humanitarian issues etc. The lastly mentioned issues accumulated votes and demand NPC’s obligatory performance..

Of the demands made by the TNA Manifesto on resource management and financing powers, the TNA and GOSL should recompose novel operational methodologies. I pray that the TNA would not demand institutional structures like the Post-Tsunami Operational Management Structure and Interim Self Governing Authority. I think MP Sumanthiran’s “measure of autonomy” does not equate these.

I support sharing land powers to all PCs according to the 13th Amendment (Appendix II).  On this issue I recommend a study done by Verite Research supporting land power sharing, to which I contributed. (I do not comment on the latest Supreme Court judgment issued on 26th September, as the details are unknown.) However, due to non-chauvinistic but security related circumstances regarding state land, dialogue between the NPC authorities and the centre is essential, so that everything brought up by either party is not vetoed, but accommodation of each other’s requirements in the interim is made possible. (Media reports on a Supreme Court decision taken on the 26th instant complicate matters for the NPC.)

Appointment of the National Land Commission (NLC) (Appendix II-3.1) could be the initial right step. If cautiously carved out, even the defense establishment’s demands for state land can be accommodated through novel operational methodologies. For this, professionally qualified persons should be appointed to the NLC and its Technical Secretariat, who can act above political and ethnic considerations.

Resource management (List I) and financial management (Article 154R) appear under the 13th Amendment. Here too certain issues like Diaspora interventions, institutionalizing Diaspora commitments (e.g. Liberian Diaspora Advisory Board) to harness Diaspora resources for project investments, foreign resource mobilization within the overall macroeconomic environment etc are issues to be settled by negotiations. TNA should not give the impression that they are asking for the pound of flesh as done by the LTTE and the GOSL must not consider that all TNA requests are stepping stones for separation. Mutual trust is essential..

There are certain issues raised by the security authorities on police powers and these also should be negotiated between parties. I believe it is not the hardliners who should be engaging in negotiating from both parties. I believe there are several around the President like Secretary Lalith Weeratunga, who can negotiate with CM Wigneswaran. Wigneswaran conceding to work with the government as already declared should be further explored. A Semi-political Advisory Task Force for trouble shooting as well to find solutions for emerging problems may be a good administrative arrangement for conflicting issues.

Another reality is the negation of the theory that development wins the hearts and minds of the people. I remember my saying “devastated minds cannot be healed with development only” which was repeated recently while discussing the TNA Manifesto. Hence, it is time for the government to open its eyes to the humane requirements sans development rhetoric and develop a new participatory development model, where all people and not the so-called people’s agents only prioritize, decide, operate, supervise and own the consequential development. Now that the NPC is in place, it is the peoples’ latest mandated official conduit, which should be compulsorily engaged.

Minister Basil Rajapaksa indicating handing over the Uthuru Wasanthaya to the NPC would have been political rhetoric and a veiled threat of potential collapsing development, if the electorate rejected the GOSL. But now this threat is redundant as observed from the voting patterns, the government may have to rethink formulating a new NPC development model. Why should one suspect that development efforts would be failures in NPC hands, if the same resources available to the Ministry of Economic Development are parted to the NPC? Of course, we have experienced even in the south how the centre- especially those in the Treasury- bungles development by manipulating resource sharing. Are we to expect such siege with occasional threat of erasing PC efficiency, effectiveness and economy?

Earlier I have said that the TNA could consider their Manifesto as only a means to win elections and should think far unlike the pessimists in the Tamil political arena. I reiterate it and recommend that finding ways to cohabitate and cooperate will yield better gains, rather than running away after mirages and refuse or reject the new institutional challenges. Adjusting systems to work together for sake of co-existence for reconciliation should be the priority and it seems to be the President’s thinking too, as seen from his initial response from New York. It appears that such cooperation is possible from a CM who has even before coming to power asked outsiders (like Tamil Nadu, though retracted probably due to other reasons) to mind their own business! This suits the new reconciliation equation.

Before the NPC election, even I wondered whether the conceptual propositions in the Manifesto when rejected by the GOSL could create a status for the TNA to engage the internationals to bring the GOSL on knees. A former Jaffna Government Agent I spoke after the election felt that the air is different with TNA leaders. There are seasoned politicians like TNA leader R Sampanthan, MPs Mavai Senathirajah, Sumanthiran, former MP P. Siddharathan, and the intellectual CM Wikneswaran etc in the core group, irrespective of possible inexperienced detractors, who will have to fall in line. However, clapping needs two hands and the GOSL’s stances, attitudes and approaches also will decide whether the TNA becomes an international complainant or not.  The major exercise should be for both parties to build trust for coexistence and cohabitation.

Many are watching the developments that would take place hereafter in the northern political scene. They are in the TNA and northern populace locally, Tamilnadu probably for their political survival, Delhi due to many reasons political, military, internal electioneering, diplomatic, international and due to the Indo-Sri Lanka or Rajiv- JRJ Accord and in the developed west/ east.  How they would react depends on variables personal to each of them. However, Sri Lanka has to balance between so many interventionists and variables and has to be disciplined to face the challenges. In that disciplining there cannot be space for chauvinism. What one should expect from the TNA and NPC marks the same values to promote the President’s belief stated at the UN General Assembly, i.e. political empowerment and reconciliation

In that context let the GOSL and NPC prove that “more will be done to ensure that Sri Lankans of all communities can live in the peace and dignity that they deserve.” If the GOSL achieves these tasks and the NPC/ TNA are satisfied there will be eternal rallies drum beating against NPC at Lipton Circus mooted by frustrated southern forces. If the GOSL fails to achieve these tasks there will be eternal drum beating originating from frustrated northern forces in Jaffna and through diplomatic missions in New York and Geneva mooted by the Diaspora and antagonistic forces.

It is not the protests that worry but the future that holds for us as Sri Lankans in a climate of ignored political realities. I only wish that the GOSL and NPC will not push us to the brink of a renewed disaster.

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Latest comments

  • 0
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    Sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country will be lost if the Sinhellists (BBS/JHU/SR) are let to thrive with new found corrupt version of the Buddhist ideology.

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    Rajapakses are corrupt business minded politicians who will use even any cheap trick to their advantage. Also, there’s a tendency for them making foolish turns and decisions like the one made by Prabhakaran (by not allowing the northern voters to vote for Ranil). That was a fatal decision by VP as if writing his own death sentence.

    With MR gangs, the dealings are only one way. Either you be with them or be damned. Look at the most victims of MR. Most of them are ardent supporters who toiled for MR’s victory. But, then when things get bad they lost their lives in the process of trying to correct things.

    But, the clock will come back to its original position very soon. MR will see the cock returning to roost in a very devastating way.

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    /* As the US Embassy recently stated “Democracy is not simply about elections, however, and more must be done to ensure that Sri Lankans of all communities can live in the peace and dignity that they deserves */

    It is democracy to buy leading oppositions to UPFA and win elections outright.

    Today when I read SundayTimes I read so many pro-UPFA articles. Slowly UPFA is buying over all the opposing voices in news media. SundayLeader partly owned by UPFA. Ravaya going to be bought over soon.
    It is all democracy.
    Why can’t UPFA legally buy news medias.?

    Are’nt we just lost in democracy?

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    Mr.Austin, Democracy worked in the North only because the Tamils were brave enough to come out in unprecedented numbers and vote for the TNA even after being harassed and intimidated by the army and the pathetic EPDP. The only reason the TNA won big was because the RajaPoxsas’ couldn’t resort to any massive rigging because the world was watching, Navi Pillay was breathing down their necks and CHOGM was around the corner.

    In the rest of the country there is DemoCrazy where the gullible majority are hoodwinked with carpeted roads, white elephant projects and bribed with Dayata Kirulas, dansals, arrack, money, essential food items and housing materials.

    The Tamils should be grateful to India and the international community for pushing the crooked lying RajaPoxsa family into holding elections. The RajaPoxsas’ are fuming after the defeat…see what happens after CHOGM is over.

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    The views of people like Austin Fernando and S Sivathasan should be listened to. Certainly they can stimulate thoughtful discussion which will give both the Government and TNA an insight into what moderate thinking Sri Lankans want for their country. CT please don’t allow this thread to become a platform for abuse.

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    I read the first para in Mr.Austin Fernando’s article. I was immediately convinced that the Tamils in the N&E will not reach a political solution with the Sinhala Buddhist GOSL. But, I anyway read the rest of Mr.Austin’s article.

    Now, let us focus on just his first para. Next, for those who have not done so, please read the very good, and short article by Kumar David: Rajapaksa Rides The Lion Again

    https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/rajapaksa-rides-the-lion-again/

    One more very important & short item by the world renowned and independent Economist for you to read, and compare with the delusional material and distortions written by Mr.Austin:

    http://www.economist.com/news/asia/21586877-continuing-repression-tamils-and-their-defiance-suggest-reconciliation-far-harder-lines?fsrc=rss

    If the wretched and murderous GOSL has blocked the Economist website in SL, please go to the comments section of this CT article, where I have pasted the entire article, in a comment with timestamp: September 27, 2013, 7:48 pm

    (I was told that this past year, the GOSL has confiscated Economist print editions being unloaded from aircraft in Katunayake airport and burnt them, since the truth written in them about SL would “hurt” the sentiments and primitive minds of the murderous and violent sections of Sinhala Budhists. Note: Economist issues covered the murderous violance of the Burmese buddhists. So the GOSL burnt those issues! Some Sinhala Buddhists learnt these book burning techniques exceedingly well, when they burnt the entire collection of Tamil historical books in the Jaffna library in 1981, and later over the years until today, daily newspapers and newspaper print shops in Jaffna),

    https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/time-to-press-the-reset-button/

    [1] Austin Fernando states in his first para, “even with complaints of violation of election laws and other harassments.”.

    Kumar’s article, The Economist, reports by elections monitors, US Embassy etc clearly spell out the extent of Sinhala Buddhist millitary violance, murder, and electoral fraud. How can the Eelam/NE-SL Tamils be expected to reconcile with the Sinhala Buddhists, if a so called moderate Austin Fernando, distorts events so much in his writings?

    [2] Austin writes, “Nevertheless, TNA must be thankful to President Rajapaksa for the opportunity afforded to show their real strength.”

    This is like Nazi propaganda from 1930s Germany!

    The only reason your murderous, 5 O/L simple passes, Helping Hambantota Tsunami relief fraud era to present day mega corruption crook, (and sub human murderer of numerous Sinhala jounalists like Lasantha Wickrematunge, Prageeth Ekneligoda), finally allowed the NPC elections, was the tremendous pressure from the Int’l community (IC) and India. Austin, don’t pretend that you have amnesia! Didn’t Shiv Shankar Menon fly to colombo to read this Medamulana crook and murderer, the riot act a few months ago?

    So, it seems that the swabasha educated Sinhala Buddhists want to force the NE Tamils to “reconcile”, through murder, kidnappings and rape!!!

    Austin will now pretend that he knows nothing about the ongoing mass rape of Tamil women and girls by sections of the Sinhala Budhist soldiers – with gleeful encouragement from Gota and Basil!!! Austin, will pretend that there have been hardly any murders or kidnapping of Tamil men and boys!!!

    It is going to take a few years of terrible conflict in the N&E. Then the IC will impose a federal or even confederal solution. The truth will finally dawn to the IC, and idiots like the American Robert Blake, that

    1) many Sinhalese are lazy, and want to loot and burn the homes and towns of the harder working Tamils;

    2) that many Sinhalese are congenitally envious of Tamil success in education and business. (Remember, about 20 years ago, the GOSL and Sinhala racists decided to destroy the top notch educational institutions in Jaffna);

    3) many Sinhalese believe completely the myths and lies in the Mahavamsa. Thus, refuse to believe that around 50% or so fo the genes of the SL Sinhalese are from Tamil Nadu, and the former Chera Nadu, Kerala.

    4) With so much Tamil blood in their veins, these Sinhala Budhists have some childish and spineless phobia, that the larger Tamil Nadu will occupy their land and steal their belongings. What pathetic idiots! Tamil Nadu has ample land and population. It is now economically much more advanced than this pathetic Sinhala Lanka. They will avoid the Sinhala land, corruption and murder like the plague!

    Tamil Nadu has its own few idiots, like Vaiko and Seeman. They do not want about 3 million Sinhala Lankan idiots to join them.

    Also, hypothetically, if Tamil Nadu takes over Sinhala Lanka, each development project they launch will be handicapped by the lowest common denominator: the backward Sinhala Lankan!

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      Did you graduate from a top notch educational institution in Jaffna?

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        An institution not too particular about teaching composition though!! Don’t miss the following episode with a video for added ‘clarity’.

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    I have written a fair amount of text, for my fellow CT readers. Now, a short video you ***MUST*** watch.
    I hereby guarantee your enjoyment and satisfaction!!!

    In this video, a very insignificant idiot halucinates that India (supposedly driven by greed), will occupy his backward and impoverished village!

    Next, he cunningly but mainly stupidly, dresses in a pure white costume, and ever so stupidly and glibly claims that all the Sinhala Buddhists JVP terrorists, were not terrorists, but insurgents! This subhuman, also ran to the UN offices in Geneva, and cried about human rights, abductions and murders! He then returned to SL, and cried that the police were harassing him because he ran to Geneva as traitor to campaign for human rights!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xlKn25ggk9Y&feature=related

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    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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    No thanks to Rajapaksa but thanks to CHOGM, India, the UNHCHR the monitors,the rest of the international community and the resoluteness of the people of the North. Bensen

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    It is good to read Austin’s well thought out pointers for CVW. Particularly the need for the appointment of the National Land Commission.

    Mr Sivathasan and Mr Fernando are invaluable and pragmatic councils and resonate with the majority of the well intentioned people of Sri Lanka. I am sure that there may be many others who would have done the same thing in private.

    Hope CVW or his close associates take few minutes to read and grasp the content of these meaningful pointers.

    End of the day it is CVW’s call. People have vested so much trust in him to do something positive for them. We will hope CVW will be different.

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    Austin Fernando’s writing indicates that he and other Sinhalese want to impose on the Tamils, their version of “reconciliation” !!!

    How are Austin and some of the other so called moderate Sinhalese going to explain away this very good piece of evidence, in which the Supreme Sinhala Buddhist leader is caught repeatedly lying, and in a completely broken and defeated state of mind?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EClY1E7_5Fw

    I had trouble viewing this video on the CT website.

    Some good, preliminary, analysis of the murderous dictater in the video:

    http://groundviews.org/2013/09/29/the-al-jazeera-interview-with-mahinda-rajapaksa-calling-the-bluff/

    It seems to me that this crook and murderer, Mahinda Rajapaksa, received some very bad news when he was at the UN in New York this past week – which shattered his mind.

    He must have found out that a large amount of war crimes evidence (committed mainly by him & Gota) has been carefully documented. Also documented would be evidence of corruption and details of his mafia family’s hidden assets and bank accounts!

    Even when I watched the video of his speech at the UN in NY on Sept 24 (last week), I noticed that he was a shatterred and broken sub human, who was trying hard to be sanctimonious!

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    Some thoughts on what I posted on this comments page on: September 29, 2013, 1:44 pm

    1) When I stated that many Sinhalese are lazy, and want to loot and burn the homes and towns of the harder working Tamil people,

    it does not mean that the Tamils are a superior people. They are harder working, but have bad qualities. Especially the Jaffna Tamils, are selfish. Jaffna Hindu, and northern Tamil, cultures could not restrain the murderous Velupillai Prabhakaran and his cronically flawed liberation struggle. Many selfish diaspora Tamils cheered many of his blunders and do not tolerate different views.

    2) The top notch educational institutions in Jaffna, produced many spineless people who were not well rounded, and good at mainly passing univ entrance exams. Or, cramming and overstudying, for univ degree exams, and not learning the subject very well. Or, working too hard to obtain Ph.Ds, which did not make them more talented or intelligent than someone without a Ph.D. !!!

    “Educating” themselves beyond their intellectual capabilities!

    3) Some/many Jaffna Tamils believe in the myth that they are significantly more intelligent than the Sinhala people. Some Jaffna Tamil families hide the fact that they have a few/many Portugese, Dutch or Enlish ancestors. Alien names such as: Martin, Francis, Mather, Joseph, Emanuel etc.

    4) Many years from today, shortly after an independent Tamil Eelam is finally formed, different Tamil groups, such as the Jaffna Tamils, Prabhakaran’s Karaiyaar caste & others, will be in conflict over power and leadership.

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    Austin Fernando is trying to ride several horses – simultaneously.
    He does not want to displease the Rajapakses. Why should the TNA
    feel obliged to be “thankful” to the Rajapakses for permitting the Election. This is something the Rajapakses tried their best not to until their arms were twisted by India and the international community. He then finds it hard to hide his imagined fear Justice V might slip into Separation and marinates it with the bogey of Rudrakumaran, Sashitharan, Ilamparathi, Elilalan and the like. And yet tries to please the readership with an analysis that he attempts to render moderate. Naturally, Justice V is not foolish to presume “winning of the elections is the end” of the whole thing. No. The Judge is likely to assume it is the beginning of a rough road ahead.

    Austin’s bird that is half dove and half hawk will simply not fly. If the affable gentleman ever hoped to get back to Govt service this recedes substantially with the poor performance of his friend and boss Ranil leading the UNP to a further and record debacle.

    Varathan

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      Austin Fernando like Dayan Jayatilake practice Intellectual Dishonesty. They are both absolute Opportunists, Insincere and never to be trusted.

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        gamini

        “They are both absolute Opportunists, Insincere and never to be trusted.”

        Yes I agree.

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    Why should anyone be thankful to the president for democracy? Is democracy at the will of the president? Is this what this Austine chap is implying? I suppose he also holds that all of us should be thankful to his president for our lives which belong to him. Some kind of savage this!

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