By Dayan Jayatilleka –
By happy coincidence, my latest submission on devolution appears at the same time as Austin Fernando’s critique, and therefore answers the substantive points raised by him. I shall therefore limit myself to answering his direct references to me when and where I consider them misplaced.
“It made me to believe that I had probably misunderstood him as an academic supportive of power sharing.”
DJ: Austin has not misunderstood me: I remain “an academic supportive of power sharing”. I have however, always been mindful of how much power is shared and who with. This is why I was a consistently sharp critic of the CFA of which Austin was a supporter and implementer with disastrous consequences to the armed forces and the country, as most recently confirmed by Shamindra Ferdinando’s series of revelations in the pages of The Island.
“…But he [Dayan] is not mystified when the incumbent government does not make participation of UNP and TNA happen by arriving at a consensus on the parameters of a political solution to the ethnic question.”
DJ: No, I am “not mystified that the incumbent government does not make the participation of UNP and TNA happen by arriving at a consensus on the parameters of a political solution to the ethnic question”. If a consensus is arrived at the parameters of a political solution to the ethnic question, then there is little need for the UNP to participate in the search for one. Secondly, such parameters must surely be arrived at primarily through a bi-partisan consensus; a consensus between the incumbent government and the only formation that can undo a settlement, namely the alternative government of the day, the main Opposition party. Thirdly, any tardiness or sabotage on the part of the government can be exposed precisely by the UNP and TNA participating in the PSC. Fourthly, I can hardly blame this government for not creating the conditions for the TNA and UNP to participate, when the TNA refused to support and the UNP actually set fire to the liberal, progressive draft Constitution of August 2000 presented in the parliament by a government quite other than, and years before, this current one—thus the UNP and TNA’s conduct on this question has been consistent. The leadership of both the UNP and TNA remain the same from August 2000 while the only leadership that has changed is that of the Government!
“I doubted whether Dayan’s complaint of the UNP not playing the “bridging role” is substantiable, when MP MA Sumanathiran’s statements were heard, (made in the presence of MP Rajiva Wijesinha at the International Center for Ethnic Studies on 18th instant, which went unchallenged by Rajiva). According to MP Sumanthiran the Leader of the UNP had been shuttling between the government and TNA to create an amicable route for reconciling and failed due to government’s duplicity and double tongued approaches.”
DJ: I’m afraid Mr. Sumanthiran is hardly an unbiased authority on the subject. His own statements to the newspapers reiterating the specious doctrine of ‘internal self-determination’, threatening adherence to ‘external self determination’ if the former was not acceded to and going so far as to advocate a referendum among the Tamil people on whether or not they wish to remain part of a united Sri Lanka, were and are hardly conducive to confidence building and constructive negotiations.
“Dayan in his article has an invention to resolve the devolution crisis. He speaks of an interim administration…In the 13th Amendment I find two Articles where something that could be weakly interpreted as distantly related to ‘interim arrangement’. They are in Article 154L and 154T. But the former is applicable “when the administration of the Province cannot be carried out”. ..154T is applicable when the President gives directions “for the purpose of giving effect to the provisions of the 13th Amendment”, and hence it too will not be a valid path, as it is to ‘castrate’ the implementation of the 13th Amendment.”
DJ: How, pray, can one be confident that ‘the administration of the province be carried out’, by a party that refuses to forswear secessionism, commit unconditionally and unambiguously to a solution within a united Sri Lanka, criticize Prabhakaran and the LTTE even for murdering that party’s own leaders, and claims that its goal is to convince the international community that a solution is NOT possible within a united Sri Lanka’? Surely such a party would be more tempted to prove its thesis that a solution –such as provincial devolution– within a united Sri Lanka will not work? Given such concerns, wouldn’t an interim council as envisaged in the articles mentioned by Austin, be a suitable measure?
“If he wishes to have a greater dialogue for power sharing through his proposition, I have grave doubts of success. We have experienced this sort of elongated dialogue at the APRC and some rightly or wrongly suspect that the Parliamentary Select Committee is another move in to a maze.”
DJ: The answer to that is not to evade the PSC but to insist on a time bound PSC exercise; one that is committed to conclude within a compressed time frame?
“Another query will be, if this is a fair mean why not apply the same yardstick to manage the other PCs too, because it will reduce the expenditures and the so-called much criticized mess in PC administration?”
DJ: The question is not whether the government rules the PC, but whether a party which is uncommitted to a united Sri Lanka runs it. If the government were to use the same argument against a UNP run PC, I would certainly not defend it. How would you know who the TNA candidate for Chief Minister will be? What is the guarantee that it will be Mr. Sampanthan? This is hardly an irrelevant consideration when one recalls that just a few weeks ago (in a report reproduced on dbsjeyaraj.com) a TNA MP stated that the goal remains Tamil Eelam. What if that MP or someone with his views is the TNA’s Chief Ministerial candidate?
“One may suspect that Dayan is promoting a proposition to probably establish a “provisional solution; a stop-gap measure” prior to erasing the 13th Amendment…”
DJ: I have reiterated in all my articles on the subject for over quarter century, the need for the retention of the 13th amendment and against its abolition or ‘erasure’ as you put it.
“Dayan is suspicious of a future PC administration “committed in going beyond the 13th Amendment” inviting foreign forces to rebel, probably to secede. The “13th Amendment plus” was allegedly created and offered by the incumbent government and also denied later by the government. Since the “plus” is not yet in the Constitution and unless it is incorporated in to the Constitution how can a future Council act as suspected by Dayan? I do not think that Dayan has any suspicion on the 13th Amendment to create this disaster, just based on the freak previous event. If such PC tried to act beyond the Constitution, there must be international restraints through existing institutional arrangements, especially in the UN, to respond to such to prevent rebellions. Both Dayan and I have not yet forgotten what Chief Minister Vardarajah Perumal did after the UDI! He still survives on Indian generosity. Why should such eccentricity and fake threat be supported by a balanced mind (I believe I am correct in thinking so) like that of Dayan?”
DJ: The Vardarajaperumal attempt at UDI took place within the 13th Amendment, not 13 Plus. Before Austin dismisses it as a freak incident, eccentricity and a fake threat he should ask Mr. Bradman Weerakoon just how deadly a crisis of brinkmanship it was for the Premadasa administration and just how seriously it was regarded and had to be grappled with by President Premadasa and Ranjan Wijeratne. I know, because I was on the Premadasa team at the time.
“Additionally, then, why hold elections in the East when the threat of declaring independence with foreign troop support is also open to the Eastern PC Chief Minister Pillaiyan?”
DJ: That’s plain silly. Pillaiyan has never said anything remotely akin to the latently secessionist discourse of the TNA.
“Dayan has been concerned of the absence of an unofficial honest broker.”
DJ: Of the list Austin mentions, I have always considered Mr. Akashi to have been the closest to an honest broker. During the CFA years I had suggested John Hume as another. No country with a Tamil Diaspora or endogenous Tamil community large enough to have electoral leverage could, by definition, be neutral enough to function as an honest broker.
“Dayan tries to value pragmatic abstention in Geneva (March) as a practical means to send signals on the required stances of the honest broker. I as a Sri Lankan genuinely regret what happened in Geneva (March). But, why does one ignore pre-March 2012 which shows reasons for creating the “psyche” of the “neighboring honest broker”? Incidentally, I believe I am correct in identifying India as the ‘neighboring honest broker’ in Dayan’s article!”
DJ: Even if one were to conceded all these points –and readers may recall that I had, even before May 2009 cautioned against certain phenomena and argued for certain others—the fundamental fact is that once a country takes a stand in relation to another, it affects public perceptions and the role that the said country can play in relation to certain sensitive issues. Nothing is free of cost or consequence. This is why abstention in crucial votes is an intermediate step, a better signal and a safer bet all round.
“Immediately following the honest broker issue Dayan’s article speaks of “the cordial and positive dialogue between President Rajapaksa of Sri Lanka and His Holiness Pope Benedict” as holding out some promise, “given that the Church is the only institution on the island that has a constituency which cuts across the ethno-regional fault lines”. The constituency makeup submitted by Dayan is correct and alluring. When Dayan says this immediately after the President’s visit to Vatican, it enhances credibility and possibility. One may even suspect that he could be the “explorer” or “feeler investigator” of an already considered approach. Or, it may be that Dayan having picked a potential brokering organization at random tries to suggest that such organization could be an honest broker? Any other bets?”
DJ: If anyone in authority has considered this option, I am unaware of it. My pick was hardly “at random”, as Austin should see from my argument in favour –which he has himself quoted here!