29 November, 2021

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Sri Lanka’s Ethnic Question & The JVP: A Pre-Election Clarification

By Chaminda Weerawardhana

Dr. Chaminda Weerawardhana

Dr. Chaminda Weerawardhana

As the Sri Lankan general election approaches, there is an effort among pro-UNP media to raise an intriguing argument. This argument goes as follows: Voting the JVP is thoroughly unadvisable, because JVP MPs will side with Mahinda Rajapaksa, when the UNP-led government moves towards ‘reforms’, especially with regards to the ethnic question. Articles of this nature, published in outlets such as Lanka E News, first appear in Sinhala, and then in English. In the Sinhala articles, the term ‘balaya bedeema’ is used, when referring to the steps that a UNP-led government will supposedly take, in addressing Sri Lanka’s ethnic question. Civil society activists in Colombo’s English-speaking, West-oriented non-governmental lobby, who rely on funding from Western sources for their projects, have long advocated the term ‘balaya bedeema’ in their Sinhala language documents, media engagements and public events. This was also the preferred wording of Chandrika Bandaranaike, who held the executive presidency from 1994 to 2005, and engaged in repeated efforts to bring about political reforms to the ethnic question. Back in 1993-1994 and during her first few years in office, the term ‘balaya bedeema’ was regularly used when referring to a set of political reforms that would help address the political grievances of the Tamil community. When programmes for awareness raising and mass mobilisation, such as sudu nelum and thavalama were launched, the Sinhala documentation explaining the rationale for such initiatives also included the term ‘balaya bedeema’.

JVPIn what follows, this writer argues that the above-mentioned anti-JVP position of pro-UNP media is all but a hollow and desperate bid to woo swing voters. By castigating the JVP as prone to take the side of Mahinda Rajapaksa and Sinhala nationalists in the face of ‘progressive’ balaya bedeema reforms, the pro-UNP media demonstrates that they either a) have no clue of the political evolution of the JVP and the party’s present-day situation, or b) they are fully aware of the JVP’s rising popularity and present-day position on the ethnic question, and are therefore desperate to engage in last-minute fear-mongering. In order to get to the bottom of this argument, it is necessary to take a minor detour, recapitulating the regional and international implications of the issue of political reform.

Political Reform: international ramifications?

Six months into the presidential election of January 2015, it is clear that external powers, especially the India-USA-EU consensus, played a role in the political developments that facilitated the political changes of early 2015. Such developments involved Ranil Wickremesinghe, the leader of a political party since 1994, with a strong track record of being ‘unmarketable’ at elections, taking a back seat. Through the mediation of Chandrika Bandaranaike – who, just like Wickremesinghe, is a trusted ‘friend’ of the West – a much more locally marketable ‘man of the people’, Maitripala Sirisena, was chosen to contest for presidency on behalf of a common front, headed behind the scenes by the Wickremesinghe-Bandaranaike duo.

One of the key reasons that led Delhi to endorse a process of regime change in Sri Lanka was the Mahinda Rajapaksa government’s reluctance to fulfil a pre-May 2009 promise to Delhi- that of implementing political reforms that would address the fundamental demands of the Tamil polity (read the Tamil leadership represented by the Tamil National Alliance), which Delhi could eventually market in Tamil Nadu to appease the province’s Tamil nationalist sentiments, and to enhance Delhi’s profile in Tamil Nadu as devoted to the cause of the Tamils of Sri Lanka. The failure of this plan was at the heart of strained relations between Delhi and Colombo. Some media reports referred to an angry President Rajapaksa returning from Delhi after attending Narendra Modi’s swearing in ceremony, the reason for presidential anguish being Modi’s reiteration of Delhi’s demand for political reforms in Sri Lanka. Irrespective of the truism of this claim, it is clear that Delhi was, and continues to be, deeply interested in witnessing some form of ‘political reform’ taking place in Sri Lanka vis-à-vis the ethnic question. It goes without saying that Delhi’s position influences perspectives on Sri Lanka in Brussels and Washington D.C.

The report on Norwegian engagement in the Vth Peace Process, produced by the Christian Michelsen Institute in Norway, reveals, Ranil Wickremesinghe’s zest to implement market reforms raised concern even among Western diplomats. Under a Ranil Wickremesinghe-led government after #gesl2015, there is a likelihood that Colombo would be receptive to the Delhi-led call for political reform, and get itself involved with a balaya bedeema discourse with the TNA.

A convoluted topic: parameters and public perceptions of political reform in Sri Lanka

In implementing political reforms with regards to the ethnic question, one can notice similitudes in the challenges that successive governments have faced. During the heyday of the LTTE, attempts at negotiation, mediation, external facilitation, confidence-building measures, and discussions on extensive devolution and quasi-federal reform were all perceived with scepticism in the Sinhala nationalist lobbies. The reason for that scepticism, from the Chandrika Bandaranaike proposals for a draft constitution to the Wickremesinghe-led, Oslo-facilitated Vth peace process and the aborted P-TOMs initiative, were the same; they were all deemed as measures that would ‘divide’ the ‘country’. The Sinhalese appellation ‘rata bedana salasum’ was tagged onto all the aforementioned reform initiatives. Political opportunism put aside, a substantial segment of the polity and Sinhalese society perceive extensive devolution and quasi-federal reforms as inimical to the interests of the Sri Lankan state. If a government, on the basis of a parliamentary majority, international support or the strength of an influential leader, seeks to ‘force in’ such reforms in the absence of public support, that government and its leader are prone to face a political crisis and a challenge to its power base, paving the path for wider protest and unrest.

Managing the Reform Challenge?

When considering political reforms, any future government needs to take past precedents strongly into account. Secondly, and most importantly perhaps, it is essential to take stock of public attitudes to political reform. A crucial question pertains to the domestic and international actors who are demanding political reforms. At home, the TNA is very keen to obtain a set of reforms from Colombo, which it can then market to its northern electorate, and reinforce its power base for posterity. Delhi’s keenness on political reforms was evoked earlier in this article.

At this point, it is of importance to highlight a crucial factor. It is not this writer’s objective to adopt a Sinhala nationalist stance and maintain that political reforms are unwarranted. This has been, for instance the position of the Jathika Hela Urumaya. This writer strongly believes that political reform, inspired by a context-specific amalgamation of elements from consociational power-sharing models and integrationist perspectives of political reform, would be extremely suitable and useful in enhancing the existing structures of governance (i.e. the Northern Provincial Council, municipalities and pradeshiya sabas).

Yet, this understanding of the suitability and worth of political reform does not blind this writer to a vital reality – that of the practical feasibility of implementing political reform in a context of asymmetric power, between an ethno-national majority and numerical minorities. On top of that, the Sri Lankan polity is marked by repetitive instances when political reform projects failed due to varying forms of majoritarian opposition, from the BC Pact of 1957 to the P-TOMS proposals of 2005.

Given this reality, if a programme of political reform is to be successfully negotiated, agreed upon, ratified in parliament and implemented in full, there is an earlier preliminary step to be dealt with – that of developing broad-ranging consensus on the necessity and usefulness of such reforms in managing minority rights and ethnic relations. The collective failure of all past leaders who attempted political reform lay in an inadequate appraisal of this preliminary necessity. Taking past precedents and the present-day political configuration into account, it can be noted with certitude that Sri Lanka has not yet entered the phase of implementing devolution or federalism-based political reform. If this reality is ignored and reforms are to be introduced directly, it amounts to putting the cart before the horse and abject pointlessness.

The real issues at hand?

How, then can a future government seek to reconcile this situation, and adopt a workable approach?

As a first step, a future government should imperatively recognise the fact that the Tamil people of northern Sri Lanka are concerned with priorities that go beyond political reforms, which neither the TNA nor any other Tamil political parties are keen to prioritise. An incomplete list of issues, which the next government imperatively ought to consider as absolute priorities, include the following:

  • The full implementation of the national language policy (especially in predominantly Tamil areas),
  • Developing a medium and long-term programme of support to war widows, single-parent (especially single mother) households
  • A national programme for the welfare of orphaned children and young adults
  • A plan of action to address drug proliferation, alcoholism and gender-based violence
  • A strong initiative to ensure gender justice, with short, medium and long-term goals
  • Steps to address the issue of caste-based discrimination in all aspects of life
  • Ensuring an equitable policy of land distribution, returning acquired land to their rightful owners
  • Ensuring fundamental human freedoms, including the right for political engagement, of upholding political views of one’s choice
  • Ensuring, and fully guaranteeing the right of Tamil people to commemorate war victims, including fallen LTTE combatants, who, after all, happened to be disgruntled citizens of Sri Lanka
  • A transparent national mechanism to examine wartime disappearances, deaths and acts of violence

Social reform instead of political reform?

The most advisable strategy for a future government to adopt is to take a social reform approach, which focuses not on the Tamil polity, but on reforms ensuring social justice for Tamil people. Developing a national plan of action to address the above-mentioned and related issues, with the participation of a broad range of civil society activists, victims’ support groups, religious leaders, academics and researchers, advocates of reconciliation and human rights activists is an absolute national priority. It is also a step with a lesser risk of a Sinhala nationalist backlash.

Instead of such a programme that focuses on people and society, the next government could repeat the past error of focusing exclusively on political reform, in a dance to Delhi’s current tune. If this path is pursued, past precedents indicate the inevitability of a political crisis. A programme of this nature is bound to strengthen the Sinhala nationalist lobby, which could mobilise around Mahinda Rajapaksa. It would be a birthday present to Bodu Bala Sena, Ravana Balaya and all other Sinhala nationalist entities.

The JVP: a strategic reaction is perfectly normal

Given the absence of public support to a UNP-led internationally influenced project for political reform involving the TNA, its connotations of being a concoction of pro-Western politicians and the of western-funded NGOs, the JVP, a national-level political movement that stands for ethno-national harmony within a united Sri Lankan state, cannot be expected to endorse such a reform drive. The JVP cannot be blamed for a decision of this nature, as the fundamental priority of any political movement is that of ensuring its vital support base and enhancing its electability.

Requesting the electorate to not to vote for the JVP, due to the probability that the JVP will oppose political reforms – a favourite pastime of pro-UNP media – is puerile at best. Let’s consider, for example, the (unlikely) hypothesis that the JVP does not perform well at the general election and is not represented in parliament. Even in the JVP’s absence from the legislature, a Sinhala nationalist backlash against Delhi-Ranil Wickremesinghe-TNA political reforms is inevitable. That backlash, if past examples are anything to go by, will take place within the legislature as well as on the streets, spearheaded not by the JVP, but by an assortment of Sinhala nationalist hardliners who have MR to rally around.

The advisable course of action?

It is in the UNP’s best interests to bring this issue up with its Indian and Western allies, and reach an understanding on the substantive political risks of pursuing the path of satisfying the demands of constitutional Tamil nationalism, represented mainly by the TNA. Beyond a set of cosmetic political reforms that it can market in the North, the TNA harbours no interest in the day-to-day problems affecting the Tamil people and especially the class and caste dimensions of such problems. The West is engulfed by the perception that the TNA is the main Tamil political entity, commanding the largest support base. The TNA wins elections with relative ease in the North due to a basic reason: there exists no viable and credible alternative to the TNA in the predominantly Tamil electoral districts of northern Sri Lanka. It will be in the best interests of a future UNP government (and indeed its Indian and Western backers) to proceed on a social reform agenda, and also take concerted steps to open more space for political participation, and help build alternative political voices that challenge the TNA’s electoral monopoly.

The present-day TNA is all but a Vellalar gentlemen’s’ Club, an unwelcome space for those from other castes and for rehabilitated ex-LTTE combatants, and for the most vulnerable segments of society. In this context, it is an absolute necessity in terms of basic democratic politics to help develop credible, fully democratic, non-violent and inclusive political alternatives to the TNA in northern Sri Lanka. A process of that nature would also provide a useful basis to launch a conversation on topics such as devolution of powers and institution building. International observers need to take adequate stock of this reality.

Delhi, Washington D.C. et al: set your priorities straight!

Unless Delhi and the West wishes a future return of the Rajapaksa regime, it is in their best interests to support a social justice-based reform agenda in northern Sri Lanka, which also involves an effort to strengthen democratic politics, diversifying political representation and enhancing inclusivity. Instead, adumbrating a commitment to practically non-feasible and politically risky political reform is proven hara-kiri and a love letter to hardline Sinhala nationalism. As the pro-UNP media does, singling out a political party striving to emerge as a decisive force in national politics fit to be the official opposition and/or to assume governmental office, amounts to all but petty fear-mongering and a growing fear of the JVP’s popularity.

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Latest comments

  • 7
    1

    You are absolutely right.

    Even the LTTE, insisted on normalcy being restored, before commencing discussions on political solutions, during various ceasefires! Of course their motive was to buy time to buy arms and recruit new cadres. However, what it said when taken at its face value was correct.

    The Sinhala polity has to be carried towards whatever political solution is envisaged or is most appropriate, in slow but deliberate and convincing steps.

    What you have outlined are the essential preliminary steps. I will add to the list the need to implement the Jaffna River Project and its extended ramifications ( bringing water from the South into the Irranaimadu tank) at the earliest.

    Dr.Rajasingham Narendran

    • 3
      1

      Dear dr RN

      In my collection of valuable comments by various bloggers I have the following:

      “It is my duty as a Sinhalese SriLankan citizen to stand up for fellow Tamils. If their equality or aspirations are violated by the State.

      Sinhalese are only horrified by relentless, unceasing Ealamist attempts to dismember & Balkanize Sri Lanka. One cunning way or the other.

      Once that fear is weakened in the Sinhalese mindset resolution of this problem will be a formality. Millions of Sri Lankans will fight alongside Tamils.

      Fellow Tamil Sri Lankans should help Sinhalese to reach that mental state.

      I am afraid TNA is doing the exact opposite.

      I hope Tamil moderates will cease control from Ealamist extremists soon. Sinhalese need to do the same on their side.”

      The above exactly reflects my position too though I routinely post tit-for-tat comments on these pages. Other than absolute equality in every respect for my Tamil brothers and sisters who are continually being led by their nose towards mirages of redemption by their political class (and who are repeatedly physically attacked by Sinhala thugs) I can’t conceive any other scenario of least conflict between the two parties within the boundaries of this small island. I am also totally at a loss to understand why Tamils do not see the the obviousness of following questions as articulated recently by DBS Jeyaraj:

      “Fundamental Questions

      Firstly how does one merge the North and East into one “Tamil country” when the non – Tamils in the Eastern province are more than 60 % of the population?.

      Secondly how can the provinces outside the North and East be lumped together as a “Sinhala country” when 48 % of the Tamils and two-thirds of the Muslims in the Island of Sri Lanka are living in those seven provinces?”

      Thanks.

      Soma

      • 6
        0

        Soma & Sengodan(below),

        The politicians, both Sinhala and Tamil, have pushed us, the people, intoa very deep hole of rigid perceptions and misconceptions, through their expedient and vote-harvesting strategies, over the past six decades or more. It will probably take another six decades of wise and farsighted leadership,a less gullible public and evolution of our thoughts to fit the 21st century, to help us climb out of this hole. If we continue on the same old tragectories, we are in for more disagreements and discord and the politicians will contnue to fish in troubled waters.

        Simple words like devolution, federalism, self determination and genocide have assumed ominous meanings. It is time we recognise this fact in our dialogue. Actions and reactions , the demand for a separate State and the wars & turmoil related to it, have poisoned our minds to the extent that we act like brain dead morons now.

        The strategy outlined by Chaminda Weerawardhene, seems very wise to me. Let us look after the welfare and progress of the living first. Let the Sinhalese see the issue as a human problem that needs to be resolved than a political issue. Let both communities interact with each other and understand that both are human and not Lions and Tigers. Let them both understand that they belong to this island and not to any other place. Let them both understand that they are children from the same womb. Let them understand that together they can make this a great nation. Let them understand we have had a babtism of fear, bloodshed and deaths, the Tamils more so.

        Unless those of us who write for the public and talk to the public act with restraint in word and deed, we will be doing a great disservice to the people of this isle, our greatest natural resource. We have already a manpower shortage in many areas and with deveelopment this deficit will widen. In these circumstanes we need every hand and shoulder to share the load.

        We have to understand the ground realities and climb out of the deep hole wee are in. We have to stand on each others shoulders and extend the rope to each other to do this fast.

        Dr.RN

        • 2
          0

          Dr. R. N,

          I agree that what matters ultimately is what is delivered and not the label. But isn’t it saddening to think that even the simplest of words have become frightening because of past prejudices? We have to get over these one day or other. All will now agree that division or separatism is bad. But then, when federalism is equated with separation ( which it is NOT), federalism becomes bad. So with devolution and what more? Where do we end up? Do it but not talk about it?? Who is fooling whom?
          We have to call a spade a spade!
          Sengodan. M

          • 4
            0

            Dear Sengodan,

            Thanks.

            Lamentably, ‘ calling a spade a spade’ in this country will only result in the spade being used to dig the hole we are in better. Why not talk about limited power sharing for all provinces and clearer devolution or dispersion of power.

            As I see it and having read Alvin Tofler on future political evolution of mankind, development , knowledge based economies, environmental concerns and scarcity of resources which would in combination make highly centralised governance largely irrelevant. We are yet tied to 18th and 19th century concepts that are being increasingly meaningless in the 21st century.

            With particular reference to Sri Lanka intracellular genetic studies are underlining the fact that we are one people speaking different though related languages and practicing related religions. The Sinhalese are slowly but steadily accepting they share the Tamil identity and heritage. This too with time will pave the way for many of our preconceived notions and misconceptions to be undermined.

            As Prof.Jeganathan laments in another thread, we have been as a country led by visionless men. I think this has been a thankless burden of both Sinhalese and Tamils.

            Only time, patience and a striving to understand our essential unity will resolve our problems and help us become Sri Lanks with different labels, but united in our bonds to this Isle.

            Dr.RN

      • 1
        1

        Dear Soma,

        I think your Fundamental questions should be:

        Firstly how does one merge the North and East into one Sri Lanka without recognizing that the Tamils in the North constitute 93.9% of the population and in the North and East more than 61.7 % of the population and that the Moors are 36.7% of the population of the East making the non-Sinhala population of the East 76.5%?.

        Secondly how can the North and East provinces be lumped together with the rest of the “Sinhala country” when less than 15 % of the population there is Sinhalese and 97.4% of the Sinhalese live outside the North and East

      • 4
        0

        soma – skantha

        “Sinhalese are only horrified by relentless, unceasing Ealamist attempts to dismember & Balkanize Sri Lanka. One cunning way or the other.”

        The Minorities have been at the receiving end of the Sunhala/Buddhists paranoia, greed, inhumanity towards all people, parochialism, racism, intolerance, lies and more lies, stupidity, abuse, Mahawamsa mindset, majoritarianism, double standards, hypocrisy, rage, ……… their uninformed choices, and sheer stupidity.

        Even a library was not spared.

        Sinhala/Buddhist Ghetto builders worked overtime to ruin this island. They will continue to do so until the Sinhala speaking people rise up against the noisy bigoted Sinhala/Buddhist minority.

        The Sinhala/Buddhists need a reality check..

        Say hello to Ravi Perera the Sinhala speaking Demela.

        • 0
          2

          N.V.,

          “The Minorities have been at the receiving end of the Sunhala/Buddhists paranoia, greed, inhumanity towards all people, parochialism, racism, intolerance, lies and more lies, stupidity, abuse, Mahawamsa mindset, majoritarianism, double standards, hypocrisy, rage, ……… their uninformed choices, and sheer stupidity. “

          This is exactly how I want every Tamil to feel. I wish you translate this into Tamil and distribute in the Tamil schools. You have the support of Wingeshwaran convincing every Tamil of the genocidal nature of Sinhala Buddhists and the insecurity of living among them and raising their children. Eventually they will get out of this Sinhala Buddhist hell hole to their original paradise 20 miles away and solve my fundamental problem of 50+% Tamils occupying our areas.

          Soma

          • 1
            0

            soma-skantha

            “Eventually they will get out of this Sinhala Buddhist hell hole to their original paradise 20 miles away and solve my fundamental problem of 50+% Tamils occupying our areas.”

            Its a brilliant idea.
            This is what I too want the Tamils do.

            I want them to go, go back to their ancestral homeland which is in south India.

            When they go I want them to take their Sinhala speaking brethren too. Their Sinhala brethren could settle down in Coromandel Coast, Erivira Pattinam, Bankura in Bengal, Palakkadu in Kerala, …..

            We have had enough trouble since your ancestors started landing on our shores.

            How soon can both of you leave?

            Say hello to Ravi Perera the Sinhala speaking Demela.

      • 1
        1

        The eastern province is ancient Tamil land and the Tamils were the outright majority in this province until large scale illegal settlement of Sinhalese took place by all Sinhalese governments to deliberately change the demography and make the indigenous Tamils a marginalised 405 minority in their home lands. Even the Muslims came here as refugees only a few centuries ago . Settled here by the then Madurai Tamil Naicker kings of Kandy , who had parts of the east under their protection. They were still ruled by the Tamil Vannimanai chiefs. Now these Sinhalese settlers illegally settled by Sri Lankan government and the Muslim refugees who were settled here by a Tamil king and Tamil chiefs are conniving with each other to deny and marginalize the real indigenous people of the east the Tamils of their land.
        Just because the Tamils have been now been deliberately and illegally reduced from an outright majority to a marginalised 40% minority in the east by successive racist Sinahlese Sri Lankan governments with help of the racist Sinhalese armed forces and police, does not negate the fact that the east is their homeland. the east is historically and essentially Tamil . Just like large parts of the western and Central provinces and Colombo now have a Tamil and Muslim majority does not negate the essential Sinhalese character or claim to these regions. You understand that and claim these as Sinhalese lands but sing a different story for the east. Shows your real racist colours.

      • 0
        0

        soma,

        Exactly right! You said it so correctly.

  • 3
    2

    “Steps to address the issue of caste-based discrimination in all aspects of life
    Ensuring an equitable policy of land distribution, returning acquired land to their rightful owners”

    I do not usually view your ideas with favour.However i do agree with the above.If you want to put a stop to caste based discrimination, you have to start with the Buddhist Chapters.They are caste based.However when there is money the Mahanayakes care too hots for the caste of the Diyawadana Nilame or commonly called the Diyawadda.

    Secondly the country should get rid of the Viharagams.and also the Paddy lands Act. It is reported that in the Western and Southern Provinces over 100,000 acres of paddy lands are lying fallow. One of the reasons adduced is that the farmer find it cheaper to buy his rice in the open market rather than grow it.Fair enough, then let the owner of the paddy land fill it and convert it to a financial viable enterprise.The basis of the Paddy Lands act is no longer valid in the Western and Southern provinces.

    • 3
      1

      Upali Wickramasinghe

      “The basis of the Paddy Lands act is no longer valid in the Western and Southern provinces.”

      Therefore the provinces need devolved power to change the land act and use of land without having to beg and nag parliament whose remoteness and detachment from rural area is well known. Smart asses who are sitting in Colombo and run the land ministry has no interest in understanding rural farmers and their problems.

      Local problems are best addressed by local governance.

  • 1
    15

    We need Mahinda to solve the Tamil problem like he solved the LTTE problem once and for all.

    • 11
      0

      NIRMALA n

      “We need Mahinda to solve the Tamil problem like he solved the LTTE problem once and for all.”

      You mean a final solution, building gas chambers.

      Mahinda has a real problem in order to solve problems, could you tell him he is the problem.

      When did it become “Tamil Problem”. Isn’t it a Sinhala/Buddhist problem imposed on rest of the people?

      • 0
        0

        NV
        That is exactly what the author of this article implies when it is read between the lines.
        This guy is another version of that chap called Dayan J whose perfidious outputs which pollutes this forum.

    • 3
      0

      NIRMALA n

      Could you please tell us how? What is your plan? “Once you have convinced the extremists there is little work to be done”

    • 2
      0

      “We need Mahinda to solve the Tamil problem like he solved the LTTE problem once and for all”.

      Good point to concider,

      It is said Mahendran jarapassa Has the Experieces, AS He used to operate Brick klins with Dead bodies.
      Some says Kudu Wermin knows the story as he was helping his childhood friend on the operation BRICK KLIN.
      Further he has got the Help of reletive Gobbels in his clan now.

      • 0
        0

        I am flying today.

        I will be in the Mahinda’s victory jubilations.

  • 0
    1

    The stake holders views are basically most important, than the usual carrot before
    donkey, whilst commentators divert the underlying issue with River projects and
    Paddy Lands in the South!!

    The whole issue may take a different turn with the UN Report due September and harping
    on local Political Parties joining MR – the Hero for the only known action!

  • 7
    0

    It is gladdening to note that the JVP is continuing to evolve to be a better party and appealing to a broader section of the populace. But yet I cannot understand as to why it shudders at the mention of the word ‘devolution’. Why does it equate federalism with division when federalism has not led to the division of any country in any part of the world? On the other hand, federalism helps to hold together diverse communities with diverse cultures while giving each community a sense of belonging to the country! The JVP is certainly not a racist party. It never resorted to communal dissension as even how some of the major parties did when it suited them. But, why does it find it difficult to get over the ‘panthi paha’ hang over? Does it still look upon the hapless plantation workers of Indian origin in the hill country as agents of Indian expansionism?
    When will the JVP come to terms with the fact that devolution is an essential component of democracy. It is a transfer or sharing of power from the Centre to the periphery. That concept need not be looked upon with communally tinted glasses. Devolution is the opposite of authoritarianism the cancer that has been growing in the country over the past four decades. It is the antidote to authoritarianism.

    Sengodan. M

  • 5
    1

    There is a mix of one very good point and some garbage in this piece.

    a) The good point is that if one were to try to force through even very fair and reasonable concessions to the Tamils without Sinhalese support the exercise will back-fire.

    The silly points are many:-

    b) The attempt to write off every effort to do something about concessions to the Tamils as Western, Indian, UNP, TNA and you name it, plots and subterfuges, smacks of chauvinism. Sounds like the Tamils have no serious problems worthy of attracting the attention of anybody but this author and the JVP!

    c) Please explain: “this writer strongly believes that political reform, inspired by a context-specific amalgamation of elements from consociational power-sharing models and integrationist perspectives of political reform, would be extremely suitable and useful in enhancing the existing structures of governance (i.e. the Northern Provincial Council, municipalities and pradeshiya sabas)”, in words that a human being can understand. Just hiding behind rank obfuscation aren’t you?

    d) Telling the Tamils that they SHOULD address many social problems, summarised in bullet points by the author, instead of prioritising the national question is gratuitous advice from the Sinhalese – that is the author and the JVP. Thank you the Tamils will say but let us decide what we think is important for us.

    e) The references to caste in Tamil politics by a Sinhalese person who says nothing about caste in Sinhalese politics is a bit rich.

    THE BIGGEST DEFECT of all in this article is that while it highlights the importance of winning Sinhalese support as essential for pushing through reasonable concessions to the Tamils, it says nothing about a concrete plan and programme of work AMONG THE SINHALESE to achieve this objective on which little progress has been made in the last 60 years.

    Like the writer of the article the JVP too has engaged in no activity, education, propaganda and activity to convince the Sinhalese of the urgency of these needs – the author and the JVP spend all their time and effort preaching to the Tamils not to the Sinhalese – what a strange world we live in!

    • 0
      0

      Golding
      Thank you very much for your input which should serve as pointer to those who the.voters in today’s election have reposed confidence in by electing them to office.
      We can only hope that their hopes and aspirations would be well served.

  • 1
    0

    Here is my prediction.

    UNP 125 UNPF 48 JVP 23 TNA 22 SF 3 OTHERS 4 TOTAL 225

    LANDSLIDE FOR UNP and also for young people who really want change and not backward village rule.

  • 0
    1

    Dear mr Sendagon

    May I quote the words of DBS Jeyaraj as recently as last week:

    “Fundamental Questions

    Firstly how does one merge the North and East into one “Tamil country” when the non – Tamils in the Eastern province are more than 60 % of the population?.

    Secondly how can the provinces outside the North and East be lumped together as a “Sinhala country” when 48 % of the Tamils and two-thirds of the Muslims in the Island of Sri Lanka are living in those seven provinces?”

    In short Mr Sendagon, in view of the demographic distribution of the minorities within this small island there is no conceivable model for implementing any federal units for the satisfaction of at east 90% of the minorities.

    There is a serious problem. In order for any meaningful discussion on the subject to proceed the word “Tamil” as used in the context of “political solution” should be clearly defined. We Sinhalese who are interested in the subject are left vague on its current usage. Mr Sendagon, is it the Tamils in the regions of North and East whose religion is Hindu or Christian or all Tamil speaking people IRRESPECTIVE OF THEIR RELIGION, IRRESPECTIVE OF THEIR DATE OF ARRIVAL and IRRESPECTIVE OF THEIR PLACE OF RESIDENCE? Let us clarify this once and for all without resorting to any sarcastic gimmicks. Please give it a try.

    Soma

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      Soma,

      Did you fail to note that I have written about devolution in general without any reference to ethnicity or religious differences. Devolution means better and greater democracy. Don’t you agree on that? The benefits to any communities on the basis of ethnicity or religion in preserving their distinct identities could simply be incidental. What is wrong in that? I have made no reference to any merger of provinces either. The provincial councils are already there in terms of the provisions in the constitution. All that I say is to strengthen these councils to strengthen democracy instead of concentrating all the power at the Centre!

      Sengodan. M

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    Mr Tasssimo

    By publishing your prediction just before the election you have completely overturned the electorate in favour of one party which I believe is a serious violation of the election laws.

    Soma

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    If the JVP takes such a social justice based approach and is successful in making the Sinhalese heartland understand the importance of ensuring such justice for Tamils, it can indeed become the party for Tamil leftists to support; Tamils will then have a pro-UNP TNA and the JVP as real choices depending on their political persuasions.
    But for that to happen, the JVP has to evolve even more; at this time it is too early for Tamil voters to support the JVP in sizable numbers, but it can happen if the evolution of the JVP under AKD continues.

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    If the JVP takes such a social justice based approach and is successful in making the Sinhalese heartland understand the importance of ensuring such justice for Tamils, it could become the party for Tamil leftists to support; Tamils will then have a pro-UNP TNA and the JVP as real choices depending on their political persuasions.
    But for that to happen, the JVP has to evolve even more; at this time it is too early for Tamil voters to support the JVP in sinificant numbers, but it can happen if the evolution of the JVP under AKD continues.

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    The real issues at hand?

    How, then can a future government seek to reconcile this situation, and adopt a workable approach?

    As a first step, a future government should imperatively recognize the fact that the Tamil people of northern Sri Lanka are concerned with priorities that go beyond political reforms, which neither the TNA nor any other Tamil political parties are keen to prioritize. An incomplete list of issues, which the next government imperatively ought to consider as absolute priorities, include the following:

    The full implementation of the national language policy (especially in predominantly Tamil areas),

    1.Developing a medium and long-term programme of support to war widows, single-parent (especially single mother) households
    2.A national programme for the welfare of orphaned children and young adults
    3.A plan of action to address drug proliferation, alcoholism and gender-based violence
    4.A strong initiative to ensure gender justice, with short, medium and long-term goals
    5.Steps to address the issue of caste-based discrimination in all aspects of life
    6.Ensuring an equitable policy of land distribution, returning acquired land to their rightful owners
    7.Ensuring fundamental human freedoms, including the right for political engagement, of upholding political views of one’s choice
    8.Ensuring, and fully guaranteeing the right of Tamil people to commemorate war victims, including fallen LTTE combatants, who, after all, happened to be disgruntled citizens of Sri Lanka
    9.A transparent national mechanism to examine wartime disappearances, deaths and acts of violence

    Social reform instead of political reform?
    The most advisable strategy for a future government to adopt is to take a social reform approach, which focuses not on the Tamil polity, but on reforms ensuring social justice for Tamil people. Developing a national plan of action to address the above-mentioned and related issues, with the participation of a broad range of civil society activists, victims’ support groups, religious leaders, academics and researchers, advocates of reconciliation and human rights activists is an absolute national priority. It is also a step with a lesser risk of a Sinhala nationalist backlash.

    Instead of such a program that focuses on people and society, the next government could repeat the past error of focusing exclusively on political reform, in a dance to Delhi’s current tune. If this path is pursued, past precedents indicate the inevitability of a political crisis. A progra of this nature is bound to strengthen the Sinhala nationalist lobby, which could mobilise around Mahinda Rajapaksa. It would be a birthday present to Bodu Bala Sena, Ravana Balaya and all other Sinhala nationalist entities.

    Social reforms instead of Political Reforms, I agree with you in that the Social Reforms should precede before Political Reforms, but exactly not instead of! As far as Tamils are concerned, any program that lay concerns to Political Reforms bound to fail particularly when Provincial Council is saddled with so called Social reforms. Thus it warrants a national program to undertake the social reforms. Will the Sinhala Nationalists keep silent when 8th &9th are included in a National Program, apart from the habit of seeing suspiciously of any projects aimed towards minority uplifting!
    Regarding cast discrimination and your claim on TNA as of only VELLALA
    Gentlemen is totally baseless – TNA cannot maintain a winning streak without the support of low castes and with free education no castes are without education and surely all castes equipped with abundant knowledge to identify their short comings – particularly after subjecting into LTTE rule for 30 years which was responsible for their both upwards and downward popularity.
    Any means of attempt to point out low caste as low caste through intended uplifting would backfire if any organisation prioritize this aspect, it is such intrinsic here and it is nowhere near Indian type of absolute dominance.

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    As EWG points out Dr CW has missed the wood for the trees. Tamils are asking for the right to determine their destinies themselves since 67 years of essentially Sinhala rule has failed miserably to do that. The piecemeal approach of the list is akin to asking a starving man to eat less. If as was reported last May, the largest crowds in the country for Vesak were in Jaffna, there is something that is seriously wrong. Removing military presence is not in Dr CW’s list nor regrettably in any party manifesto.
    MR had the power and backing to implement the 13A soon after May 2009 and no one would have made a noise. It is a pity that this is not implemented since it does not mention the provocative word ‘federal’. There are enough safeguards in the constitution and amended by the 13A to ensure that there are no WMD’s located in Manipay aimed at the South, or Medamulana for that matter.

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    How long one Sinhala nationalist keep warning about the reaction of fellow sinhala hegemonic nationalists on reaching a political solution? Grow up and learn to accommodate reforms within the Sri Lankan polity. To start with, learn the political culture of dialogue to cement differences instead of keep on harking about “Tiger is Coming” to appease the chauvinists.

    If there is a will there is a way. Instead of finding excuses, face the challenges bodly and make democratic decisions to narrow the differences. It seems the SL polity is still not ready for burying the 65 year tragedy and still find ways to avoid it under some pretext.

    Like the writer is playing to the tune of his supporters, so are the TNA.
    What it says is that there is a problem we so called “well intentioned Sri Lankans having to find a solution for.” Let us go ahead and do it.

    A foreign born sinhala woman commented recently that only the global shame that makes Sri Lankans to act. Do we carry on displaying the incapacity to make a lasting settlement. God what would be it like if only we could settle this damn 66 year ache and look to a future of prospertiy. Isn’t it enough for politicians from south to keep warning about fellow nationalists reaction which has gone on for nearly half a century and a bit.

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