20 October, 2017

Sweet Taste Of Federalism Through Good Governance

By Ayathuray Rajasingam –

Ayathuray Rajasingam

The communal riots which began from 1958 in Sri Lanka demonstrated that the Unitary form of government has proved to be a futile exercise in not complying with the legitimate aspirations of the Tamils. Ethnic conflicts had plagued Sri Lanka because successive governments have been in the practice of encouraging intolerance for minority Tamils, commencing from the passing of the Sinhala Only Act, Standardization, forcible colonization commencing from Kantalai-Minneriya, etc. Laws were enacted in Parliament by the ruling politicians who abused them to harass the opponents including the Tamils and posed as a threat by way of poor governance. Good governance was never expected especially after 1956. The Land Acquisition Act was a case in point. Though the affected person could seek remedies in the courts, it proved to be procedural constraints for development. Meanwhile the growth of Wahabbism in Sri Lanka especially after 1989 diverted the attention of the Muslim community from the concept of Federalism, which could have been suitable remedy.

The requisite of neutrality cannot be expected where the conduct of the Executive possess full powers in a country with uni-cameral system. Federalism is a system of government in which power is divided between a central authority (national government) and constituent political units (provincial government). No sooner the politicians assume power, they are keen to take revenge on the opponents and not on the development of the economy of the country. If any economic development takes place, Ministers are heavily benefited by it, in addition to their pensions and other privileges. A comparison of economic development with other developing countries, would show how Sri Lanka’s politicians were instrumental for the deterioration of the economy.

Further, after the introduction of the 1972 Constitution, the protection of the civil liberties of the ethnic Tamils has been a recurrent problem in Sri Lanka which even affected the economy of the country. The British failed to realize the consequences of the confrontation that would take place between the Sinhalese and Tamil leaders before granting independence. The British had in mind about the need for a relatively centralized economic and political government units to facilitate rapid economic development and national control but ignored the desire for self-determination of the minority Tamils. The Soulbury Constitution that afforded constitutional protection for the minorities was done away with the replacement of the 1972 and thereafter by the 1978 Constitution both of which were framed by the political leaders in power and aimed at oppressing the minority Tamils. The process of oppressing the minority Tamils paved way for poor governance. Now, the question of economic freedom under the 13th Amendment appears to be a question mark. The forward thinking in strengthening the protection of the minorities was lacking among the politicians.

In Sri Lanka, it is the central government that administrates over the subordinate levels of government in legislative ability and power. India realized that the centralized system of Sri Lanka government should not fail to put it out of touch with the needs and demands of its ethnic Tamils and was instrumental for the introduction of the 13th Amendment for the formation of Provincial governments. The Sri Lankan unitary government deliberately ignored such needs of those Tamils on various pretexts. This demonstrates that power balance is very minute in unitary system of government and can eventually lead to dictatorship resulting in the collapse of various institutions.

However, the expectation of India was that Sri Lanka would take adequate steps to build a confident building measure on the 13th Amendment by providing good governance. Generally, good governance is based on political theory of liberal individualism. Federalism plays a significant role in the growth of democracy especially in the articulation of the representative form of government. Instead JR was shrewd in not providing anything under the 13th Amendment other than the mere merger of North-East Provinces.  Both the JR-led government and the LTTE failed to realize various factors such as the UN Charter, the SAARC and the Indo-Sri Lanka Peace Accord. Though the UN Charter discouraged intervention into the domestic affairs of another member country, there were exceptions for countries to intervene in matters relating to genocide, etc. Further, the rise of China after 1990 in Asia and its relations with smaller countries coupled with the competition with India for supremacy had been an advantage to Sinhalese politicians who conveniently evaded the issue of legitimate rights of the Tamils. Apparently the SAARC was not established on the EU model, where there was a European Parliament with the enshrinement of Human Rights Charter. Moreover, the Sinhalese never fought a bloody war like the USA or India to realize the implications of an ethnic dispute in the future.

One of the major obstacles placed by Sinhalese politicians was and is still the denial of participation to the Tamils in a meaningful manner and getting involved in decision-making processes. If however, Tamil politicians are given due importance in the Cabinet, they are given minimal participation in relation to the legitimate aspirations of the Tamils. No doubt that Luxman Kadirgamar was an efficient foreign Minister, but evaded the issue of special rights of minorities which was addressed by the UN, when the Declaration on the Rights of Persons belonging to National or Ethnic Religious and Linguistic Minorities was adopted in the General Assembly in 1992. When he told the BBC at an interview that ‘we have to live in Sri Lanka as Sri Lankans tolerating all races and religions’ then it is implied that he accepts Federalism as the only solution. In Canada, first they call themselves as Canadians. Similarly in USA, India, Switzerland people call themselves as Americans, Indians and Swiss respectively.

Similarly Dr.Neelan Thiruchelvam was instrumental in attempting to introduce a Draft Constitution on the Canadian model. Again the Tamil politicians missed an opportunity to get around him and bridge the gap between the Sinhalese and the Tamils. Unfortunately he too was murdered by a stupid suicide bomber. Two precious lives were lost on account of the arrogance of the extremists, after the murder of Rajiv Gandhi, A. Amirthalingam, V. Yogeswaran, etc., who all held the views of the minority Tamils should be taken into account in the process of decision-making.

The feature of Federalism is participation by all citizens in a meaningful manner and involvement in decision-making which sends the signal for reconciliation. Otherwise it would lead to anarchism and lays down the foundation for the erosion of democracy and independence of judiciary. Politicians who had studied law would have known the concept of representative government especially in countries practising pluralism. Politicians have a moral obligation to make necessary arrangement to have meaningful discussions at frequent periods. As such C.V.Wigneswaran should accept the invitation and participate along with other Chief Ministers in the meeting of cabinet of Ministers chaired by the President and stressed the significance of involvement in decision-making processes, which is found in Federalism. Let this be the beginning of reconciliation process.

In a Federal system of government, Provinces with different language, culture and customs can feel at home when Provincial government passes laws that suit their personal legitimate aspirations, without affecting the sovereignty, territorial integrity and unity which can be monitored by a powerful Upper House and Judiciary. Moreover, Provincial government can look after the economic development of its territory while Central government can look after the entire economy and defence of the whole nation. It is for this reason that the Provinces should be empowered to have its own Police for a limited purpose and land for development in the Provinces. Therefore, there should be room for the ethnic Tamils in respect of participation and decision-making process. Federal countries like Canada, Switzerland and India, have demonstrated this practice successfully. Even in Great Britain, there are separate Acts for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland which allows room for this practice to be exercised successfully. There is a necessity to make amendments in the constitution on the Canadian model for the distribution of powers between the Centre and the Provinces and not to make amendments to weaken the 13th Amendment. What is required is positive thinking. This will in no way affect the sovereignty, territorial integrity and unity of the country. Any allegation that such participation and decision-making process by the minorities will lead to separation is baseless and without any foundation. It will only strengthen the unity of the country.

In order to allay the fears that federalism would lead to separation, the system of Checks and Balances play a contributory role to ensure that political power is dispersed and decentralized. Checks and Balances is a system of approvals by different branches of government that prevents any one branch or elected official from making laws without approval of the others. System of checks and balances means that no branch of the government can overpower the other of government. Each has a check on the power of the other branches. The unconstitutional impeachment of the Chief Justice Dr.Shirani Bandaranayake demonstrates that the system of Checks and Balance has become a question mark in Sri Lanka, is a case in point. It is prudent to remind what James Madison, the central figure in drafting the US Constitution, wrote, “the accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive and judiciary in the same hands …… may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny”. Federalism is the division of government between the national and provincial. Federalism is the dividing and sharing of power between the National (Federal) and Provincial government. It implies limited power which means the government is restricted by the laws and constitution and it has to operate within the framework of the laws and constitution.

Sri Lankan political leaders pay visits to various religious places of worship such as Thiruppathy, Madurai Meenatchi Amman Temple, Sai Baba Centres, St.Peter’s Church, Buddha Gaya, etc, to show that they are religious-minded, but it is not clear whether they intend to acquire material wealth or spiritual wealth. Spiritual wealth is permanent, the principal characteristic of which is service-orientation by which the people are benefited. Lord Buddha was of the view that without spiritual wealth growth and maturity, greed and endless craving will eventually result in unhappiness and suffering. Spiritual wealth has the force of forward thinking that leads to paying more attention to the unsettled rights of the minorities by respecting their legitimate rights which Lord Buddha consistently emphasized. Later even Emperor Asoka followed the Buddhist teachings after the Kalinga war. If the material wealth is acquired improperly then such wealth would be utilized for destruction of others and would eventually be temporary. Both the terrorists and the MR-led government failed to realize the significance of spiritual wealth. The need of the hour is to win the hearts of each other (Sinhalese and Tamils). Good governance can be provided by people with spiritual wealth which indicates a selfless service which are beneficial to the people. As Sri Lanka is a country practising pluralism, there is a moral obligation on the part of the government to demonstrate the concept of avoiding majority tyranny both in words and actions. Has these politicians ever realized that we are souls emanating from the Supreme Soul and that we should respect each other.

Self-determination is the right of a national group to be sovereign within a specified territory, but within a united country. In Sri Lanka Tamil and Sinhalese nations in existed since time immemorial before the arrival of the West to Sri Lanka. The devolvement of decision-making power within a specified territory is the best method to avoid secession and creation of a new State. This is the beauty of Federalism. Constituent units can exchange ideas for the betterment of the entire country. S.W.R.D.Bandaranaike who favoured Federalism as the suitable solution, later did a U-turn for greed of power. Even the JR-led government failed to realize this concept at the Thimpu Talks, where emotions were exposed by both parties, but not diplomacy.

Good governance and federalism are interwoven with one another so that the exercising power and decision-making go hand-in-hand for the well-being of the people. Federalism promotes the granting of to such diversity of organizational structures such as NGOs, Religious Associations, co-operatives, etc., for service-orientation. Even the UN has outlined eight characteristics of good governance such as accountability, effective implementation and efficiency, participatory, transparency, responsive, consensus-oriented and equitable and inclusive as major characteristics of good governance, all of which are in conformity with the aspects of Federalism. The question is whether Sri Lanka had followed this principle to defeat corruption and answered the grievances of the Tamils. The moment politicians assume power they become egoistic.

Federalism allows room for all sectors of every community to participate in an atmosphere of friendship and brotherhood for the establishment of local economies that are economically viable, environmentally sound and socially responsible. This method ascertains the need of the ethnic community and to identify and implement appropriate solutions in areas such as Agriculture, Fisheries, Health, Transport, Technology, etc. Moreover, some of the benefits are the granting of pension to all the seniors, whether they are employed in Government sector or not, providing Senior homes, Caring Service Centres for the aged and disabled, providing public transport especially facilities to Seniors and disabled persons, providing facilities to religious affairs, etc. Federalism allows room for good governance because it encourages participation of all communities at all levels with mutual understanding of one another’s concern (including the promotion of high standard of living), which are a healthy sign for the unification of the country. These are the sweet taste of Federalism. This is the strong message the Tamils have sent through Northern Provincial Election not only to other Provinces, but also to the members of the CHOGM.

The operation of successful Federalism also depends on the system of maintaining a Tax file for every citizen (including the politicians) which has to be maintained by the Provinces in collaboration with the Central or Federal government. This will enable the Provincial administrators to look into the affairs of the Seniors, disabled, single mothers, widows and orphans without the interference of unscrupulous ruling politicians. It is the duty of the government that all people whether in government service or not (including cultivators, farmers, etc) are entitled to some benefits when they reach the age of at least 65 years. If citizens ponder about the colossal waste of monies spent on the mega cabinet, a battalion of delegates, the interference of Ministers carried out by educated and professionals in projects thus incurring heavy losses, import of unauthorized items which are harmful to the people, etc., they will realize how western democratic countries look after their citizens. The Tax file for the politicians can be a checkmate for his clumsy handling of public money.

Though C.V.Wigneswaran is well versed in the subject of Federalism, there is also a moral obligation on the part of the Sinhalese leaders to have a clear idea of Federalism and its benefits. Neverthless the tug of war between the MR-led government and C.V.Wigneswaran-led Northern Province Council begins here, even though the Government allocates sufficient fund because the President still could exercise his discretionary power through the Governor who is all out to carry out his orders. It will be  interesting to watch the tussle between the spiritual wealth acquired by C.V.Wigneswaran and the material wealth acquired by Mahinda Rajapakse whether money can buy a happy home. There is a moral obligation on every citizen (including politicians) to realize what is good for the public and not what is detrimental to the public by way of placing barriers to the 13th Amendment and weaken it thereof. This is where the birth of the type of governance germinates. After all politics is meant as lofty ideals for the benefit of the public.

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Latest comments

  • 0
    1

    No federalism in SL. It is such a small country and no need for federalism.

    If Tamils want to live in a federal country go to Tamil Nadu a federal state. Just 40 km away!

    • 0
      0

      Fathima,
      Why do you feel so jealous about single mothers getting benefits from a Federal State. Do you know even single mothers among the Sinhalese are getting benefits in Canada. Your community allows a person to marry four times and they get benefits. Here is a case where both Sinhalese and Tamils are going to get benefits. Is it not better than earning sin monies as housemaids in the Middle-East. You also can apply for the benefits if you are a single mother.

    • 0
      0

      Fathima,
      If Sri Lanka is a small country, how about Switzerland. I think you are trying to conceal that Ministers are receiving fat commissions. In federalism, they will have to account even the commissions because of the maintenance of Tax file for every person and for whatever business they carry out on various pretexts. Perhaps this is the reason why Mahinda Rajapakse told the Hindu Editor when he inquired about the Federal solution. Can you remember that Mahinda told not to talk about Federalism without giving reasons. Now the Sinhalese had already begun to think about the merits of federalism in foreign countries for their children. Accountability and transparency are in Federalism. Further, What do the military officers know about federalism, but they want jobs in federal countries. Finally do you have any objections in granting benefits to the seniors and single mothers.

    • 0
      0

      Fat “Mama ” Fuk U Shima,

      You are right smelly Tart Federelsim wont suit Sri Lanka. The only solution is Seperete State wait until March 2014 BJP will carve out the North & East and you can have the rest including Weliweriya.

      The 40 KM you are talking about is our Holiday Home and yours is 3000 mikes away in China.

    • 0
      0

      Fathima has forgotten that she is a Tamil from Tamil Nadu and speaks Tamil at home and comes from a low Tamil heritage from South East India and she is a Islamised Tamil domiciled in Sri Lanka. Madam, read ‘Ceylon the Portuguese Era’ by P.E.Pieris. Know your heritage.

  • 0
    0

    Lorenzo
    Yes Fran “paringiya” Diaz says at LW. Deport the kallathonis to India
    When are you leaving?

    • 0
      0

      Chandra,

      First tell when are you leaving?

      Sengodan. M

  • 0
    0

    Ayathuray Rajasingam,
    The Sinhalese are good natured people. It is some of the Tamils who have poisoned the minds of the Sinhalese and encouraged them to protest against Federalism giving a false propaganda. It is the same people who were behind the burning of the Jaffna Public library. The time is not far for the Sinhalese to realize the advantages of Federalism. Already Gamini Dissanayake and Ranil had accepted that Federalism is the suitable solution.

    • 0
      0

      Nathan you Sinkalam,

      What are you talking about. The Sinhalese are “Good Natured People” and what if what you are saying is true who carried out the killings during Race riots for which Sinhala Lanka holds the world record.

      Are you saying that Some Tamils starting in 1958 encouraged, aided and abetted the Sinhalese Thugs to slaughter thousands of Tamils.
      Or
      Was it these same Tamils who in fact killed the Tamils during riots. Your head needs to be examined.

      I suppose you have the Names addresses of the people who burned the Jaffna Library

      Wake up man and before you open your mouth next and in future stop talking Rubbish.

  • 0
    0

    It is useless talking about federalism as there is no way that the majority will agree to such an idea. First try to show results under the existing PC system.

    If the NCP can be a model of peaceful coexistance and development, it is possible that people will be more inclined to accept the idea of devolution. NCP has just been elected and has a long way to go. There are more important issues and problems to be dealt with.

    • 0
      0

      Safa,

      The majority are never going to agree to Federalism and they havent agreed to it for the last 64 years. It is up to us now to get it. We tried fighting for it but failed but now we trying the peaceful method which is producing results. The only Nation which can dictate and enforce policy in Sinhala Lanka is India and we have to wait for 6 more long months to achieve it. BUT WE WILL GET TO THE PROMISED LAND.

      There might be more important issue for lot like getting rid of dictatorship but for us it is a fight for survival and nothing less than self Governance will do.

  • 0
    0

    Good information about Federalism. How are Kheliya Rambukwella, Wimal Weerawansa and other clowns going to reply to this article. Let the Provincial Council carry on with their tasks as specified in the article. It is for the benefit of the public. Surely the Sinhalese will love to hear about pensions and health care benefits. Benefits of single mothers will certainly attract the Sinhalese.

  • 0
    0

    Are there any politicians in the government party having spiritual wealth? Some are seen with glass of liquor.

    • 0
      0

      Kums,

      The Morons in the Government are Spiritually BANKRUPT

  • 0
    0

    Rajasingham says”Ethnic conflicts had plagued Sri Lanka because successive governments have been in the practice of encouraging intolerance for minority Tamils, commencing from the passing of the Sinhala Only Act, Standardization, forcible colonization commencing from Kantalai-Minneriya, etc.
    This is not the place to reply to all his accusations. But with regard to colonization please see what Rajan Philips had to say recently in the Colombo Telegraph.

    Colombo Telegraph 6/10/13

    “The North Central Province initially and rightfully attracted government and political attention for restoring the magnificent irrigation network of ancient Sinhalese civilization, followed by significant investments in major irrigation work in the Eastern and Northern Provinces. But there were no takers – the colonial government tried peasants, middle classes and even private capitalists – for settling in and developing the dry zone into a prosperous rice bowl. Colonization of the dry zone could not begin until 1939 and really took off with added incentives and political patronage in the early years after independence and again as part of the Mahaweli development programme.”

    • 0
      0

      Vichara,

      Yoiu have gone mad with your analysis and for your information do what you want in North Cenral Province which is made up of Anuradhapura & Pollanruwa District.
      We are not asking for that or are we staking a claim. But North & East are ours and you cannot colonise it not now and never.

  • 0
    0

    After reading the article, it appears that if Provincial Councils are given a free hand in areas mentioned by the writer, there will be more economic development which will generate more employment. If that is so, why should Sri Lankan ruling politicians encourage sending housemaids to the Middle-East. I think Provincial Councils can show the way to lead a decent and happy life for the people.
    I also like the idea of the subject of maintaining Tax files for every citizen by the Provincial Council. If this idea works out, no politician or his relatives will dare to import illegal items without payment od Customs duties and carry out the illegal business and they have to give an account of how they got this large amount of money. Good trap for unscrupulous politicians. Just imagine how formalin to the value of thousands of millions was imported for distilling kasippu. When people are starving, why should Lamborigini cars be imported. There are some more. Can’t these monies be utilized for granting pensions to seniors, widows and single mothers. Good support for C.V.Wigneswaran who should demonstrate these to the people of other Provincial Councils and the taste of Federalism. People like Fathima should consider this.

  • 0
    0

    The word “Federalism”, over the decades has been made “ENIGMATIC” by both the Tamil and Sinhalese politicians. So continuing to propagate the benefits of this system further adds more poison to the cocktail. All this happened because, we Sri Lankans are by nature copy cats and do our utmost to show the world that we are better than others in performance. So far no one has had the courage to come up with an “indigenous” system of Local Government for the benefit of all the communities living within the entire country. That is why the “outside powers” pound on us and compel the weakened administrations to do things that are enigmatic to whole country.

    In my opinion, it is time for the “right thinking” persons and the well informed politicians to come up with a plan of “Good Governance
    System of Local Government” that is suitable and capable of meeting the needs of the people of Sri Lanka.

    • 0
      0

      Douglas,

      You have completely missed the point. Federalism in Sri Lanka is needed because we are two distinct people with different Language and Religion. If we want to survive as a Nation within a United Sri Lanka then we have to recognise that difference and as a minimum we need a State within a
      State otherwise we are doomed.

  • 0
    0

    Well said Vichara,

    There are many Tamils who accuse the Sinhalese of colonizing the Tamil lands. The word colonizing is being used to suit their political agenda without really understanding the meaning of this word.

    Rajasingham is using the word colonization to areas like minneriya which is hillarious

    • 0
      0

      Perera,

      It is hillarious and if you are not careful you are going to die laughing all the way to the cemetary.

  • 0
    0

    Chandra & Vichara,
    I can understand that both of you have not got the substance of the article. I think it is time to get rid of your backward thinking. Just watch how C.V.Wigneswaran moves with his forwatd thinking despite the Tamils extremists’ views. He will set an example to other Provinces as to how a Province should get developed. MR & his siblings are always thinking of how to do away with the opponents. Now Mangala Samaraweera is under threat of being murdered. Is this democracy. Even Sri Lankan High Commissioner, Prasad Kariyawasam had blundered himself in making a statement. Sri Lankan ruling politicians have to learn what is diplomacy. What is essential is mutual respect for each other’s community which is possible only in Federalism – Unity in diversity. Colonization should take place with love and affection from other communities. As the writer has indicated the Tamils of the Northern Province have sent the message that money cannot buy happy homes. Why do you feel that Federalism is bitter? Can you get the answer from MR & his siblings? Chamal Rajapakse did all blunders in relation to Dr.Shirani Bandaranayake without knowing the concept of the system of Checks & Balances which is one of the features of Federalism.

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