By R.M.B Senanayake –
In 1948 Hans J. Morgenthau wrote the “Politics Among Nations: The Struggle for Power and Peace” Morgenthau defined the status quo as “the maintenance of the distribution of power that exists at a particular moment in history.” Morgenthau also explains, “the concept of the ‘status quo’ derives from status quo ante bellum,” which, in turn, implies a return to the distribution of power before a war.
This is the choice before the President. Should he resolve the grievances of the Tamils which made them to take up arms after a prolonged period of peaceful protests? They carried out negotiations with the prevailing governments asking for a measure of devolution of power rather than a separate State. Liberal politicians like SWRD (despite his original stance in 1956 he agreed to a reasonable use of Tamil) and Dudley Senanayake signed Agreements. But due to protests by extremists these Agreements were not honored. What of the post 2009 situation of war victory. There would seem to be two camps. One camp wants to follow what Morgenthau called the ideology of the war victor. The war’s aggressor (the LTTE) shall give up his conquered territory, and everything will return to how it was before. This is the objective of this camp.The status quo also denotes the victors’ peace: a peace that may be unfair or even oppressive to the Tamils but it stands for stability. What about the Tamil demand for equal rights? They would say they no longer apply. How can a minority which never won the case for equality over the last fifty years either through satyagraha or war, now demand it when they were defeated in combat would be the logic behind such refusal. And this camp would argue it is for the good of the Sinhala Buddhists who represent 70% of the population. This camp would insist that any concessions to the Tamil people would only enable the LTTE to revive and resume war. So this camp wants the Army to remain in the North and to carry out Intelligence on the behavior of the politicians and social activists. But this would be more or less a military occupation for the Tamil people will have to look over their shoulder to avoid the gaze of the “Big Brother.” This camp feels threatened by the UN demand for the investigation of war crimes and crimes against humanity allegedly committed during the last phase of the war. May be true, false or exaggerated? But can the duty to ascertain the truth be brushed aside. Yes this camp would say. Instead this camp would want to mobilize the Sinhala Buddhist majority to defeat the proposed UN Resolution. They want to establish the fact that the Sinhala Buddhist majority is behind them and rejects the allegations of war crimes etc. So the forthcoming elections must be won at any cost they would argue. In the past election campaign directed at the Sinhala Buddhist majority has involved positing the ethnic and religious minorities as a threat to the Sinhala Buddhists. It is easy from this attitude of mind to whip up animosity against them. There are groups of monks who have already resorted to attacks on mosques and churches. The perception among these minorities is that the Government is looking the other side. Some would even accuse segments of the Government of promoting or conniving with them. But this would be a serious risk to the nation which is already criticized for violations of the freedom of religion and minority oppression. The President has stated publicly that he would protect all religions.
Those who oppose this view point out that in several conflicts war resumed within ten years or so. The government and parliament need to recognize in its basic law that the island was settled by a diversity of communities with Sinhalese as the major community and that the political, legal, cultural and economic position of all its inhabitants, not just the majority, should be protected. The end of the war did not provide the means to achieve peace, rather it provides a new set of opportunities that can be grasped or thrown away. If the 13th Amendment plus or some other political solution is implemented then there is hope for peace and stability. The Parliamentary Select Committee is sitting but the Tamil National Party is refusing to join it because they think it is another dilatory tactic of the powers that be. The lack of credibility in the Government is a serious problem. But perhaps the Tamil National party should make representations based on its current experience in the working of the Northern Provincial Council. Our politicians place too much emphasis on the legal and the constitutional aspects of devolution of power rather than the administrative aspects. It is time to look into these to make the Northern Provincial Council function and be of service to the people of the North.
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