28 September, 2022


The Ease Of Negotiating With Sympathy

By Rajiva Wijesinha – 

Prof. Rajiva Wijesinha MP

Prof. Rajiva Wijesinha MP

Prof Laksiri Fernando, in responding to my account of discussions about a Senate, has reminded me about publishing the proposals, as I had mentioned, and I will send them in as soon as I am back in Colombo. However, while I do not recall promising to publish my correspondence with Mr Sumanthiran – which is not in fact of any great significance – perhaps it would be useful, given current controversies, to publish the draft he and I prepared about land matters.

What we realized, which is why I proposed that we look at the matter quietly, was that the issue was causing much controversy based on dogma. The TNA insisted that the 13th Amendment conferred land powers on the Provincial Councils, the government relied on the Constitutional provision that land grants were in the power of the President. Mr Sambandan, while insisting that he had no objection to any citizen acquiring land anywhere on his own, went into a lengthy account of government colonization schemes which he said had changed the demography of the East.

I did point out that something similar had happened in the Wanni, where after the conflict we had come across large numbers of Tamils of Indian origin who had been settled there because of various colonization schemes funded by international agencies – including for instance the schemes run by Jon Westborg when he headed Redd Barna, if memory serves me correct. But at the same time I could understand Westborg’s motivation, given the appalling attacks on Tamils in the hills orchestrated by members of the Jayewardene government, in both 1977 and 1981 – just as I could understand the need to settle landless peasants in empty areas that had never been occupied by anyone previously.

SampanthanAnd if one wanted to play historical snap, one could talk about the massive change to the demography of several Provinces caused by British importation of Indian labour over several decades – and indeed the settlement by the Kandyan kingdom of Muslims in the East, when the colonizers chased them away from the West so as to take over the trade wholly. But as Mr Sambandan granted when faced with these facts, It would be wrong now to talk of reversing any of these past actions. So he in effect agreed that there was no point arguing about the past, what we needed to do was to prevent abuse in the future.

That was the key principle on which Sumanthiran and I worked, namely to take into account the fears of all stakeholders. Obviously the Tamils feared colonization by Sinhalese in areas where they were now in a majority. While such fears should not be relevant if it was only the Sinhalese who needed land, obviously now Tamils too needed land, and it was therefore clearly more equitable that those from a particular area be given preference in colonization schemes (which indeed was what the Sinhalese of Vavuniya South told me in objecting to the importation of new settlers from the South to some areas in Vavuniya North). At the same time government feared alienation of land by a provincial authority to foreigners. There were also worries about excessive grants, given the swathes of land available, to only one community, when there were large numbers of landless in the other communities.

These latter fears could obviously be got over in terms of the existing constitutional provision about alienation of land being the prerogative of the President, but equally obviously there was need for allowing Provincial Councils authority in this regard, given that they would understand better than the Centre actual needs at any moment. We therefore recommended delegation of powers for limited amounts of land. At the same time we made clear the right of the Central Government to make use of land for public purposes, but emphasized that this should be in consultation with Provincial governments.

I think the more insidious of my colleagues frightened the President in this regard, perhaps not knowing the difference between requiring consultation and mandating concurrence. Whatever the reason, he rang me up just before we were to present our proposals to warn me against granting too much. This was ironic, because I found that Sumanthiran had been upbraided by others on his side who thought he had conceded too much. But we assumed that, after each side had made its points, we would go back to what we thought our very balanced draft.

Unfortunately Mr Sambandan went into a long rigmarole about historical abuses, which led to an equally long riposte from Prof Peiris. And while I have no doubt that we would have returned to our proposals in any future discussions, that was when my colleagues evidently decided to call a halt to the negotiations. Though there were a few more, I was not told about them, and discussions were reduced to prerequisites for the TNA to participate in the proposed Parliamentary Select Committee.

On this government was incredibly foolish, for what was earlier agreed was to talk on the basis of the points raised during the negotiations, including most importantly the claims made by the TNA before I joined the process. Government however failed to act on this agreement, which led to Mr Sambandan having a meeting with the President at which point the net was thrown wider, and various past proposals, some of which now make no sense, were also brought into play. I suspect no one briefed the President on how easy it would have been to proceed on the basis of recent claims, so he allowed himself to be talked into what would have been endless regurgitation of past history.

I can understand therefore why government did not table all the past proposals Mr Sambandan had brought to the President’s attention. But by failing to focus on some simple issues, they have allowed the PSC to become a joke – as has been correctly stated now by the two parties that first persuaded the President to take that ridiculous path. And while the JHU and NFF rarely came to meetings of the PSC, its sensible members have been at fault in not preparing a report based on the positive proposals that came before them.

Obviously I would think the Liberal Party proposals were the most sensible, but I also found that Vasantha Senanayake, acting on behalf of a group of young people, having led a group of young Parliamentarians in meetings with members of the diaspora, had also produced comprehensive proposals. I gathered that the PSC members who had listened to him had found them convincing, so it is a pity they did not take them further.

Vasantha himself tried, through a Constitutional Amendment to introduce one of his most significant suggestions, to limit the size of the Cabinet. Intriguingly, Rev Ratana has now adopted one of the ideas Vasantha had had gazetted when he introduced the Amendment, namely that the President should hold only the Ministry of Finance. It is tragic then that the President did not immediately support Vasantha’s amendment, and introduce at least some of the changes the country wants through someone whose loyalty to him is beyond question. Instead he has laid himself open to having to engage in reforms under pressure from those who would break their links with him at the drop of a hat, to seek greener pastures.

Let me conclude then with the actual draft Sumanthiran and I presented to the negotiating teams, noting too that we also felt it was vital to move immediately on the constitution of a Land Commission. This had been envisaged in 1987 but, with the incompetence that seems to have become endemic in government ever since the Cabinet became of monstrous size so that coordination was impossible, this was forgotten.


Land and Land settlement

Subject to the following provisions, land shall be a Provincial Council Subject

1. State Land

1.1 State land required for the purpose of the Government in a Province, in respect of a reserved or concurrent subject may be utilised by the Government in accordance with the laws governing the matter. The Government shall consult the relevant Provincial Council with regard to the utilisation of such land in respect of such subject.

1.2 State land required for the purposes of a Provincial council in respect of a Provincial or Concurrent subject may be utilized by the Provincial Council in accordance with the laws governing the matter. The Provincial Council shall administer, control and utilise such State land, in accordance without the laws and statutes governing the matter.

1.3 Alienation or disposition of State land within a Province to any citizen or organization shall be on the advice of the relevant Provincial Council, in accordance with the laws immediately prior to the coming into force of this amendment and statutes governing the matter and in accordance with Article 33 (d).

1.4 The Provincial Land Commissoner shall be deemed to be authorized by the President to grant or dispose of State land as referred to in Article 33(d), not exceeding 5 acres in extent.

1.5 The Provincial Land Commissioner shall be deemed to be authorized to grant leases for periods not exceeding 50 years.

1.6 Any disagreement between Provincial and Central authorities in this regard shall be referred to an arbitration mechanism as provided in …….

2. Land Development Schemes

The principles and criteria regarding the size and allocation of lands arising out of special projects and their application will be determined by the Government in consultation with the Provincial Councils.

The selection of allottees for such lands with be determined by the Provincial Council.

3. National Land Commission

No change


Sumanthiran <>

to me


I typed out the full text of Appendix II, and in the process, have suggested some changes. The main one is the new 1.5 to deal with the concerns regarding limiting the period of leases, since Article 33(d) deals only with grants and dispositions. Please let me know if you agree.

On the Police powers, the National Police’s intervention must only be at the invitation of the Chief Minister. But that can wait, since we are not going to present it on Monday.







to Sumanthiran

Thanks, on blackberry so cannot check properly, but I think there is a ‘without’ that should be ‘with’, in the description of Provincial Land. Also specifying the Provincial Land Commissioner may be contentious since this is by delegation from the President in constitutional terms.

Best to present the original as the consensus paper but add the rest on as further clarifications from your point of view for discussion.

And, as a coda, I should note that Sumanthiran and I also discussed how easy it would be to resolve the question of police powers, if one stressed the difference between policing for community purposes and that which involved security considerations, including grave crimes. We had no doubt that we would have been able in a short time to produce a draft in that respect too which assuaged all fears. But I suppose that was not in the interests of the hardliners on either side.

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Latest comments

  • 1

    The burning issue for the inhabitants is when Ms Pillai’s Hanging Judge is coming over to get our village boys who shot Prabakaran?.

    Would they have a clue of what these Professores and ex LTTE proxies talk behind closed doors sipping Chardonnay.

    If this TNA leader Sambandan’s list presented to the Professor Wijesinghe by Sumanathiran is singed off by our Village President , can the TNA pull out Ms Pillai and the Hanging Judge?.

    Can these Professors explain that in plain English, or preferably in plain Sinhalese?.

    Wouldn’t that be the way to allay the fears of our poor poor inhabitants ,who are nearly 70 % of the population and only want to live in peace and harmony after 30 years under Prabakaran.

    And that is the history which they know and that they have experienced first hand and that is what matters to them.

    • 3


      You are right…..they are going to get who killed 10 year old Master Prabhakaran.


  • 3

    It is not Navi Pillai but the Prince of Jordan who is going to come with the rope to tie (since they do not hang) those who committed war crimes. Here again, its not going to be the ones who were soldiers who followed orders from their superiors but the superiors themselves who are now holding high government posts and diplomatic positions who will have to stick their neck out.

    Why are we not realizing that the UN resolution, although it appears to be against Sri Lanka, is not against Sri Lanka meaning civilians of Sri Lanka, its against those LTTE and armed forces and its commanders. Why is the opposition not bringing this point out in the open and inform the public? Have Ranil his UNP top wigs, TNA, JVP, and SLMC gone to sleep? Its time to educated the public that the inquiry first of all is to find out what did the LTTE and the armed forces do wrong before and during the war. Due to the illegal activities of the government there is some overspill for events that have occurred after the war which are going to come out.

    We all know who are the top ranking officials of the government, armed forces and diplomatic members who were involved during the war. We also know that all the remaining top LTTE rankers are now with the Government. So they are the ones who have to worry and they are the ones who are telling the public that the investigation is against Sri Lanka, which is not.

    Rajvia as well as Dyan Jayatilleke are puppets of the regime who are trying to suck up to the President. They are “opportunists” who are trying to make some noise but at the end of the day trying to inform all of us and the ones who are going to write their history, that they have done wonderful things for us. Both have failed the Sri Lankan masses. Dayan lied to the UN and got away with it in the first instance, the things that he proposed that Sri Lankan Government was undertaking never came to pass. Rajiva was negotiating with the minorities and his proposals or negotiations went no where. So rightly or wrongly both have failed and these two should keep their mouths shut.

    Another important point we all should understand is that the problems we have in Sri Lanka is not a Tamil – Sinhala problem or Buddhist -Muslim – Christian – Hindu problem. Its the Majority – Minority problem which needs an immediate solution. If we find this solution then no foreign government or body can enter our space.

    After all that has happened even this week after UN Ambassador for Sri Lanka informed that SL government will not cooperate with UN, the case has been presented to the Parliament. When Chief Justice Shirani was illegally impeached we were all told that the Parliament was superior, if that is so how can the President present the case to the Parliament after the UN Ambassador has informed the UN that we are not cooperating? Does this mean that the President thinks that the “Uththareethara Parliament” is a rubber stamp for his whims and fancies?

    With all their educational background I am surprised that it has not hit home to Dayan and Rajiva that they are “SPENT FORCES” and trying to show the masses that they are the best brains in the country to solve the issues we have. They are sadly mistaken, when are they going to realize their true position and plight. They have been used by the regime and kicked out. By staying with UPFA Rajiva is sucking and blowing at the same time.

  • 2

    “I think the more insidious of my colleagues frightened the President in this regard, perhaps not knowing the difference between requiring consultation and mandating concurrence. Whatever the reason, he rang me up just before we were to present our proposals to warn me against granting too much.”

    While appreciating Prof. Rajiva’s efforts to untangle simple issues that have unnecessarily complicated over several decades and made intractable,the above quote I have extracted from his article, clearly demonstrates that MR is unfit to occupy the position he does.

    If our President is frightened by the scare mongering by ” the more insidious’ of Prof.Rajiva’s colleagues, as he is frightened by the specter of the ‘Truth’ regarding the last war being exposed, he should no longer be our president. This is the most dangerous among all other despicable acts he has committed during his presidency.

    Further, G.L.Pieris’s character is finally being revealed. A man who as President Chandrika Kumaratunge’s minister helped design forward looking constitutional proposals, has become under President Mahinda Rajapakse, a Rasputin, a devil’s advocate, a spineless man and an unprincipled lout. Instead of becoming the ‘Conscience’ of Sri Lanka on account of his back ground and public position, he has come to represent everything that is very wrong in this country.

    Mr. Sampanthan, is yet unable to break out of the trap of history, despite his valiant efforts to deal with new realities in a wise and pragmatic manner. The interests and the future of all Tamils and other communities in Sri Lanka should be his only concern and this should not be compromised in any way by empty rhetoric. This becomes more pertinent when dealing with the likes of MR and the government made in his image.

    History should only be a lesson. Historical problems may be yet continuing and obviously have to be dealt. This should be based on the results we have elicited by our own foolish words and actions. We should remember that we are a diminutive David dealing with a brutal Goliath. We can no longer afford to even carry a sling shot! This is the reality. However, we can use ‘Truth’ as our most potent weapon and use it as effectively as the 21st century amply permits on a global scale.

    The historical reactions that have led this country and the Tamils in particular to our present plight should be totally avoided.

    Dr.Rajasingham Narendran

  • 3

    You don’t have to be a Rocket Scientists to work out why the Centre under MR is adamant that they will not give Land & Police powers to the Northern assembly. That is to make sure by retaining those powers Colonisation at this rate would be complete in 10 years and the Majority can lay claim to the whole of Sri Lanka. The dream of Converting Sri Lanka into Sinhala Lanka would have come true.
    But we wont let it happen and the Tamil Nation which has stood for centuries will live on for another 1000 years thanks to Mother India under Modi & Jeya.

  • 1

    rajiva is another ‘sri lankan liberal’ as opposed to a genuine liberal. He is trotted out to global audiences in an attempt for the govt to sound like it has reasonable people but when he is put in a corner he ends up in a ‘i told them so, but they didnt listen mode’ – he must have a great relationship with Dayan Jayatilike – having their pinot noir and mutually discussing the advice they had given the sri lankan govt that was never taken. The best thing one can do is ignore Rajiva … he is not relevant to the regime and he doesn’t understand he is used to whitewash their reputation, but he still clings on to the ‘presidential advisor’ title. Must pay well, for otherwise it would just be humiliating.

  • 1


    Thanks for bringing your experience and good work during the failed or rather aborted GoSL-TNA negotiations to public attention again. I was involved in some other work and wanted to look at your joint draft with Mr. Sumanthiran more carefully. Hence was the delay. I still feel it is better for me to comment on the land issue later. My immediate concern was to see the draft on the Senate.

    I completely agree with particularly the first two paras of Dr. Rajasingham and appreciate your further comments how your ‘insidious colleagues’ scuttled the whole negotiating process. Under the circumstances, how do you justify your continued affiliation with the government? I wish you give serious thought to this matter.


    • 0

      Dr Rajiv Wijesinghe doesn’t need a protection Visa .. does he?..
      He seems to be doing ok in Lanka .

      Why would he want to join the Professors in the Diaspora and watch Days of our Lives drinking cask wine?…

    • 0

      Dr LF,

      I am sorry that I will not buy the lame excuse that MR was persuaded by his insidious aids! It is clear from Prof Rajiva’s divulgence that TNA was willing to negotiate, but the problem is, the president who is of the view that, if anything is given to the Tamils, will result in electoral damage to him.

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