17 October, 2019

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The Sinhala-Buddhists, The Cost Of The Army And The Tamil people

By R.M.B. Senanayake –

R.M.B Senanayake

The Government must win over the Tamil people to preserve democracy and the territorial integrity of the State as one nation.

In a democracy the State must obtain the willing consent of the people. The people include not only the majority religio-ethnic group however large such group is. The Sinhala Buddhists constitute 70% of the population but that leaves out 30% who will be a permanent minority. Majority decision-making does not permit the violation of the fundamental rights given to all citizens by the Constitution. These are not alterable for they are not given by the State but are the inherent rights of individuals irrespective of their affiliation to any race or religion.

But recent changes in the the law and the Constitution have meant the removal of fundamental doctrines like the separation of powers, checks and balances, independence of the Judiciary from the Executive and the Rule of Law which requires the law to be enforced equally against all citizens- rich or poor, politicians or citizens, soldiers or civilians. Without these institutional safeguards there can be no protection for the fundamental rights of citizens.

There cannot be groups of people in a State who are permanently alienated or estranged. The State is an abstraction and it is represented concretely in the form of the ruling political party or parties. The present regime has been co-opting the minority political parties by dispensing political patronage. But the Tamil National Alliance which represents the majority of the Tamil people, will not be co-opted for such considerations at least not until the rights of their people are respected and upheld by the government. The Government has mobilized a few Tamil politicians to bolster their claim of representing the Tamils. But this farce will not go down with the International Community. The Sri Lankan state can presently claim only the consent of the majority Sinhala Buddhists. In fact other ethnic and religious minorities are also complaining. The Tamils have complained for the last fifty years that they have been discriminated against on language, education, jobs and civil liberties. They allege discriminatory enforcement of the law against them. They fought a long and bitter war for setting up a separate State for themselves in the North and East. They did so after peaceful negotiations for devolution of power had failed over a period of 30 years. Unfortunately their armed struggle was characterized by terrorist acts against civilians including Buddhist monks and religious places of worship. This helped the government to mobilize the majority community behind it to wage a relentless war. It also helped to mobilize the support of the Western countries which had subscribed to the UN Charter in 1945. So they too assisted the government by banning the LTTE, preventing them from collecting money from the expatriate Tamil community in their countries and by providing war intelligence which effectively blocked the LTTE from obtaining weapons from overseas. The LTTE was roundly defeated in May 2009 and the territorial integrity of the State was restored.

But democracy requires that the consent of the Tamil people be obtained. It was necessary to look into and remove the grievances of the Tamil people which drove them to take to arms. So the Government appointed the LLRC which looked into Tamil grievances and made recommendations. But the Government has been dragging its feet in implementing these recommendations. Instead the Government has concentrated on development- demining the area making it safe for the internally displaced to return and spending money to restore the infrastructure. The Government has shown distrust of the Tamil people and deployed a large military in the north. Instead of winning the willing co-operation of the Tamil people the Government has sought to suppress any expression of political opinion by the Tamil people. The Army is accused of supervising the civilian administration and monitoring the behavior of civilians depriving them of the usual freedoms of expression permitted in a democracy. The internally displaced complain that their original lands have been taken over by the Armed Forces as Security Zones.

The Army is accused of running a police state to control the Tamil people monitoring civilian behavior and intruding into their private lives, presumably to oppose what they consider as Tamil nationalism. So the elected representatives of the Tamil people complain that their party offices have been attacked and that they are being harassed by ‘unknown’ assailants. The Tamil press has been vandalized. Whatever the purpose of these acts of violence they will only nurture popular fears and make both the Armed Forces, the government and the Sinhalese terribly unpopular and strengthen opposition to the State. Man does not live by bread alone says the Bible. The Tamil people want to be treated as equals and enjoy the fundamental freedoms guaranteed in the Constitution. They want to live their lives without harassment. It is the duty of the State to provide them security and any State that fails to provide such security for life and limb and the fundamental freedoms of a free people loses its moral right to exact obedience from its subjects. History seems to be repeating. In 1956 the Tamil ‘Satygrahis were attacked with impunity on the Galle Face Green and later outside the Jaffna Kachcheri. Several attempts to win Tamil rights through non-violent means such as ‘satyagraha’ were treated with contempt by the majority Sinhala Buddhists. Successive agreements entered into with the Tamil political parties by Sinhalese political leaders were reneged.

The UN recognizes that all people must be treated equally by the State irrespective of ethnicity or religion. The UN even recognizes the right of a “nation” to self determination with sovereignty and territorial integrity although there is no agreement on either what constitutes a nation or how self determination should be exercised- whether by independence, federation, protection (Kurdistan) or some form of autonomy. Whether Tamils constitute a nation or not the right to some form of devolution of power has been accepted and incorporated in the Constitution under the 13th Amendment.
The Government will have to win over the consent of the Tamil people by allowing them to elect their representatives freely and fairly and allow the Provincial Council of the North to function without undue interference from the Army. The Army would have to be confined to barracks and law and order enforced by the Police. The local Police would have to be accountable to the Provincial Council at least for the normal police functions of crime prevention and investigation although some role for the national police need not be excluded as in a federal state. Otherwise the demand for self determination will echo and re-echo across the Palk Strait until it is given ear to by the UN. The unification of the territory through war has to be accompanied by unification of the hearts and minds of the people of the North with the rest of the country. We cannot afford to run a large army as the economic cost is too high. Time will show that the financial burden of the Army cannot be carried by a State running a massive budget deficit. It is difficult to increase government tax revenue and expenditure affecting public welfare cannot be cut. The cost of the Army can be reduced if there is reconciliation with the Tamil community.

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Latest comments

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    Mr. Senanayake excellent article. You should translate this to Sinhala and Tamil and publish in all local news papers. Moderates like you is what we need at this time of need in Sri Lanka. The best the President can do at this point of time is to appoint an interim all party government and establish a Truth and Reconciliation Committee to conduct a public inquiry the way South Africa did. Even if those found at fault are judged, the President can pardon them as the President has the powers to do so. Please do not think that I am asking for those who committed wrong doings to be excused, but in the interest of Peace this may be a way out. This would also build a positive image of the President and the history will praise him for this action.

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    The Army needs to be cut in half, down sized and REDUCED by 50 percent..
    It has a mammoth budget to oppress civilians at the behest of the corrupt and criminal Rajapassa brothers today.

    The military is running state financed and subsidized businesses like the Pakistan and Indonesian military dictatorships – tourism, construction, sports,shops, cafes, golf courses, hotels and land grabbing from minorities and poor and this is bad for the economy and for military discipline and violates the mandate of the military which is to protect the country against internal threats. With nothing to do and such a large number of personnel the military is turning into a mafia that is paid massive funds (almost 20 % of budget) to merely keeps] the corrupt Rajapassa regime safe!

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      Oops meant to say: The role of the military is to protect the country from EXTERNAL threats!

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        tell that to uncle Freud

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        From USA India UN. Very strong army?

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        Oops,

        Who could be the external threat. Aliens from another planet, India the Fish from the sea.

        The army cannot protect you from the Aliens,
        The Army cant take on the Indians ” wishful thinking”
        To fight the fish you only need fishing net.

        So you dont need to apologise”oops”. Your first instict was right.

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          kali

          The rulers have always maintained a standing army to fight their own people albeit at any costs.

          Forget the foreign invading force, like the one sent by India in 1987 and before that.

          Who wants to take on an army from India, except stupid VP? The Sri Lankan armed forces’ first line of defense against invading foreign forces had always been their women folks.

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            You mean their charm , good looks and other attributes ( I mean huge assets) you know what I mean

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              kali

              “You mean their charm , good looks and other attributes ( I mean huge assets) you know what I mean”

              Sorry I am bit thick. What exactly did you mean?

              PS

              Women folks include Grandma, Great grandma, elderly aunties,…….mother in laws,…..

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    Excellent article but errs on how and why the tamils commenced an armed struggle in the courese of which many human rights violations occurred.
    Human rights violations against tamils which commenced soon after independence were the cause of tamil militancy.
    Even now these occur on a lesser scale,in the north and east.

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    While on the surface pretending to help the Tamils… the other Abrahamic religion will artfully go about convering many born agains…. and the author will know how that happens… because they are all in it…

    but since comments to CT must be favorable to the articles … Wonderful Article … superb… well done.. excellent.. shall i go on…

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      Shiva,
      Columnists and Commentators here deemed to think their writings reflect majority opinion in this country. Living afar, some have become pollsters of opinion polls. Some others think those who speak Sinhala or Tamil only are uneducated and fools. They think they are the intellectuals because they can speak some smattering English. Amazingly they also think that their thinking and not Rajapakse is in line with majority view. When they fail to rally mass support for their protests they think government foiled it. When they loose at elections they say, its computer gilmart. Oh’ God, when would your creation learn why they fail!
      Leela

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    When a child makes a mistake the parents correct him. The elder brother looks after the younger. The male looks after the female. The stronger has to care for the weaker. The victor has to show mercy to the vanquished.

    This is the natural law. So if the Govt and the majority community can walk that extra mile to bring the Tamil community to their feet that would be a fitting victory to the decades of war that plagued our nation. The present policy of governing by force is not a sustainable option but will lead to the ruin of the nation.

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      Well said Safa. The Government failed to dignify its victory it rather diminished its credibility and honour.

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      SAFA;
      “but will lead to the ruin of the nation”.

      These moronic governance had already lead the nation to the ruin,
      and looted, removing the foundation stones also.
      there is only the marking left to identify that
      “there was a proud nation,that was destroyed by a family called JARAPASSA from down south of SRI LANKA..

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    Another excellent artcile Mr Senanayake. Thank you very much. Please keep on writing.

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    Sensible views put forward clearly and cogently. Ideas expressed about the Tamils and to have them as equals in the polity are absolutely correct.

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    Reproduced for its topical relevance is this article which appeared on transCurrents of 2.22.2012. It will complement RMBS’s lines on cost of the army.
    An update:- Defense gets a massive increase in one year in 2013, while Education gets a fraction of it after 65 years.

    Burgeoning Defense Expenditure and Escalating Social Antagonism
    Chanakyan

    The defense personnel in Sri Lanka are paid on average, half a million rupees per head per annum. Stranger than fiction, but none the less true. If this is the average, how much is it for the higher echelons? Best left to one’s speculative capability. The budget for 2012 provides this sum – Rs. 161.580 billion for salaries and wages plus overtime and other allowances. The estimated strength is 320,000.

    A historian once wrote, much research is not needed to unravel the causes of the French Revolution
    in 1789. The extravagance of the royal family would adequately illumine. To understand the social tensions in Sri Lanka one need not go afar. The inordinately high income level of the military would explain. As for ethnic animosity, the brutality of the military would account for.

    If one could peer behind the democratic facade, what is seen is governance of the military, by the military, for the military. An unconscionable sharpening of the coercive apparatus is proceeding with disproportionate economic resources, rightfully due to society, being callously siphoned off. The present is ominous, the future looks disastrous. Affluence and penury cannot co – exist . Nor is it ethical. Harold Laski said, “I cannot have cakes when my neighbor goes without bread”.

    It is relevant to draw a parallel with India. The defense budget for 2011-12, is $ 36 billion compared to Sri Lanka’s $ 2 billion for 2012,ie18 times. The population is 56 times more and the land area is 50 times. Besides, there are hostile borders to the north and a soft underbelly in the south. Yet the incidence of expenditure per capita is $30 for India. It is $ 95 for Sri Lanka.

    Comparisons are also needed with great powers. As a percentage of GDP the US spent 4.8, Russia 4, India 2.7 and China 2.1 in 2011. The world average for 153 countries that year was 2.6 %.
    Source: Stockholm International Peace Research Institute ( SIPRI ).

    Sri Lanka’s defense budget for 2012 is 4 % of GDP.

    To Sri Lanka’s citizenry, their belts tightened for the war remain tighter still. To the military the belt was fitted loose and is yet elastic. It was so when the military was on the move. As Napoleon said the army marches on its belly. But once the war is over, should the salaries and perquisites burgeon, and the defense budget escalate by 32% in just four years?

    The need of Sri Lanka after 2009 was a drastic reduction of the military. Not filling the space vacated by attrition is a painless way. Over 30,000 could have gone that way in the last three years. Demobilising is a painful course. But a pain killer is available by way of a compensatory package.

    Staggering lay off over a few years will give space for skill acquisition and alternate employment. Never was it considered. The contribution that defense personnel can make by coming into the civilian fold should not be denied or discounted. They are disciplined, habituated to high pressure timelines, changeable and trainable.

    A thorough going restructuring of the economy was both an expectation and an imperative when the war ended. At such a moment, a temper of accommodation is forthcoming. It has been let slip. For every economic ailment, the Treasury had a medicine was the thought. The Governor of the Central Bank had a cure of the quack. Shake the thermometer down to 98.4 and the fever is gone. To the uninitiated it is enthralling.

    Many an issue not addressed but wished away has converged with a vengeance, as if by design. A crisis of unprecedented proportions is now upon the nation and appears to be beyond the ken of the clan. What is cooking is clear to the percipient. Leon Trotsky once said, some people see events before they happen, some as they happen and some after. But Sri Lanka doesn’t see even after they have happened.

    What is the peace dividend and where is it going? Overtime and other allowances alone consume Rs.80.89 billion. For what? To keep the partners in war contented in peace, salary alone won’t do. Perquisites are also needed. Is it fair or equitable to keep the redundant employed and molly coddled through an exacting regime of taxation?

    In 2008 (year round war), Recurrent Expenditure was Rs. 163 billion with around 75% being devoted to salaries and perquisites. For peacetime 2012, the corresponding allocation is Rs.215.4 billion, showing an increase of Rs. 52.4 billion. Rs. 55 billion is the allocation for health administration nationwide. The simmering unrest in the health sector becomes easily intelligible.The increase for Education and Higher Education for the same period is Rs.11.3 billion with the total from the inception standing at Rs. 42.9 billion. This explains the perennial crisis in education and the flight of the academia.

    Starving health and education to feed the military can only infuriate the polity and exacerbate tensions. The exasperation is still more when it is noted that carpet deployment of Tamil areas is the cause of the waste. The North and South have a meeting ground to make common cause. Chilaw was

    Degenerate governance to which the country has been led is not unknown to the people. What earns their ire is the mismatch of their misery seen against the conspicuous lifestyle of the military, even after the war is won. Space for redemption is still there, if the government can summon up courage.

    ( There is a splash of figures, because truth emerging from statistics is incontrovertible

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      Thank you for the figures – more would be very helpful to wake up the people,

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      Chanakyan,
      You talk of burgeoning Sri Lanka defence expenditure in comparison to many countries. I like to compare it to Singapore. It’s defence budget, $12.3 billion this year, is the biggest in South-east Asia. Arguably, it’s the highest per capita defence spending in the world, after Israel. Its fighting force active conscripts are around 71,600 and reservists over 350,000 are trained on the principles of “see first, think quicker and kill faster”. Yet Singapore has no perceived threat from its giant neighbours.

      How about Sri Lanka? Its only four years back, Sri Lanka concluded a 33 year war that terrorist waged for secession. LTTE may be eradicated, but its no secret that LTTE secession ideology is kept alive by its various rumps.

      Much bigger Tamil Nadu is in a threatening mood while demanding secession from India. Karunanidi says he cannot sleep well without Eelam. Seeman wanted to lead a million people army land on our shores. And that is no comic situation.

      Backers (Thisaranee like) of LTTE rump have been writing many an article about guerrillas being trained somewhere and landing them soon here. Indeed, many western journals have published graphic confirmations including interviews with faceless leaders.

      As far as I can see you write rubbish here thinking it will encourage this government to reduce our military and pave way for said rump LTTE to have an easy access to start another conflict if not a war. I assume your advice is in demand in Toilet Nadu. As for us, we are far better of than the whole lot. Go no further; check how we jumped ahead of the pack in the latest human development index during the last few years.
      Leela

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    Muslims are so in need of self-introspection…

    Doestn Sulaiman, Safa and others get it that this author along with jehan p, pinto, bastians et all are all people funded to destabalize Sri Lanka and they are jumping to support u bcos they can use u as a means of realizing their objectives…

    muslims need to be alert more than ever….

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    You don’t worry about the Muslims, Shiva. Where were you when the Muslims were massacred by the LTTE.

    Muslims, will always stand by the majority no matter what, for ‘one country’. BBS, Hela Urumaya, Ravaya, immaterial. They will die a natural death. People are not fools – the majority is still quite.

    You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can not fool all of the people all of the time – Abrahm Lincoln

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    “The UN recognizes that all people must be treated equally by the State irrespective of ethnicity or religion. The UN even recognizes the right of a “nation” to self determination with sovereignty and territorial integrity although there is no agreement on either what constitutes a nation or how self determination should be exercised- whether by independence, federation, protection (Kurdistan) or some form of autonomy. Whether Tamils constitute a nation or not the right to some form of devolution of power has been accepted and incorporated in the Constitution under the 13th Amendment.”

    If I remember right, the OPA, which Mr. RMBS is said to be a Forum member of, resolved in May 2012 to request Prez MR to abolish Provincial Councils. Then President of the OPA told me that after the press release on same, BBC had interviewed him on both Sinhala and English channels and he had received e-mails with some critical comments from those ho had watched the telecasts.

    Tamils constitute a nation in India not in Sri Lanka. As the OPA stated in their press release the 13th Amendment was forced on us by India as a solution to end the internal war and Sri Lanka had no hand in drafting it. The 13th Amendment failed to end the war and created eight white elephants in other provinces. Now India is getting it back with interest and they may have to amend their own constitution to create a Tamil nation, which the LTTE was close to create in Sri Lanka, with an Army, Navy, Air Force, Police and a Judiciary of their own. The advancing clock by 30-minutes during CBK’s presidency was also used by the LTTE to have two time zones within Sri Lanka (Tamil Ealam Time and Sri Lanka time). Had the UN recognized it, then India might have taken the Sri Lanka side to ensure the defeat of LTTE (It is my guess).

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    The author lives in an illusion that the sinhala buddhists rules the rest. The sinhala buddhists are being ethnically cleansed from colombo, Kandy and the major cities. They are constantly being targeted for conversion. The myth that Sinhala buddhists rule the country is a propaganda exercise that is far fetched and away from the ground reality. The country is now ruled by a corrupt ,predatory group of people some of whom may very well be buddhists some are certainly not. With regards to the military they are still unearthing sinhala buddhists skeletons in mat ale.

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    Well said Mr.Senanayake. I was working under you at the Ministry of public administration when you were the Director of Combined services. Those good old days are gone and now I find Sri lanks is different place to reside. People talk about develpment in the North. People dont want development but they want to manage their own affairs and there should be be a civilian administation and not a military regime. I have read some comments here from people who do not want to see the real picture.Either they are totally ignorant or pretend to be true patriots of sri lanks. I dont think they have an idea of what patriotism is. I am living in Australia for the last thirty years and could see the difference. We left sri lanks after the 1983 riots my valuable books (irreplaceable) were burnt.

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    Dear Mr.Senanayake,

    Your contribution to the bebate which is currently raging accross the country is commendable but an imponderable element. Sadly you are a lone voice and belong to a small group of people with a wish to right the wrong which has blighted this country for the last 63 years but a tiny minority.
    We all know the reason why we are where we are and the monumental task ahead to achieve what you are proposing. MR is ruling by deception and he has only one agenda on mind and that is to cleanse Sri Lanka ethnically and convert Sri Lanka into a Sinhala State and he is not going to flinch from that and preapared to use violence to achieve that end and I am sure you have seen the evidence with your own eyes.
    For me the only way change is going to come to achieve the Sri Lanka you aspre is with outside help and the only Nation which can make it happen is India but sadly the current Government which is ruling the country are either unable or unwilling to be part of that process for obvious reasons.
    With a change at the top hopefully we can all achieve what we want and live side by side as two seperate people with seperate identity.

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    As the name says, Senanayakes will always be Senanayakes. He thinks well, he writes well and behaves well.Why ONLY in Sri Lanka the cream cannot rise to the top, but the criminals.Tamils, peace loving Singhalese are leaving the country. WHY?

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      You are wrong Subra,

      The Tamils are being driven out , Sinhalsese are staying put. It is as simple as that.

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      Subramaniam Masilamany

      “Tamils, peace loving Singhalese are leaving the country. WHY?”

      After the end of war the island has been restored to its “former glory”. The rightful owners have reclaimed their land. The country has been secured by the clan. LTTE is gone.

      The Tamils and Sinhalese are satisfied with governance and there is no apparent threat to its unitary nature, hence the Tamils and Sinhalese have began their journey out of the island.

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