By Dayan Jayatilleka –
Hon. Sampanthan’s 90 minute (written) speech during the recent adjournment debate (Feb 22) on the Constitution was ‘historicist’, in the sense that he invoked a great deal of political history. But his argument was a-historical and illogical.
The Tamil nationalists, including Mr. Sampanthan himself spurned the many offers made by successive Sri Lankan (OK, Southern or Sinhala) administrations from that of President Premadasa through President Kumaratunga to President Rajapaksa. Why does the TNA think that offers made and rejected in wartime, due to the compulsions of wartime and the sacrifices necessary for a negotiated settlement which would end the carnage, once rejected, would remain on or return to the table once the war was over and had been won by the State and the South at great cost?
Overall, the project for a new Constitution is nothing but an effort to weaken the Sri Lankan state along two lines. Firstly to decapitate it by removing the Executive Presidency, which will make it impossible for the country to have a strong stable leadership which can stabilize the state and act as an engine of development. Thus we shall not a have a successor of the strong leaders such as JR Jayewardene, Ranasinghe Premadasa and Mahinda Rajapaksa.
Secondly, the unitary character of the state will be abolished and the provinces will be given qualitatively more control, which will decompose us into eight or nine competing provinces without a strong center—the executive Presidency—to hold them together.
Thus the new Constitution is an effort to sabotage and destabilize the State, Sri Lanka as a country and the Sinhalese as a community. It is an attempt to neutralize the numerical strength that the Sinhalese have, which gives the community a leading role on the island. The project for a new Constitution is the project for an anti-Sinhala Constitution!
The Tamil nationalists know that the environmental conditions for a Tamil Exit are there within the country and outside. At a time when two high level delegations from China were in Colombo, the state-owned Daily News (Wed Feb 22 p 4) ran a full page story illustrated with photographs, attacking China, and written by a young American researcher based at Lake House, the state’s official publishing house.
This is a throwback to the situation that SWRD Bandaranaike inherited and overthrew in 1956, when he was incensed that Radio Ceylon’s world affairs commentary was by a Britisher, and threw him out, handing the job over to a part-time parliamentary reporter of Lake House in his mid-twenties, who had a radio program on English poetry, and was a law student (and I might add, had just become my father). Pre-1956 Ceylon was a penetrated state and under Ranil’s UNP it has become one again, which is conducive for the Tamil nationalist strategy.
The external environment which it hopes to manipulate is also propitious for the cause of Tamil Exit, especially since Trincomalee is now sought as a joint US-India-Japan strategic hub against China, and a Tamil statelet which is a counterpart for Tamil Nadu, would be a secure environment for such a hub.
Tamil nationalism has long sought to present itself as a reliable ally and proxy for the US and India. The bid to secure Trincomalee through greater autonomy for the North and East and a larger Indian footprint in the harbor/tank farm area, fits perfectly into the strategy of an Indo-US-Japan axis under the umbrella of Admiral Harris’ Pacific Command (PACOM), aimed at China, our friend, ally and partner.
At a recent seminar organized by SLInc, Mr. Sumanthiran and Dr. Wigneswaran made veiled threats respectively of unremitting Diaspora hostility, pressure and leverage and outright external (mainly Indian) intervention if a new Constitution going beyond 13A was not enacted. I responded by declaring that “we are a Ravana nation, though with a Vibheeshana Prime Minister and government”. I went on to remind that this island saw off 70,000 foreign troops under President Premadasa and prevailed over a Diaspora-supported, suicide bombing terrorist army under President Rajapaksa (both of whom I had the privilege of working with). I concluded with the aside that “we still have Gotabhaya”.
What Tamil nationalism now seeks is to sucker this Government into the holding of a referendum, and going by the UNP’s strident support during the parliamentary adjournment motion of Feb 22nd, the Tamil nationalists have already found their Sinhala suckers, to wit, Prime Minister Wickremesinghe’s loyalists within the UNP and Chandrika (“Marie Antoinette”) Bandaranaike Kumaratunga’s remaining serfs in the SLFP and civil society.
To paralyze this far-reaching Tamil nationalist plot, the SLFP, JO, JVP and patriotic UNPers must either abort the new Constitution project in Parliament or restrict it to reforms within the unitary state, i.e. the adjustment/re-set of the 13th amendment and no more, which can be enacted purely within Parliament.