3 June, 2023


TNA Does An M.I.A At 13 A

By Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka

Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka

As world class singers of Sri Lankan Tamil parentage go, MIA isn’t half as good as a new voice, Bhi Bhiman, an American singer of blues–tinged folk music with a voice as clear and mournful as the whistle of a lonesome train coming ’round the bend. MIA’s flair for the theatrical far outstrips her singing talent. Giving the finger at the Super Bowl this month seems however to be politically symptomatic, because Mr. MA Sumanthiran, a sophisticated lawyer-politician, has just done that to the 13th amendment and prospects of a moderate yet substantive degree of power sharing. In an interview given to Namini Wijedasa, ‘MAS’ (as the newspaper bills him) says:

“…The 13th is not a proper scheme. We have rejected it…The 13th Amendment was passed in 1987. If it was sufficient, we would not have had all this bloodletting…We have engaged with Global Tamil Forum You have to ask the Tamil people whether they want to stay in the country or be separate. Everywhere it’s like that…A distinct people in international law have certain rights called self-determination. The right to self determination international law now says must be exercised internally in the first instance. But if that is consistently denied, then according to the Canadian Supreme Court judgment on Quebec, they might even become entitled to a unilateral secession. So, if Sri Lanka should remain as one country, and we think it should remain as one country, then to preserve it as one country you must grant that right to self-determination and have it exercised in an arrangement within one country. That must be given, that must be recognized. It’s not at the wish of the majority that it’s given. That is as a matter of right in international law…” (‘SundayLakbimanews’ & DBSJeyaraj.com, Feb 5th 2012)

MIA’s flair for the theatrical far outstrips her singing talent. Giving the finger at the Super Bowl this month seems however to be politically symptomatic, because Mr. MA Sumanthiran, a sophisticated lawyer-politician, has just done that to the 13th amendment and prospects of a moderate yet substantive degree of power sharing.

If I didn’t know that this was Mr. Sumanthiran of the TNA speaking last week, I swear I would have identified it as Anton Balasingham speaking at Prabhakaran’s press conference in the Wanni in 2002 or during the rounds of negotiations in Oslo and Sattahip, during the wretched CFA years of appeasement. I am not exaggerating for effect, and any internet search would confirm that this was indeed Mr. Balasingham’s argument. So we are currently in a strange place, a time-warp, in which the TNA’s most sophisticated spokesperson is echoing the argumentation of the LTTE’s most sophisticated spokesperson. What makes the TNA or anyone else think that the Sri Lankan state and citizenry, which resisted and rejected this nonsense and went on to fight and decisively win a war, will treat it with anything other than a combination of suspicion and scant disregard?

Mr. Sumanthiran must enlighten us as to how a judgment of the Canadian Supreme Court becomes ‘international law’. He must then tell us how ‘soft’ international law – even if one were to concede for the sake of argument  that this postulate has entered the realm of ‘ soft international law — takes precedence over national Constitutions and state sovereignty. He should also be so kind as to tell us how Canada – or Scotland, for that matter– becomes ‘everywhere’. Can he tell us where precisely it is — outside of a militarily defeated, failed, fractured state (Mengistu’s Ethiopia, ex-Yugoslavia, Southern Sudan) — that ethnic groups preponderating in identifiable geographic areas are entitled to referenda as to whether they shall or shall not remain within existing state boundaries, and where it is recognized that if ‘internal self determination’ is not exercised, ‘external self determination’ i.e. secession is recognized as an option?

Mr. Sumanthiran does so much travelling that he is clearly unaware of which continent of the planet Sri Lanka is located. No state in Asia, including quasi-federal, democratic, secular India and liberal democratic Philippines, regards the judgment of the Canadian Supreme Court as having the slightest bearing on its domestic affairs or even gives it a second thought as constituting some norm in international law. One wonders if the Hon Member of Parliament has heard of Kashmir or Mindanao.

The TNA MP has flipped the bird in the direction of the 13th amendment, which was the best that India was able to obtain for the Tamil people at a time when the Tamil insurgency had not been crushed by the Sri Lankan state. Mr. Sumanthiran does not explain by which logic he expects it to be qualitatively superseded in the aftermath of a stunning military victory by the State. When the provincial devolution enshrined by the 13th amendment is being called into question as excessive, Mr. Sumanthiran’s rejection of it – as distinct from urging its upgrading and/or speedy implementation—is hardly helpful.

Mr. Sumanthiran must now ask himself which Sri Lankan political party of any note, in or outside of government, be it the SLFP, UNP (‘Ranilist Royalists’ or Reformists), JVP or the radical breakaway Movement for Peoples Struggle, would consent to devolution that went qualitatively beyond the 13th amendment to the next level, countenance ‘self determination’ ascertained by a plebiscite purely of the Tamil people, and accept dismemberment of the country by ballot where bomb and bullet have failed. Where is the proposal that can act as a bridge?

Mr. Sumanthiran’s argumentative assertion that “if it [the 13th amendment] was sufficient, we would not have had all this bloodletting…” is demonstrably nonsensical. If it was the insufficiency of the 13th amendment was responsible for continued bloodletting, how did that bloodletting stop in May 2009 without an improvement upon the 13th amendment in place or even the 13th amendment being implemented? It was not the insufficiency of the 13th amendment that led to the continuation of the bloodletting in 1987, it was the bloodthirstiness of the LTTE, which rejected that reform and spurned the space it opened up.

The TNA has yet to express regret or proffer an explanation over its rejection at the time, of those very proposals it is now bringing back to the table, namely the Mangala Moonesinghe formula, the CBK proposals of 1995, 1997 and 2000, and the APRC (which it boycotted). If its behavior was attributable to the LTTE’s threats it should come clean and say so now. Then again, the TNA has yet to criticize the LTTE for murdering Rajiv Gandhi– and its own leaders such as Appapillai Amirthalingam and Neelan Tiruchelvam. The failure to do so can no longer be attributed to understandable physical fear but to moral and ethical failure.

There seems to be an inability to grasp what it means to give the finger to all reform proposals, wage a war for three decades including against a peacekeeping force, and lose that war utterly. When you wager all and lose that kind of bloody wager, there is a political price to be paid for a considerable period. Your capacity to make demands is impaired. You cannot simply dust off proposals you rejected when you thought the going was good, brandish them and expect to be taken seriously.

Least logical and reasonable is the call for a referendum among only the Tamil people as to whether or not they wish to live within Sri Lanka. Contrary to Mr. Sumanthiran’s assertion, ‘internal self determination’ is not ascertained by a referendum which raises the issue of whether or not a people wish to live within a given state. If that question is on the agenda there is nothing internal about such self-determination. What if the answer at the referendum is ‘no, we do not wish to be part of the existing state’? What, pray, is ‘internal’ about that?

Let’s think this issue through to its conclusion. Why should any administration take the risk of sharing power at a sensitive periphery of a state, a mere two and half years after a 30 year war, with a party that rejects the constitutional basis of that power sharing, i.e. the 13th amendment, and stands for a referendum on self-determination? Is it unreasonable to assume that such a party would use the territorially based council as a platform to call immediately for more powers and move on to hold or agitate for the holding of a referendum on whether to remain within or exit the state and its boundaries? Is this the TNA’s game-plan, or rather, is it the game-plan of the TNA-GTF? Isn’t this strangely similar to the playbook of Prof Steven Ratner (of the infamous Darusman panel), whose scholarly specialization is the study of the break-up of existing states along lines of pre-existing internal administrative boundaries? Is this not an alternative pathway to achieving that which the Tigers attempted through terrorism?  Does the project of exit remain the same, except that it is now going to be in a two step sequence?

Every progressive or liberal minded party, political personality and commentator in the South welcomed the LLRC report and urged its expeditious implementation, while the TNA rejected it at quite considerable length.  The gap between the reform-minded moderate centrists and progressives in the South, on the one hand, and the demands of the TNA on the other, do not seem to faze the latter, any more than this same chasm was of concern to its precursor, the Federal party, in previous decades.

Mr. Sumanthiran must now ask himself which Sri Lankan political party of any note, in or outside of government, be it the SLFP, UNP (‘Ranilist Royalists’ or Reformists), JVP or the radical breakaway Movement for Peoples Struggle, would consent to devolution that went qualitatively beyond the 13th amendment to the next level, countenance ‘self determination’ ascertained by a plebiscite purely of the Tamil people, and accept dismemberment of the country by ballot where bomb and bullet have failed. Where is the proposal that can act as a bridge? Is the TNA not interested in a bridge to the Southern majority? Is it uninterested in Southern partnership within the mainstream and unwilling to do what it takes to secure such partnerships? Where will you find takers outside of the Tamil polity, Mr. Sumanthiran, and if you do not have takers among the Sinhala majority, where do you expect to find them? Certainly not in the region or on our continent—so where might they be? Surely this is the wrong era and continent to await a Balfour Declaration?  Mr. Sumanthiran must not make the standard error of ‘cosmopolitan’ Tamil nationalists, of taking the Sinhalese for fools.

Sherlock Holmes used to say that once the impossible has been ruled out, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the answer. If elements within the TNA are making it strategically imprudent to risk the transfer a provincial council and its powers to them, then the answer must surely lie in hoping for an evolutionary re-composition of Tamil politics, through which may emerge responsible, pragmatic partners in power-sharing at the periphery. The speedy implementation of the LLRC Report’s recommendations may create the conditions for such evolution.

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Latest comments

  • 0

    This is stupidity MR requesting TNA to participate in Parliament Select Committee and submit their proposals.

    Since Independence, we Tamils have seen so many conferences, pacts and promises on Tamils issues. In short Tamils will not get anything by negotiating with Sinhalese leaders. That was the reason VP took up arms get our rights.

    If MR is sincere in implementing the 13th amendment, which clearly spells out what should be done, he could simply do it with two third majority he holds in parliament.

    MR is not only fooling north Indians, who are usually fools, but the entire world.

  • 0

    Does Dayan genuinely believe that anything could be granted towards the minorities over Sinhalese masses?In any case what happened to the pacts made before?

  • 0

    TNA should try to achieve their goals step by step, which is the most successful way forward.
    But they prefer to adopt much easier way of demanding more without doing anything practical to help their people or to win the confidence and support of the majority race.
    Their behavior has made the majority quite suspicious of them and if given too much power North will become a hostile province which will harbor anti SL elements and adopt policies which will harm the ethnic harmony and peace out side the northern province.
    If they adopt a more constructive role then the people of the south will not worry much about federalism.
    But now TNA wants to boost themselves at the expense of Northern Tamilians. They want to please extreme elements of Diaspora and TN Tamil extremists.

  • 0

    More rubbish from the Con Artist and member of the Varatharajah Perumal Cabinet of the NEPC….He must be enjoying the “Slipper Soup of Rajapakse”??? Tamara is Ambassador of Sri Lanka in Geneva, where as all these fellows in EU are playing second and third fiddle. lol. Ha Ha ha…

  • 0

    “…Giving the finger at the Super Bowl this month seems however to be politically symptomatic, because Mr. MA Sumanthiran, a sophisticated lawyer-politician, has just done that to the 13th amendment and prospects of a moderate yet substantive degree of power sharing. …”

    In a very skillful manner Dayan has exposed Sumanthiram and his separatist aspirations very well. However my point is quite different which is Rajapaksha government too has done just that, flipping the bird in the direction of Sri Lankans in general.

    This regime has proved beyond any doubt that in modern times ethnic issues cannot be solved solely by waging wars against aggrieved parties-Tamils were militarily crushed but only to see they are reorganizing again to claim their old familiar sectarian demand which this Rajapaksha regime including Dayan fail to understand. Contrastingly Ranil understood this phenomenon and hence did not commit his government to wage a war as the LTTE demanded but resorted to every possible ways and means of bringing a political solution to the conflict so that this problem can be solved once and for all which is the only permanent way of solving such a problem. Dayan and Rajapakshas due to their limited and poor global outlook and immaturity in ways of good governance criticized, assaulted and used the CFA as a means to deceive the ignorant people in Sri Lanka to gain political mileage in the same way SWRDB used Sinhala chauvinism to gain political power at the expense of the whole nation having to suffer for the political crime SWRDB committed. Having done that and waging a war of annihilation they are back to where they deviated and departed, the negotiating table and begging TNA to come to table. People are sick and fed up of these negotiations now, we have had enough of it. The 13th amendment is law now; the “plus” is a Rajapaksha blunder which is known to no one except him, there are recommendations of LLRC. What the government has to do now is to find a way to implement these recommendations and laws without deviating and escaping from the issues.

    Dayan and these political creatures in the regime do not have shame or sense of responsibility. They raise hair splitting arguments, evasive delaying and misleading tactics and never take concrete real and practical measures and political decisions to solve this problem. In the mean time they will enjoy all the luxuries facilities privileges and perks at the expense of poor tax payer until the problem is so grave incurable and terminal that ultimately Tamils will be able to convince the whole world of the necessity of a separate state for them because perceptions and conventions of the world undergo evolution which is more evident nowhere else in the world than in Sri Lanka in the shortest time lapse where its people were made to get used to suffer and undergo normalization of extraordinary measures adopted by the regime such as gradual depletion and erosion of democracy, law and order, corruption, state impunity and extrajudicial killings, tampering with constitution, politicization of the whole state structure including the police military judiciary and arms of government with the culmination of the malpoliticocomedy where A/L examination results were bungled with all the patronage supervision and support of the head of the Dept. of examinations, a huge number of Ministers and Dy. Ministers for education matters including the latest political frog from UNP and topping off and adding icing by the president himself who has the nasty habit and inclination of “poking his finger” into everything in the country be it politics, stage drama literature or songs, cricket, Buddhism or the monks, gunny bags or plastics crates.

    We have witnessed Dayan doing the same thing during Premadasa era, now bootlicking in Rajapaksha era and maybe he hopes to do the same thing under Sajith. One thing is sure that apart from his ranting he would not contribute towards any practical solution to the problems in the country.

  • 0

    Dayan my friend, listen, if you are genuine, there are vast areas where you could write inviting for a public debate, comments and participation in view of better governance instead the bullshit that you talk just to be in the bloody picture while licking the ass of MR for your own bloody existence. Open your bloody mouth on what’s going on in Sri Lanka right now, talk about the lawlessness corruptions, kidnappings, white vans, disappearance and killings. Talk about the devil dance by the regime, perhaps you might lose the bloody job but you can be rest assured that you be remembered as one of those few like Fonseka who spoke the truth and stud by the truth. Give it a life MAN..!!

  • 0

    The LLRC Report will not be fully implemented – the government cannot afford to, and the military will not allow it.
    The country is under an ipso facto military government – there is an undeclared Martial Law.
    In the north, the military intrudes into every aspect of life & living by citizens.
    Polce will not allow a Witness Protection Program.
    The military and police can do anything and get away with it – see how the man who filed a case against the police was abducted only days ago, at Wellawatte..
    The judiciary is with the executive president whom the military guards well, as his well being is their survival.
    People like Dayan J say that the military presence everywhere is to counter a threat from outside, but will not say from where.
    The 13th amendment ‘died’ long ago, and the 17th amendment has been ‘swallowed’ by the 18th which has made the President the Supreme Ruler.
    This is similar to how Hitler captured power. Hitler abolished the judiciary, but MR keeps a ‘captive’ judiciary & attorney general to placate the UN and other countries.

    What TNA wants is to be given the powers they won by ballot to run the north by those elected, not by the military governer & his troops. This is & will be “self-determination” – internal.
    Dayan J pretends not to understand.

  • 0

    Every one has been repeatedly shouting the two words-“militarily defeated”-the tamil rebels who were fighting for the rights of the tamil speaking people who underwent torture,lost millions worth of properties etc in 1958,1977,1983. Have the Sinhalese forgotten that the tamil leaders were responsible to get the freedom from the British in 1948.So coming back to the war–a)if VP was not bribed to request the tamils not to vote for Ranil b)If Milinda morogada and his team and the MR and his team didnt bribe Karuna with millions(including minister post and sophisticated life ) c)If they didnt use the so called poisonous gas to kill d)If they have followed the international laws pertaing to war-never kill who surrender with white flags–I am sure an educated person will know as to what would happened. So its not Militarily defeated. Military was able to kill innocent civililans in thousand!!!This is the Truth.If you wish accept or Just leave it to God to decide.

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