Colombo Telegraph

When Will Sri Lanka Become A Country Of Unity ?

By Ayathuray Rajasingam

Ayathuray Rajasingam

Sri Lanka, being a multi-racial country, has different aspects of culture and way of living. The Centre with the majority race cannot understand the aspirations of the other minority races. What is required is a co-ordination between the Centre and the Units. The Centre should realize that the minorities are also a segment of the country’s population and as such they are also close partners in the collective decision making. The Centre in the USA, Canada, India, Malaysia, Switzerland, etc, has only enumerated powers where independence of judiciary played a contributory role whenever controversial issues arise between the Centre and the Units. The purpose of having the separation of powers between the Centre and the Units has become necessary for the preservation of liberty and prevention of tyranny by the Centre. This does not in any way lead to division of a country and such arguments are absolutely false, baseless and without any foundation. On the contrary, it can be said that such a structure amounts to expansion of democracy where every subject will have equal rights and right to participation.

Maithiripala Sirisena became president by assuring Good Governance with a minimum number of Ministers in the Cabinet for which confident-building measure is necessary through co-ordination. Good governance does not mean that co-ordination by the Central Government to the Provincial government should be denied. The President with other politicians and religious dignitaries should be fully aware that co-ordination, confidence-building measure and good governance are inter-woven with each other. Co-ordination becomes a futile exercise when the number of Ministers are increased without a limit, as it will be a setback for efficient re-distribution. If Maithiripala Sirisena fails to demonstrate that Sri Lanka is a Country of Unity, then the Chief Minister C.V. Wigneswaran in consultation with other Chief Ministers should remind them the role played by Bismark of Germany or Cavun Cavoor of Italy in unifying Germany and Italy respectively. It is only a federal structure with co-ordination between the Central Government and the Provincial Government for Sri Lanka to become a Country of Unity.

Such a structure demands two levels of government which should be dependent on one another, through the system of Checks and Balances. This system of Checks and Balances has the force of denying encroachment by both the Centre and the Units or even when the Centre terrorizes its citizens through military means. The judiciary should be independent to decide when such cases controversial issues between the Centre and the Units arise. This is one method of prevention of abuse of human rights and paves the path towards the Country of Unity. Therefore, there is nothing wrong in advocating the Right to Self-determination for the Units.

The principles of Self-determination and territorial integrity are interwoven subjects under international law. However, the claim for self-determination has eventually ended in armed conflict in many countries including Sri Lanka, and are subject to scrutiny under international law. The right of Self-determination of peoples is established under international law while the principle of territorial integrity is concerned with the maintenance of international security and stability in the world. The overall objective of international law to maintain peace and security becomes a futile exercise without the recognition of equal and inalienable rights of all people for which co-ordination is essential.

The vital aspect of a Federal system is that Federalism demands the different types of institution to deal the different types of political issues. Since these different types of institution reflect this, the idea that government should be based on a central institution becomes meaningless. Provincial government should have police powers because terrorism has become a challenge to all democratic countries. It is easier for the Provincial Police to crush terrorism and human trafficking. (Vide Police Powers to Provincial Governments).

Every Unit or Provinces has its own natural resources and its people have their own taste of living. Provincial governments have the local knowledge that allows them to tax and spend efficiently. These Units or Provinces always have a keener sense of market value and thus can devise a formula to calculate tax rates than the Central Government. Decentralization can also allow for revenue specialization based on different characteristics of the Provinces. Development projects are efficiently handled by Provincial Governments because the Provincial government is aware of the needs of the people of its Province, while it is better for the Central government to co-ordinate re-distribution efficiently and not to place constraints on a particular Province. Mention should be made of fiscal federalism, which deals with the division of governmental function and the financial relationship between different levels of government. There is nothing wrong for the provinces to levy taxes from its people and the Central government should co-ordinate. If such a method is adopted then there will be inter-Provincial competition which will be for the benefit of their citizens. Such a competition will eliminate waste and encourage economic growth, because competition among the Provinces compels the Provinces to become more efficient in their allocative fields or activities, thus providing better service at lower costs.

Decentralization denotes the transfer of responsibility for the planning, financing and management of public functions from the Central government to the Provincial Government. The contributory role of co-ordination will be instrumental for Provincial governments to be effective when they have access to the necessary human and financial resources to undertake the services they have been conferred. As such, there has to be an unwavering support for the co-ordination to the Provinces, which should be the cornerstone of good governance. Co-ordination by the Central government plays a contributory role for the recognition of the inalienable right to self-determination which symbolizes the guarantee for the protection of fundamental freedoms. The Right to Self-determination focus on the principle of co-ordination. This was the expectation of the international community after the Indo-Sri Lanka Peace Accord was signed. Since the politicians in the Central government failed to co-ordinate with the Provinces, they are responsible for Sri Lanka to become a failed State.

When the issue of co-ordination arises in a war torn area, the Central Government has a moral obligation towards the Northern Province to win the trust and confidence of the Tamils, for instance, to adapt a confidence-building measure sincerely by way of proposing a project for the operation of an international airport (though this subject comes under national policy of the Central Government) for which co-ordination between the Central Government and the Provincial Government will make Sri Lanka as a Country of Unity. Such a project for the operation of an international airport can draw more passengers, given the fact that more than a million of Tamils live in the West and also will also give birth to more industries, thus improving the standard of living. This is also part of a confidence-building measure which promotes good governance. The Tamil politicians should not raise the issue that their land is being acquired or raise cries of loss of land by Tamils. On the contrary, they should realize the creation of several thousands of employment in various fields. The Tamil politicians and the Central Government will have to look at countries such as Switzerland, Singapore, the Netherlands which are smaller in size than Sri Lanka, can afford to have runways of about 12,000 feet in length, why is it not possible to have runways of such length in Jaffna? One ponders when Malaysia, which gained independence 19 years after Sri Lanka gained, can afford to have six international airports, why Sri Lanka cannot afford to have one international airport in the North. Further, when these small countries can have more planes (Malaysia – 62, KLM – 189, Singapore – 62, Switzerland – 68 – these are rough figures), it is a pity that Sri Lanka has 21 planes in service. Such co-ordination between the Central Government and the Provincial Government signals the unity of a country. In the circumstances, it will be better for the Central government to propose for the operation of an international airport. Such an international airport in Jaffna will not only discourage human trafficking, but also will make facilities for India and other Western democratic countries to monitor the spread of terrorism with the assistance of Provincial Police and clip its wings to neutralize it, when terrorism has been a threat in the 21st century. If this is done with a broader sense, Jaffna International Airport is certain to become the Gateway to South Asia, considering the markets in India and its neighboring countries. This will eventually make Sri Lanka a Country of Unity like Malaysia, Singapore, Switzerland, etc.

Such a proposal for the operation of an international airport is an action that reflects the goodwill of the Central Government. The purpose of such proposal has the force of reducing misunderstanding, fear and conflict between the Central Government and the Provincial Government, by emphasizing on trust. The increase number of Ministers in the Cabinet leads to corruption, and trust becomes a questionable mark because it poses a threat to good governance. Such corruption is one of the factors that contribute to the decline of levels of trust in the government and nullifies that Sri Lanka is a country of Unity. If the central Government is unwilling to co-ordinate with the Provincial government, then it is considered as a failed State as it will lead to dictatorial State.

Countries such as Canada, India, Switzerland, Malaysia, USA, Britain and other Western democratic countries agree that a Federal structure symbolizes expansion of democracy signaling the protection of pluralism and the rights individual against an over powerful government. Thus those countries have become Countries of Unity. Here is a situation that the frustration of the ethnic Tamils began with the passing of the Sinhala Only Bill in Sri Lanka. Since then there were civil riots and eventually led to the birth of terrorism. In addition, Sri Lanka saw three constitutions within a short period which signaled an unhealthy situation in the country. The majority Sinhalese also failed to realize that minorities are apt to see themselves as oppressed minorities by injustices and see violent acts, perhaps, as their only course. Indeed one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter. They have also to realize that minority community in conflict with majority community have willingly suffered martydom for their ideals, their practices and their faiths and that world history has seen a long record of chain of mistakes, strives and bloodshed. Terrorism leads to destruction of a generation of youth as well as laying a foundation for the deterioration of the country’s economy. The ball is in Sri Lanka’s court to co-ordinate with the Provincial governments in their mission towards an economic development for the benefit of the citizens of the country. Now it is a million dollar question when Sri Lanka is going to become a Country of Unity.

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