24 February, 2020

Blog

Why Are We Not Joining The PSC?

By M A Sumanthiran

M. A. Sumanthiran MP

Today the most important question that is being asked of the TNA is “Why are you not joining the PSC?” This seems a very reasonable question since the Government has quite successfully carried on a campaign to convince everyone that the only reason why a political settlement cannot be reached is because the TNA is being obstinate and is refusing to join this very democratic process of the PSC that has been initiated by the Government. We owe it to the people of this country to explain the actual reason for the present stalemate in the talks between the TNA and the Government. For this a recollection of events from the beginning of the year 2010 is necessary:

It must be remembered that President Rajapaksa did not win in the North and the East, although he got a clear mandate from the rest of the seven provinces at the Presidential Election held in January 2010. In fact he did not win in Nuwara Eliya District and Colombo Municipal limits. Basically his mandate was only from the Sinhala majority of this country. A telling result, after he claimed to have freed the Tamil People from the clutches of terrorism!

The TNA made a public request in April 2010 that the Government must engage the TNA with regard to the evolution of a political settlement and the immediate concerns of the Tamil people in the aftermath of the war, and despite the President agreeing with the Leader of the TNA that two committees would be set up for these two matters in November 2010, only one committee was appointed in January 2011 consisting of representatives of the government and representatives of the TNA for ‘long-term reconciliation’. It was clearly stated in the letter of invitation to the representatives of the TNA that the other members were ‘representatives of the Government of Sri Lanka’.

Eighteen rounds of talks were held from January 10, 2011 throughout that year on the evolution of an acceptable political solution. Although no separate committee was set up with regard to matters of immediate concern of the Tamil people, at the invitation of the Government delegation, the TNA raised the following matters of immediate concern:

  • The removal of High Security Zones and disarming of para-military forces operating in the North and East
  • Resettlement and Rehabilitation of the Internally Displaced Persons
  • The issue of political prisoners and detainees.

The resettlement process continues to be snail-paced with several thousands still in the camps and many more tens of thousands in transit camps and with friends and relatives. Even those who have been permitted to return to their original places, are without proper shelter and are unable to re-commence their livelihood activities, resulting in there being no qualitative improvement in the lives of these people. Although some progress has been made in the Palaly High Security Zone area, several other areas in the North including Sampur in the East continue to be prohibited zones for the civilians.

Even in Palaly, now a long barbed-wire fence has been erected across the peninsula, physically preventing the resettlement of about twenty eight thousand people who have been displaced for over twenty six years. Para-military personnel continue to operate with impunity causing abductions, demanding ransom and even carrying out killings.

This is acknowledged by the Government in the recent Action Plan to implement the LLRC recommendations, and the Key Performance Indicator for this to be completed is six months! The Government delegation also gave an undertaking in writing at the 2nd round of the talks on the February 3, 2011 that the next of kin could check if their relatives are held in detention at a specified place in Vavuniya. At least three separate dates were fixed for a representative each from the Government and TNA to go to Vavuniya and check this out, those visits were always called off by the Government and never took place. To date this has not happened and real information pertaining to the detainees continues to be withheld and denied to the next of kin.

After the end of the war in May 2009, a programme is being implemented whereby cultural and religious places in the Tamil areas are misused, damaged and destroyed, increased militarization and military’s intervention in civilian life, lands being allocated to persons from outside the North and East ostensibly for development purposes resulting in demographic change in the North and the East, the transformation of the cultural identity of areas in the North and the East, all of which will have irreversible evil consequences to the future well-being of the Tamil people.

Representations made to the Government in regard to such matters have not resulted in remedial action indicating that they have not received due consideration by the Government. While the Tamil people have not been enabled through appropriate action by the Government to return to their homes within the Jaffna District, their absence is sought to be utilized to reduce the representation of the Jaffna District in Parliament resulting in the denial of franchise and the perversion of democracy.
In regard to a political solution the TNA placed before the Government delegation in writing at the very first meeting itself, the speech made by President Rajapaksa at the inaugural meeting of the APRC and the Committee of Experts in July 2006, which was referred to in my article last Sunday, as the position that would be acceptable to the TNA. On the invitation of the Government delegation a further outline was given at the second meeting.

Again at the invitation of the Government delegation, the TNA tabled a comprehensive set of proposals at the third meeting held on the March 18, 2011. This included proposals in regard to the structure of governance, the division of subjects and functions between the centre and the devolved units and fiscal and financial powers and other matters relevant to the achievement of an acceptable and durable political solution. The TNA invited the Government’s response to these proposals and despite the Government’s commitment to so respond, no response was forthcoming for several months.

Consequently no meaningful or purposeful discussion could be held on the discussion papers tendered by the TNA. This was clearly demonstrative of the lack of a genuine commitment on the part of the Government to the evolution of an acceptable political solution. While attempting to show the world that the Government was engaged in a political process as an integral part of reconciliation, what the Government was really engaged in was no more than a deceitful exercise. It was in these circumstances that the TNA questioned the continuance of such a deceitful process. The TNA therefore called upon the government to meaningfully define and state the Government’s response to three issues: 1. The structure of governance, 2. The division of subjects and functions between the centre and the devolved units and 3.  Fiscal and financial powers, within a period of two weeks, to carry forward any future dialogue. However, as usual, the Government went to town, accusing the TNA of behaving like the LTTE – laying down conditions and setting deadlines!

With the breakdown of the talks, the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) leader met the President at his invitation. Two agreements were made at that meeting. First, it was agreed to bring to the negotiating table, five previous proposals of the Government in lieu of a response by the Government. This agreement was recorded in the Minutes of the meeting held on September 16, 2011 as a statement of the Leader of the TNA: “This meeting was held consequent to a meeting I had with the President. He explained the difficulty in presenting a proposal of the government in that it may be leaked and then it will become difficult to make adjustments. I said that I appreciated this but that there are other earlier documents on the basis of which we could talk. Those are the Mangala Moonesinghe Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) proposals, the government’s proposal for constitutional reforms 1995, 1997 and August 2000, HE’s speech to APRC and the Committee of Experts inaugural meeting and Report A of the committee of experts. The President agreed to proceed on that basis and so there would be no necessity for the government to give their response to our paper.”

The second agreement was also recorded in the same Minutes to say that once consensus was reached at the bilateral talks, which can be taken to the PSC as either the Government proposal or the joint Government -TNA proposal, the TNA would join the PSC process. On the basis of these two agreements, the TNA made its comments on the draft Terms of Reference for the PSC and the Government incorporated all of those and placed it on the Order Paper of Parliament on  October 10, 2011. This was the first concession made by the TNA, after the Government went back on its promise to respond at the bilateral talks.

Subsequent to this adjustment, the bilateral talks recommenced and three meeting were held in the month of December 2011 at which devolution of land powers was discussed. Three further meetings were fixed for January 17, 18, and 19, 2012. But on all those three days although the TNA attended, the Government delegation failed to turn up! Instead the Government started to insist that the TNA must join the PSC, if the bilateral talks are to continue – contrary to the agreements reached and recorded in the Minutes. To break the deadlock, the TNA leader met with three members of the Government delegation on January 27, 2012 and made further concessions. By this, it was agreed that the TNA would nominate names to the PSC simultaneously with the recommencement of the bilateral talks and that the PSC would be convened only after a substantial agreement was reached at the bilateral talks. This was reduced to writing and given to the Government delegation on January 31, 2012 to obtain the concurrence of the President. But sadly, there was no come-back.

The third attempt was an initiative made by the Leader of the Opposition in May 2012. The Opposition Leader and other UNP leaders met with the President and several ministers and they were told that there had never been any TNA- Government talks and that they were TNA-SLFP talks! Apart from the original letter from the Presidential Secretariat, the joint statement issued after every round of talks clearly identified the delegation as a Government delegation. Once this was resolved, a particular agenda was agreed to according to which the Leader of the Opposition would nominate names to the PSC after further discussion with the TNA and the JVP. The text of that agenda was agreed upon after several drafts were exchanged. Once this was agreed, the Opposition Leader wrote a speech, gave copies of it to the Government and the TNA and made that statement in Parliament on May 23, 2012. It had been agreed that the Government would endorse the agenda suggested by the Opposition Leader. But sadly again, no such endorsement was made on the floor of the House!

This is the true state of affairs with regard to the Government-TNA talks and the PSC. There is documentary proof for all of the above. Despite this the Government continues with its misinformation campaign blaming the TNA for its inability to evolve a political solution. It even has the temerity to ask the TNA to forget all of this and start afresh by walking into the PSC empty handed. That is not a bona fide invitation. That is a ruse to cheat the TNA and the Tamil People yet again. Although the Government has repeatedly given assurances to India in particular and to the international community at large that it would evolve a political solution by implementing the 13th Amendment in full and going beyond that so as to make devolution meaningful, our suspicion is that the real agenda is to repeal even the 13th Amendment! This is now proved by the utterances of the Defence Secretary. The PSC is clearly the vehicle by which the Government intends to achieve this objective. That is why the TNA has insisted on reaching an understanding prior to entering the PSC process.

Some people glibly ask the question: Isn’t the PSC a perfectly democratic process? How can you refuse to participate in a process that will bring about a solution that is acceptable to the majority of the people of this country? These people forget that it is precisely the issue of majoritarianism that has plagued this country since independence. Simple majoritarian rule is what disempowered the numeric minorities of this country. Consider this: a section of the citizens who voted in the 1947 elections were deprived of their citizenship itself and their franchise soon after that by a democratic majority vote in the first Parliament! Subsequent to that ‘Sinhala Only’ and several other legislations were all passed using this same democratic process and the will of the majority.

The Tamil People were left out of the process of Constitution making in 1972 and 1978 because they were numerically a minority. It is this exclusion in the nation-building process that led to alienation and a violent conflict. But if there is to be reconciliation and a new beginning, this mistake of the past must not be repeated. The TNA cannot be coaxed into the PSC with the ulterior motive of making a ‘majority decision’ there! The problem of majoritarianism cannot be solved by means of a majoritarian approach.

That problem got confounded by the several unilateral Abrogation of Agreements (Banda-Chelva, Dudley-Chelva) and is repeated even now. If the Government is not willing to keep the several promises it made to the TNA in the last two years, what hope is there that it will act honourably in the PSC?

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Latest comments

  • 0
    0

    Dear Dr. Narendran,

    I think you got my perspective of “suffering” differently. Both your and my family have gone through hell – no less our people. I certainly don’t want them to visit that graveyard scenario again. But the reality is our continued peaceful struggle and resistance – both here and elsewhere – is moving the Buddhhist Sinhala supremacist to yield that what is our due – albeit grudgingly and at the instance of the world community. There is very little Sinhala charity here. Here, India leads the way. My point was this bigoted and racially-poisoned cabal is going to place further suffering and harm on us as we go along. Our politics, after all, is the fight for the sharing of resources. And that too in a country woefully short of the commodity.
    Do you honestly think they will allow the Tamil side this precious commodity at the expense of development of Sinhala electorates? They will do so on continous pressure from us and the international community.

    Remember the JCC Swimming Pool saga where we exchanged views? Namal’s gang simply made a big noise at the opening, made encouraging speeches and vanished. His blue brigade, thereafter,stole the steel/cement and sold it to traders in the area. It was one more effort of mass fraud.
    It took nearly 5 years for the pool to come up – something that could have been done in 4 months. And this too because of strong pressure from the Tamil side.

    As to who caused more harm to Tamils, we are all with you it is VP/Tigers. That has always been my position. It certainly was not the TNA – your favoured raison d’etre. Surely, in the years VP/Tigers were holding sway, they (those in the TNA now) could not have expected a fair debate from the unstable VP/Bala and the lot. As to your question, if the TNA will do better, please let us wait and see. Let us also not join that crowd of Sinhala lawyer-extremists in the South and call the TNA “LTTE proxies” – a hollow and senseless claim that is losing its potency even in Colombo academic circles.

    Things are much better in the NEP than in the Tiger-controlled period is something no one will contest. But much moe could have been done, at least with foreign funds that were received for this specific purpose.

    The role of the Sinhala army saving the Tamil people from the tiger grip too is widely acknowledged. I heard Sumanthiran tell this to a Sinhala audience in the Galle/Matara areas recently. TNA trying to win over the Sinhala South is a welcome and admirable move. This frank admission is gaining greater acceptance in the Sinhala-speaking electorate in the South to Tamil claims for devolution and their own PC.

    Today’s Tamil representation via the TNA is far weaker and less united than the strong and popular leadership in the 1976 period. But that is not a fair comparison considering the ground realities, times and challenges. It is for the Tamils not to make it worse. I respect your thoughts on the TNA. You may turn out right in many instances. Unless this is put to the test, let us give Sampanthan and his colleagues a chance to get the Tamils their inalienable rights, long denied. The road is long, ardous and full of challenges. But we will prevail – sooner than later.

    Senguttuvan

  • 0
    0

    Dear Senguttuvan,

    I have heard that the Jaffna Central College is finding it difficult to run this pool because most parents prefer to send thir children for tution instead to the pool. Unless some imaginative options are explored this pool is likely to close down. The story of this swimming pool reminds me of Mary Antoinete the queen of France who advised citizens demanding bread to eat cake! A misplaced sense of priorities and utter insensitivity to the problems of the war- affected and their dire needs The TNA to a greater extent and the government to a somewhat lessor extent are suffering from this malady.

    Dr.R.N

  • 0
    0

    Tku, Naren. The JCC Pool fate you mention reminds me of the original devolution instruments JRJ Govt “allowed” the Tamils with – without sufficient financial resources. They were calculated to collapse.
    I expect the people of Jaffna to get together and make use of a useful facility that was simply not there – in the interest of health, sports and recreation. If I know the Tamil mind well, used to bread as they are, they are not going to slip by an opportunity if cake comes their way.

    Senguttuvan

  • 0
    0

    There has been ongoing talks going on between the TNA and the government for a long time.What was the results so far?Nothing in fact.The tamils don’t know what was discussed even in the talks. Sampanthan never told the tamils after each round of talks what happened and what was the result.Everything was done in a cloak of secrecy which suits the devious nature of this so called tamil leader who is no leader at all but just a follower who runs all over the place showing he is very energetic.What is the results he has produced so far after the end of the war 3 years ago.Nothing in fact except as I mentioned a lot running around meeting everybody under the sun.It is time the tamils asked him to go and Mavai Senathirajah took over the leadership.

    Suddenly mahinda changed the goal posts while the game is on and trapped sampanthan with the PSC proposal.It shows that sampanthan just isn’t in the class of the wily Mahinda. What does sampanthan do?Just refuses to go for the PSC thereby allowing mahinda off the hook. Sampanthan should have made public what was agreed to at the talks and what was not agreed to,because now mahinda claims that what was agreed to at the talks was the SLFP position,not the government’s and other parties in the government will have to ratify what the SLFP has agreed on.So why don’t we know what the SLFP agreed on during this long round of talks that went on for nearly 2 years.Or was there nothing agreed on?If so what was sampanthan doing for such a long time showing the world that some sort of political solution is being arrived at.Is sampanthan also playing a double game set out to him by the tamil diaspora to just play for time while they work on the Eealm project internationally?If so mahinda by his hardline attitude has not only changed the goal posts but kicked a own goal because instead of exposing Sampanthan by offering something reasonable which he would have refused,mahinda has projectd the image to the world that he is reluctant to give a political solution to the tamils and the tamil diaspora will seize this opportunity to say that a kosovo,east timor,south sudan or even a nothern cyprus type of solution is the only one that is feasible for the tamils to live in dignity and self respect in the future.

    Once we know what the SLFP agreed on and did not agree on,the tamils can say what is the use of going to the PSC because the SLFP has not agreed on for example devolving land and police powers.IF the SLFP has not agreed on this do you think the other small even more chauvinistic parties in the government will agree?That is the way to put the ball back to Mahinda and expose this time wasting charade to the rest of the world.Or maybe Sampanthan really wants this time wasting exercise to go on because the Eelamists are working feverishly and just like mahinda they also want to buy some time.Will they or mahinda cross the finish line first?

  • 0
    0

    From the budget speech:

    “He said that a change in the prevailing Provincial Council system was necessary to make devolution more meaningful to the people. “Devolution should not be a political reform that will lead us to separation but instead it should be one that unifies all of us. It should not involve high spending and complex governance structures that will impose further burden on people. Everybody who met me from all corners of Sri Lanka, whether they were Tamils, Muslims or Sinhalese, asked for greater access to education, health, employment opportunities, better living, and equal standards across the nation. The elimination of provincial disparities using national standards is the main weapon through which national reconciliation can be promoted. This Government remains committed to ensure that these aspirations of our people will be fulfilled,” President said.”

    It is clear the government seeks to change some aspects of the PC system as existent today. What are these changes? Would the changes make the OC system more effective and better designed to serve the people. Would the changes remove the lack of clarity and ambiguity in the PC system as it stands today?

    The President has outlinee his vision for Sri lanka in terms of the ‘National Question’ in fairly clear terms. How will these be given form and substance?

    I think it is important for the TNA to take part in the PSC process proposed by the government to understand what the President means and the details. It is also important for the TNA to enunciate why the proposals are unacceptable to it. The Tamils and other minorities in Sri Lanka have a right to know what is on offer and be the ‘Judge’.

    If nothing else it is an opportunity for the TNA to bell the cat!

    Dr.Rajasingham Narendran

  • 0
    0

    Knee-jerk reactions is hardly the way to run a bankrupt Govt. One day, one place and to one party it is “I will give the Tamils justice via the 13th Amendment (and even +)” and the next day when the Mahanayakas find some strength to threaten him, MR gets his attack dogs to shout against the 13th. The UN/IC are pressing for PC Elections in the NP and the regime knows they will lose, possibly badly, in the event of elections. They assume such a loss will have a serious impact in their make-believe view of popularity within and acceptance without. So they revert back to their old game of procrastination. Matters have gone somewhat badly in Geneva and next year in the Review it can well be worst. The regime is desperate and to make matters TNA is not biting the PSC bait. Can South Africa come out with a magic formulae? Will India like someone totally new trying to succeed in their own ball-park?

    The only way out is to talk to the Tamils on a gloves-off serious discussion spelling out what is on offer. This the Sinhala hawks and
    extremists will not allow. It used to be 2 Mahanayakas until recently and now it is 4. It is back to square one to the Bros Inc.

    Senguttuvan

Leave A Comment

Comments should not exceed 300 words. Embedding external links and writing in capital letters are discouraged. Commenting is automatically shut off on articles after 10 days and approval may take up to 24 hours. Please read our Comments Policy for further details. Your email address will not be published.