Would Tamils be forced to play the ‘waiting game’: Examining some legitimate questions and concerns that Tamils have about their future in the uncertain world of Sri Lankan politics that they are inexorably tied to.
I would like to offer my congratulations to President Maithripala Sirisena, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and External Affairs Minister Mangala Samaraweera and Co and wish them the very best towards restoring this island paradise, with a rich heritage, now known as Sri Lanka, to its original glory, where all its inhabitants, living there since pre-historic times and having their distinct traditional homelands in the island, are treated with equality, their distinct socio, political, cultural, ethnic and religious identities and rights preserved and furthered; where real change occurs for Tamils too; meaning the Tamil nation is recognised as such and can govern itself, be it in a united and undivided country – or otherwise.
I say “..be it in a united and undivided country or otherwise” – “otherwise“ because I believe a referendum is a fair, just and democratic way to decide our future destiny whether we live as one country or two.
I can`t help but part take in the people`s euphoria
However I can’t help but be happy and part take in the people’s euphoria that a new chapter, even a new era is beginning in Sri Lanka with the hope of real change. That makes me happy for the people, for every community holding on to a glimmer of hope albeit based on its distinct needs.
I only ask and hope that with Maithri, Ranil and Mangala, real change should occur for all – and for the Tamils too!
Here I proceed to examine some legitimate questions and concerns:
Did the Tamils win the presidential elections for Maithri only to lose it for themselves? Can Maithri Ranil and Mangala really deliver,“to those with the biggest stake in change”
It is an indisputable fact that the Maithri, Ranil and Mangala ticket – the Rainbow Coalition received the total and unconditional support of the Tamils with presumably nothing in return, helping them to win with an “overwhelming number” of Tamil and Tamil speaking Muslim votes that made the difference between victory and defeat – its abundantly clear with the release of the final results and several info-grams – that 70-80% of the Tamil vote went to Sirisena.. “the scales had been tipped in a very closely fought election,” the NDTV reported.
So will Tamils have a big stake in the change? Can Maithri, Ranil and Mangala really deliver change to Tamils? Now these may be dumb questions, because in Maithrpala Sirisena`s own words, we know. he made,”no deal with the TNA in secret or in the open”.
There is no doubt that from the start Maithripala Sirisena and Ranil Wickremesinghe had it so good. Happily for them neither did they promise nor had they to deliver anything to the Tamils.
We know that as the Presidential elections started to reach fever pitch Maithri spelt out his unflinching position to the people that mattered to him – on the subject that he thought mattered to them; which his opponent would surely exploit to the max if not explained.
We know Maithri was all out to assure the Sinhala people he wasn’t going to withdraw the army from the North. It shouldn’t be forgotten he was the Secretary of Defence at one point during the war. Responding to allegations that he was going to withdraw the military from the Tamil heartland and that he was going to divide the country, Maithri went on the offensive and clarified his position to the Sinhala masses so that there wouldn’t be any ambiguity.
“…In response to the false allegations levelled at us that after we come into power we will divide the country, leave room for a war to arise, for the LTTE to re-emerge and remove the military presence in the North – as your presidential candidate and as our coalition I would like to clearly state that we have not at any instance made any agreement with the TNA or the Muslim Congress in secret or in the open with the intention of dividing this country or dividing power among these factions.”
It’s plain to see, is it not, that Maithri’s comment that, “we have not at any instance made an agreement to: “.. dividing power among the factions,” if simply analysed eliminates the possibility of any kind of decent power sharing arrangements envisaged by the Tamils?
We also know that this clarification was also directed at the followers of the JHU who joined the coalition on condition that the new government not accommodate any demands for a federal solution.
Now consider the 63 page manifesto of Maithri’s – it lists eradicating terrorism as one of his many achievements whilst in office as secretary of the SLFP, the only achievement he cares to name, describing terrorism, “as the most serious socio political challenge Sri Lanka faced during three decades in recent history.”
You must know the biggest and most unconscionable omission in the Maithri manifesto is the lack of any genuine conciliatory offers or measures to the Tamil community – the way it was “silent” about Tamil concerns – were rather revealing.
One thing I am not sure, but someone must know that there were several inquiries whether the manifesto was published in Tamil in addition to English and Sinhalese, up to now I don’t know the answer to that. If there was no translation I would conclude that there was no attempt made to inform the Tamil people, because there was nothing in it for them.
There was no mighty hurry to pacify the Tamil people or address their particular grievances, although when mentioning relief for lands being taken over, Maithri did see it fit to only address the grievances of and announce relief and compensation measures to the “citizens” of Colombo who lost out as a result of their properties being expropriated for beautification purposes.
Maithri didn’t see the national question or reconciliation as one of the crises facing the country only mentioning crises facing, ” the total breakdown of the rule of law, fraud, corruption, wastage, inability to identify national priorities, environmental degradation and moral and spiritual degradation as obstacles to the country’s march forward.”
Titled “A Compassionate (Maithri) Governance, A Stable Country – there was no mention of a political settlement for Tamils, no concessions offered, not even a mention of Tamil concerns or the national question in general. Though it mentioned constitutional reform – it didn’t include promises to examine the unitary character of the constitution which is the bone of contention for Tamils that perpetuates a majoritarian stranglehold on Tamils and dominates over them – or give due consideration to adopting a federal structure that would give Tamils a power sharing arrangement. The constitutional reform mentioned was to scrap the executive presidency and revert to a parliamentary system for which they needed a regime change.
Maithri made sure he made it loud and clear to the Sinhala people that he wasn’t going to permit the UN investigators into Sri Lanka or, cooperate with the UN mandated international probe and vowed that he, “will not allow President Rajapaksa, his family or any member of our armed forces to be taken before any international war crimes tribunal,” with the Arab News portal stating the obvious that any move to cooperate with the investigation would be unpopular with the Sinhalese people: “Resisting international pressure to cooperate with the UN-mandated probe is seen as popular among the Sinhalese community from which both Rajapaksa and Sirisena hail, ” the news portal said.
So is the present Maithri government, “the same government with a different face?” The world icon M.I.A shares her insights and analysis with Channel 4 News in her own inimitable style, coming out as the best ambassador in the hour of need to explain to the world, Tamil concerns.
Will Tamils and Tamil politicians as usual be forced to play the ‘Waiting Game’ this time to get past the Parliamentary Elections. Or settle for the 13th amendment qualified in the proposed amendments to the 19th amendment that may be introduced before the 100 days are up?
Was regime change a set up planned in Singapore in 2013 and were some Tamils in on it and Is it true that they have been short changed? 
It’s my feeling Sinhala politicians have a fear complex that stifles their inner urge to be decent and statesman-like. They are in fact forced to play the race card for fear of losing elections. And Tamils have been the victims of such unconscionable behavior. And sadly for us we saw it in this election too. Frankly does this attitude not go against all Buddha’s teachings and shouldn’t this not come to an end.
The American Heritage Dictionary defines the ‘waiting game’ as the, “stratagem of deferring action and allowing the passage of time to work in one’s favour” or the postponement of action or decision in order to gain advantage.”
It’s my conclusion that Tamil politicians have been, at peace times, almost always been invariably forced into playing a ‘waiting game’; postponing their agenda in the hope and anticipation the right moment would come by – favourable to the new colonial masters, in the not so distant future, to pop the question to the powers that be, waiting for a more receptive Sinhala leader – one at that they can place their faith in – evident by what Meera Srinivasan for the Hindu wrote: that when asked whether, “the TNA was hopeful of realising its long-pending demand for substantive devolution of political powers to the Tamils in Mr. Sirisena’s leadership — given that his manifesto is silent on the subject, Mr. Sampanthan said “we would rather repose faith in Mr. Sirisena.”
“Repose faith in Mr. Sirisena“, Sampanthan summed up the fate of Tamils.
Repose faith – in the hope that the other side is listening, that what the TNA are, “looking for is a permanent solution.” :
“We are looking for a peaceful, honourable and a permanent solution within the framework of a united and an undivided Sri Lanka.” were Sampanthan`s words
And understandably it seems and more so at this juncture they have to play the waiting game – For Tamils it’s a routine exercise having to endure one betrayal after another, having come to the end of their tether with the Rajapaksa regime, it’s only natural for the TNA to feel they can do with anyone but the old guard, “accusing the “regime of being particularly harmful to the well-being of the Tamil-speaking people of Sri Lanka.”
Sampanthan’s enthusiasm and faith in this Maithri, Ranil, Mangala Regime is real, he has called on the Tamils to be, “patient on demilitarisation,” the Tamil Guardian reported; showing an optimism that makes Tamils play the “waiting game“ hoping against hope that the situation will change for them.
Despite the fact that, “Prior to the election, over a hundred war affected women and a number of women`s groups in the NorthEast called on the future president `to take, immediate steps to demilitarise the country, particularly the North and East and return all lands occupied by the security forces, police and others to their rightful owners and to provide compensation.”
The thought that 16 out of 19 divisions of the military still occupy the Northeast is mind boggling – Tamils need to see some action on the ground.
Is the Tamil expectation for power in the areas of competence, resulting in adequate measure of self rule , “hope or illusion?“
On Truth vs Hype – Sri Lanka – Hope or Illusion, NDTV reporter Sreenivasan Jain stated the obvious when he said, “one of the reasons credited for Sirisena`s victory was the fact that the coalition of Tamils parties known as the TNA came out and endorsed him at the very last minute leading to an overwhelming vote for him in the Tamil areas of the North and East.“ It became clear that Samapanthan was talking in riddles and with a lot of hesitation, struggling for the right words to use as he answered Sreenivasan`s question whether he is convinced that (this vote) is going to finally result in him (Sirisena) going to meet the demands of the Tamil population in Sri Lanka – which is concrete greater autonomy ?
“We have discussed it with the president after his elections – other political leaders – the Indians are aware of the Tamil position – I am not saying he would do everything possible – i am confident that he would come up with an excellent scheme of devolution ( pressed what that was in real terms by Sreenivasan) we would want something more credible – division of power between the center and provinces that would give us an adequate measure of self-rule in matters of economic concern, social concern, cultural concern (Jain asking if it included police powers, land powers) yes yes of course yes.“
Is Sampanthan`s overreach beyond what the Maithri Ranil Mangala team have in mind? Have the Tamil people`s aspirations and TNA`s vanguard proposal for Federalism for which the Tamil people have duly given them a mandate been quashed by Ranil`s 13th amendment mantra?
Ranil is a good man in many ways – he spearheaded the cease-fire and peace process, that started with the promise of Federalism (internal self-determination) but never went far – yet some say he worked behind the scenes with the Americans and had meetings in the US on aid allocation where the LTTE wasn`t able to attend; that he orchestrated the split between renegade Karuna and the LTTE that later did the dirty work as paramilitaries for the government against LTTE during the so called cease–fire. Although the LTTE established a defacto state some say dejure state, the cease-fire itself weakened LTTE`s military prowess immensely). It did not bring the peace dividend for Tamils that was promised – not only did Chandrika torpedo the peace process in a power struggle that resulted in Ranil being sacked as prime minister (with plans a foot for Chandrika to appoint Kadirgamar for the position of PM that did not materialise because of Rajapaksa`s vehement opposition) a move that propelled Rajapaksa into prime minister and then president – which led to him unilaterally abrogating the cease-fire agreement and engaging in war.
Some say because of the Tamil boycott of the 2005 presidential elections we ended up with Mahinda Rajapaksa and his brothers who turned out to be worse – worse than was ever imagined or envisaged – who now stand accused by the Tamils of genocide of the Tamil people.
Ranil`s courteous response to some pertinent questions I asked him through his #AskRW twitter hashtag shows he saw the 13th amendment with land powers (the police powers he wasn`t sure about) as the political solution to the Tamil national question:
Usha Sriskandarajah @UshaSris Dec 1
@RW_UNP Does your 13th amendment include land, police and fiscal powers? #AskRW
@UshaSris The existing 13th amendment will apply but with a depoliticised police.
When asked about the possibility of a referendum he replied no one asked for it in this country:
Usha Sriskandarajah @UshaSris Dec 1
Would you @RW_UNP Follow UK’s Example & Hold That Referendum On Independence In The NorthEast #AskRW https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/follow-uks-example- …
@UshaSris No one has requested it in this country.
When i pressed him for an answer he did not reply.
Usha Sriskandarajah @UshaSris Dec 10
@RW_UNP No one has asked b’coz Tamil aspirations cant be fully expressed under 6th A. Would you abolish this law that’s undemocratic? #AskRW
As a result of this Twitter exchange I had with Ranil, (hats off to Ranil for courageously opening his communication line to any one on twitter for questions, the TGTE Media issued a press release which I give below:
No one made the call for a Referendum in Sri Lanka: Ranil’s Tweeted response:
The Sri Lankan Opposition Party Leader, Mr. Ranil Wickremesinghe, has said that no one in Sri Lanka had called for a referendum to determine the political resolution pertaining to the Tamil people. Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe said this in response to a question posted via Twitter by Mrs. Usha Sriskandarajah, a member of the TGTE Senate, asking whether UNP would follow the UK example and hold a referendum on independence in the NorthEast of the island of Sri Lanka similar to the one held in Scotland. When Usha Sriskandarajah followed with a comment saying that no one had asked for it because Tamil aspirations could not be fully expressed under the 6th Amendment to the Sri Lankan Constitution which criminalized even peaceful advocacy of independence, and asked Ranil Wickremesinghe if he would abolish the undemocratic 6th Amendment, he failed to respond.
I still think Ranil is a very reasonable man and can be trusted to bring about change for the Tamil people if he gets the support of the Sinhala people , but what would that change entail beyond the 13th amendment is hard to say – the only thing he said in that direction is the correction he made to NDTV`s Sreenivasan`s reporting – that he did not say he supported full autonomy for the Tamils.
Should we Tamils and will the Sinhala masses give emerging statesmen like Mangala who offer a ray of hope, a chance to demonstrate the “political will” that’s hitherto been lacking or rarely seen in Sinhala politicians to achieve genuine peace and reconciliation?
What a breath of fresh air this Mangala is – his plan, “to achieve national reconciliation in the civil war-ravaged island-nation,” must resonate well with Tamils who were crying out for some comforting words from the new government:
Showing the courage of his convictions, Mangala in direct opposite to Maithri promised, “to demilitarise the Northern Province, order a domestic probe into the excesses reportedly committed during the last phase of the so-called Eelam War IV in 2009… dismissed apprehensions that such a probe may upset the majority community in the island, proposing to take suitable steps to provide relief and justice to victims of the civil war that tore the country apart for nearly three decades.. initiate a dialogue with the one-million-strong Sri Lankan diaspora scattered across the globe to seek its help to rebuild the North….expressed the hope that the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) will respond positively to President Sirisena’s invitation to join the government and actively participate in executing its plans to transform the country into an inclusive liberal democracy…
Introducing the most hopeful proposals so far, Mangala may be the man to break the vicious cycle of subterfuge, procrastination and deception that Tamils have been facing with previous governments.
I couldn’t help but read parts of Venkat Narayan’s report and feel a tear coming in the corner of my eye:
“When he made an appeal to Sri Lankan Tamil refugees who fled the island during riots and civil war and living in India and other parts of the world to return home, a journalist said former LTTE cadres and banned Tamil terrorist groups may come back and make trouble again, the minister said nothing of the kind will happen.He explained: “They all are our people. They left their homeland for certain reasons. We are now trying to set things right by running an inclusive government. For decades, we have been trying to achieve national reconciliation without success. People of all communities have voted our government to power. There is a consensus that we all must live together in peace and harmony.”He said it was primarily to dissuade the Sinhalese from voting for the opposition that the previous regime tried to instil in their minds the fear that the LTTE will be reborn if drastic steps are not taken to put the Tamils down. I have met some of the people in London whose groups were banned by the earlier government. I do not believe that they are terrorists.”
He said there are already lots of proposals made to achieve national reconciliation, such as the Thimpu Proposals, the Mangala Moonesinghe Proposals, the CBK (Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga) Proposals, to name but a few. Who would go for a new Parliamentary Select Committee? There’s no need to reinvent the wheel. All these years we failed to achieve national reconciliation because there was no political will. Now there is a political will. We are optimistic about pulling it off this time,” the minister asserted.”
Do we suffer fools gladly – like Dayan Jayatilleka and Radhika Coomaraswamy?
The worry is people like Dayan could act as spoilers for the forthcoming Parliamentary elections – the only saving grace being his recent campaign for his old boss did not sit well with the voters who made Maithri the victor.
Now Radhika is another case. She continues her harangue without let, talking down to the Tamil Diaspora as irresponsible and self-absorbed as she engages in serious innuendo. If you read her latest article on “Why the elections last week made me triumphantly proud of my country“ she aligns the TNA with the fundamentalist Sinhala Buddhist supremacists JHU – JHU joined the Sirisena coalition on condition that a federal model or any power-sharing arrangement will not be on the table for the Tamils. She calls us Tamils “minorities” – She being a Tamil shouldn’t be referring to us as minorities -that’s a no no for me. And there is no denying that it was the Tamil speaking vote i.e. Tamil and Muslim vote that secured the victory for Sirisena. She goes on to use the words “terrorist” that’s a no no for me too and fund raising and mobilisation. (what a contrast to Mangala) How is it only she can be “triumphantly proud of her country“ and wants the best for it – is it because as long as everything is ok in her world she is happy – Can’t the Diaspora want the same for the people of the NorthEast? Is that not reasonable to ask? I give here parts of her article :
“Particularly interesting has been the slow transformation of the rhetoric of both the TNA and JHU…..There is no leader, the people of Jaffna have no stomach for violence and even the irresponsible and self-absorbed diaspora are strangely talking about Mahatma Gandhi….It is the split in the Sinhala vote more than the minority vote that delivered this election to M. Sirisena… we must ask- “how can the terrorists and violent rebellion ever come back? .. The western countries and India, especially after this election, will not tolerate fund raising or clandestine mobilisation.“
On the other hand the `genocidal` Dayan who rejects the idea of Tamil Nationhood and has no qualms about taking pride in covering up war crimes for Rajapaksa at the UNHRC is typically assuming the role of spoiler wasting no time to put a spanner in the works on Mangala`s proposal for national reconciliation:
“The Foreign Minister is bullish and he is on the record. ‘”All these years we failed to achieve national reconciliation because there was no political will. Now there is a political will. We are optimistic about pulling it off this time,” the minister asserted.’ (Ibid)
What is the Foreign Minister upbeat about pulling off? ‘National reconciliation’ it would seem. Why has no one pulled it off as yet? Going by Minister Samaraweera’s version it was because “there was no political will”. I am deeply appreciative of this perspective because I had mistakenly thought for thirty years it was because of the war and the obduracy of the Tigers, and in the decades before and the half-decade after the war, it was the lack of broad bipartisan consensus. Now I know different. It was the lack, not of consensus or of a reliable peace partner, but precisely of political will. Well, you live and learn.“
Mr, Dayan Jayatilleke is flawed in his argument – `lack of bipartisan consensus` means lack of political will – in my book? Let me remind his short memory that there has been no southern consensus at all ever since independence.
Dayan I say to you:
“Do not pass the buck. It was your kinsmen who were unreliable peace partners. You should blame it on your hawkish boss who came to the table with little integrity and not on the Tigers, It was Rajapaksa who claimed the peace process and the cease-fire agreement were both unconstitutional and later abrogated the ceasefire.“
Do we ignore this man who takes pleasure in wallowing in triumphalism – who is now left to swallow the bitter pill of his candidate Rajapaksa’s loss – Do we let him stew in his own ( genocidal) juice for he has missed the bus and his time has long gone?
Would Sinhala Buddhist Sri Lanka come out of its insecurities and show it’s a mature democracy and truly give Maithri Ranil and Mangala their support so that real changes could occur for Tamils too, leading to prosperity for all? Alternatively would the Tamil National Question be a non issue like how it was in the presidential elections and would the charade be played out again at the parliamentary elections?
This is the question for Sinhala politicians and the Sinhala people to answer – The end result if they don`t give their support would only help make Rajapaksa and his family make a comeback through the back door and all would be lost.
Let’s face it, Tamils have been exploited, betrayed and used time and time again. As Thomas Raj Johnpulle rightly surmised, “will Tamils be taken for a disposable napkin again?
I think as he said the TNA must run in Colombo too and in all the Tamil strongholds to increase their seats in parliament!
“Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.” -Martin Luther King
It’s time to reflect on Martin Luther King’s words. 
It’s time to show courage and conviction and negotiate the best deal for Tamils, This is not merely a patriotic duty but the bounden duty of our Tamil leaders.
And what better time to do it than now.
Let them not succumb to fear and suffer mediocrity.
Let’s resonate with Shakespeare, appreciating that time and tide wait for no man. Let’s act in spite of our fears. “If you fight your fears and seize the opportunity it would lead you to victory and to fortune``:
There is a tide in the affairs of men, Which taken at the flood, leads on to fortune. Omitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and in miseries. On such a full sea are we now afloat. And we must take the current when it serves, or lose our ventures. -Shakespeare
Let the Sinhala people hear what Prime Minister David Cameron said a few days ago and open their hearts to the Tamil people.
“Scotland spoke, we listened and now we are delivering”
With these words Prime Minister David Cameron spoke of the Bill he would be introducing in Westminster that, would in his view make, “Hollyrood (Scottish Parliament) the most powerful devolved parliament in the world.”Although the Scottish National Party (SNP) standing firm on its commitment to Scottish independence found the new reform plan watered down, it’s no denying here we have a rare phenomenon, where leading UK political parties, honouring the “vow” they made to clinch the ‘no vote’ in the Scottish referendum for independence, putting away their differences, accepting the Smith Commission report, reaching a remarkable consensus on devolving significant powers to Scotland assuring Scots substantial home rule, giving them, as Nick Clegg said, “the best of both worlds” be it in the United Kingdom!
Announcing the draft legislation Cameron spoke to the people of the United Kindom:
“These are new powers for Scotland securing our united future..Be in no doubt who ever forms the next government after May the 7th these new powers are guaranteed. The Scottish parliament would have more control over its tax and spending making it one of the most powerful devolved parliaments in the world. The Scottish parliament would combine the freedom to decide what happens in Scotland’s schools, hospitals, surgeries, police stations with the responsibility of determining how around 60% of the public money is spent. Because for the first time the majority of the money the Scottish parliament spends will be raised here in Scotland. This includes a substantial new package of welfare powers worth 2.5 Billion pounds to tackle long term unemployment, disability and poverty. We have already moved the Scottish parliament to extend its franchise so that 16 and 17 year old can vote at the Hollyrood 2016 elections. And here we are stating in law the permanence of the Scottish parliament so that there can never be any question Hollyrood is here to stay.”
Contrast that to this island and the predicament of the Tamils.
Here we are with only a glimmer of hope thus far after this election of securing a decent devolution package – one which we have sought with no avail so far.
The need for devolution or autonomy or power sharing or self- determination whichever way one might call it, became apparent soon as independence was gained from Britain and before the ink dried on the unitary constitution. Things became critical as time went on with more oppressive and discriminative measures taken against us by successive Sinhala governments that resulted in the occupation of our lands, persecution and marginalisation of our people, bigotry, even worse genocidal acts being perpetrated against us and wars. Not that we, when the situation became untenable, resolved to break-away, even fight violence with violence.
Here we are with many of our men women and children dead and gone, crippled, orphaned, widowed and traumatised.
I like to end by quoting Sanjayan Rajasingham who makes a clarion call to all communities in Sri Lanka to change to effect change:
“In the end, society is changed by the everyday acts of ordinary individuals, in classrooms, offices, fields, towns, cities and villages. If we don’t change, things won’t change. Only when we become a new us, will we begin to see a new Sri Lanka.
Of course it won’t be easy. Change never is, and there will be failure, discouragement and disappointment. But since when do we only fight for something because it’s easy? We want equality, freedom and justice because they are good and because they are right, not because it’s easy to get them. Whether we win or not is a different matter. But you can be sure that we have a better chance of winning if more of us try.“
“The first step to a new Sri Lanka is with us. We need to act,” Sanjayan says.
« Previous 1 2