By A.R. Arular
This article was originally written by the author in 2001 under the title ‘Sri Lanka – The Way Forward’ and circulated in Colombo and Trincomalee. The article draws on authors own experience of implementing the 13th Amendment as Head of the Research Division of the Chief Minister’s Secretariat of the North East Provincial Council and how it cold be made a basis for resolving the so called ethnic problem.
Though the article by itself may be behind time, it gains significance as a benchmark if anyone is honest about accepting the 13th amendment as a starting point and first step.
It is important to realise that the 13th amendments starts with a merged North East Province and India’s role in the interim period. The pronouncement will little help the peace process if what is meant by implementing the 13th Amendment is the pursuance of the chauvinist agenda to resolve the ethnic problem and an attempt is made to hoodwink the Tamil people and the international community of what is being done as the implementation of the 13th amendment.
At best, APRC’s contention that things are normal in the Eastern Province can only be described as a joke when LTTE has only made a tactical withdrawal from the East. It is unfortunate some external forces desperate to occupy Trincomalee are also behind this devious attempt to misrepresent the ground situation.
The article would help those who want to impose their will on the people of the North East to judge how far they are off the real 13th Amendment. However, Tamil people can cheer the Sinhala Race for reaching 1987 at least after 20 years and hope the things will start moving in a positive direction from here though there is little sign of ending the culture of usurpation, dishonesty, prevarication, indifference, arrogance, abuse of state power for realising chauvinist ends or any willingness to give up the illegal territorial claim for the island and the dream of military victory over the Tamils, recognise the historical rights of Tamil people and seek peace with the Tamils in a honest and dignified manner.
If the APRC holds that it is possible to establish an interim administration for the North, it should also be possible to establish an interim administration for the merged North East as the rest of North East is considered normal. That should be the starting point of the 13th amendment rather than engage in a sinister exercise to regularise the illegal demerger of the North East Province in the name of implementing the 13th amendment, which has been a chauvinist dream ever since the 13th amendment came into existence. The demerger is illegal since the constitution and the 13th Amendment clearly provides for under what conditions North East will become demerged and the demerger is a case a chauvinist abuse of Judicial Powers
Whereas the present deadlock between LTTE and the government continues along with the international communities search for a settlement, the method and approach to a solution has remained more or less the same for the last eleven years. The present stance of the LTTE came into existence after the departure of the Indian Peace Keeping Force and the resumption of the war in June 1990 and the situation has continued without change for the last seven years since the resumption of talks between the government and the LTTE in l994.
As one who mediated peace between the government and the LTTE from 1990, when the LTIE first conveyed its readiness to enter negotiations with the government to resolve the conflict and would consider alternatives to a separate state, the stance of the LTTE has remained more or less unchanged. The LTTE also wanted third party mediation involving foreign countries. Subsequently I also proposed the idea of joint mediation where a group of countries could have got together and mediated the conflict which was specifically suggested to overcome the difficult situation created by India’s involvement and experiences. However this idea could not be advanced by the international community due to its differing perceptions and the fundamental problems caused by the conflict between the India and the USA as powers to be that could not come together to jointly mediate the conflict.
However this subsequently became the Norwegian mediation where Norway emerged as a mediator between the Government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE as well as mediator between countries that have a stake in the happening in Sri Lanka. While the Norwegian mediation has continued for the last two years ably supported by the Catholic bishops and foreign countries, the ground situation has remained unchanged. This has given little room for the Norwegian mediation to manoeuvre and its main thrust has been in bringing the two parties together to talk, though both continue to hold highly differing perception of the nature of settlement.
As the process would be deadlocked at every juncture, it would be prudent to analyse the nature and present disposition of the conflict and initiate effective measures that would have a catalytic and regenerating influence bringing into existence a federally restructured Sri Lanka. These programmes have to be legal and emerge from within but should be well understood by the international community and ably supported by it.
The peace movement in Sri Lanka is ineffective as its platform is a refuge for pacifists and war mongers alike who have such differing perception of a political settlement, as a result of which, the peace movement will remain an ineffective and politically paralysed phenomena. Further, the peace movement is flooded with local and international NGOs which are charitable organisations with no political voice. The Norwegian mediation is beset by the shortcoming by its inability to put forward and advance a political solution to the conflict. Though Norway maintains its impartiality, the government knows well that the western governments that have surrendered their moral high ground to win concession to advance their self interests, are indebted to the government and have little leverage in pressurising the government.
While there is broad consensus as to where the real solution lies, tragically in the Sri Lankan conflict resolution scenario, the main two contenders as well as others are not in position to articulate this solution and advance the realisation process due to the entrenchment of opposing extremes. The solution is the federally restructured Sri Lanka. Both the government and the L TIE are entrenched with a mind set that precise1y excludes this. This reality that lies at the root of the deadlock shall be a permanent factor that will remain an obstacle to peace process in Sri Lanka. Norway cannot be expected to articulate the idea of the federal state. And without a movement that can take forward the idea of federal state among the people of Sri Lanka in a united manner, the realisation of this idea will remain beyond the capabilities of the people of Sri Lanka.
Tragically, the idea of a federal state has been discredited and made a monster to such an extent by the Sinhala zealots as akin to separation, one cannot see any possible movement from within the Sinhalese that will stand up for a federally restructured Sri Lanka. The LTTE is left in a state where it will not articulate the federal idea though it has said is not opposed to it. The Colombo press that should play a responsible role remains cynical and committed to the Sinhala Chauvinist ideology of total domination.
Taking these shortcomings into account, it can be reasonably concluded, in spite of the valiant efforts of the Norway government, peace and a peaceful Sri Lanka that could sustain itself is far away. Though the recent efforts at bringing peace has been based on an overwhelming commitment to bring the two parties to ‘talk”, the ground was drifting with no political process committed towards the settlement while both parties were advancing on their conflicting positions. Both major parties to the conflict, the government and the LTTE, endorse the strategy of attrition whereby both, assume, holding out over a period of time, would enable the realisation of the respective objectives and are quiet at home with the prolongation of the peace process though, the people suffer and the country bleeds. The international community has invariably supported the government and in many instances it has been the instigator of the militaristic solution of the government and has been unable to effectively support a path of political resolution of the conflict.
Though the international community is singularly committed to finding a solution to the conflict within the frame work of a united Sri Lanka, the ground and mindset realties little favours a negotiated settlement of the conflict. This scenario only leaves an option of an arrangement which will be based on heavy international involvement such as Kosovo which shall remain negated as unrealistic by the past Indian involvement and experiences. The continued pursuance of the present agenda gives little scope of a permanent resolution of the conflict and return of peace to Sri Lanka.
As an interim council consisting of political parties can only be a source of discord, this process should start with the appointment of an Advisor to the Governor who would command the support of a broad (not necessarily all) and be acceptable to as many parties so that the process of hand over of power to the political parties and to LTTE can be effected in a gradual manner.
Taking into consideration the factors stated above, the way forward for a permanent resolution of ethnic conflict lies in exploring, providing initiatives and taking concrete steps in the following directions.
1. Initiate a movement that is explicitly committed to federal restructuring of Sri Lanka from within the peace constituency that will bring together both the Tamils and Sinhalese in a constitutional platform. This movement should reach to all members of the Sri Lankan society that will stand above the present party political platform that has found itself unable to rise above parochialism and partisanship.
2. As already the constitution provides for the empowerment of North East Provincial Council, take forward the Provincial Council Process so that pressure will be brought on all extremism and intransigence from all sides, while the efforts at finding peace through talks should continue.
3. Put forward a specific programme of political settlement process so that the international community can back such a package in addition to the MOU and Talks. This can be put forward by the Constitutional forum that will motivate parties to the conflict and the talks should be about amendments to this proposal.
I. The Progrmme of a constitutional movement for federal restructuring of Sri Lanka.
This movement should be capable of bringing together the members of the both major communities the Tamils and Sinhalese on a platform of mutual respect to others rights and be the source for the generation values and perceptions that will facilitate a federally restructured Sri Lanka.
The platform should be kept above party politics so that party politicians also can be members of this platform where they will leave behind their party political loyalties and work on a constitutional a platform of a united Sri Lanka. The movement will draw heavily from peace movement and NGO movement as well as bring people who command the respect of the society but would contribute towards the peaceful resolution of the conflict.
The constitutional forum will support the constitutional restructuring process by articulating a new Sri Lanka that will emerge after it has been restructured on a federal foundation as a union of two principle nations. As the present media culture of Sri Lanka is that of hate and suspicion, the movement should make itself heard through the national media and establish its own media network. The movement can establish its own national newspaper and possibly independent TV stations that can reflect and articulate the federally restructured Sri Lanka.
The constitutional forum should have council of around 15 eminent people and provide for ordinary membership among people.
II. The empowerment of the North East Provincial (Regional) Council.
The existing constitutional provisions that provide for empowerment of the provincial council should be activated so that the North East Provincial Council can function as an independent entity that articulates the will of the people within the North East. Province within the frame work of a united Sri Lanka. This arrangement is needed to provide a period of constitutional stabilisation of the North East Province before the party politics can be allowed to operate within the North East Provincial Council.
Such a move will provide added pressure to belligerents to come to speedier understanding regarding constitutional settlement and speed up the constitutional process.
As an interim council consisting of political parties can only be a source of discord, this process should start with the appointment of an Advisor to the Governor who would command the support of a broad (not necessarily all) and be acceptable to as many parties so that the process of hand over of power to the political parties and to LTTE can be effected in a gradual manner. The power that are due to the Provincial Council that can be effected under the present constitution be first devolved to the provincial council initially and subsequently it would be possible to appropriate powers using emergency powers that will enable the council to function as a federal council on a temporary basis so that the apprehensions regarding a federal council can be alleviated to effect smooth constitutional transition.
Empowering the North East Provincial as a party to the conflict, will enable it to dismantle and absorb both the government position and the LTTE into a progressively stabilising North East Constitutional body, to which all agreed powers will be vested. Needless to say this move will succeed on only if the government is honest and adopts a positive approach to devolving power to a merged North East Province.
The post of Advisor to the Governor, North East Province be created with the following terms of reference.
1. To provide a political role within the North East Provincial Council that enable it to engage in the peace process as a body.
2. To provide advise to the Governor of the North East Province on the excise of the powers that are devolved to the North East Provincial Council as provided in the Provincial Council List in the constitution of Sri Lanka.
3. To provide advise to the Governor on the exercise of powers as provided in the concurrent list through the establishment of governmental structures and execution of programmes in co-ordination with the Centre.
4. To provide advise to the Governor on the exercise of powers that may be additionally provided to the North East Provincial Council under the emergency regulations and additional constitutional provisions.
5. To provide for the constitutional stabilisation of the North East Province by working to bring together all communities living within the North East Province and instilling in them confidence and trust in a North East provincial governmental process and implement any agreements that may be reached between various communities.
6. Maintain a dialogue with all the political parties and other political interests within the North East Province and pave the way for a democratically elected government in the North East Province.
7. To assist the Governor in initiating, supervising, monitoring and providing programmes for the development of the north East Province.
8. To act as spokes person for the North East Provincial Council. 9. The Advisor shall have the same privileges as that of the chief Minister until the termination of his office through the election of a Chief Minster.
Initially, the Trincomalee district be brought in as territory under the Provincial Council, subsequently other disputed and shared AGA divisions be administered by the Provincial Council and the law and order within these regions be administered by the Provincial Police Force that shall be established on a priority basis drawing from the central police force as well as new recruits.
III. The Political Formula for a settlement of the North East conflict.
Though it is clear, only creating a Tamil majority province and restructuring of Sri Lanka as a federal constitution will bring an end to the armed conflict in Sri Lanka, peace cannot be achieved without addressing the issue of power and security both during the interim period and in the post interim period.
As it is apparent LTTE is fighting for statehood as well as-power, an amicable way out acceptable to the LTTE has to be put forward so as to accommodate the objectives of the LTTE in a mutually acceptable way. This formula has to be evolved through discussion with a1l the parties to the conflict.
The Advisor to the Governor, North East province should conduct such talks and evolve the proposal that will be adopted by all parties concerned so as to bring about a speedier end to the conflict. Once a basic document has been evolved providing for the interim programme and constitution, direct talks between the government and the LTTE has to be started for the final agreement in the presence of international community who will act as guarantor and underwrite the political settlement.
This proposal could be on the following lines.
1. Establish the constitution through talks with the LTTE that will permanently merge the North East as one province and provide for mutually exclusive powers with powers of co-ordination wherever necessary
2. Bring about a cease-fire and establish the line of control between the two parties.
3. In the interim period empower the provincial council to operate as a federal council using emergency powers.
4. Establish a three tier security regime for the North East in the interim period whereby the law and order shall reamin remain the responsibility of the three parties, namely, the central government, the LTTE and the Provincial Council within their respective areas.
5. The two zones of the Centre and LTTE be administered by the provincial council with regard to other matters for which the Provincial council has the power and gradually subject the law and order responsibilities of the centre and the LTTE to the provincial judicial system.
6. Initially, the Trincomalee district be brought in as territory under the Provincial Council, subsequently other disputed and shared AGA divisions be administered by the Provincial Council and the law and order within these regions be administered by the Provincial Police Force that shall be established on a priority basis drawing from the central police force as well as new recruits.
7.Within the Provincial Council areas suspend party political activities during the constitutional stabilisation period until all parties including LTTE can function without armed cadres and allow for the operation of the party politics once mutual trust and confidence is established between all parties including the LTTE. However all parties be provided with opportunity to engaging in NGO activities from the inception and carry out relieve and rehabilitation work within the North East Province.
8. Establish symmetrical pressuring and dismantling process whereby both the LTTE and the Government sectors of security is handed over to the Provincial Council (Regional council) while the people coming under the Regional Council are integrated as free citizens under the regional council while LTTE transforms itself to be integrated into the provincial and central state structuring and democratic process.
9. Hold the Regional Council elections once the entire area has come under the control of the Regional Council and democratic process restored.
10. Regional Councils be provided with powers to establish administrative districts and the Muslim issue be addressed by the elected regional council.
11. Establish an industrial estate next to the Trincomalee district but within the North Western Province providing employment and housing for the Sinhalese and Muslims who do not wish to live under a Tamil dominated rule within the North East Province.
IV.The role of the international community
The international community should come forward to underwrite the . Programme established along the above proposal and make available funds necessary for taking forward the programme.
Wherever necessary the international community should constructively and positively engage in providing manpower assistance to take forward the peace programme.