“Military thinking” of govt. cannot help resolve problem

“Thirteenth amendment-no interim or final solution to ethnic conflict “Military thinking” of govt. cannot help resolve problem”-TNA leader R. Sampanthan

by Lynn Ockersz

So, the 13th amendment never came up in the APRC. The 13th amendment was something President Rajapaksa clung to as a last straw because he was not able to come up with a set of political proposals, which the international community was insisting he must do. Therefore, the 13th amendment is no interim or final solution to the Tamil question and can never be acceptable.

[R. Sampanthan MP, at a press meeting on Dec 10th, 2007 at the Galle Face Hotel]

Even when it was passed way back in 1987, the 13th amendment was not seen by the “authentic and original TULF” as an answer to the ethnic conflict on account of its deficiencies. The 13th amendment never came up in the APRC and is now clung on to by the government as a last straw because it was not able to come up with a set of credible political proposals, as insisted on by the international community.

“Therefore, the 13th amendment is no interim or final solution to the Tamil question and can never be acceptable,” TNA leader and veteran Tamil politician R. Sampanthan (MP), told ‘The Island’ in a wide-ranging interview. He also said that even if the LTTE is defeated militarily, it would not be a solution to the Tamil question which came into existence decades before the LTTE came into being.

Excerpts of the interview:

Q: What is your reaction to the government’s proposals to end the conflict, based on the 13th amendment to the constitution? Are they a sufficient answer to the country’s ethnic conflict?

A: Well, the answer to your question is pretty obvious. The 13th amendment to the constitution was passed by President J. R. Jayewardene in 1987. Even then it was not an answer to the conflict as it existed then. One thing that came about under the 13th amendment was the recognition of the Northern and Eastern provinces as one, single, indivisible linguistic region, which was the historical habitation of the Tamil-speaking people-the Tamils and the Muslims. This was a significant achievement under the 13th amendment.

And this achievement blurred the several other divisions which existed in the 13th amendment. We, the authentic, original TULF, did not contest the Provincial Council elections held in 1988. For the simple reason that we felt the 13th amendment was inadequate. We explained the position to the Indian government. We told them that in our view the 13th amendment was not workable. In regard to even matters, such as agrarian services and provincial transport, which were peripheral areas and which come under the control of a provincial and regional government, the Provincial Councils were not able to function independently. We communicated our views in regard to the deficiencies of the 13th amendment to President Jayewardene in September 1987, no sooner he placed the 13th amendment before the Cabinet. We communicated our views in writing in regard to the same matters to then Indian Premier Rajiv Gandhi in October 1987 before the 13th amendment was enacted. In fact, President J. R. Jayewardene on his return from what I believe was a SAARC summit conference in Kathmandu, was requested to stop over in Delhi in November 1987. Mr. Amirthalingam, Mr. Sivasithamparam and I were also requested to be present in Delhi at that time. A discussion took place between the Indian government and President Jayewardene with regard to the proposed 13th amendment. I am aware that President Jayewardene made a definite commitment to make improvements in several areas in the 13th amendment.

Not many people are aware of the evolution of the 13th amendment. The amendment came out of extensive discussions between the Jayewardene government and the TULF in July and August 1986. I was a member of the TULF delegation which took part in the discussions. So the 13th amendment is no solution at all to the conflict.

After that, the truth being realised, several Presidents and governments have carried on negotiations with the Tamil parties, sometimes the LTTE, to evolve an acceptable solution. President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga’s proposals went far beyond the 13th amendment, the majority report of the Experts’ Committee appointed to assist the present APRC went far beyond the 13th amendment. And when the latter report was not acted upon, Professor Tissa Vitharana himself prepared a report to the APRC based upon the various Experts’ Committee reports-even that report went beyond the 13th amendment.

So, the 13th amendment never came up in the APRC. The 13th amendment was something President Rajapaksa clung to as a last straw because he was not able to come up with a set of political proposals, which the international community was insisting he must do. Therefore, the 13th amendment is no interim or final solution to the Tamil question and can never be acceptable.

Q: Would the TNA be serving in the interim administration proposed for the North?

A: We cannot serve on the proposed body. Since the 13th amendment is no interim or final solution to the conflict, I don’t see how we can serve in the interim administration.

Q: Do you see the government going for a military solution, now that the LTTE is seen to be weakening?

A: Well, the government has been endeavouring to achieve a military solution for quite some time now. In my view the government, very unfortunately, seems to think that the Tamil problem could be resolved militarily. The Tamil question is not a military question. It is the political struggle by the Tamil people to achieve their legitimate status in the Lankan polity. There must be a political solution to that conflict. It is a conflict which existed long before the birth of the LTTE. The LTTE surfaced because there was no political solution to the ethnic conflict. The military thinking of the government can in no way help to resolve the Tamil question.

Even if the government defeats the LTTE militarily, that would not be a solution to the Tamil question.

And as long as the Tamil question is not resolved, I do not believe the government could achieve a meaningful victory in any field.

Q: Why isn’t the TNA participating in the up-coming, Eastern local government elections?

A: We will be making a statement with regard to this matter. A military environment prevails in the Batticaloa district. When the local government elections took place in Batticaloa and Amparai, somewhere in 2006, we took part in the elections and we were overwhelmingly victorious in the Tamil areas just as much as the SLMC did well in the Muslim areas. But the present military environment prevalent in the Batticaloa district with the TMVP being heavily armed and being able to flagrantly brandish their weapons and the law enforcement authorities in the Batticaloa district not being prepared to enforce the law against the members of the TMVP, it seems the TMVP is having the licence to do whatever they wish. It should be remembered that our members were not able to vote at the second reading of the budget and they also could not vote at the third reading because their near relations were abducted and were held in custody under the threat of death if our members voted against the budget. Joseph Pararajasingham was murdered in a church on Christmas eve. Several of our local authority members in the Eastern Province have been killed. Professor Raveendranath of the Eastern University was abducted by the TMVP and he is now presumed to be dead.

So with this military environment prevailing in the Batticaloa district, we don’t think a free and fair election could be held in the East. After careful consideration of this situation we decided not to expose our supporters to further harm and decided that we will not contest the elections.

Q: Given this ground situation in the East, could the government launch a viable development programme there?

A: I think it is a farce. They have declared a High Security Zone in some parts of the Eastern Province and people are not being able to settle in those areas. People are not being involved in the development process. The Members of Parliament who have been elected by the people of those areas have not been involved in any development process. There are Ministers and officials who go on trips from Colombo and return but we don’t believe any meaningful development process is possible in this situation.

The government does not have a mandate from the people of the Eastern Province to engage in development in the Eastern Province. On the contrary, all reports indicate that these development programmes have sinister purposes. The SLMC pulled out of the government complaining that the Muslim people were being unfairly treated. I don’t think the government is honestly engaged in trying to develop the Eastern Province, for the benefit of the people who live there.

Q: In the hypothetical case of the TNA participating in a negotiatory process to bring a political solution, what is it likely to propose?

A: We have never been opposed to bringing a political solution, from the beginning of our political history. From the days of Mr. S. J. V. Chelvanayakam, and the Federal Party (FP), for more than six decades, we have demanded substantial autonomy in the areas of our historical habitation; substantial self-rule in the areas of our historical habitation which have the Northern and Eastern Provinces.

In our 1970 election manifesto the FP called upon the people to reject any candidate who advocated separation. The Oslo communique of December 2002 contemplated, based on the principle of internal self-determination, in the areas of historical habitation of the Tamil-speaking people, a federal solution within a united Sri Lanka.

When Prabhakaran delivered his Martyrs’ Day speech after Mahinda Rajapaksa was elected President, he said Mahinda Rajapaksa was looked upon as a “pragmatic person,” and asked him to come up with a set of proposals which would meet the aspirations of the Tamil people. No such proposal has yet been placed on the table.

So if there is a set of proposals which will meet the aspirations of the Tamil people and will give them substantial autonomy, substantial self-rule in the areas of their historical habitation, where they could live with self-respect and security, to took after their socioeconomic concerns, I think the problem could be resolved within a united country. The vast majority of Tamil people would overwhelmingly support such a solution. [island.lk]


  1. ilaya seran senguttuvan said,

    February 2, 2008 @ 4:18 am

    I have often disagreed with some of the political stands of Mr Sambanthan. But there is no doubt he is one of the ablest,
    astute and learned of our Parliamentarians – even when that August house boasted of brilliant men in the earlier years compared to the comic lot we now have. A man with a clear, legalistic background he has much to offer that can bring us the peace we (successive GoSLs) have been searchimg for years.
    But he is dismissed as an LTTE puppet, which I think he is not,
    although he cannot divorce himself from the ground realities of the undemocratic environment in the North East – created solely by the destruction and under-valuing of democratic institutions in that region as a result of the entire North East region being made a War Zone particularly in the past few decades. Now that the President has reduced the Experts Committee and the APRC as a sham in his delaying tactics how about a Committee of Eminent Persons in Sri Lanka being entrusted with the task of preparing proposals for an new Sri Lankan Constitution to include people like The 2 Mahanayakas of Kandy, The head of the Catholic Church, Anglican Church, Faiz Mustapha, Rauf Hakeem, Sambanthan, Shiva Pasupathy, Dr Vigneswaran, GL Peiris, CBK, Tissa Vitharana, Batty Weerkoon, HL de Silva, Sarath Amunugama, Prof Lakshman Marasinghe, Justice Sarath Silva (after he retires) Prof Savithri Gunasekera or RKW Gunasekera,Godfrey Gunatilake, Bradman Weerakoon, DBS Jeyaraj, Rohan Edirisinghe, Jayadeva Uyangoda, Pakiasothy Saravanamuttu, Professor Sandirasegaram or Dr Pratap Ramanujam. This Committee can call for fresh representations from the public, groups or go by the material received already and their findings to be accepted
    by President Rajapakse’s government. In a Committee whose findings is likely to affect the lives of millions today and generations to come, I have not left room for many MPs of todays Parliament because they are, besides being incapable of providing a solution so far they have, in fact, become a large part of our current problem. I have also not gone by the usual method of giving weightage to political parties or ethnic communities – because this is also one of the reasons to our problems. The men and women I have listed have proven over the years by their pronouncements they love the country more than the current culture of stealing from the State. I thought a fresh attempt and a break-away from traditional thinking may provide the answer the many innocent civilians here have been praying for.

  2. Plantation Thamil. said,

    February 2, 2008 @ 5:53 am

    I am a Plantation Thamil who are considered untouchables untrustworthy…by the Jaffna Thamils.
    I would request you to refresh your memory and go back to somewhere in 1994…
    A Seminar or a conference was held by the T.U.LF. at the Trincomallee Urban Council Auditoriam.
    You were addressing while I was standing at the Corridor.
    The Late Neelan Thiruchelvam and Mavai Senathirajah were some of those seated on Stage.
    The subject you were talking was about the merger of the North East province and the proposed referrendum under the now defunct Indo-Lanka agreement.
    You said that the T.U.L.F. was apprehensive about the referrendum and mentioned this to Late Mr.Dixit.
    You said in reply Mr.Dixit had mentioned not to worry ,
    “The referrendum will never take place”.

    True enough the referrendum never took place.But the North East are now demerged.What a pity even the constituitional expert Late Mr.Neelan Thiruchelvem couldn’t predict what had happened now!
    By the By most of the Eastern Thamil Intellectuals general Public other than those without any Jaffna connection will privately expressing their happiness!They have been releived from the North!.
    The Eastern Thamils do not stand to benefit any thing by merging with the North.
    Time will prove this.

  3. Subra S.Massey said,

    February 2, 2008 @ 10:33 am

    Dear Mr.Sampanthan,

    Her is a simple way to solve the problem. Invite Mr.Mahinda Rajapaksa and famliy for A lunch. Don’t talk politics or LTTE. Just be good friends. That will dissolve that rust between two of you, then the idea will spread to others, then the whole nation will come together. I read a book called,” The World Rebuilt” by Peter Howard , in this book you will read the true stroy of Frank Buchman and the men and women of Moral Re-Armmament. I think every politician in Sri Lanka must read this book. Another book I would recommend is ,”The social Contract” by Jean Jacques Rousseau. I think these two books are the pillars of modern Europe and USA spreading into China, Russia and India.
    What we need are Absolute Moral Standards of Honesty, Purity, sincerity, Integrity, Responsibilty, Trustfulness and Trustworthiness to resolve this conflict. One side must lay down the arms and say lets eat together first. If we can sit and eat together we can resolve any issue. Food the basis of all conflicts once you can share the food all barrier coem down. Try it let me know how it works. Mr.Sampanthan if you don’t have to courage to do so you must resign and let our people go, let my people go and let the people go.

  4. R.G said,

    February 4, 2008 @ 1:02 am

    Sanbandan Can complain until the cows come home and the cows will never come home.
    Militaristic GOSL survives till today due to war efforts.
    The SLA is softening the LTTE defenses for a major push in a couple of months.
    By april to August, the war will be ferocious and thousands will die.
    Sanbandan should say something new and not repeat the same as a parrot.

  5. Devinda Fernando said,

    February 4, 2008 @ 10:30 am

    2002 CFA – Those Tamils who backed the LTTE and the LTTE wanted war… You people need to Shut the ‘F’ up and realize that the Sri Lankan government, just like any other government, in the world will defend itself and its people when attacked by Terrorists. Don’t cry about Military thinking,… Prabharkaran is responsible for waking the Sleeping Giant of Sri Lankan Retribution. The “Tamil Greivances” argument no longer has any validity or Credibility. This was lost over 15 years ago. Your ‘SOLE RERESENTATIVES’, as you have referred to them, have expended the Good Will and Patience of the Sri lankan people. The LTTE will be wiped off the face of the Planet. Those who sit back and grin while the LTTE continues to massacre civilians in Buses and Trains across the country will witness the final chapter in this battle. All the cockaroaches and Vermin responsible for these crimes against humanity will pay with their lives for this. Prepare to Reap the Worldwind.

  6. ilaya seran senguttuvan said,

    February 6, 2008 @ 1:42 pm

    Devinda Fernando is capable of presenting his view with much grace and decency than to switch to the sickening “F” word, cockroaches and vermin.

    Like almost all Tamils, I have been critical of LTTEs fascism and its decimating Tamil academics and leaders – not excluding Sinhala civilians and leaders as well. I believe Tamilsl have not exhausted all our options before going for a Separate State. The bifurcation of the Island is in the hands of the Sinhala leadership. The way out is sharing of power within a united land and nothing less.

    Terrorism really began by Sinhala thugs resorting to physical violence – encouraged by mad nationalists including SWRD – where many Tamil Parliamentarians were made to bleed at Galle Face Green in the vicinity of Parliament. Some were thrown into the Beira Lake while Sinhala thugs cheered and laughed. In 1958, among other atrocities against defenceless Tamils, they burnt alive an innocent Tamil priest in a Panadura kovil right in front of his own family. Are you happy and laughing too, Fernando? In 1962 Mrs B made a serious error in sending Udugama’s Army to the North-a job the multi-ethnic Police then could have done competently, resulting in the Tamil youth coining the word “Sinhala occupation army”. The senseless army men then arrested dozens of unarmed youth and tortured many in several camps which they called “Mas-kade” So Fernando, using your own logic may I ask ” do you expect the Tamil youth to look the other way?”

    The seeds of organised Tamil armed resistance was broadcast at that time by the insensitive and terrorising Sinhala army. And you gave birth to that monster called VP.
    With nearly 200,000 men armed to the teeth in the past 10 years the fact the Sri Lankan armed forces failed to wipe out a resistance movement of about 6,000 (estimate of GoSL 2 years ago)

    It must be nil now – if we are to believe Sarath Fonseka and Gothabaya Rajapakse. Where in the world do you get a full complement of armed forces chiefs-army, airforce and navy-travelling to enemy territory in one small plane? These are the great Generals who have promised the President they will destroy the LTTE and Tamil resistance by December’s end-i.e. before Fonseka retires. Have you every heard of army strategy assuring a military victory that has eluded many for decades-only because someone is retiring>. If this motley crowd was trying to tell the world Jaffna is under their total control they had not only another think coming-but all of them got the fright of their lives too when the LTTE used heavy artillery on them for over 3 hours in territory controlled by GoSL armed forces. More barbarous crimes are committed by indisciplined sections of our armed forces than the excesses of the LTTE -but these are covered by terrible lies in the propaganda machinery of the Govt. Those little school children off Mannar were definitely wiped out by a DPU with full knowledge of the consequences once the explosives are set off. Do you know the international community is tired of the brazen lies and cover-ups of the Govt trying to hide civilian death figures and are in the process of not only cutting off aid but also declaring many of our Sinhala leaders as qualifying to be war criminals. Some of them will soon be unable to take flights-as happened to Gaddaffi’s outfit before he gave up his own brand of violence. So Mr Fernando save all your wisdom and energy to preach peace and the giving up of violence on your side of the spectrum-for starters.

  7. Devinda Fernando said,

    February 8, 2008 @ 4:00 am

    ilaya seran senguttuvan,

    Dont Lecture me on why the LTTE formed… I am well aware of injustices of the past towards Tamils. That being said are you aware of LTTE Atrocities to Sinhalese? All with the Blessing of most Tamils or at the very least the Selective memory gaps you people seem to have whenever a suicide bomb goes off in a crowded area or a LTTE detonated Claymore mine while a Bus carrying women goes by….

    But is comparing casualties and past atrocities the answer? Obviously not. Well at least I don’t think so,…. do you?

    You may not have faith in the current government because they may be over zealous and maybe a bit too enthusiastic in winning this war,… but we Sinhalese, or should I say Sri Lankans have no choice in supporting them. We all believed Ranil woul;d fix the problem but your Beloved LTTE made sure he could not get elected by forcing Tamils not to vote in the North and East….? So if you think any of us are going to go back to bending over and taking it from the LTTE,… you have a screw loose in your head. The wheels of fate have been set in motion. The LTTE have had their shot,…they blew it… now they will suffer their demise. After which there will be hope, as we can rebuild the country after that…but if you think the problem can be solved while the LTTE are still alive then you are delusional.

  8. Devinda Fernando said,

    February 8, 2008 @ 10:52 am

    *** Devinda Fernando is capable of presenting his view with much grace and decency than to switch to the sickening “F” word, cockroaches and vermin ***

    LOL! Possibly… but then there would be no “Entertainment” value to my posts.

    Who said political discussions had to be boring?

  9. ilaya seran senguttuvan said,

    February 9, 2008 @ 6:49 am

    Re. Devinda Fernando (7 & 8)…You need not only lessons on the evolution of the LTTE in this country in the past few decades – scholarly documented by distinguished Sinhala academics I have listed earlier here – but you need lectures on how to enter into a debate using language and mannerisms associated with people from a decent and initiated background. You unfortunately, to use your own words, chose to display those characteristics of vermin and cockroaches when you refer to Tamils, their language and their complaints. But no problem. We have lived with your types and we will in the future as well. It matters if your ilk acknowledge “Tamil grievances” or not because educated Lankans and scholars/historians outside do – and that, Devinda Fernando, is what will matter in the history we are about to enter into.

    You have some idea of what I think of the LTTE and, by jove, they are notmy “sole or soul representatives” and this goes for the vast number of Tamils in this country as well, which you might take good note of, dear boy. So don’t you ever say those beastly responses of the LTTE are “with the blessings of Tamils” Tamils grieve for the loss of every life in every act of violence in this country – that of Tamils, Sinhalese and others and the world knows that. Prabakaran may not – and that is because of men like you, if you have the depth to understand what I mean. Ah! ha! So you too now say “I am well aware of injustices of the past towards Tamils” Belated wisdom, eh?

    You talk of your support for the govt. My man, Mahinda Rajapakse is a personal friend for many years and he knows I don’t agree with his politics. I did’nt 3 years ago and see what is the state of the country. Mahinda is a lovely companion, laughs, jokes, joins us in our parties and entertains himself.

    But as a leader to lead this country out of the present impasse – man. he does’nt have “it” and never will. I am no particular fan of Ranil but he is miles ahead as a leader and a patriotic Lankan.

    Are you one of those Sinhala ingnoromuses and idiots who forgot the peaceful 3 years Ranil gave 2001-2004 and made the country and people as one? You show all signs of this.
    It is true Tamil civilian men, women and children are being abducted in many parts of the North-East and then their bodies
    “discovered” in the NCP, in the A’pura, Polonnoruwa areas in response to LTTE attacks on the armed forces – but this must stop sometime. The International community is using pressure on the govt to do that although people like you will call all these civilian deaths as LTTEers.

  10. dias said,

    February 9, 2008 @ 3:53 pm

    /* LOL! Possibly… but then there would be no “Entertainment” value to my posts. */

    While the disrespectful manner in which Devinda constantly addresses others may be entertaining to him, I find his style repugnant, hurtful and counter-productive to these critical discussions. Senguttuvan’s accusation of Devinda, “you chose to display those characteristics of vermin and cockroaches when you refer to Tamils…”, is at least technically incorrect as Fernando has used similar language to describe my past postings, whereas I had made it clearly known that I am a Sinhalese-Buddhist. Furthermore, Senguttuvan seems to violate his own high standards through his emotionally charged accusation of Devinda “Are you one of those Sinhala ingnoromuses and idiots …”. I ask, why these insults? #3 Massey has the answer: “What we need are Absolute Moral Standards of Honesty, Purity, sincerity, Integrity, Responsibilty, Trustfulness and Trustworthiness to resolve this conflict.”

    I would like to respectfully request all in this forum to be respectful of one-another so that we may positively influence change in our beloved nation.

    Now to a more substantive issue – Devinda says, “The LTTE … will suffer their demise. After which there will be hope, as we can rebuild the country after that…but if you think the problem can be solved while the LTTE are still alive then you are delusional.”

    I fully agree with Devinda that the nation could never forge forward with the separatists addicted to their cause for separation. Thus, at minimum the core leadership of the LTTE must be destroyed. However, I take issue with Devinda’s assertion that we can rebuild the country upon the destruction of the separatist hopes. To the contrary, destroying the LTTE wil have the exact opposite effect. The Tigers destruction is bound to severely strengthen Sinhalese-Buddhist forces who will insist that Sri Lanka is a SInalese-Buddhist nation and the exclusive domain of the SInhalese, thus closing all avenues towards a just solution. The minorities will be forced to accept a solution of the majority’s liking. With the recent military victories these effects have already begun to happen – Sinhalese-Buddhist chauvinism has begun to re-emerge – just listen to recent statements by Ratnasiri Wickramanayake and Nimal Siripala de Silva.

    It is to achieve the same objective, to save our nation, that we need to table a just solution-construct at the earliest possible prior to the destruction of Tiger’s leadership. Tabling a just solution will morally strengthen the government’s position making it easier for it to destroy the LTTE. The need of the hour is the “tabling” of a solution but not necessarily the implementation of it.

    Devinda is right again when he says, “The wheels of fate have been set in motion” – but don’t count your eggs before they hatch. This matter is far from over and expect this to drag-on through the inauguration of the next US President. Be it Hillary, Obama or McCain – all 3 very well versed with the Sri Lankan matter. Expect a long drawn-out stalemate in the battle field. Expect social unrest in the south as the war drags. Expect the Sri Lanka matter to take center stage in the international arena – from which a final solution will eventually emerge – sometime after next January’s US Presidential inauguration.

  11. ilaya seran senguttuvan said,

    February 10, 2008 @ 12:47 pm

    Good Mr Dias (#10)

    If you followed my contributions you would have noticed I try to be objective, use civilised language and fair to those who disagree with me. But then the law everywhere recognises reasonable self-defensive action, which is what I have done. But if our friend is going off the rails to raise a laugh, you have responded well.
    The Lankan ethnic issue is certainly not a laughing matter – at least to sane people.
    You quite rightly say “destroying the LTTE will have the exact opposite effect..etc” But good, Sir, we are already there. But did you ever wonder why it took the GoSL Sinhala armed forces (thats what they are now) sucking more than half of our expenditure budget annually for the past 3 decades to rein in a rag-tag army of 6,000 Tamil militants? A man who was milking the armed forces at the high point he dominated for years was caught with millions of rupees in Fixed Deposits he could not explain – which was only a small pctge of his loot – but the system of justice in Sri Lanka being what it is, he has been let off the hook – as almost everyone predicted. It is people like this who keep the war going and the country going rapidly down the drain. Everyone else in the world seem to realise this except the 98% literate Sri Lankans and their jumbo sized Govt.
    Every night these lucky men and women in their grand mansions must be toasting on their Dom Perignons and vintage Courversoires “Long Live the War” and perhaps “be damned with the hoi polloi. Their duty, after all, is to vote us in and then we live happilly thereafter” Cheers!

RSS feed for comments on this post

Leave a Comment