Archive for July, 2007

Proposed Electoral Reforms Will Reduce Muslim Representation

by Dr. HM .Mauroof

The submissions of the Interim Report of the Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) on Electoral Reforms was followed by a series of interviews of senior representatives of political parties and by a few articles on the subject in the Daily Mirror and Sunday Times.

Having made written representations in due time to the PSC on the question of providing adequate representation in Parliament to the Muslim community without fruit, I write this in the context of the Final Report which is forthcoming; the main idea is to catch the attention of not only the Chairman and Members of the PSC but also that of opinion leaders, particularly, of the Muslim community.

The hidden defects, due more to omission than commission, in the Report on the question of providing adequate representation to the Muslims in Parliament may not at once be apparent to the general public because 75% of the total Muslim population in the country live in scattered pockets, small and large, unlike the Sinhalese in the seven Southern Provinces, Tamils in the Northern Province and the Muslims in the Eastern Province, where only 25% of the total Muslim population live.

Not only has the Interim Report failed to make provision for the Muslims outside the East to obtain due representation, but more, they have by the provisions suggested in their Report, downgraded whatever means that were already available in the previous decades from and before Independence in 1948.

During colonial times Muslim representation was sought to be achieved through the legal powers vested in the Governor, empowering him the use of his discretion to appoint them as required. Subsequently, at Independence, the Soulbury Commission sought to alleviate the problem by means of;

providing for a limited number of appointed MPs.
providing for the creation of multi-member constituencies in areas where Muslims lived in large enough concentration.
indirectly giving the Delimitation Commission an option to create constituencies with lesser number of citizens than the Provincial average would allow.

These provisions did upgrade the level of Muslim representation, but, still, never achieved numbers in proportion to the Muslim population ratio in the country.

During the period there were in all three Delimitation Commissions working under total First Past the Post (FPP) system, and all three of them in their Reports of 1947, 1959 and 1976 respectively, were unanimous in their lamentation of their impotence to make provisions for the much deserved adequate representation for Muslims, partly because of the lack of specific directions in the available provisions in the electoral laws.

Thereafter the 1978 Constitution gave birth to the total Proportional Representations (PR) System where the administrative districts became the electorate. The PR system with district-wise constituencies reduced the disadvantageous plight of the scattered Muslim community in getting adequate representation. To the credit of the then Government it introduced an amendment to the prevalent provisions, namely the fifteenth amendment to the constitution of 1988, which read as follows:

” Article 99A of the Constitution is hereby amended by the insertion immediately after the third paragraph of that Article of the following new paragraph:

‘The Commissioner of Elections shall before issuing the aforesaid notice, determine whether the number of members belonging to any community, ethnic or otherwise, elected to Parliament under Article 98 is commensurate with its national population ratio and requests the Secretary of such political party, group leader of such independent group in so nominating persons to be elected as members of Parliament to ensure as far as practicable, that the representation of all communities is commensurate with its national population ratio’.”

In fact, subsequently for the very first time the Muslims on one occasion were able to touch and surpass, although marginally, their due 8% ratio.

On the basis of this at every General Election since the Amendment, the Muslims secured representation, though geographically lopsided, equal to their country-wide population ratio; lopsided because half the total representatives came from the Eastern Province. However, what was gained in quantity, the system gave birth to, like for all communities in common, a set of poor quality representation, for reasons that are commonly known.

It is for this reason that there has developed a consensus in the country in favour of a change from the PR system.

It is this context that the PSC is offering in its Interim Report a mixture of the FPP and the PR system namely, 140 under the FPP, 70 under the District PR system and 15 under the National List.

These ratios recommended in the Interim Report, on deeper examination, reveal a probable dark future for Muslim representation. The after effects of its implementation threaten to reduce Muslim representation to levels lower than ever before.

After every census since Independence the number of Parliamentary constituencies increased naturally – the first Parliament had 95 elected members from 89 constituencies in 1947 and the last under the FPP of 1977, 168 members from 160 constituencies. Each time electoral constituencies are increased in numbers the area of each one of these got constricted, and, in consequence the percentage of Muslims in the constituency increased; and this fact enhanced the respective Delimitation Commissions to try demarcate constituencies to facilitate Muslim representation. In 1959 citizen population in the country was 8 million and the Delimitation Commission of that year demarcated 145 constituencies to elect 151 members, the 1976 citizen population was 12 million and today it is nearly 21 million.. Therefore in order to maintain a situation of status quo of percentage Muslim population a Delimitation Commission has, theoretically and allowing for other variables, to have over 200 constituencies; the Interim Report has recommended to reduce the number of electorates to 140 which is less than even the number of electorates in 1959! Such will further dilute the Muslim populate, helping eliminate chances of Muslims getting elected in the eight Provinces outside the East.

The Interim Report prescribes only single-member electorates as against the earlier availability, during the entire period of the FPP system from 1947 to 1977, of several multi-member constituencies which help facilitate the scattered Muslim community to elect their due numbers. Never was it ever possible for the Muslim community during the FPP system to elect their 8% share of members to Parliament and about 50% of those that got elected came through multi-member constituencies, especially from outside the East. Therefore artificially helping dilute the already scattered and naturally diluted Muslim community will only help further decimate Muslim representation in Parliament.

One third, namely 70 are recommended to be elected through the PR system which is totally different from the PR system prevalent up until to-day.

It is difficult to forecast how a minority party candidate will fare under this system, but, in the current circumstances it would seem heavily weighted in favour of candidates of the two major parties. However the percentage of vote obtained by Parties contesting under minority Party labels , while not helping themselves in terms of victory in the eight Provinces outside the East, will add to the chances of Muslim candidates contesting under major Party labels to lose out.

The recommended national List of 15 is according to the Interim Report, to be constituted under three categories, namely, 5 as bonus seats to the Party that polled the largest, 3 to unrepresented minor Parties and 7 to be allocated to the votes polled in the country.

This recommendation annuls in one stroke the provisions made available to make up any shortfall in equitable community representation made available in the 15th amendment of 1988 referred to earlier on.

The District MPs categorized in the Interim Report as District Proportional Representatives (DPR) seats is really a misnomer. Those to be chosen as MPs under the DPR category are from among the losing candidates from constituencies for which MPs have already been elected under the FPP system. These cannot in anyway claim to represent the whole District, and, appear merely as an excuse to include a category called DPR MPs. It would therefore be more appropriate to reduce the area of each constituency in the District and demarcate smaller constituencies. Taking into consideration the interests of all the communities and groups it would appear reasonable to allow 180 seats under the FPP system and include 45 seats on the National List.

Of these 45 National List MPs, 29 as in the present Parliament could be elected on national PR subject to the 15th Amendment of 1988, the remainder to be allocated to small Parties and smaller unrepresented communities like the Veddhas, Burghers and Malays etc.

Finally every single Delimitation Commission had emphasized and re-emphasized the need to provide adequate and equitable representation to all communities in the country. The 1959 Commission put this point succinctly in para 30 of its Report, which stated “The main intention of the Order in Council as amended is clearly is to render possible the representation of citizens united by ties of race, religion, or any other community of interest. The Commission has endeavoured to give effect to this intention as far as it is possible so that Parliament would be a mirror of the will of the people. We were careful not to create a sense in the Nation that any single class of any importance is excluded from power; any exclusion from power tends naturally to mean exclusion from benefits too.”

Considerations of the aspect of adequate representation to all communities is most important, particularly in the present era when the main and primary issues facing the country seem to emanate from the question of ethnicity. The PSC should take timely affirmative action not to evoke dissatisfaction causing causes for agitation and be fair by all communities that constitute the Nation.

In the circumstances it appears to us that the most important and fundamental provisions that should be embedded within the electoral laws should give the following direction to the Delimitation Commission: “The Delimitation Commission shall render it probable that every community in the Country obtain Parliamentary representation equal in number to its country-widepopulation ratio”.

Dr H.M.Mauroof is President of the National Muslim Movement

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Approaching Ethnic Problem as Terrorist is like Catching Cobra by its tail

by Savimon Urugodawatte

Some of our political leaders are, as it is said, trying to catch the cobra by the tail, based on the presumption that there is no ethnic problem but only a terrorist problem. What they do not realise is that it is suicidal to catch the cobra that way.

Reminiscing of the pre-Independence days, there seems to have been no ethnic issue but only a host of national issues, such as winning full Independence, language problem where the mother tongue is neglected, problem of shedding colonial and imperial vestiges and issues related to development of the motherland. All ethnic entities were represented in the Ceylon National Congress and it was good leadership that was aimed at and not parochial or communal leadership. We all know that all communities – Sinhalese, Tamils, Muslims and Burghers – and all religious groups – Buddhists, Hindus, Islamists Christians and others – fought for Independence under one umbrella , i. e.., Ceylon National Congress, although there were few other independent political groups like the L S S P and Labour Party, campaigning for full Independence.

When the 1947 election was fought, all citizens born in this country, irrespective of their origin, were called “British Subjects.” However, due to power politics coming into play the D S Senanayake Government disenfranchised all Indian Tamils who were enjoying their birth right of adult suffrage, by one stroke of the pen, without instituting any just and reasonable alternative system, merely because, they did not exercise their voting rights in favour of the then hurriedly formed U N P.

Then came the Sinhala Only Act in 1956, without the Reasonable Use of Tamil clause, which was annulled by S W R D, bowing down to the pressure of the extremist groups led by F R Jayasuriya and K M P Rajaratne, who commenced a fast unto death at the Parliamentary premises.

Next phase was the annulment of the B – C Pact, agreed to by and between the leaders of the 2 main communities, also due to political gimmicks carried out by J R Jayewardene (infamous Pada Yathra to Kandy) and the extremist elements of the Buddhist clergy. Likewise, Dudley – Chelvanayakam Pact was also abrogated due to vehement opposition of the then opposition, S L F P.

Coming to the period under the Premiership of Madam Sirimavo Bandaranaike, who was one of the far – thinking leaders that we had in our recent history, the problem of Indian Tamils who were brought here by the Colonial Government to work in their plantations, was settled once and for all through the Sirima – Shastri Agreement, of course with the tacit concurrence of the then Leader of the Opposition, Dudley Senanayke. Under this Agreement, India undertook to accept 2/3 of the Indian Tamil population and made arrangements to settle them in South India, from where they originally came. Sri Lanka agreed to absorb the balance 1/3 . If this Agreement was fully implemented, our centuries – old problem would have been settled, leading to the economic development of the country.

Then comes the 1977 era under J R Jayewardene, who came to power, having promised the Tamil Community to solve all their problems through a Round Table Conference. However, when he received a 5/6 majority, he just pooh poohed the tacit undertaking he had given the leaders of the Tamil Community, who ultimately lost their confidence in the majority community and began to launch their real struggle, aiming not at not equal opportunities but a separate administrative unit of their own (Ealam). This was aggravated by the passing of the 6th Amendment to the Constitution, which threw out the few Tamil Representatives from Parliament, thereby leading the way to a liberation struggle. Mushroom revolutionary groups who disregarded their traditional leaders, began to organise themselves, and it came to a zenith in 1983 with the blowing up of a military camp in jaffna, killing 13 soldiers. What happened thereafter is recent history, well known to all. The way the anti – Tamil uprising was handled by the J R Government made matters worse, leading to a blood bath affecting innocent Tamils, resulting in the dispatch of ships by India to take the Tamil refugees to India for safety. Terrorism was actually born and bred in the Refugee camps aided by and abetted by India, mainly because the J R Government turned our Non – aligned Foreign Policy upside down and launched a pro – U S and anti – India Foreign Policy.

Ultimately, the all powerful J R Government had to eat humble pie, especially after India dropped dhal parcels into Jaffna to beat J R’s food embargo on Jaffna. Its logical outcome was the pressure brought by India due to which the Government had to agree to Timpu talks and J R – Rajiv Agreement to get the Indian army to crush the rebels. The culmination of this process was the passing of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution devolving power to Provinces. However, this devolution of power was not to be. The Central Government under J R and R P and also under C B K never moved an inch from their stand to devolve power to the peripheral units as envisaged by the 13th Amendment

However, when J R J went for a Presidential Election in October, 1982, Hector Kobbekaduwa who was the respected leader of the S L F P came forward to oppose J R J since Sirimavo’s civic rights had earlier been withdrawn, in preparation to launch a one horse race. This was the only rare occasion when all anti – U N P forces could have allied in full force to defeat a despotic leader. But that was not to be! Although in a country like China, even Mao Zedong came to terms with the arch enemy Chiang Kai-shek to defeat Japanese invaders, here in our country, leftist leaders, Rohana Wijeweera, Colvin R. de Silva and Vasudeva Nanayakkara and Tamil leader, Kumar Ponnamabalam, came forward to contest the Presidency, knowing very well that there was no chance whatsoever. However, the people of Jaffna voted to give 2nd place to Kobbekaduwa while giving first place to their candidate, Kumar Ponnambalam as shown by the results of this election in the Jaffna District ,

Next episode of our blunders makes its appearance in December, 1982, when the term Parliament was extended for a further period of 6 years by a manipulated Referendum, if not for which the electors of the country would have elected a different Government or the same Government with a lesser majority. This was done by J R J on his misconceived perception that the so – called Naxalites are trying to take over the Government through a blood bath. He got all those who opposed the Referendum, led by the Pevidi Handa Sanvidhanaya, consisting of religious leaders belonging to all faiths, arrested and crushed the movement. He used Police lackeys like Premadasa Udugampola to ruthlessly crush these movements and rewarded them with promotions !

Even the Police officer who mercilessly manhandled Vivien Gunawwardene was also promoted. By the way it was Premadasa Udugampola’s brother Kulasiri Udugampola, who was used by Ranil Wickremasinghe to raid the Millenium City and expose the army intelligence contingent and exterminated all of them by exposing them to Prabhakaran. ( We are yet unaware of the findings of the Commission that was appointed by President Mahinda Rajapakse to probe the Millenium City debacle !). However, it should be noted in this instance that although J R J probed the so-called Naxalite movement, he was not able to prove anything or prosecute anyone. It became a hoax initiated by him to achieve his goal. In this so-called Referendum too, Jaffna voters came out in full force to defeat the Referendum by casting 265,534 votes against, ( for Pot ) with only 25,315 for the Lamp. Wanni and Batticaloa also gave their overwhelming support for the Pot.

Now we come to the 1994 era when C B K contested the Presidential Election. With an amenable background of history of trying to settle the Ethnic problem by meeting the Rebel leaders, both in Jaffna and India, together with her Charismatic husband Vijaya Kumaratunga, the Rebel leader and his group had placed a certain amount of confidence in her leadership as seen from the support she received from the Tamil voters as seen from the following figures indicating the pattern of voting in the Jaffna, Wanni, Trincomalee and Batticaloa Districts for the 2 main candidates, namely, Chandrika Kumaratunga and Srima Dissanayake :

At this Election, C B K received a 62.5 % majority, quite a good mandate for her to solve the main national problem, if she actually had the correct vision and good and wise counsel.

But what happened ? As usual, she was bereft of good counsel, even ignoring her own mother who had steered the country during difficult times, showing her acumen and statesmanship. This fact is well illustrated when you look at the team she had selected to negotiate PEACE with the leaders of the LTTE. The mediators who were sent had no knowledge or experience for such an important undertaking, except perhaps for the former Civil Servant, Lionel Fernando, who was a well respected and accepted administrator in Jaffna and who had commandeered the respect and confidence of the Tamil community, while he was G A, Jaffna. S L F P leaders like Maithripala Senanayke and K. B. Ratnayake who knew their language and felt the pulse of the people and even a person like Lakshman Jayakody who had a balanced mind in dealing with such problems were ignored. Subsequently, even Lionel Fernando withdrew from the Team since he felt that nothing tangible will come out of the talks.

This was the last chance we missed in settling the ethnic problem, which has now spread its tentacles not only all over our country but through the world. Power struggle, politics and poor statesmanship have contributed to the sad state we are compelled to put up with today.

We earnestly hope that at least President Mahinda Rajapakse, who is well aware of the ups and downs we underwent and the political intrigues staged by our past leaders to please the voters, would consider our past failures and learn lessons therefrom and steer this country out of the present mess, taking an apolitical stand on this main national issue.

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Devolution Cannot Be Principal Component of Constitutional Change

By Dr. AC Visvalingam

The word devolution is being employed freely by diverse persons and institutions as the principal component of constitutional change needed to solve the problems associated with poor governance and the ethnic issue. However, it is not difficult to show that the use of the term devolution in these contexts is illogical. As set out below, a rational description of the process required would be “restoration of sovereignty to the People”.

Although the 1972 Constitution made Parliament supreme, Article 3 of the 1978 Constitution corrected this flawed provision by stating that “… sovereignty is in the people and is inalienable. Sovereignty includes the powers of government, fundamental rights and the franchise”. When we move on to Article 4, it states that the people’s legislative, executive and judicial powers shall be exercised respectively by Parliament, the President and the Courts. In other words, the People do not give up their sovereignty but merely delegate the exercise of their powers to Parliament, the President and the Courts, whilst firmly retaining their prerogatives in respect of their fundamental rights and the casting of their vote. Regrettably, the 1978 Constitution, whilst asserting the sovereignty of the People, largely negated this very sovereignty by giving Parliament, the President and the Courts almost unlimited powers, with little regard for the fact that the People could do much better for themselves in many areas of governance without central government intervention or interference. Parliament ignored the invaluable principle of ‘subsidiarity’, which stipulates that a central authority should have a subsidiary function, performing only those tasks which cannot be performed at a more local level.

Why the term devolution is illogical may be understood by considering the following scenario. Let us say that Mr A owns a business but wishes to get someone else to manage it. So, he gives Mr B a Power of Attorney to run the business but excluding the power to sell the business or lease it to anyone else. There is no question that Mr A legally retains the authority to revoke the Power of Attorney at any time. Just because he has arranged for Mr B to exercise certain powers belonging to him, there is no logical reason why he should go pleading to Mr B to devolve back to him any of the powers that he gave Mr B in the first place. This rational relationship is not reflected in our Constitution because the People, who had only delegated their powers to Parliament, the President and the Courts, are now having to beg of Parliament to restore to them a certain proportion of those very powers which are part and parcel of the sovereignty of the People.

It is, therefore, inappropriate to talk of getting, Parliament to devolve the powers exercised by it, the President and the Courts to the more fundamental units of government. What is required is that Parliament should let the proposed Grama Rajyas (the primary units of government) retain the parts of the People’s sovereignty which would enable them to carry out those tasks which are well within the capabilities of these primary units, and fund these units appropriately. Similarly, Parliament should let the Pradeshiya Sabhas (the secondary units of government) retain the parts of the People’s sovereignty which would enable these secondary, units of government to carry out those tasks which are well within the capabilities of these secondary units, and fund these units appropriately. This arrangement would be replicated with the District Councils (tertiary units) and the Provincial Councils (quaternary units), assuming that we keep to the current configurations. It is only the powers which are left over from the application of the subsidiarity principle which would be shared by Parliament, the President and the Courts (three quinary units).

In practical terms, if, say, a Grama Rajya has to choose between repairing a school roof or putting up a useless, expensive, one-day pandal for a Parliamentarian’s visit, it would undoubtedly choose to repair the school roof, provided it has the necessary independent powers and funds. Similarly, if a Pradeshiya Sabha has to decide between putting up a memorial to a long dead politician or re-building a dilapidated bridge of the kind often shown on television, it would certainly choose to repair the bridge properly providing it had the pertinent powers and funding. The District and Provincial Councils would also have their priorities in a different order to that of the central government. The importance of restoring as much powers as practicable to the primary, secondary, tertiary and quaternary units becomes manifest as shown by the simple examples given.

It is also important to emphasise that the totality of the powers of the people is divided into five separate components and that there is no question of one component being at a higher level than another. Hence, the talk of the transfer of power downwards from Parliament is another unwarranted concept. The people are supreme and, therefore, there is no question of Parliament being placed on a pedestal at a higher level than the people. It is because we have allowed this wrong picture to be created that many Parliamentarians have come to delude themselves into thinking that they are superior to the voters who elected them.

The CIMOGG presented the concept of subsidiarity to the Dinesh Gunawardene Committee on Electoral Reforms as far back as September 2003 but there is plainly great reluctance on the part of Parliament to give up those components of the People’s sovereignty that they need to restore to the other government and to release the necessary funds to let these units function independently within the agreed limits. Hence, it is up to concerned citizens to form small groups of their neighbouring voters to lobby their District MPs to recover enough of their sovereignty to help minimise the waste, corruption and the lack of accountability that we presently see in superabundance.

Dr. AC Visvalingam is President of CIMOGG

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Tamils Must Eschew Territorial Approach To Secure Perceived Rights

By Neville Ladduwahetty

In an article titled “Can Human Rights Monitoring Halt Abuses in Sri Lanka?” co-authors, Philip Alston and William Abresch advocate the need for an International Monitoring Mission that would expose and halt abuses, and by doing so protect the population and create the conditions for a sustainable peace. They also state that one of its authors reported to the General Assembly (UN Doc. A/61/311, September 5, 2006) that “the conflict between the Government and the LTTE is ultimately about a struggle for legitimacy, not territory” (The Fletcher Forum of World Affairs, Summer, 2007, Vol 31:2, p. 30). To state that the conflict is about legitimacy and not territory reveals a misunderstanding as well as a misrepresentation of the facts. This is evident from a statement in the article itself that “One proponent of armed struggle by Tamils suggested that territory matters more than human rights” (Ibid, p.30).

It is clear that despite years of the International Community’s (IC) engagement with the Sri Lankan conflict they have failed to realize that the conflict is all about territory. The principle argument of the LTTE and the Tamil community is that their rights “cannot be ensured under Colombo’s rule” and that as long as this belief remains, every means would be exploited by them to gain territory in order to be free of Colombo’s rule. Consequently, Human Right (HR) abuses are the fallout from attempts to gain territory on the part of the LTTE, and for the purpose of securing territory on the part of the Government of Sri Lanka (GOSL).

In this background, a Human Rights Monitoring Mission would only be monitoring HR abuses. However expansive their terms of reference as well as their competence are beyond current arrangements, such a Mission would in the end amount to an exercise in assigning blame with a greater degree of accuracy than has been done in the past. For instance, in the case of the 17 Aid workers of Action Contre la Faim cited in the referenced article, the SLMM ruled that the Security Forces were behind the Act, when in fact, later evidence revealed that since 7 of the 8 bullets were of a kind used by the LTTE, it was most likely that the LTTE and not the Security Forces who committed the act. Monitoring HR abuses thus becomes an exercise in documentation, with little or no action being possible against non-state actors such as the LTTE. The inability of the IC get the LTTE to desist from engaging child soldiers despite efforts over several years, is also testimony to its lack of influence.

The claim that the human rights of Tamils cannot be ensured under Colombo’s rule goes against the facts on the ground, considering the presence of more Sri Lankan Tamils in Colombo and the South than in the Northern and Eastern Provinces, with even lower numbers within the LTTE controlled areas. The IC appears to accept the claims of the LTTE at face value without question. Wresting control of territory from the LTTE is the most promising strategy to ensure the human rights not only of the Tamils but also of the other communities as well. This is evident in the case of the newly liberated Eastern Province. With the GOSL taking action to disarm the Karuna faction as was done with other paramilitaries under the CFA, as well as ensuring that they release child soldiers, if any, in their charge, the HR situation in the Eastern Province could be greatly improved. This would vindicate the steps taken by the GOSL to liberate the Eastern Province.

The developments in the Eastern Province and the presence of the majority of Sri Lankan Tamils in Colombo and the South demonstrate that human rights of the Tamils can indeed be ensured under Colombo’s rule. However, extending such assurances throughout the country requires the Tamil community to eschew a territorial approach to secure their perceived rights, and to pursue an approach that is inclusive and integrative so that “Colombo’s rule” is one where all communities are involved in the processes of governance. In this regard, advocacy for a federal solution by the IC that has at its core ethnically based territory, is an obstacle to the resolution of Sri Lanka’s national question. The IC should instead, use its influence with members of the Tamil diaspora to explore arrangements of power sharing at the Center, with decentralization to the Districts in the recognition that the pursuit of territory, militarily or otherwise, is a no-brainer. This would be a far more effective way for the IC to bring peace to Sri Lanka and to halt HR abuses.

The original concept of federalism with a combined Northern and Eastern Province as a federal unit is moribund. Instead, federalism under the present facts on the ground would result in 9 federal units if the unit is the Province and 25 federal units if it is the District. Whether the federal units are as large as in the US and India, or as small as in Switzerland, the stated attraction that federal units enable self rule does not work in practice because of the lack of financial resources to implement the grand schemes conceived. Consequently, federal units end up administering the policies developed by the Center.

This is increasingly the case in most federally constituted states. In the case of the much promoted “Indian model”, for example, the National Policy on Education (NPE) is developed by the Center. The task of implementing the policies is the responsibility of the States with the Center monitoring the implementation of the policies. Under such a set up, the States become implementing agencies with the bulk of the funds provided by the Center, and allocated on criteria developed according to the priorities of the center, and not according to those of the States. If this is how federalism works in practice, what is its attraction for those seeking self rule?

In view of these ground realities, it would be more important to the future welfare of communities in any country to be part of the decision making processes that establish policy. This is particularly so in the case of countries undergoing conflict, because the genesis of such conflicts has been in the inability to be part of the policy determining processes that affect a particular community. Since arrangements at the Center where policy is determined have a greater impact on the lives of communities and groups than regional power, opportunities to participate at the Center and arrangements that facilitate such participation are in the end what matter most.

The present arrangements at the Center in Sri Lanka are such that political parties represented in Parliament are founded on ethnic lines in addition to ideological divisions, thus creating an unmanageable diversity. Since ruling parties are often coalitions of small ethnically based parties with one of the major parties, the SLFP or the UNP, there is hardly a likelihood of a non Sinhalese becoming a Prime Minister or a President. On the other hand, if as in the US and UK, the party structure is not ethnically based, and all groups whatever their divisions belong to one of the two parties (Republican & Democrat and Labour & Conservative), it becomes possible for members of minority groups to become Presidents and Prime Ministers. This could not happen in Sri Lanka under the present structure.

In the Westminster model that currently exists, Parliament functions with a ruling party governing the country while the Opposition waits in the wings to gain power. Consequently, the interests of a significant portion of the electorate are not expressed and when expressed it is in the form of “opposing” whatever the ruling party “proposes”. On the other hand, if as in the United States, all members of Parliament are constituted into standing Committees to formulate and review Legislation and oversee Executive action, the entire Parliament would be involved in the legislative process and also overlook Executive action. This would serve the interests of the People far better than what prevails today.

The Committees could be divided to cover all the subject areas of the Cabinet. Each Committee could be assigned several ministries in view of the multiplicity of the current Cabinet. The composition of the Committees could follow current practices or based on an improved format. Such an arrangement would give opportunities for all elected representatives to participate in the processes of governance and for modifying prospective legislation in a way to mitigate negative effects on their interest groups. Safeguards should be built in to prevent majoritarian excesses as well as effects from the tyranny of minorities.

As long as the current electoral system prevails one has to expect the ruling party to be made up of coalitions with a plethora of small parties some of whom are not even elected. The cost of keeping this flock together is a vastly expanded Cabinet. This unfortunately is the reality. The only way to get out of this debacle is to have a Cabinet made up individuals outside the Parliament as is the practice in the United States. Such an arrangement would enable the size of the Cabinet to be contained free of coalition pressures.

Since the Committees of the Parliament would have oversight powers over Executive action, and the actions of the Cabinet members would be subject to review by Parliament, it would provide the necessary checks and balances. This arrangement would make Executive action more transparent than it is today. Furthermore, the review process would deter corruption. The ability to create a Cabinet without the current constraints would enable the Executive Branch to be inclusive of interests and communities, thus fostering a national conscience.

Another critical structure should be a National Planning Council. If such a body is structured in a manner for major interest groups to participate in determining future development strategies as members of the Council with specialist sub-groups acting as Consultants, the country would be institutionalizing the whole development process without personalizing it. Thus the major interest groups would be active participants in the development of the country.

The lack of confidence in Colombo’s ability to protect the rights of Tamils and other minorities including the Sinhalese in regions where they are a minority is because of the prevailing arrangements at the Center. Seeking a federal arrangement as a solution to the problem may give a false sense of security within federal units, but would be vulnerable outside the units. The concerns of security and assurances of rights irrespective of location require inclusive and integrative arrangements at the Center as proposed above. These arrangements should be so formulated as to facilitate the participation of all communities at the policy formulation stage in order to ensure that respective concerns are addressed with suitable safeguards against excesses by majorities as well as deadlocks by unyielding minorities. In order to create a sense of security and well-being for all communities, the structures at the Center should be reformulated to promote inclusiveness and foster integration in Sri Lanka.

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Peaceful citizens’ clamour for a decent political culture

by Panduka Dasanayake

  • “I have walked that long road to freedom. I have made missteps along the way. But I have discovered the secret that after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb. I have taken a moment here to rest, to steal a view of the glorious vista that surrounds me, to look back on the distance I have come. But I can rest only for a moment, for with freedom come responsibilities, and I dare not linger for my long walk is not ended…” (Nelson Mandela). Lanka’s United National Congress’s long walk has just begun…
  • The nation congratulates the Honourable Ranil Wickremasinghe and the Honourable Mangala Samaraweera and all the good representatives of the people of Lanka who supported this belated act of wisdom, the formation of the National Congress.
  • The people are pleased to share in this event in all humility as a symbol of a victory for democracy, and, good sense. They have much hope of seeing the creation of a new socio-political culture that is grounded on human and political decency.
  • As trust begets trust, decency is possible only where being decent matters, where the environment enables it and demonstrates that it endorses it, as much as, it enables spiritual and economic well-being.
  • National policies that go beyond the political tenure of any one government creating good systems of public administration and service, an enabling environment for enterprises to be competitive, both nationally and globally, and, where people could pursue their material and spiritual pursuits in peace and harmony, certainly complement human decency. This is what governance and good governance needs to facilitate.
  • Let it not be forgotten that this country had it all in the first half of the last century. Some long and hard introspection is necessary to regain our lost sense of direction and purpose.
  • In this regard, the nation welcomes the National Congress and the Leaders’ call to end petty and divisive politics in this beleaguered, beautiful nation and we look to what we genuinely consider to be the only worthy resolution that has been adopted since the parting of ways that occurred in the early 1950s with the exit from the then United National Party of the stalwart the late Mr SWRD Bandaranaike, and the premature departure of Sir John Kotelawela from national politics.
  • Had that not happened, the path of the evolution of this nation spearheaded by its own worthy sons and daughters would have been a tale in keeping with the best of the civilized past of this great nation. Ceylon was unique in its evolutionary process in the colonial times. After the initial and natural conflicts with the colonial rulers, there evolved a wonderful period of assimilation, education and entry into a modern democracy. After the Manning and Colebrook-Cameron reforms, there evolved the ‘educated Ceylonese’ mentality. With their entry into the Legislative and Executive Councils, and the passage of the Donoughmore constitution, history saw what a great ability our people had to blend the best of East and West and to create a decent, harmonious and enabling environment.
  • Without alluding to superfluous claims, if we limit our reason only to the fact that the Ceylon National Congress, styled after the great Indian National Congress, not only unified people of all ethnic origins living in this country, but also, earned the highest respect and regard of the colonial rulers for its ability and sense of responsibility. The allusion to what this country owed to the late the Right Hon DS Senanayake and Sir Oliver Goonetilleke, in the foreword to his book on the Independence Constitution by the late Sir Ivor Jennings, and the absolute esteem with which he says it, is ample proof of this.
  • This was the period in which proof of decency of dealing mattered and, one’s background and education were important criteria for one to be considered to be a worthy representative of the people. For, there was no substitute for decency to be a custodian of the trust of office and the duties (not so much, the power) that went with it.
  • What did this genre of persons mean? Simply, these people demonstrated capability, integrity, sincerity of purpose, and, a degree of selflessness in serving one’s fellow beings (shunning cheap publicity). Looking at the principled patience with which Mr Ranil Wickremasinghe has withstood every onslaught from within and without the UNP, and the downright chicanery of cheap politics and unprincipled politicians of all hues, we can only applaud his respect for the law, his capability and his sincerity. He truly represents that genre of persons that we can be proud of as being our leader.
  • The host of such worthy people this country had the good fortune of seeing as its

political representatives, in academia, in the professions and enterprises, meant that this country’s adulation of educational attainment, virtuous human qualities, and personal competence was never in question. The citizens of this country found in that limited recognition accorded to the educated classes of the local community a further will to pursue studies in disciplines of modern education to apply and develop their traditional intelligence.

  • However, the lack of congruity in ‘national purpose’ after the rift of the 1950s led to stymied policies on many fronts and petty politicking that undermined the good process of evolution that this society went through from the colonial period onwards – be it in terms of education or the economy, the access to English as an international language of communication and learning, the excellent public service that evolved which Mr. Lee Kwan Yu wanted to emulate, or the enterprises, both of sterling origin and of purely local entrepreneurs that were global in their outlook and actions long before the present period of ‘globalization’.
  • We acknowledge the mistakes of both the UNP and the SLFP in this sad and terrible era of post-independence Ceylon and later, Sri Lanka, with the highest level of incompetence and foolish wickedness being demonstrated by the present regime, and we welcome this late move to end divisive politics in this beautiful land.
  • We shall need more than Truth and Reconciliation to undo the damage sustained by the political blunders and brutalities committed through the State’s forces and its reactionaries. But it IS Truth and Reconciliation that will matter as a minimum to rebuild this nation. We recall nostalgically the advent to power of the late JR Jayawardene in 1977, and the hope this nation had in him being the saviour. The record from 1977 -1981 went relatively well, and then with the DDC elections, referendum, myopic Constitutional Amendments, PTA etc, the record was sullied. With a 5/6 majority in Parliament, a statesman of the caliber of Lee Kwan Yew may have used it solely for nation-building. Ours was a different story and the turn of events went to magnify the lack of courage and sincerity of the leaders.
  • We then had a hopeful interlude in 2001 December when the Hon. Ranil Wickremasinghe promised a turn for the better. The peace process, opening of the economy, liberalizing political structures, liberal democracy, ‘regaining Sri Lanka,’ and the priority that should be accorded to education were emphasized by Mr. Wickremasinghe. But we all know how the very system that the late President JRJ put in place was used to manipulate rather than to build, and Mr Wickremasinghe was denied the opportunity to deliver.
  • Mr Wickremasighe’s allusion to the failure to open political structures in a number of statements of that time, made us appreciate this leader’s sensitivity to the failures of the post 1977 era in particular, and the post-independence era, in general.
  • Earlier, we had myopic ‘nationalisation’ exercises, that took away the respect for private ownership and management of capital; and land and paddy lands were the all-important capital in a primarily agricultural economy. It needed more time to evolve into a truly mixed economy with agro-based industries, industries, and modern technology following it through to the post-industrial society that we could have been. But premature social engineering denied the maturing process to take its course.
  • Through the introduction of the educational reforms and policies commenced by the late CWW Kannangara, we had a host of rural MMVs and MVs that were preparing candidates for the SSC in English by the 1950s. It is not to venerate English but to practically accept its value as a communications and educational tool that we lament its abandonment post 1960.
  • And none would deny that English served to bridge East and West meaningfully, and served as a useful link language that served national harmony, as well as, a means of respectably projecting ourselves to the rest of the world. The global language was another example of how our people demonstrated their ability to grasp some alien tongue and use it effectively and very competently.
  • But the time that was needed for this to become a fully fledged modern democracy that was capable of managing its independent era with responsibility was interrupted most tragically.
  • As the Ceylon National Congress was a unifying single force, let us aspire to make this current United National Congress a rallying point for people of all hues, to look up to for belated nation building.
  • While we uphold the best traditions of modern democracies, we really do not believe that the multi party system has served us very well. Let this be a good time to seriously look at a viable arrangement that will enable all competent people, with sincerity of political purpose rather than ‘mere political ambition,’ to serve the nation under a truly national government.
  • Up to now, all we’ve seen is a host of ‘talkers’ who have failed to be productively employed in any activity, being ‘grafted’ to earn off the national kitty. May the United National Congress mark the end of this rotten era.
  • May it never be repeated that it is a Sinhala nation or a Tamil nation – but simply a modern nation amongst the world’s nations, responsible to itself and to the world at large, upholding the best of the civilized world, nourishing its own regional and cultural niceties, and bringing out the best in everybody that lives here or visits here. Such accommodating and consensus politics will definitely conduce towards a decent society.
  • Now, our only hope is that there be a good action plan to facilitate a shared learning for every aspiring Member of Parliament that comes in from the National Congress to live up to the highest ideals of a modern nation and for the welfare of all its peoples. This will undoubtedly conduce towards a decent political culture.
  • This underscores the value of restructuring our national educational policies to produce ‘educated’, ’employable’ and further ‘trainable’ citizens, who might emulate those excellent people this country produced when good systems prevailed, and, who can contribute productively to the national economy through whatever profession, public office or enterprise they choose to be employed in and serve their fellow beings. A productive, competent, and contented employee/ citizen contributes to ‘decency’ in that society. We recall the ‘White Paper on Education’ that Mr Ranil Wickremesinghe as Minister in 1981-2 proposed and had to be abandoned due to ‘politics.’ Another 25 years have passed!
  • That education reform that was envisaged in the White Paper would have helped undo some of the damage and facilitate a resurgence of decent, cultured people. Alas! We are still saddled with many hot-air-blowing empty-heads in Parliament! ‘What could have been’ had not private enterprise been undermined by less enlightened political decisions to experiment with ‘nationalization’ and ‘mismanaged socialism’ and ignoring the real national priorities, continues to irk us.
  • Therefore, we have every confidence that the National Congress with the good leadership and sincerity of the Hon. Ranil Wickremasinghe, and the Hon. Mangala Samaraweera will, in their turn, have all good blessings to steer the country through focused national dialogue, consensus building and forgivance, and courage to do what is right, and to formulate sound policies, towards creating a new, decent, liberal, democratic, socio-political order that this country is crying for.
  • There needs therefore to be new criteria for selecting future representatives of the people, criteria that conduce towards ensuring decency. The experience of the 58 years post independence in 1948 demands that these criteria need to go beyond personal-familial histories alone.
  • The ‘Precept and Example’ approach coupled with ‘Principled, Shared & Accountable Leadership’ with ‘respect for liberty and the rule of law‘ will be essential to creating a stable future for the country.
  • This underscores the importance of people’s representatives who respect things like the following in a pluralist society: “inter-dependence”, “diversity management & social integration”, “mediation”, “lobbying opinions”, “law & order”, “good governance”, “fundamentals of economics and industrial competitiveness”, “social equity” etc. These should, in fact, be regularly discussed through varied and competent facilitation, if parliamentarians are to be made competent to serve.
  • The above may sound naïve, but we sincerely feel for the magnitude of the task the National Congress has at hand to help restore this nation to a level of decency, discipline and dedication to do what is right that must meaningfully presage and complement any attempt at achieving economic prosperity that will be sustainable.
  • May those lapses of the post 1948 era never be repeated; the lapses that paved the way for ill-conceived experiments that undermined social harmony and socio-economic development of this country. An introspective brainstorming session may be a good start, as the Congress determines to make a difference in the political firmament of Sri Lanka. We absolutely need a keen sense of responsibility on the part of all aspiring parliamentarians.
  • We welcome your commitment to restrict Cabinet numbers as a first step. If all went well, all we need is one/ two national representative/s for every administrative district, and the local representatives facilitating the rest. But that is another story.
  • We wish the National Congress every success at acquiring legislative power soon, and may you have the support of all reasonable people who would work for your advent to political power, without expecting undue gains. Let it be said to all aspiring to serve under the National Congress, that the whole country will uphold your efforts at really making a difference this time round and we, ordinary citizens, who have patiently waited for something good to happen in this country, wish all of you the best of all blessings to do what you have to do. The real tough issues lie ahead, and the citizens will watch you as you handle them, whether with principle and practicality, or, with political expediency only. They’ve seen enough of the latter. Be your own police and judges, and do not give cause to others to doubt your sincerity of purpose, lest we have opportunists with lesser intentions making capital and confusion, too.
  • We wish the Congress every success in their attempts at national reconciliation and paving the way for economic prosperity. May your imminent victory be a blessing for the multitudes in this country who have waited patiently for something good to happen.
  • May ‘Precept & Example’ be your watchwords as you ‘march to a mighty purpose,’ and may decency, discipline and dedication to do what is right be the result that this country sees.
  • “…But most shall he sing of Lanka

In the brave new days to come,

When the races all have blended

And the voice of strife is dumb;

When we leap to a single bugle,

March to a single drum” (Rev. Walter S Senior, c.1910)

  • ‘Sabbe sattha bhavanthu sukhitattha.’ (ends)

EDITORS NOTE: This article reflects the sentiments of well – wishers about the formation of the National Congress. The Federal Idea is not aligned to any political party . We are supportive of all organizations or groups in Sri Lanka advocating national reconciliation, unity, pluralism, justice, equality and democracy.

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The Holy Bible Justifies War and Retaliation to Protect the Nation and Law and Order

By Thomas Johnpulle

It is one thing when elected members of the clergy making political statements; it is unacceptable when unelected (and unelectable) clergy start making remarks with political sensitivity. They misuse their influence and power contradicting the Holy Bible in doing so. It is remarkable how their pulpits silently approve (yes, no condemnation equals approval) LTTE’s genocide and barbarianism. They should understand that there couldn’t be a compromise of the good and the bad and there is no middle path equally distant from the good and the bad either.

War

The Holy Bible (Old Testament) contains vivid descriptions of war and conflict. King David (970-930 BC), became a Biblical character because of his military prowess. He fought such ferocious battles against forces that tried to put his nation into history. The brutality and effectiveness of his intelligent military strategies quickly won him his nation. In many ways, his conduct resembles that of our gallant Prince Dutukemunu. This prince did not fight for the Sinhalas alone as according to history, the Eastern commander of King Ellalan defected to the side of the prince and was appointed a deputy king later. Thus, the nation not only survived, but also prospered. More than any other reference what Sri Lanka needs today is a David to do exactly what he did with his country. His successor King Solomon (970-930 BC), also used similar if not more effective military means to protect his nation.

Those apolitical priests who preach us that “war is bad” have conveniently forgotten the Holy Bible – their bread and butter! True enough war is not a good thing and should be avoided, as much as possible but only to the extent that such avoidance doesn’t jeopardise the nation, its people and its law. Stereotyping that all wars are bad is completely impractical and has no relevance whatsoever to humans and other living beings. Believe it or not, evolution has spared the homo sapiens because of their superior fighting ability that made the Neanderthals who ruled the earth for more than 100,000 years extinct. The bottom line is we have to fight for our nation, its democratic existence and the civilised existence of its people. There is no justification to tolerate ethnic cleansing, a Tamil only state, underage recruitment, suicide, authoritarianism, division of the country, etc.

There are other instances in the holy scripts that justify war and violence against the likes of modern day LTTE.

Even Jesus didn’t dispute his countrymen paying taxes to Caesar knowing very well that the Caesars strived for expansionism and war. Ultimately, it was the Roman Empire the Caesars built that spread Christianity the world over.

However, it is a sad situation that has befallen the birthplace and other important places where Jesus traversed. Bethlehem and Jerusalem are in everyday news for all the wrong reasons. It is hypocrisy at its best that some Christian priests support the “saving” of the Holy Land from Muslims (who are the rightful owners of these places today) while criticising conflicts elsewhere.

This is where Sri Lanka will end up if we follow the impractical “teachings” of modern day “priests”. Lawlessness will rule in the name of “non-violence”, “peace” and religion.

Retaliation

The Holy Bible states in unequivocal terms how to maintain law and order in the society when it is threatened. “……….But if there is further injury, the punishment must match the injury: a life for a life, an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, a hand for a hand, a foot for a foot, a burn for a burn, a wound for a wound, a bruise for a bruise”. Exodus 21:23-25. For non-Christian readers, this was an extract from the detailed laws introduced with the wisdom of the Lord – the creator of heaven and earth. These relate to the society and NOT to the individual. Later Jesus further reiterated that these are societal laws and not personal laws when he declared that eye for an eye, etc. should not be the basis of the treatment of one another (personal relationships), instead it should be love. He never contradicted the laws affecting the society at large (against those who try to destroy such society) in saying so. Today this has become a very effective military means in protecting civilised societies the world over.

Some self-appointed Messiahs with overriding political interests try to contradict the Holy Bible in a shameful manner. God always wanted the law to reign supreme over the society and that means use of force against perpetrators depending on their strength. There is no point in trying to enforce the law in Northern Sri Lanka with the police, judges or priests, instead heavy mortars, bunker buster bombs; MBRLs, etc. should be used.

The logic behind retaliatory remedies is that it deters the aggressors by convincing them in a language that they understand “if you attack us, you will pay equally”. In a ridiculous statement, a politician once declared that this strategy would leave a blind and a toothless society. On the contrary, the most peaceful and law-abiding nations do follow this retribution strategy with remarkable success and it is those nations that do not retaliate the aggressors that have become refuge camps of the disabled, blind, deaf and amputated individuals. As practicing Catholic let me tell our priests that the laws of the Lord are supreme and have proved effective against the jokes of this politician.

Nationalism

Nationalism should be contrasted with racism. If anyone claims “Tamil Elam” or “a separate Muslim administrative unit”, that is racism. If anyone says Sri Lankan or Indian or American, that is nationalism. It doesn’t need rocket science to prove that Nationalism is in fact the exact opposite of racism.

Therefore, “racist-federalism” as proposed by so many pundits-turned-idiots in the name of ‘peace’ is nothing but racism. There should not be any division, demarcation, devolution, decentralisation, disintegration, self-determination or any other form of separation of this country based on RACE. If we allow this, we become the only country in the world out of more than 200 countries to legalise racism and we will be the pioneers of ‘racist-federalism”. There are no Tamil homelands in this island and the Sinhalese and Muslims have equal rights to live in Jaffna, etc., to colonize any part of the country with or without the help of the government as long as it doesn’t violate the enacted law and they have the same right to exploit economic resources of the North and the East. Similarly, there are no Sinhala or Muslim homelands either.

If anyone has a problem with Sri Lankan nationalism, they should respectfully leave this island.

In a bizarre allegation, some “racist-federalists” have mixed up Sri Lankan nationalism and “Sinhala nationalism”. There is no such thing as “Sinhala nationalism” as there is no Sinhala nation! Similarly, there is nothing called Tamil nationalism as there is no Tamil nation and there will never be one unless Tamil Nadu gets independence from India. Feelings of nationalism surges during ODI cricket matches, but it should not be limited to that! It is very encouraging that the Sri Lankan majority have rejected racism and of course have taken up Sri Lankan nationalism. I can justify my claim by analysing the constituency of the parliament. There are more than 20 seats held by Tamil-Only parties, another more than 15 by upcountry-Tamil-Only parties and another more than 10 seats by Muslim-Only parties. Whereas there are only 9 seats for the one and only Sinhala-only party. So much about the race based parties. No wonder most of them promote “racist-federalism”. It is a very sad reality that the Muslim group among them was different when its founder – Mr. MHM Ashroff was around; then it had a Sinhala MP as well making it a national party than a race-based party. It is no surprise that party has gone to a dodgy leader.

On the other hand, the SLFP, UNP and the JVP are multi-ethnic nationalistic parties though only one has the term “national” in its name. The LTTE loves the race-based-parties for obvious reasons and hates the nationalistic parties and calls them ‘successive Sinhala-only’ governments. It only displays LTTE racism.

It is despicable that one of our priests had painstakingly analysed the race of our cricketers when nobody cared about it. Race-centred thinking that unfortunately transcend on ethnic minorities of this country has done enough damage. Tamil Catholics can trust the Sinhala majority but not the LTTE, their henchmen and their racism.

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