Archive for January, 2008

Northern Province Requires Good Governance And Not Interim Administration

by S.L.Gunasekara

The 13th Amendment to the Constitution [forced down our throats by the Indian Government] was an unmitigated disaster which resulted in the creation of Eight ‘White Elephants’ called ‘Provincial Councils’ and a proliferation of political functionaries in the form of Provincial Ministers, Members of Provincial Councils and their ‘hangers on’ which drained the public purse of colossal amounts of funds which ought to have been used for the benefit of the People and not for the benefit of such functionaries.

There can be no doubt that both the 13th Amendment and the Provincial Councils Act which followed should be repealed forthwith: it is, however self evident that neither the present Government nor any other would have the political will to do so because the abolition of Provincial Councils will deny to any government [and even parties in opposition], vast vistas of opportunity to grant political patronage to all kinds of good for nothing sycophants so loved by politicians of all hues.

In these tragic circumstances the 13th Amendment and the Provincial Council Act are a part of the law of the Land and likely to remain so, and must, therefore, be implemented: they are evils with which we are compelled to live, and all we can do is to strive to make the best of a woeful situation. Accordingly, the APRC cannot be faulted for proposing the full implementation of the 13th Amendment and hence the Provincial Councils Act and the holding of Provincial Council Elections in the Eastern Province.

In addition the APRC was perfectly correct in stating that Provincial Council Elections cannot be held in the Northern Province because of the prevailing situation in that Province; and equally wrong in suggesting the creation of an `Interim Council’ to aid and advise the Governor until such elections could be held. Various functionaries of the Government have, from time to time, made statements regarding the proposed Interim Council from which it may be gathered that the idea is to constitute an Interim Council to function as a de facto Provincial Council;and that the members thereof would be politicians selected on the basis of political affiliation and ethnicity.

One fact that needs to be borne in mind in this connection is that neither the 13th Amendment nor the Provincial Councils Act requires the establishment of any ‘Interim Council’.

One can well visualise what will happen if such a crazy scheme as the appointment of an Interim Council is implemented. First, with so many politicians of no use to man or beast shamelessly clamouring for body-guards, and being granted their demands, the ‘ appointed to that Council will also clamour for an even greater number of personal security officers resulting in our security forces having to face a reduction of the personnel available for the ‘make or break’ battle with the LTTE purely in order to furnish these political jackanapes, their families and their staff with personal security. Only the LTTE and not the law abiding citizens of the North or elsewhere would stand to gain from such idiocy .

Further, it must follow as the night the day that they will promptly demand and probably get luxurious official vehicles, plush official accommodation, plush offices, a large personal staff to which they could appoint their kith and kin and hangers on, and many perquisites of office such as permits for duty free vehicles. The public purse will doubtless be bled to satisfy the cupidity of these Interim Councillors to the detriment of the People. Thirdly, they will indisputably seek to interfere in all aspects of governance of the Northern Province in pursuit of their own political agendas thereby retarding the Governor’s ability to make objective decisions and implement them promptly, resulting in political interference which is and has been the bane of all parts of the Country being entrenched in the Northern Province even before a Provincial Council is established for that Province.

What the People of the Northern Province require [as do the People of the other 8 Provinces] is good governance. The Government has a golden opportunity to provide them with such good governance free of political interference [a pearl of great price which the People of no other Province is blessed] by appointing a competent administrator with a commitment to the Country who, unlike a politician, will have no political debts to repay or grudges to pay off, and will have the ability to examine the problems facing the People objectively and find rational solutions to them without having to cater to the whims and fancies of vested interests.

Such a Governor will necessarily need assistance and advice in various fields such as agriculture, irrigation, marketing, public health and sanitation etc.: but it is he and not any other authority who should be given the power to select his Advisors-for if that were not so and advisors with their own agendas are appointed on political grounds, the Governor and his Advisors are likely to be at cross-purposes to the detriment of the People. Further, under no condition should ethnicity or political affinity be a criterion for the selection of Advisors: the sole criterion for selection should be knowledge, expertise and proven ability in the field in which the advice is needed.

If the Northern Province could be so administered, it could become a model for the rest of the Country, and living proof of the fact that the devolution of power and the creation of ‘White Elephants’ that will go hand in hand with it is not necessary for good governance. Let not the Government let slip this opportunity and create a Ninth ‘White Elephant’ by establishing the proposed Interim Council.

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The Real A.P.R.C. Report Must Be Presented To Public By February 4th

by Rohini Hensman

What a fiasco! We were promised the long-awaited APRC proposals would be released on January 23rd, and what did we get? The 13th Amendment was taken out of the corner where it had been mouldering for twenty years, the cobwebs were dusted off, and it was presented to us as the solution to our problems: despite the fact that it failed in the North-East because it did not ensure meaningful devolution (apart from the fact that the LTTE scuttled it), and was unpopular even among the Sinhalese in the South! It has been reported that the APRC was forced into this ignoble position by the President: does he think we are all idiots? Why appoint the APRC and waste tax-payers’ money on 63 meetings over eighteen months if the only purpose was to revive the failed 13th Amendment? Once again, the government of Sri Lanka seems determined to prove the LTTE right when it wrote off the APRC process as eyewash.

We should reject this report, even as an interim measure, for the same reason that we rejected the LTTE’s Interim Self-Governing Authority: because it constitutes a massive obstacle to a democratic solution of the current crisis. Before you take interim steps to reach a certain goal, you need to know what that goal is; otherwise you are in danger of moving in the opposite direction, and that is precisely what this proposal does. Credible interim proposals cannot be made until the final goal is clear, even if it is a long way off.

We must therefore demand that the real APRC proposals–not the APRC acting as the mouthpiece of the president, who is free to make his own proposals but surely has a mouth of his own–should be presented by February 4th at the very latest. If the president does not permit this, the Left and minority parties who are still part of the government should resign and the proposals should be presented independently. I am fully aware of the risk this entails for minority party leaders who are already being targeted by the LTTE: given Rajapakse’s vindictive policy of withdrawing security from politicians who defy his orders, not to mention the existence of government-linked death squads, their lives will be in danger. But the only alternative is that they betray their own constituencies in order to be part of a government that is determined not to give justice to minorities. Tissa Vitharana has been denounced by fascist bullyboy Ranawaka, and no doubt the Left parties would face more vilification or even violence from the JHU and JVP, but they too cannot remain in an anti-democratic government without betraying their socialist principles. What is important is not that the APRC should reach consensus, but that the results of their deliberations should be presented to the public for democratic debate.

Three Positions on the State(s) in Sri Lanka

There are essentially three positions on the state(s) in the territory of what is now Sri Lanka. The first is that of the LTTE, which strives to constitute the Northeast as a separate state of Tamil Eelam, an exclusively Tamil state in which minorities can be subjected to discrimination, persecution and ethnic cleansing. The second is that of the JHU, JVP, MEP and their fellow-travellers, who strive to establish the whole of Sri Lanka as a unitary Sinhala-Buddhist state in which minorities can be subjected to discrimination, persecution and ethnic cleansing. The third position essentially seeks to establish Sri Lanka as a united, democratic state in which citizens of all communities will enjoy equal rights–including religious, cultural and language rights–in all parts of the country. Some variants of this position want Sri Lanka to be a federal state, but most parties are willing to forego full federalism provided there is adequate and meaningful devolution of power, especially to areas where there is a preponderance of minority communities.

The first position, represented in parliament by the TNA, has been excluded from the APRC so far, since Mahinda Rajapakse did not invite it to participate. This detracted somewhat from the legitimacy of the exercise, since it did not include a large bloc of Tamil MPs. But it could also be argued that the TNA MPs owed their position in parliament to election-rigging by the LTTE, and would not have the freedom to represent their constituents freely if their position deviated from that of the LTTE. In mid-2007, APRC Chairman Tissa Vitharana invited the TNA too to participate.

The second position is represented by the JVP (which has withdrawn from the APRC), JHU and MEP, some elements of the SLFP and possibly also of the UNP. They insist on the definition of the state as ‘unitary’, retention of the special place given to Buddhism, and tight limits placed on devolution; indeed, the proposal of the SLFP, subsequently withdrawn, that the unit of devolution should be the district, would effectively have made it impossible for any substantial devolution of power to take place.

The third position is taken by the Left parties and most of the minority parties. While there may be differences of emphasis among them, they concur in ruling out both a division of the country and a unitary state, and in wanting substantial devolution at the provincial level combined with decentralisation at a lower level and power-sharing at the centre. The EPDP is ambivalent about this position. Without dismissing it, the party wanted the APRC to recommend implementation of the 13th Amendment, with the establishment of interim councils in the North and East.

Preconditions for Consensus

Arriving at a consensus between parties holding radically different positions is conditional on their being willing to shift their positions in the interests of agreement. Without that willingness, any consensus is pie in the sky, and the search for it is a futile exercise. So what are the chances of the APRC reaching consensus? In principle, Prof. Vitharana is quite right to invite the TNA to participate, since it is supposed to be an All-Party committee. But Prabakaran has made it very clear he is not willing to budge from his goal of a separate Tamil state ruled by the LTTE. It is therefore impossible to envisage a consensus between the TNA and the other parties in parliament.

What about the rest of the parties? The JVP, JHU, MEP and sections of the SLFP insist on a unitary state with limited devolution of power to the provinces, while the Left and most minority parties do not want a unitary state and want substantial devolution of power to the provinces. This is not just a quibble over a word; if Sri Lanka is defined as a ‘unitary’ state, this will automatically give the Centre powers to overrule and even dismiss provincial governments which act contrary to its wishes. Any devolution would then be purely illusory, since it could be clawed back at will by the Centre. Thus in reality, there is as little chance of consensus between these two blocs of parties as there is between either of them and the LTTE/TNA. Any ‘consensus’ that emerges would be at the cost of the Left and minority parties selling out their constituencies by agreeing to a unitary state which is opposed by them.

Does ‘Unitary’ Mean ‘United’?

The first excuse for wanting to preserve the unitary character of the state is that abandoning the unitary state–and even, according to the JVP, allowing devolution of any degree–would lead to the division of Sri Lanka. This argument reveals its proponents to be historical ignoramuses. The most striking counter to it is the example of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, which, under Tito, granted a high degree of autonomy to its constituent republics and to the Serbian provinces of Vojvodina and Kosovo, and remained united. After Tito’s death in 1980, the Serbian nationalists attempted to curtail regional autonomy, leading to the break-up of Yugoslavia. Most significantly for Sri Lanka, Kosovo now stands poised on the brink of independence from Serbia after an armed struggle conducted by the Kosovo Liberation Army, a force with a strong resemblance to the LTTE. Here there is a clear link between more autonomy and unity, while less autonomy leads to separatism.

Indeed, we see the same pattern in Sri Lanka too. Sri Lanka’s first Constitution did not define it as a unitary state, nor was there any special place for Buddhism, and there was no separatist movement while it prevailed. The Republican Constitution of 1972 proclaimed Sri Lanka to be a unitary state, which, along with Sinhala as the sole official language, the special place given to Buddhism, and withdrawal of protection for minorities, amounted to establishing it as a Sinhala-Buddhist state. Within a few years there was a separatist movement for Tamil Eelam and an armed struggle to realise it, which continues to this day. Once again, the correlation is clear: no unitary state, no separatism; unitary state, armed separatist struggle.

So the argument against removing the word ‘unitary’ is NOT an argument for preserving the unity of our country, but the very opposite: it is an argument for dividing Sri Lanka by defining it as a Sinhala-Buddhist state, thereby sustaining the separatist struggle of the LTTE. Those who truly wish to defeat the LTTE would want to remove the unitary label from our constitution as soon as possible.

Reluctance to Change the Constitution

The other reason given for opposing the deletion of ‘unitary’ from the constitution is that it would require a two-thirds majority in parliament as well as a referendum. It is true this would take time, but if we therefore give up the struggle to change the constitution, we are, in effect, giving up on democracy in Sri Lanka. To take just one example: the virtually absolute power held by the Executive President means that the entire population is at the mercy of this one individual. This is not merely a denial of the democratic rights of the people, but also a negation of good governance. The Organisation of Professional Associations (OPA) deserves our gratitude for its magnificent efforts to reactivate the Constitutional Council (CC), which was seen as counterbalancing the absolute power of the President, but that is not enough. Will the presidential appointees to posts that should have been filled by CC appointees be replaced? It seems unlikely. Nor will good governance in other areas be ensured.

Take, for example, the bizarre episode in London when the president wanted to return to Sri Lanka after a personal trip to see his son graduate. The Sri Lankan Airlines flight was over-booked, and chief executive Peter Hill, while offering to accommodate Rajapakse’s immediate family, refused to offload 35 confirmed passengers in order to accommodate his entourage. And he was quite right to do so. Imagine trecking all the way to the airport and queuing up to check in, only to find that your seat and those of 34 other passengers had been hijacked by the president’s hangers-on! Wouldn’t you think twice about flying Sri Lankan Airlines in future? It would be the end of the airline as a commercial enterprise! But Mr Hill’s reward was to have his work permit and visa withdrawn, as a result of which Emirates, which appointed him, is withdrawing from the partnership with Sri Lankan Airlines. This could well convert Sri Lankan Airlines from a revenue-earning venture into a disastrous loss-making enterprise like Mihin Air, paid for by the hapless people of Sri Lanka.

This is just one example of the mind-boggling corruption and nepotism that is sending Sri Lanka’s economy down the drain. It is not just working-class and middle-income groups who are paying for it; even businesses cannot be run under such conditions. Nor is it just a problem for the present: even the future of Sri Lanka is being mortgaged by the high-interest loans taken by this rapacious administration that is sucking the life-blood out of our country. This is the result of the progressive undermining of democracy that has occurred from Independence onward. First the minority communities were disempowered by depriving Hill-country Tamils of their citizenship and franchise, passing the Sinhala Only Bill, and so on. These were not just attacks on minority rights but on equality, which is the bedrock of democracy. The 1972 constitution not only deprived minority communities of more rights but also centralised enormous power in the hands of the ruling party, thus disempowering Sinhalese too. Finally the 1978 constitution put absolute power in the hands of the executive president. Again, it is not just minorities who pay; on the contrary, in financial terms, the Sinhalese pay more, since there are more of them. Furthermore, there is the ever-present danger of tens of thousands of Sinhalese being slaughtered, as they were in the late 1980s.

Restoring Democracy in Sri Lanka

If all this is to be reversed, the executive presidency has to be abolished and democracy restored, which means that we need a new constitution along the lines proposed by the Tissa Vitharana report. The chances of achieving this are not so hopeless as the Sinhala chauvinists would have us believe. Except for the TNA, all the minority parties would support such a change, as would the Left parties. While sections of the SLFP would oppose it, others would surely support it, since their own proposal for constitutional change in 1995 was very similar. At that time, the UNP sabotaged the whole effort in an utterly shameful way; if they do the same again, they would face well-deserved oblivion, so perhaps the leadership will think better of it; even if they don’t, there will be some party members who support a democratic constitution. So a two-thirds parliamentary majority supporting the change is not impossible, if not immediately, then after the next elections. As for getting it approved by a referendum, I feel confident that if the issues are explained and the people of Sri Lanka are allowed to make an informed choice, they will surely vote in favour of democracy.

However, before this can happen, the real APRC report has to be presented to the public. Where there is no consensus in the APRC, the different positions of the different parties should be presented honestly. The Ministry of Constitutional Affairs and National Integration should publish the proposals in all three languages, and all those who have any commitment to peace should ensure that they are debated thoroughly by the public. This may take time, but if the process starts immediately, it should be complete before the next parliamentary and presidential elections. In the meantime, it should be made very clear that the president will be held responsible for any violence whatsoever against signatories of the report.

If the real APRC proposals are unveiled by the end of this month, we will have something to celebrate on Independence Day. Otherwise it will be a day of national mourning for the murder of democracy over a period of sixty years.

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Is Democracy Ready for Sri Lanka?

By Subra S. Massey

After 60 years of freedom from the Europeans Sri Lanka is fasts becoming an un-democratic and non-democratic country. When the current President, Mr.Mahinda Rajapaksa proclaims that negotiations will be held with the LTTE after they have been defeated in the war, I came to the conclusion that Sri Lanka is not ready for freedom and democracy. Once one party is defeated there is no negotiation, the vindicated accepts whatever crumbs thrown by the victor. Digesting various information from the extreme Singhalese, if the LTTE is defeated there will be total annihilation of the Tamils. Once the matter gets out of control it will be difficult to bring it under control. We witness this kind of human behaviour every day. Further evidences are the abrogation of the Cease Fire Agreement. The President wants to bring in an All Party Representative Committee to put together a devolution plan. I do not see why he has to repeal CFA to bring about APRC. The APRC could have been easily built upon the CFA. CFA is just the foundation and the beginning; one cannot negotiate while the war is going on or once one party is defeated. The President firmly believes that LTTE can be defeated. I think he is presuming. Lets us presume LTTE is defeated, but recent history teaches otherwise. The Israelites came back, of course after a long time, with undefeatable power! So the way I see it, Sri Lanka is not ready for peace and democracy. This lengthy article is about Democracy and Sri Lanka. Are the people ready to live in a democratic system?

[A Sri Lankan minister and his thugs entered a TV station & attacked journalists and other media personnel-pic courtesy of IRTAG Media]

What is needed in Sri Lanka is real democracy, a democracy in the hearts and minds of the people. One should live in a democratic state to understand the multifaceted benefits it offers. In this article I am making an attempt to bring together people of Sri Lanka to live as one people. I am explaining in detail with my limited knowledge, experience and wisdom why we have to live as one people respecting race, religion and language of other people. There are several nations that have transcended natural and external barriers and progressed beyond imagination. A strong social system combined with vibrant economic system makes this possible. I think the train of society rides on a strong socio-economic system. One without the other is difficult to maintain. Democracy is not an absolute or perfect system. It can be improved. I think the world leaders are beginning to accept that we need to talk to the minorities and the aggrieved. In a real democracy every citizen must be equal and it is the duty of the state to ensure they are equal in every respect. This evolution is I happening in the minds of leaders. Mr. Gordon Brown, The Prime Minister of The United Kingdom and Mrs. Hillary Clinton of the democrats in USA have expressed their views on it. Unfortunately other democracies are not inventing new ideas to improve upon this concept of democracy. The reason may be they are still growing democracies. The United Kingdom and The United States of America are good in inventing new ways to ameliorate human life. The civil rights movement in America not only made their citizens equal to each other but also created worldwide civil rights for all suppressed people. India has not come up to the challenge. It lacks leadership to free its people from socio-economic feudalism. It is also very slow to develop its political capital. So India has its own problems. Pakistan is another pariah state. But Singapore, Malaysia and Honk Hong have progressed beyond expectation. What is the problem? This region around the Indian Ocean as a whole is unable to grow up.

Other concepts that need improvement are Terrorist and Terrorism. When some one enters your home or property and uses violence he can be called a terrorist, but when you go to defend your home and property you are fighting for your rights as a citizen, you are not a terrorist and the act is not terrorism. Sri Lankan government has been waging a campaign against its own citizens as terrorists. When you deliberately discriminate your own citizens you are putting every other citizen at the perils of an impending social upheaval. Then the current definition of terrorist and terrorism has to be tested against the way the majority treat the minorities in any nation. If a man fight for his rights in a democratic way and if the majority does not address their concern, there should mechanisms to address those grievances. In Sri Lanka most of the readers about my age of 65 know the history of the current situation. For others we have to provide lot of information so that they can make their own deliberations and make educated decisions. In 1956, Singhalese was made the official language, then how do the Non-Singhalese people communicate with the State and the Singhalese? This would not have been done in a democratically well-evolved country. The nation of Sri Lanka was not ready to make such drastic changes. The people were not educated and matured enough to understand the complications of such a proclamation. The country from thereon step-by-step descended and we are in a state of total disarray. No bread but plenty of bullets. About 500,000 people are on non-productive, highly consumptive profession called the military. Then there are thuggerism and paramilitary groups and drug dealers at will. It reminds of the discovery channel on television. When an economy consumes without corresponding production inflation will take over. That is where Sri Lanka is today. The country has become economically, financially, politically, morally and intellectually bankrupt. I think for 500 years we were under the control of the European masters and in 1948 we were let loose and within mere eight years we were back to nature quarreling with each other. Other nations tried vainly to educate us in democracy in a delicate manner but those ideas never sank into our psyche. I think the system of government in most European countries and in the United States of America the constitutions are well evolved to deal with anomalies in an elected parliamentary system. The judiciary, which is free of the elected parliament, is one way it can be addressed. There are other ways such as in Canada where each province has its own provincial government to address regional issues that arise from time to time. This takes courage and willingness on the part of the majority to promulgate a constitution that will protect the minorities. Actually speaking there should not be any minorities in any country or political system. We are all equal and capable. There are so many ways this problem can be solved, but it takes political willingness, courage and leadership to solve it for the purpose of good living. I guess man coming from the cave through the jungle have adopted the mindset of animals; the strong one feeds at the expense and the expensive life of the other. Why would a nation put itself through traumatic experiences for 60 years? My view is that we are unable to develop ourselves into a well-grown democracy. We understand aggravation, violence, abuse and physical force but not dialogue, negotiation, compromise and brotherhood. Once I was traveling in a Jaffna bound train, the military personnel entered the train asked every citizen who paid the fare to travel legitimately to surrender the seat to the army personnel. So from the Late Prime Minister S.W.R.D.Bandaranayake to ordinary citizen and soldier there is no respect for his fellow citizen. Respect for fellow citizen is called democracy. It is not rocket science. Are people of Sri Lanka ready for the State of Sri Lanka? Is democracy ready for Sri Lanka? Democracy is blood, flesh, bone, mind and brain of people; it is not an abstract science. It is a collective living will of the people. It is in my selfish interest to be unselfish to preserve myself. In my self interest I am willing to form a union of people and raise the standard of living of all, the nation.

The people in mature democracies recognize the need for social harmony for their well-being. It is in the interest of each other to free every other to be creative and productive. I cannot hold down somebody and free myself, as they say is the prisoner free or the guard is free? If you are going to ensure that the minority does not prosper then you are going to deploy your resources to keep him or her from being free and hence you deprive yourself your freedom to live a contented life. This is exactly what is happening in Sri Lanka. The majority is employing the national resources to suppress the minorities. This is a foolhardy thing to do for it drains the national resources. The question then is, Is Sri Lanka ready for democracy? A democracy is also like a business; every one has to be free to be creative and productive. If one man controls the other man, then we have lost the productivity of two. Does the Sri Lankan people or the Government understands this principle? Only a person or government that lacks self-esteem and self-respect will resort to his or her own destruction. Sri Lanka must grow up with self-esteem and self-respect. I have asked several people why don’t we handover the administration to a foreign country? It is going to happen ultimately for when the debt load becomes unmanageable whoever becomes the government will be under the control of the creditor nations. We may elect the government but the operation of the government depends on the flow and circulation of money and the goods and services. When a government cannot deliver goods and services it becomes defunct. Sri Lanka has been living on grants, loans and subsidies ever sine I have known Sri Lanka.

[T.Maheswaren a Tamil member of parliament was assasinated on 1st Jan 2008, 4th in recent times-Photo Courtesy of: IRTAG Media]

An average Sri Lankan has no time for democracy; so he does not bother to understand it and exercise it. He is more prone to understand religion and the existence of God. He accepts what ever the local priest preaches him and just follows blindly along the deadly alley. Then there are the socialists who believe in equality. But the socialists in Sri Lanka are more like racists; they want to eliminate the Tamils form Sri Lanka. The JVP in Sri Lanka is a racist organization. So we have a peculiar situation. Since independence Religion and Racism predominate the Sri Lankan politics. The Tamils are Hindus and are Industrious and hence kind of capitalist, The Singhalese are Buddhists and are kind of socialists in their disposition. Brotherhood is fantastic but who is going to put food on the table, roof over the head and other needs? It has to come from Agriculture and Industries. People need the Infrastructure and Institutions to facilitate and develop the economy. Sri Lanka lacks this talent. It is a fantastic country and is located in the right spot but for some reason it is unable to wriggle out of its mindset. The Tamils are basically industrious and ingenious but there is a fear among the Singhalese to allow them to run the country’s economy. I always believed that let the Singhalese run the government and let the Tamils run the economy. That is a safe solution for the Tamils cannot subjugate the Singhalese.

The Singhalese think they are a minority in the region for there are 80 million Tamils in India.

So they behave like a minority in a country where they are the majority. This is the fundamental cause of the strife in Sri Lanka. This is understandable for the Tamils are very aggressive in their disposition and tend to over work and out work the Singhalese. You cannot blame them for the terrain and the climate make them to be aggressive. It is good for the nation, any nation, but the Singhalese are unable to have the courage to harness this greatness for their own benefit.

One way to solve this fear is to make the country one-country one people. We are all one people.

Is there a political will on both sides to make this happen? It happened in the United States of America, but that is United States of America. They had the leadership and the political will to proclaim all people as equal under one constitution. It happened twice when they united the north and the south and then the whites and the blacks. America, we salute you for your courage and leadership. The opposite happened in Sri Lanka, in 1956 late Prime minister S.W.R.D. Bandaranayake proclaimed Singhalese as the National language. The Tamils opposed but then accepted and learned the language. Knowing another language is good and better. The Singhalese were quick to realize that they could not stop the forward progress of the Tamils. This is similar to the current crisis; they do not want the LTTE to be the leadership of the Tamils. LTTE is too formidable and intimidating and they would prefer a lesser powerful group.

So whatever the Singhalese do to stop the progress the Tamils countered with another strategy. Now they say LTTE is a terrorist organization, okay what is your solution? They don’t have a solution, the seed of courage is not in their mind but fear; Fear of Tamils over running them. Tamils are the best ever happened them but they cannot accept it as a means to economic emancipation and hence prosperity. We need maturity among the Sri Lankans. Please don’t forget that the Tamils invented the sea going ship and discovered antigravity some 2500 years ago. The planet earth has diamonds and gold studded among sand and soil.

Since independence the Singhalese did very little to grow their people. All forms of discriminatory ideas were made and applied as extra incentive, but they could not get their people up and running. When some program failed they blamed it on the Tamils. I remember how they nationalized the Co-Operative system that was fast developing in the North. Then they ruined the very system. It was done to undo the progressive ideas of the Tamils. That was about 35 years ago. Today the Tamils are all over the world and progressing much faster; now what are the Singhalese are doing? They are using their power of the sovereign state appealing the foreign governments to proscribe the Tamil organizations as terrorist organizations and all businesses as front pieces of the LTTE. Well they have succeeded to a certain extent. Country to country respect each other and the Sri Lankan government took advantage of their goodwill and issued a diplomatic passport to a state sponsored terrorist called “Karuna”. When the US, EU and UK displayed their displeasure they were called supporters of terrorist. They did not have the courage and self-esteem to accept their fault and fraud but point the fingers at the respective countries. It looks as if the whole country is in a state of mental disarray. The British may use this misuse of international protocol as a way of bringing the three brothers to the International tribunal in The Hague. The British are very influential in the UN, the USA and the EU.

The world is fast becoming aware of the real situation and is trying to help the Sri Lankan government, but they were called supporters of terrorist. The Cease Fire Agreement was made after several years of work by few countries but was repealed by the present government of Sri Lanka. Why? They could have improved upon it. It is not in their hearts and minds to give a square kilometer to the Tamils. Tamils are foreign workers so they must go that is the core thinking. As long as even one Tamil stays, it is a threat to their security. I do not know how to address this fear. This fear can be disseminated by dialogue and communication. Of course we had English and then Singhalese language which the Tamils were willing to learn. Tamils are very versatile people; they are capable of adapting to new terrains and realities. But then the fear deep inside the minds of Singhalese surfaces when that barrier is overcome. The ball of fear sinks under the weight of a possible problem but surfaces when the problem is alleviated. The root of fear among the Singhalese has to be addressed and solved. The Tamils want to have a dialogue with the Singhalese but it is always rebuffed by the undesirable elements such as the religious fanatics and social extremist. India and Pakistan play a kind of sinister game in this conflict. India did not take part in the CFA and Pakistan knows only to fuel the fire and provide arms. They should first get their country in order, if they will ever. India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bengala Desh what is the problem? I think the US, EU, UK, Russia, Japan, China and India must make political and economic investments to stabilize this region. It is in their interests do so.

The Singhalese are willing to invite foreign powers and tolerate their social influence but are unwilling to accept their nearest cousins with open hearts and fearless minds. It is very sad.

If both sides can find a way to coexist it will be the best relationship. We have to develop mechanisms that can resolve disputes. There is precedence in the free trade agreement of North America and the EU agreement to help us. But Sri Lanka does not have the education, experience, courage, wisdom and political will to do so. Mere education is just a passport it does not guarantee success. We need people with hard experience. If we can keep the religion and the government separate and if we can embrace a common language the fractions and the frictions can be easily resolved. But are the people ready? Sri Lanka is neither the inventor of democracy nor has been free for a long time. It was either fighting among each other or under foreign rule. Before the advent of Europeans there were four regions namely Rajarata. Mayarata, Rhuhuna and Jaffna. In 1948 we became “free” but we could not maintain it. So basically we are not used living free in a free society. Immediately after the British left we regained our natural freedom and in nature the strong one prevails. So one can see the problem in Sri Lanka. The Europeans entered the picture again and brought about an end to the cycle of violence and created a Cease Fire Agreement. The CFA is just the beginning of a long road to social stability. But the present government made up of so many parties could not come up with a common platform to stand on. The President has to compromise to stay in power. He repealed the CFA but he did not have an alternate pact to stand on. He brought in All Party Representative Committee but there are cracks already, a prudent President would have and should have kept the CFA and build on it till the APRC is unanimously agreed upon. It was water under the bridge or the bridge to peace is under water. All these point to a very immature nation.

The strong over the weak is a phenomenon in nature; sometime we call it jungle mentality,

But the strong for the weak is democracy. I am not equating Sri Lankans to animals in nature but I do not know where to draw the line. We need an external presence to resolve this on going dispute. United Nations is the best choice but US or EU can do an effective job. Sometime force may be required to keep the warring parties apart. Some one has to lay down the rules and ensure the cousins do not monkey prank each other. I am not on any side but I will be on the side of the Tamils in any armed dispute because I am a Tamil. So folks now you understand why there is trouble and why we cannot solve it. It is not in our nature to negotiate on equal terms. It was very obvious when Mr. Mahinda Rajapaksa said we would negotiate once the LTTE is defeated. He is dreaming, he has seen the width of the Tamils but he has not seen the depth of the Tamils. When you pour water it permeates in all directions soaking up the soil so there is a sphere of expansion going within the Diaspora convincing the world of their greatness. It is Multinational Co-Operation and a Corporation. Few of our organizations were shut down because they were called terrorist organizations but when we operate the same within the laws of the respective countries the law has to be upheld. The court is as equally powerful as the Government. So we now have the experience to deal with future categorization by any government. The organizations when banned by the Government should have taken the matter to the court but they did not, we learn from our mistakes. Again it shows that we are very weak in the understanding of democracy. They did not know that there are two other avenues available when the government acts, namely the media and the court. See democracy to Sri Lankans is electing the government and working for the government. It the western world the government is only a third of the administration; the court and the media play important roles. I do not know if any of these banned organizations were legally constituted. Had they consulted the proper legal authorities they could have operated legally.

Jean Jacques Rousseau in his social contract explains the mechanics behind the formation of democracies. If this could be translated into Singhalese and Tamil and distributed among the people, we may stand a chance of bringing an end to this cycle of violence. Our effort is to keep up with our relentless pressure to uphold democratic values and to curtail the cycle of violence and make all parties to the conflict to come together as equals and see the benefit to each other by agreeing with each other. Jean Jacques Rousseau in Social Contract explains it very well. “The articles of association. rightly understood, are reduced to a single one, namely the total alienation by each associate of himself and his rights to the whole enterprise. Therefore every individual gives himself absolutely, the conditions are the same for all, and precisely because they are the same for all, it is in no mans interest to make the conditions onerous for others. Secondly, since the alienation is unconditional, the union is as perfect as it can be, and no individual associate has any longer any rights to claim; for if rights were left to individuals, in the absence of any higher authority to judge between them and the other member, each member, being his own judge in some cases, would soon demand to be his own judge in all; and in this way the state of nature would be kept in being, and the association inevitably becomes either tyrannical or void. Thirdly, since every member gives himself to all, he gives himself to no one, and since there is no associate over whom he does not gain the same rights as others gain over him, each man receives the equivalent of everything he loses, and in the bargain he acquires more power to preserve what he has. which comes down to this, “Each one of us puts into the enterprise his person and all his powers under the supreme direction of the general will of the enterprise, and as a body, we incorporate every member as an indivisible parts of the whole enterprise”.

Basically it means The Government is responsible for its citizens, and the people are responsible for the government; it does not matter if they are Singhalese or Tamil. The government cannot err and the people cannot err. Is the Sri Lankan Government behaving like a Government? I doubt it. The ocean of ignorance surrounds the country of Sri Lanka not Indian Ocean. We are exposing our ignorance and inability to the rest of the world.

Democracy is not an external mechanism; it is in our hearts and minds. Democracy is basically self-respect and respect for others. A self-respecting person will not tolerate his rights being infringed upon so if he has to be respected the he must respect others. We have two ancient religions to guide us; both communities put their palms together and pray to God. How can we use those same hands to pick up gun and kill a fellow citizen? “Appi Okkama Lankawe Minisu” “We are all Sri Lankans” “Nangal Ellorum Elangai Makkal”. This is what an old man said when there was a dispute between two people in a Negombo city bound bus (1966). He is not the President of Sri Lanka but he should be the President of Sri Lanka

Democracy is not viable without a strong economy and economy is not viable without a strong Democracy. Citizens needs for basic amenities are the very purpose of an economy. Economy is simply defined as every man and woman gets to work and produce something useful for him or herself and trade the surplus to others. You don’t have to be an Oxford or Harvard trained economist. I think in Sri Lanka the government gets too much directly involved in the management of the economy. Economy needs some form of self-motivation and self-preservation. The government cannot do this because it is a politically elected body and the interest is on the consumption and employment side of the economy, where as businessman is interested in efficiency and profit. In most advanced economies there is a healthy balance between both. I do not know the reason but Tamils are very enterprising and are capable of creating wealth. The Singhalese and their government envy this. 50 years of state intervention with standardization has done very little to alleviate the standard of living of the Singhalese. This artificial form of propping up caused dissent among the Tamils. Hence fear on one side and discrimination on the other side The Tamil invented their own ways to create wealth despite all form of hindrance from the Singhalese mobs. Lately they moved out of Sri Lanka and have found some very encouraging and nourishing economies for their economic advancement. There are about 500,000 Tamils in various countries. The wealth so generated has helped LTTE to self-finance. The government of Sri Lanka through these countries is attempting to discourage these enterprising people. It appears the motive of the Government of Sri Lanka is to degrade the Tamils. They should encourage their people otherwise to become creative. In my personal experience as a university student and then as a State officer in Sri Lanka I observed that to discriminate is more prevalent than making efforts to advance themselves. I think there is an inherent fear among the Singhalese for the Tamils. I think this can be improved by open communication. If they can understand democracy well then they will realize that rising water raises all boats. The government through proper taxation and investment could help the Singhalese to become economically balanced. Due to their living terrain the Tamils have to fight every element of nature to survive and through thousands of years of struggle the ones that survived are the virulent ones. There is no room for the meek and the weak.

Too many of my Non-Tamil friends have commented that we work so long so hard. We compete with every other nationality from the world. They like it because prosperity has no borders; it permeates into every citizen’s home and dinning table. Instead of fighting for crumbs make the pie large enough to feed Appuhamy, Arumugam and Ahamad. I hope I can convince the Sri Lankan people to comprehend this fountain of prosperity. Our problem in the west is how to distribute our surplus creations. As a businessman I have surplus capacity and production. How did Sri Lanka miss people like I?

Democracy is not for every one. Democracy is an advanced form of human relationship. It is not for faint hearted. I should know what my rights are and how far I can stretch and where it ends. Where it ends is very important because that is exactly where the rights of the other man begin. That point of contact is well guarded by the constitution of the country. There are several mechanism put in place to safe guard freedom. Are the Sri Lankan people up to this standard? They are not, if they are then this conflict would not have started and continued for 50 years and three generations. Time to put an end to it. But the people are not ready. Sometimes I ponder if a military government or a monarchy or Superstition based governance would be appropriate.

Sri Lanka is not a self-sustainable economy. The Europeans had an export-oriented economy, which supplied all the needs from outside. Rice, Flour, Sugar, Potatoes were all imported.

It may not be the best but it provided food and jobs. The country had foreign governor, foreign military command and the institutions and infrastructure. The country had a balanced budget and no foreign debt. So when they left we had a pretty good country and we should have build on it; but we squandered and plundered. Within eight years of freedom the communal violence flared up. And rest of the story is constant miscarriage of human rights. It never got better.

Democracy is a courageous deed. It needs prohibition of aggravation into another living being.

It runs against nature, for animals live either by consuming or by killing another animal.

So this incursion into another living being is unavoidable. But as human being we can share and live as one people. We have come long way but more to be done at micro-social level. We in the west have excellent mechanisms to deal with even family disputes amicably. The best thing is that the people in the west respect those institutions. So not only we need the institutions but also a population that respects these institutions. In Sri Lanka both are missing. Education is most important aspect of democracy. Sri Lanka has to stop fighting, both LTTE and Government must unilaterally cease hostilities and then slowly but steadily negotiate and continue to negotiate into a utopian society, some time I wonder how did we achieve this in Canada, Sweden, Norway etc. The people seem to be so good you wonder if they are ignorant but they are not. They are at the top of human evolution. I feel so safe in Canada I feel guilty that I am unable to help my people in Sri Lanka. 500 years of European influence has not helped at all. We received independence in 1948 but we didn’t gain independence from our nature. I guess we are not familiar with freedom, the European over lords ensured that we behaved but apparently did not teach us how to manage freedom. Freedom is a huge responsibility.

Late Prime Minister S.W.R.D Bandaranayake may be the cause of this current situation or it may be that we are two incompatible races. We all look alike. But why are we fighting? Is the country naturally and hence economically fertile enough to support 25-30 million people? Is the Land to Man ratio too low to support sustenance? Or is it the way mother nature correcting the imbalances? Whatever it is we are educated enough to make intelligent choices. War is not one of the choices. besides the country has no money to feed the people but has plenty of hard currency to buy military hardware. It runs against my beliefs and runs against any economic theory. Who is financing the war? And what do they stand to gain?

FIFTY golden years have been wasted, it is time to bury our hatchets and get down to nation building. Lets put down the arms, pick up the ploughs and hammers and get to work.

Comments (18)

Interim Administration for Merged North-East Must be Set-up First

By A.R. Arular


This article was originally written by the author in 2001 under the title ‘Sri Lanka – The Way Forward’ and circulated in Colombo and Trincomalee. The article draws on authors own experience of implementing the 13th Amendment as Head of the Research Division of the Chief Minister’s Secretariat of the North East Provincial Council and how it cold be made a basis for resolving the so called ethnic problem.

Though the article by itself may be behind time, it gains significance as a benchmark if anyone is honest about accepting the 13th amendment as a starting point and first step.

It is important to realise that the 13th amendments starts with a merged North East Province and India’s role in the interim period. The pronouncement will little help the peace process if what is meant by implementing the 13th Amendment is the pursuance of the chauvinist agenda to resolve the ethnic problem and an attempt is made to hoodwink the Tamil people and the international community of what is being done as the implementation of the 13th amendment.

At best, APRC’s contention that things are normal in the Eastern Province can only be described as a joke when LTTE has only made a tactical withdrawal from the East. It is unfortunate some external forces desperate to occupy Trincomalee are also behind this devious attempt to misrepresent the ground situation.

The article would help those who want to impose their will on the people of the North East to judge how far they are off the real 13th Amendment. However, Tamil people can cheer the Sinhala Race for reaching 1987 at least after 20 years and hope the things will start moving in a positive direction from here though there is little sign of ending the culture of usurpation, dishonesty, prevarication, indifference, arrogance, abuse of state power for realising chauvinist ends or any willingness to give up the illegal territorial claim for the island and the dream of military victory over the Tamils, recognise the historical rights of Tamil people and seek peace with the Tamils in a honest and dignified manner.

If the APRC holds that it is possible to establish an interim administration for the North, it should also be possible to establish an interim administration for the merged North East as the rest of North East is considered normal. That should be the starting point of the 13th amendment rather than engage in a sinister exercise to regularise the illegal demerger of the North East Province in the name of implementing the 13th amendment, which has been a chauvinist dream ever since the 13th amendment came into existence. The demerger is illegal since the constitution and the 13th Amendment clearly provides for under what conditions North East will become demerged and the demerger is a case a chauvinist abuse of Judicial Powers

Whereas the present deadlock between LTTE and the government continues along with the international communities search for a settlement, the method and approach to a solution has remained more or less the same for the last eleven years. The present stance of the LTTE came into existence after the departure of the Indian Peace Keeping Force and the resumption of the war in June 1990 and the situation has continued without change for the last seven years since the resumption of talks between the government and the LTTE in l994.

As one who mediated peace between the government and the LTTE from 1990, when the LTIE first conveyed its readiness to enter negotiations with the government to resolve the conflict and would consider alternatives to a separate state, the stance of the LTTE has remained more or less unchanged. The LTTE also wanted third party mediation involving foreign countries. Subsequently I also proposed the idea of joint mediation where a group of countries could have got together and mediated the conflict which was specifically suggested to overcome the difficult situation created by India’s involvement and experiences. However this idea could not be advanced by the international community due to its differing perceptions and the fundamental problems caused by the conflict between the India and the USA as powers to be that could not come together to jointly mediate the conflict.

However this subsequently became the Norwegian mediation where Norway emerged as a mediator between the Government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE as well as mediator between countries that have a stake in the happening in Sri Lanka. While the Norwegian mediation has continued for the last two years ably supported by the Catholic bishops and foreign countries, the ground situation has remained unchanged. This has given little room for the Norwegian mediation to manoeuvre and its main thrust has been in bringing the two parties together to talk, though both continue to hold highly differing perception of the nature of settlement.

As the process would be deadlocked at every juncture, it would be prudent to analyse the nature and present disposition of the conflict and initiate effective measures that would have a catalytic and regenerating influence bringing into existence a federally restructured Sri Lanka. These programmes have to be legal and emerge from within but should be well understood by the international community and ably supported by it.

The peace movement in Sri Lanka is ineffective as its platform is a refuge for pacifists and war mongers alike who have such differing perception of a political settlement, as a result of which, the peace movement will remain an ineffective and politically paralysed phenomena. Further, the peace movement is flooded with local and international NGOs which are charitable organisations with no political voice. The Norwegian mediation is beset by the shortcoming by its inability to put forward and advance a political solution to the conflict. Though Norway maintains its impartiality, the government knows well that the western governments that have surrendered their moral high ground to win concession to advance their self interests, are indebted to the government and have little leverage in pressurising the government.

While there is broad consensus as to where the real solution lies, tragically in the Sri Lankan conflict resolution scenario, the main two contenders as well as others are not in position to articulate this solution and advance the realisation process due to the entrenchment of opposing extremes. The solution is the federally restructured Sri Lanka. Both the government and the L TIE are entrenched with a mind set that precise1y excludes this. This reality that lies at the root of the deadlock shall be a permanent factor that will remain an obstacle to peace process in Sri Lanka. Norway cannot be expected to articulate the idea of the federal state. And without a movement that can take forward the idea of federal state among the people of Sri Lanka in a united manner, the realisation of this idea will remain beyond the capabilities of the people of Sri Lanka.

Tragically, the idea of a federal state has been discredited and made a monster to such an extent by the Sinhala zealots as akin to separation, one cannot see any possible movement from within the Sinhalese that will stand up for a federally restructured Sri Lanka. The LTTE is left in a state where it will not articulate the federal idea though it has said is not opposed to it. The Colombo press that should play a responsible role remains cynical and committed to the Sinhala Chauvinist ideology of total domination.

Taking these shortcomings into account, it can be reasonably concluded, in spite of the valiant efforts of the Norway government, peace and a peaceful Sri Lanka that could sustain itself is far away. Though the recent efforts at bringing peace has been based on an overwhelming commitment to bring the two parties to ‘talk”, the ground was drifting with no political process committed towards the settlement while both parties were advancing on their conflicting positions. Both major parties to the conflict, the government and the LTTE, endorse the strategy of attrition whereby both, assume, holding out over a period of time, would enable the realisation of the respective objectives and are quiet at home with the prolongation of the peace process though, the people suffer and the country bleeds. The international community has invariably supported the government and in many instances it has been the instigator of the militaristic solution of the government and has been unable to effectively support a path of political resolution of the conflict.

Though the international community is singularly committed to finding a solution to the conflict within the frame work of a united Sri Lanka, the ground and mindset realties little favours a negotiated settlement of the conflict. This scenario only leaves an option of an arrangement which will be based on heavy international involvement such as Kosovo which shall remain negated as unrealistic by the past Indian involvement and experiences. The continued pursuance of the present agenda gives little scope of a permanent resolution of the conflict and return of peace to Sri Lanka.

As an interim council consisting of political parties can only be a source of discord, this process should start with the appointment of an Advisor to the Governor who would command the support of a broad (not necessarily all) and be acceptable to as many parties so that the process of hand over of power to the political parties and to LTTE can be effected in a gradual manner.

Taking into consideration the factors stated above, the way forward for a permanent resolution of ethnic conflict lies in exploring, providing initiatives and taking concrete steps in the following directions.

1. Initiate a movement that is explicitly committed to federal restructuring of Sri Lanka from within the peace constituency that will bring together both the Tamils and Sinhalese in a constitutional platform. This movement should reach to all members of the Sri Lankan society that will stand above the present party political platform that has found itself unable to rise above parochialism and partisanship.

2. As already the constitution provides for the empowerment of North East Provincial Council, take forward the Provincial Council Process so that pressure will be brought on all extremism and intransigence from all sides, while the efforts at finding peace through talks should continue.

3. Put forward a specific programme of political settlement process so that the international community can back such a package in addition to the MOU and Talks. This can be put forward by the Constitutional forum that will motivate parties to the conflict and the talks should be about amendments to this proposal.

I. The Progrmme of a constitutional movement for federal restructuring of Sri Lanka.

This movement should be capable of bringing together the members of the both major communities the Tamils and Sinhalese on a platform of mutual respect to others rights and be the source for the generation values and perceptions that will facilitate a federally restructured Sri Lanka.

The platform should be kept above party politics so that party politicians also can be members of this platform where they will leave behind their party political loyalties and work on a constitutional a platform of a united Sri Lanka. The movement will draw heavily from peace movement and NGO movement as well as bring people who command the respect of the society but would contribute towards the peaceful resolution of the conflict.

The constitutional forum will support the constitutional restructuring process by articulating a new Sri Lanka that will emerge after it has been restructured on a federal foundation as a union of two principle nations. As the present media culture of Sri Lanka is that of hate and suspicion, the movement should make itself heard through the national media and establish its own media network. The movement can establish its own national newspaper and possibly independent TV stations that can reflect and articulate the federally restructured Sri Lanka.

The constitutional forum should have council of around 15 eminent people and provide for ordinary membership among people.

II. The empowerment of the North East Provincial (Regional) Council.

The existing constitutional provisions that provide for empowerment of the provincial council should be activated so that the North East Provincial Council can function as an independent entity that articulates the will of the people within the North East. Province within the frame work of a united Sri Lanka. This arrangement is needed to provide a period of constitutional stabilisation of the North East Province before the party politics can be allowed to operate within the North East Provincial Council.

Such a move will provide added pressure to belligerents to come to speedier understanding regarding constitutional settlement and speed up the constitutional process.

As an interim council consisting of political parties can only be a source of discord, this process should start with the appointment of an Advisor to the Governor who would command the support of a broad (not necessarily all) and be acceptable to as many parties so that the process of hand over of power to the political parties and to LTTE can be effected in a gradual manner. The power that are due to the Provincial Council that can be effected under the present constitution be first devolved to the provincial council initially and subsequently it would be possible to appropriate powers using emergency powers that will enable the council to function as a federal council on a temporary basis so that the apprehensions regarding a federal council can be alleviated to effect smooth constitutional transition.

Empowering the North East Provincial as a party to the conflict, will enable it to dismantle and absorb both the government position and the LTTE into a progressively stabilising North East Constitutional body, to which all agreed powers will be vested. Needless to say this move will succeed on only if the government is honest and adopts a positive approach to devolving power to a merged North East Province.

The post of Advisor to the Governor, North East Province be created with the following terms of reference.

1. To provide a political role within the North East Provincial Council that enable it to engage in the peace process as a body.

2. To provide advise to the Governor of the North East Province on the excise of the powers that are devolved to the North East Provincial Council as provided in the Provincial Council List in the constitution of Sri Lanka.

3. To provide advise to the Governor on the exercise of powers as provided in the concurrent list through the establishment of governmental structures and execution of programmes in co-ordination with the Centre.

4. To provide advise to the Governor on the exercise of powers that may be additionally provided to the North East Provincial Council under the emergency regulations and additional constitutional provisions.

5. To provide for the constitutional stabilisation of the North East Province by working to bring together all communities living within the North East Province and instilling in them confidence and trust in a North East provincial governmental process and implement any agreements that may be reached between various communities.

6. Maintain a dialogue with all the political parties and other political interests within the North East Province and pave the way for a democratically elected government in the North East Province.

7. To assist the Governor in initiating, supervising, monitoring and providing programmes for the development of the north East Province.

8. To act as spokes person for the North East Provincial Council. 9. The Advisor shall have the same privileges as that of the chief Minister until the termination of his office through the election of a Chief Minster.

Initially, the Trincomalee district be brought in as territory under the Provincial Council, subsequently other disputed and shared AGA divisions be administered by the Provincial Council and the law and order within these regions be administered by the Provincial Police Force that shall be established on a priority basis drawing from the central police force as well as new recruits.

III. The Political Formula for a settlement of the North East conflict.

Though it is clear, only creating a Tamil majority province and restructuring of Sri Lanka as a federal constitution will bring an end to the armed conflict in Sri Lanka, peace cannot be achieved without addressing the issue of power and security both during the interim period and in the post interim period.

As it is apparent LTTE is fighting for statehood as well as-power, an amicable way out acceptable to the LTTE has to be put forward so as to accommodate the objectives of the LTTE in a mutually acceptable way. This formula has to be evolved through discussion with a1l the parties to the conflict.

The Advisor to the Governor, North East province should conduct such talks and evolve the proposal that will be adopted by all parties concerned so as to bring about a speedier end to the conflict. Once a basic document has been evolved providing for the interim programme and constitution, direct talks between the government and the LTTE has to be started for the final agreement in the presence of international community who will act as guarantor and underwrite the political settlement.

This proposal could be on the following lines.

1. Establish the constitution through talks with the LTTE that will permanently merge the North East as one province and provide for mutually exclusive powers with powers of co-ordination wherever necessary

2. Bring about a cease-fire and establish the line of control between the two parties.

3. In the interim period empower the provincial council to operate as a federal council using emergency powers.

4. Establish a three tier security regime for the North East in the interim period whereby the law and order shall reamin remain the responsibility of the three parties, namely, the central government, the LTTE and the Provincial Council within their respective areas.

5. The two zones of the Centre and LTTE be administered by the provincial council with regard to other matters for which the Provincial council has the power and gradually subject the law and order responsibilities of the centre and the LTTE to the provincial judicial system.

6. Initially, the Trincomalee district be brought in as territory under the Provincial Council, subsequently other disputed and shared AGA divisions be administered by the Provincial Council and the law and order within these regions be administered by the Provincial Police Force that shall be established on a priority basis drawing from the central police force as well as new recruits.

7.Within the Provincial Council areas suspend party political activities during the constitutional stabilisation period until all parties including LTTE can function without armed cadres and allow for the operation of the party politics once mutual trust and confidence is established between all parties including the LTTE. However all parties be provided with opportunity to engaging in NGO activities from the inception and carry out relieve and rehabilitation work within the North East Province.

8. Establish symmetrical pressuring and dismantling process whereby both the LTTE and the Government sectors of security is handed over to the Provincial Council (Regional council) while the people coming under the Regional Council are integrated as free citizens under the regional council while LTTE transforms itself to be integrated into the provincial and central state structuring and democratic process.

9. Hold the Regional Council elections once the entire area has come under the control of the Regional Council and democratic process restored.

10. Regional Councils be provided with powers to establish administrative districts and the Muslim issue be addressed by the elected regional council.

11. Establish an industrial estate next to the Trincomalee district but within the North Western Province providing employment and housing for the Sinhalese and Muslims who do not wish to live under a Tamil dominated rule within the North East Province.

IV.The role of the international community

The international community should come forward to underwrite the . Programme established along the above proposal and make available funds necessary for taking forward the programme.
Wherever necessary the international community should constructively and positively engage in providing manpower assistance to take forward the peace programme.

Comments (8)

Negative Criticism of the APRC Proposals

By Rajiva Wijesinha

There has been much discussion recently regarding the proposals of the APRC which the Government has decided to implement. Much of this is based on ignorance and illogicality, and is symptomatic of a general tendency to look at matters in a negative frame of mind.

The substance of the proposal

The proposal is based on the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, and it is claimed that from the inception this was deemed inadequate by the Tamil people. This is nonsense. All Tamil parties at the time subscribed to the Indo-Lankan Accord. However the LTTE then reneged. Several attempts were made to placate them, including an interim administration which they could control, but that seemed insufficient and they stood out instead for domination. It was in the dissension created by that determination that finally India decided to take on the Tigers.

It is also alleged that the merger of the North and East was an integral part of the Accord. The demerger means that the 13th Amendment has been substantially weakened. This again is false. According to the 13th Amendment, the President could only proclaim the merger if weapons had been surrendered. Since it was clear that this would not happen, by a Gazette notification this was changed to permit him to proclaim a merger if he was satisfied that the process of surrendering arms had begun.

President Jayewardene, it is known, could declare himself satisfied whatever the situation. Thus, though it was clear that arms were proliferating, he went ahead with the merger-which was in any case contingent on a referendum to be held within a year. That referendum has not as yet taken place, successive governments having put it off with no respect for the actual legal position. Thus the Supreme Court ruling simply restored the existing constitutional position, namely that this is a country which consists of nine provinces,

In practical terms, demerger obviously satisfies a majority of people in the East, inasmuch as one of the most contentious points in all negotiations was satisfactory arrangements for the different communities there. And, as importantly, the Indian government, which had initially brought in the merger as perhaps the only aspect of the Accord which was deeply resented by the Sri Lankan people, has expressed itself satisfied with the current situation.

On the positive side, not only India, but also Sri Lankans concerned with the potential benefits of devolution for our people, recognize that, with demerger, it will be possible to ensure proper devolution. The merger suggested that devolution was about an ethnic based homeland, and that created fears of potential separation. Now it is clear that devolution is simply about allowing communities more control of their lives in areas that do not affect national security.

Thus it will be much less contentious not just to allow but also to encourage provinces to exercise the full extent of powers available under the 13th amendment. It will also be possible to encourage them to take initiatives under the Concurrent List, which was earlier largely avoided, owing to fears of Central Government intervention. Now the Central Government, with no fears of abuse, can gracefully withdraw from areas where it cannot really contribute much, and allow provinces to act freely.

The provenance of the proposal

In addition to criticism of the substance of the proposal, there is contempt for the fact that the APRC, after so long, has based this report on the 13th amendment. The argument is that it could have done this a long time ago.

This however fails to take into account the political reality of the last two decades. The assumption, beginning from the time when President Premadasa decided to resume discussions with the LTTE, thus subverting the Indian efforts to deal forcefully with terrorism that could not be converted, was that any solution had to be acceptable to the LTTE. Thus, since the LTTE had been opposed to the 13th amendment, it made no sense to use this as the main basis of a solution.

This problem was exacerbated by the Ceasefire Agreement of 2002, which seemed to confirm that the only parties to the problem were the Government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE. Former militants who had joined the democratic process in accordance with the 13th amendment were accordingly sidelined.

For over five years three successive governments attempted to negotiate with the LTTE on the basis of the CFA. Not only did the LTTE contemptuously ignore the assumption that a Cease Fire Agreement meant you had to Cease Fire (talking only now of observing this 100%), it soon abandoned the other main aim of the CFA, namely negotiations. The Wickremesinghe government failed to bring them back to talks, the Kumaratunga government does not seem to have tried very hard. The current government did bring it back but, after the LTTE bandoned negotiations in October 2006, it has categorically refused to talk, officially or unofficially.

After over a year therefore, given also continuing acts of terrorism, the government withdrew from the CFA. Those who look on the negative side of things wanted to return to a status quo, failing to realize that this decision was in fact a liberation, liberating the Facilitator to now talk to all parties to the conflict, including the democratic Tamil forces that had been sidelined; and liberating the APRC to look more closely at the 13th Amendment as a basis on which to build.

The 13th Amendment may not be the solution to all problems, but it certainly provides more solutions than many thought. Until recently for instance there was little understanding that a Concurrent List actually empowered Provinces in many areas, and it was unwarranted diffidence that prevented this being used. A government that has the confidence that it will maintain the unity of the country will have fewer qualms about preventing central encroachment on areas best left to provinces.

It would certainly have been difficult for the APRC to propose full implementation of the 13th Amendment as the basis of a solution which would then have to be put to the LTTE, which was what was originally envisaged when the APRC was set up. Since however the LTTE had conclusively removed itself from discussions, and had indeed turned more definitively to military action with its all out assaults in the North and the East in the course of 2006, it made sense for the Government, having allowed time for it to come to its senses and realize that such military action was fruitless, to move to another method of solving our problems. The current support provided by Tamil peoples, even in areas now under LTTE control, for Government initiatives, indicates that the Tamil people not only realize that the LTTE will lead them nowhere (except to forced conscription and death), but are prepared to take action on this realization.

But the government has to make crystal clear its conviction that the political problems which came to a head in the eighties need a political solution. The country cannot wait much longer in this regard. The 13th Amendment can now be implemented more consistently than was thought desirable or possible in the past, and working on such lines is a positive move that should be welcomed.

[Prof Rajiva Wijesinha is Secretary General of Sri Lanka Secretariat for Coordinating the Peace Process]

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APRC Proposals: Cover for Perpetuating Repressive Structures in the North-East

by Rajan Hoole

There is a disingenuously surreal quality about the President’s discovery that the Provincial Councils Bill of 1987 is the answer to giving the people of the North-East a say in their affairs. We need not detail his and his own party’s opposition to the Indo-Lanka Accord which the JVP used to trigger a bloodbath, whose continuing legacy is a nation wallowing in impunity.

A political settlement is about issues threatening the existence and welfare of minority peoples that have been raised from the time of independence. One is the right to interact with the majority Sinhalese community on terms of equality, particularly in regard to their environment and neighbourhoods with which their economic and cultural lives have for centuries been twined. A key issue is state-aided colonisation, conceived and driven one-sidedly to constrict the economic and political space of Muslims and Tamils, particularly in the East, using administrative measures aided by communal and military violence. More details in the UTHR (J) publication Sri Lanka: The Arrogance of Power.

Pressing isssues

The worst example of this is the Weli Oya Scheme of 1984 that has left scores of Tamil villages in the Mullaitivu and Trincomalee Districts forlorn to this day. Even under the best conditions provincial councils are not going to touch these most pressing issues of a political settlement. Repressive structures of control have steadily made inroads into the East with colonisation and the chauvinistic mindset which inspired it.

The North-East today is mired in impunity. In Jaffna and Batticaloa judicial areas together, the number of reported extra-judicial killings and disappearances exceed 1000 for 2007. In Mutur East supposedly cleared by the security forces, around 40 killings came to the notice of the courts in just 4 months towards the end of 2007. Conscription of children and adults, and rampant lawlessness by the state security apparatus (which includes the Pillayan and Karuna groups) are a daily occurrence in the East. The proposed elections cannot be other than torture and a travesty. Their only purpose is to provide the heavily politicised security apparatus a fig leaf for the pursuit of a military settlement and Sinhalese hegemony.

The East is now a fiefdom of military and ex-military men substituting for administrators. Under the President’s direction, these persons work very closely with fascist outfits such as the Patriotic National Movement (PNM) and Jathika Hela Urumaya, which in turn interact with and direct paramilitary outfits like the Pillayan and Karuna groups.

It was the STF that installed Pillayan in his erstwhile leader Karuna’s Batticaloa office after assaulting his men. It was Pillayan who at the direction of his handlers abducted relatives of local MPs to prevent them voting against the jumbo defence budget. Already the integrity of the parliamentary process is itself in question. Is this devolution for the East?

The democratic space in the North-East has been murderously attacked by the Tigers for many years, which failed to extinguish it. A Tamil democratic opposition learnt to negotiate Tiger terror and challenge it in Sri Lanka and abroad. But this Government and its allies cannot tolerate any dissent from the minorities or anyone else for that matter. Editors have been threatened, a newspaper press burnt and several persons including MPs murdered. Even Sinhalese have become mortally afraid of this government. Then what kind of political package for the North-East is this?

Indian gurantee

The North-East Provincial Council was originally meant to work under an Indian guarantee. That was undermined by both the LTTE and the Sinhalese polity. The demand for the merger arose in the wake of land aggression. Even with the NEPC kept dissolved, the Indo-Lanka Accord remained a reassurance. This was why the Sinhalese extremists could not leave even a toothless merger alone. Discussion of the merger should have been left for a time when all the issues which brought it about were thrashed out-and not dealt with unilaterally to satiate the clamour of Rajapakse’s allies such as the PNM.

Backdoor dealing

Behind the de-merger was also the President’s sordid backdoor deal with Karuna and Devananda, who were promised control of interim administrations for the East and North respectively for 5 years. Its immediate effects were child conscription in Karuna’s name with military complicity and the military takeover of the East resulting in enormous civilian misery. The idea of interim councils is not even original. While Ranil Wickremasinghe was prepared to hand over the people of the North-East to the LTTE in the name of an interim administration, this Government has in mind proteges who are hardly an improvement.

A political settlement should also mean dignity and justice. Instead what is envisaged would entrench repressive structures already in place. It will perpetuate the cover up of the grave crimes now dragging on before the Commission of Inquiry. The purposeful killing of ten Muslim labourers in Pottuvil is one of them. Champika Ranawaka wrote in the Lanka Web Situation Report of 18th July 2002: “To prevent Karuna or Paduman from capturing the Eastern Province, there is a need for a massive Sinhala movement, which we [the Sihala Urumaya] are in the process of building. Pujya Ananda Himi from Ampara district and Pujya Piyatissa Himi from Trincomalee have come forward for this purpose.” He is now a powerful JHU minister with eyes on the East. The ordinary Tamils and Muslims did not count for the LTTE. Would they count any more now? Successive governments which failed to give a genuine political settlement a chance have imposed heavy defence budgets on a whole generation.

President Rajapakse who demands the ordinary people go lean and hungry for a defence overdose, must ask his friend General Musharraf. A current slogan reflecting public anger in Pakistan says, “You and I have died starving, the GHQ (Military) has looted and eaten it all.” [Courtesy: Lakbimanews]

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