Roadmap to a frightening future for Sri Lanka & its citizens
The scenarios that are being projected is to draw the attention of citizens to the possible dangers and implications of the shortsighted & selfish decisions and actions of leaders and their inability to comprehend and learn lessons from history and the international crisis & conflicts taking place globally. These scenarios afford an opportunity for people to take a step back and imagine if the scenarios can happen in Sri Lanka and if they do, what would be the consequences. It also enables people to think of ways to counter or devise alternative solutions and remedies that would prevent or mitigate the likely chaos. At the back of our minds should be the never to be forgotten reality of what we have gone through since independence, the carnage and killings, deaths and injuries and the resolve that we should never return to that horrible past repeating the mistakes from which we should have learnt lessons.
Prior to independence we cannot discount the unfair demands made by a group that had coined its name as Ceylon Tamils only in 1911 and began to demand 50-50 representation with the Sinhalese when they were disproportionately less than the Sinhalese and even less than the Indian Tamils brought by colonials. The formation of ITAK in 1949 seeking a Tamil State culminating in the 1976 Vaddukoddai Resolution and the emergence of the LTTE in the same year alongside the clandestine training by India to Sri Lankan Tamil youth cannot be taken in isolation given that calls for self-determination for a Tamil Homeland first emerged in South India. Do our politicians, advisors know this background and keep this awareness in their negotiations and briefings to the international community?
Since independence a series of unfortunate pacts without taking stock of who were making the demands or why, had been ventured into. As such, we cannot ignore the Bandaranaike-Chelvanayagam Pact (1957) because it first promoted the concept of devolution using the guise of language when in reality Tamil was never an official language and the calls were to reverse the discrimination suffered under over 400 years of colonial rule never to target the Tamils whilst it was agreed to allow reasonable use of Tamil. Then came the Dudley-Chelvanayagam Pact (1965), soon the norm came to be granting political concessions to tantrum demands by minorities simply for electoral and political survival. The agreements did not look into the authenticity of the demands, repercussions or impact on others once signed.
Then entered armed militancy seeking virtually the same demands with the gun that the Tamil politicians sought politically. Therefore, in dealing with Tamil politicians these ground realities cannot be ignored so long as they have not declared that these demands are permanently laid to rest.
The Thimpu Talks of 1985 had the following demands by EPRLF, LTTE, EROS, PLOTE, TELO and TULF. All but the last was rejected by the GOSL but what is relevant to the discussion is that the Tamil parties & LTTE have not budged from placing virtually the same demands worded differently.
· Recognize Tamils of Ceylon as a Nation
· Recognize existence of an identified homeland for the Tamils of Ceylon
· Recognize right of self-determination of the Tamil Nation
· Recognize the right of citizenship and the fundamental rights of all Tamils of Ceylon.
Then came the Indo-Lanka Accord signed under virtual duress in 1987 which many say was drafted in India and sent only for signature. The Accord has historical fallacies and paved way for the 13a and the provincial council system. India failed to disarm LTTE in 120hrs, India promised to protect Sri Lanka’s sovereignty but was giving Rs.50m to LTTE monthly, India assured its territory would not be used for activities prejudicial to Sri Lanka but LTTE was using Tamil Nadu for all its logistics, India assured its Navy would assist Sri Lanka to prevent LTTE activities but LTTE was getting arms, medicines and even supplies from Tamil Nadu, IPKF ended up killing Sinhalese, Tamils & even Muslims and training a civilian army Tamil National Army while preparing EPRLF to take over from LTTE – Dayan Jayatilake was a Minister in the merged NE province EPRLF Govt. IPKF role in ethnic cleansing of Sinhalese & Muslims cannot be ruled out. India has still not repatriated Indian citizens residing in Sri Lanka even after 30 years! Breaches by India of the Accord warrants application of Pacta Sund Servanda.
The Preamble to the Accord is fallacious claiming NE as historical habitation of Sri Lankan Tamil speaking people. Such fallacious thinking ended up creating unilateral declarations of independence in 1990. Same fallacies cannot be repeated through this new constitution which almost occurred in 2000 using GL-Neelan Regional Councils proposals.
Why are advisors scarring political leaders against removal of the 13a – a sovereign nation has every right to remove any amendments made to its constitution.
The removal of Sri Lankan Army camps is nothing new – Tamil leaders demanded same in 1987 too and echoes what the TNA presently demands.
That the calls to merge NE is because of Trinco Habor is evident when the Accord mentions Port of Trincomalee and Indian High Commissioner Dixit minced no words in demanded Sri Lanka reduce intelligence and training with Pakistan, Israel not allow seaports/airports to be used by foreign powers antagonistic to India, that India be allowed to maintain Trinco Oil Tank Farms – demands made in 1985 by both Minister Chidambaram, Dixit and Natwar Singh in 1986.
The 2002 Cease Fire Agreement is another detrimental agreement giving legitimacy to LTTE’s defacto state, placing LTTE on par with the national army
The ISGA Interim Self-Governing Authority (ISGA) proposed by LTTE for the “North East” of Sri Lanka in 2003 goes as another detrimental agreement. ISGA was to cover eight districts of North East - Amparai, Batticoloa, Jaffna, Kilinochchi, Mannar, Mullaitivu, Trincomalee and Vavuniya (North East). Sri Lanka was to be Secular but virtually all decision making to fall into the hands of the LTTE though it received Western applause - http://archives.dailynews.lk/2013/04/09/fea02.asp
Then came the other detrimental agreement in 2004 PTOMs Post-Tsunami Operational Management Structure which came with an aid carrot of USD3billion.
One has to only take the demands of the LTTE, the other armed militant groups, the ITAK, LTTE Diaspora fronts their websites, the TNA manifestos, the TNA/ITAK resolutions, the Resolutions by the TNA passed after winning the Northern Provincial Elections, the comments by the TNA Chief Minister Wigneswaran to realize that not only their demands have remained the same that their demands are likely to get worse and more frightening the moment any compromise is made as these demands have no basis or validity to be even accepted.
Both the LTTE & Tamil politicians have been surviving promoting a mythical homeland & using their illegal/legal international networks to project the notion of discrimination by Sinhalese to justify their cause but how does that explain the killing of Muslims?
This has aligned with external forces whose objectives can be advanced by using Tamils to justify their interference in Sri Lanka’s internal affairs – both the West & India as well as the UN stand guilty. The war crimes tribunals (sans evidence of war crimes), resolutions based on illegal reports are all cunning methods to use the Tamil card for their own political objectives. This is understood by the fact that LTTE fronts function through offices in foreign countries, their representatives openly meet foreign parliamentarians including UN officials and they even hold events with the Eelam flag next to US national flag and nothing is done against them!
The General Public and politicians especially their advisors must be aware of how illegal interventions and interferences have divided the former Soviet Union, Yugoslavia, created an independent Kosovo, South Sudan (both in virtual turmoil and economic collapse) and identify the modus operandi used against all of these nations which are identical to methods now being rolled out in Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka’s politicians and advisors have also ignored the historical quest of India to annex Sri Lanka and present Indian objective of economically, politically and socially influencing Sri Lanka using the ‘Tamil’ card while the West on account of Sri Lanka’s geopolitical positioning wishes to use Sri Lanka for its strategic purposes. We have also ignored the other major factor of another historical objective in the territorial expansion competition between Islam and Christianity and its loggerhead with Buddhism.
We should therefore not be a surprised that immediately after helping the present government into power US, UK, EU, India are all promoting a new constitution provisions and clauses of which fit perfectly into their overall plan and give into Tamil demands which fit into their overall plans as a disintegrated and divided Sri Lanka is perfect for their interference. This explains why USAID & EU are even said to be funding the salaries of staff assisting the new constitution!
With this background in our mind let us move forward to imagine the future scenarios.
The new constitution aspires to remove the clause ‘Republic of Sri Lanka as a Unitary State’ and include Sri Lanka alongside colonial word ‘Ceylon’ while also using the Tamil orumiththa nadu meaning ‘United’ and not unitary. This clearly aligns with the separatist (LTTE/Tamil Political) demand. ‘Maximum devolution’ will mean the Centre has no control of even the Local Government authorities which will all be directly under the Provincial control.
Confounding matters further is the formation of a new Constitutional Court which is above the country’s Supreme Court and is to be the sole authority to decide on disputes between the Centre & the Provinces. What is then the role of the Supreme Court?
Centre’s National Policies cannot override statutes enacted by the Provincial Councils which means Centre has no control over the Provinces. Even National projects must first seek permission for land usage from the Province. For this a new National Land Commission is being created to oversee land and water issues. Disputes to be channeled to the Constitutional Court not to the Supreme Court. The Governor appointed by the President is a nominal role unable to dissolve the Province. While the proposals claim to abolish the Executive Presidency by removing the provision for the People to vote for the President and instead the Parliament is to vote for the President.
The proposals speak of a National List giving authority to the Centre but no itemized list of subjects are given – so we do not know who controls National Security, Defence, Immigration, Citizenship, Education & Higher Education, Minerals & Mines, Foreign Trade, Census & Statistics, Posts & Telecommunications, Ports & Harbours, Aviation & Airports, Archaeology & Ancient heritage sites etc. Imagine embroiled in controversies surrounding these important subjects – who would suffer in the end? The People. The other shocking feature is the removal of the Concurrent List that gives detailed list of shared powers between the Centre & Provinces.
There is also provision for two or more provinces to merge though the 2006 Supreme Court verdict declared the merger illegal.
Place all these dangerous scenarios together with the proposal that claims all powers devolved cannot be taken back means that the Centre is ceding powers to the Provinces which it cannot take back. The ruse to camouflage the objections is to claim that if a Province attempts to secede the President by proclamation can assume ‘all or any functions of the administration of the Province & dissolve the Provincial Council’ but the proclamation is subject to the approval by Parliament & after judicial review by the Constitutional Court. What is confusing is that the proposals also advocates to abolish the Executive Presidency but have a President elected by the Parliament instead of the People.
So what good is a Centre if the powers devolved to the Provinces cannot be removed, Centre cannot annul a province, that cannot override statues by a Province, that has to get the permission from the Province to carry out national projects, that cannot directly govern the local authorities, that has no power to stop two or more provinces merging? Why should such a Centre even exist?
In the context of what the TNA and other racist MPs are presently demanding inclusive of the demands being made by Muslim groups and the rising extremism in the East also being ignored, what is the future when ethno-religion ghettos start fighting or expanding territory when resources like water, electricity or spread of disease etc become an issue?
If provinces are to have their own police what will be the outcome if rebel groups emerge and external forces begin arming them? What if one province refuses to recognize the educational qualifications of another and given that we don’t have universities in all 9 provinces what is the future for students who have studied enough to enter university but cannot. What if provinces decide to declare their own laws & rules contradicting and conflicting with other provinces – who is going to suffer thereafter.
What if freedom of movement is also denied – even taking a holiday or going on a pilgrimage will become an issue – Wigneswaran already tells Sinhalese not to come to the North and to remove Buddhist structures while a man of his learning is stooping low to claim King Devanampiyatissa was a Tamil. What if provinces decide to bring in foreign labor but cannot curtail the influx of people living without visas or bringing illegal items – how will provinces control these issues? What if provinces end up in the hands of extremist political parties and leaders and they change statutes that cannot be even challenged by the Centre. And where is this Centre going to be located since it has to be in one of the 9 provinces and how will the laws of that province conflict with the Centre regarding land and other issues. We are coming with more problems than solutions in taking the interim report and recommendations to account which flags dangers to all citizens of their likely frightening future. Let us not be naïve enough to put these dangers aside and think good will result. Our follies have always been not to think of the dangers and repercussions.
Those who have been hiding behind the no new constitution stage performance but subtly promoting the enactment of the 13a cannot explain why or how far one party should compromise or assure that the other party will not demand more than what has been compromised. These advisors mumbling words have led politicians astray without taking ground realities into consideration.
No new constitution can be accepted given the ground realities, the demands by racist Tamil MPs who are part of the constitution making process and the countries that are promoting it. When a small nation like Sri Lanka is broken into fragmented pieces where multiple authorities prevail, we can assume that we are heading for a very frightening future. In taking the demands and the recommendations we can also confidently say that these proposals are not even federal but confederal because all the powers ceded by the Centre cannot be taken back to the Centre which a federal structure allows. Imagine the chaos in 9 mini states!
Look at the recommendations and allow your own imagination to ponder to see the dangers at stake and question why such a small island nation such as ours should be cut into 9 pieces. This new constitution is going to not only divide communities but end up starting lots of mini wars and conflicts and chaos with no central authority to take the responsibility on behalf of all of the citizens.
Shenali D Waduge