Colombo, Constitutional Reform, Politics and Governance, Trincomalee

Defense and Devolution

Just as it did at the moment of decolonization and independence, the visible post-war moment provides a rare historic opportunity for nation building and the construction of national identity. We missed the first chance, but must not miss the second.

In his nationally televised dialogue with audiences in several areas on Tuesday August 19th, President Rajapakse, speaking in Sinhala to largely Sinhala rural crowds, pledged to hold elections to the Northern Provincial Council within a year of its liberation just as he had held election to the Eastern Provincial Council. He added that he was considering elections to the local authorities in Jaffna very much earlier.

Gotabhaya Rajapakse, Defence Secretary, had already indicated the goal in his response to The Times online, stressing the need to privilege a common Sri Lankan identity over and above our separate ethnic identities, allowing for devolution of power, and reiterating the President’s commitment to it.

In the context of a negotiated settlement the post-war order is shaped by all who sit around the table, including the peacemakers. However, given the nature of the LTTE, and as Kethesh Loganathan used to point out, the appeasement by the international community and Colombo’s civil society, a peaceful settlement of Sri Lanka’s conflict has repeatedly proved impossible.

Sri Lanka will get beyond the war to a post-war situation because of the military victory scored by the Sri Lankan armed forces, made possible under the political leadership of the Rajapakse presidency. In a context where the post war moment is the result of a war, the post-war order is decided upon by those who led, fought in and supported the war.

There can be no national identity without a unified national territory. It is unrealistic to expect those – national or international, Sinhala, Tamil or Muslim– who opposed the war of liberation, those who practiced a policy of appeasement, who acted as proxies for the enemy, to be stakeholders in deciding or shaping the post-war order. Notwithstanding the academic exercises debating Sri Lankan identity by those who opposed the necessary war through which Sri Lanka must be reunited as a single sovereign territorial space, the post-war order, the crucible of evolving national identity, will almost certainly be decided by those – Sinhala, Tamil and Muslim; national, regional and international-who stood shoulder to shoulder in, or stood with, or at least did not stand against, the anti-fascist war of national reunification. 

As we make the transition into the last stage-though not phase-of the conventional war against the LTTE, it is wise to have a clear idea of what comes after. It is in this context that the debate on devolution must be placed.

Those who advocate the non-implementation of the 13th amendment, as well as those who advocate only its partial, rather than full implementation, have not taken into account the realities of post-mid intensity conflict warfare, that is the low intensity conflict that will doubtless follow the defeat of “the conventional military power of Tamil Eelam” — as the late columnist “Taraki” used to call it.

The Sri Lankan military and STF will doubtless be required to follow up the conventional military victory with the complete and final elimination of the LTTE as a military force, destroying its columns in jungle warfare, its cells in urban counter-terrorist warfare, uprooting its organisational infrastructure and its weapons caches.

What has to be avoided is a situation in which the Tigers, their proxies or substitutes, succeed in winning by other means that which they could not win by military means. The mighty USSR fell without a shot being fired, having defended itself, Europe and the world, against the armies of Nazi fascism. Therefore it is necessary to avoid what the Chinese Communist leadership has correctly called the dangers of “peaceful evolution”.

Even after the shooting stops, the 6th amendment to the Constitution which bans secessionism must be strictly enforced with regard to the LTTE and its proxies. The LTTE should be banned. Its proxies should be treated as Spain, a member of the EU, treats Herri Batasuna, the parliamentary party of Basque separatism, which has been proscribed by the respected judge Baltazar Garzon as a party which “maintains links with an underground armed organisation”.

There is however, an important corollary. The ban on the espousal of separatism in Spain and India is regarded as legitimate because it takes place in a system that contains generous autonomy for ethnic or ethno-lingual regions. Therefore, the implementation of the devolution of power to the provinces must parallel this strict enforcement of the ban on separatism.

The Sri Lankan armed forces will have to stay in the North and East for as long as is needed but not a moment longer than is needed. If we pull out prematurely due to manipulated demands from Tamil politicians, endorsed by regional or global players wielding carrots and sticks, it will be at the risk of the reactivation of the Tigers and/or the Tamil Eelam struggle.

There will have to be a long-term Sri Lankan armed forces presence in the North and East, positioned in such a configuration and of such a strength that can suppress, pre-empt and deter any sign of separatist-terrorist activity.

As importantly or even more so, there will have to be a constantly modernised Sri Lankan combined services presence guarding our porous borders against the largest source of anti-Sri Lankan sentiment, namely Tamil Nadu.

However, if the Sri Lankan armed forces presence is too large, too obtrusive, remains largely mono-ethnic and mono-religious, and has too many abrasive functions in relation to Tamil society and public life, we risk exactly the same danger. Our armed forces would then have the profile of an army of occupation, with peaceful protests erupting, and violent incidents being flashed around the world, giving credence to the cause of separatism. We must avoid a replay of the whole experience ranging from the socially insensitive conduct of TAFAII through the suppression of the Satyagraha of 1961 to the brutal retaliatory tactics of the early 1980s.

Let us learn the lesson of Israel. It is a society and a people whose achievement ranges from the ancient Biblical texts to ultra-modernity: instead of resting on its heritage which is a foundational part of Western civilisation, in the 60 years since its founding it has produced eight Nobel Prize winners. However, Israel is locked in conflict, unable to fulfil its brilliant potential in the world. The turning point was in 1967. Neither Moshe Dayan and his Generals who won the Six Day War so spectacularly, nor Prime Minister Golda Meir, ever planned to remain in permanent occupation of Arab land. When he saw his paratroopers praying at the Wailing Wall, Moshe Dayan snorted “what’s this, the Vatican?” and ordered the pulling down of an Israeli flag flying over a sacred Islamic site. Today, his daughter Yael Dayan, a decorated war veteran, writer and Deputy Mayor, is a leading figure protesting against the building of the “security wall”.

The impulse for encroachment on and annexation of Arab/Palestinian land, turning a brilliant military victory into the political quagmire of permanent occupation, came not from the largely Westernized, sophisticated Israeli politico-military ruling elite, but from native Jewish ultranationalist religious fundamentalists.   

This is where devolution comes in. The issue of land is at the heart of civic conflict in many regions of the world, Israel/Palestine being only the worst or the best known. Nothing is as emotive and nothing is guaranteed to give any armed forces presence a profile of an army of occupation as unsettled questions of land, involving the peasantry.

An exhaustive discussion on Land in relation to devolution took place between the Governments of Sri Lanka and India and a complex formula was arrived at. Whether or not it is adhered to, one can envisage land being a bone of contention in the North and the East, but the danger in non-adherence is that we shall not have India on our side or even neutral in any such dispute. If India is alienated from us, so too will be everyone else. A land dispute in the East is also likely to involve the Muslim community, and if so, our valuable support from Pakistan, Iran and the OIC (the 52 nation Organization of the Islamic Conference) will stand in jeopardy.

If the Tamil citizens of the East, especially the peasantry, are locked in a protracted confrontation with the Sinhala community, the state or the armed forces over land, it will be impossible for our Tamil allies the TMVP to stand aside. If the TMVP were to move against the Tamil people it would weaken their base. If they moved against the Sinhalese it would weaken our profile, reducing it to a Sinhala Only one. 

It would therefore be profoundly counter-productive for us NOT to implement fully, the 13th amendment, including on the subject of land.

Matters are as clear when it comes to the issue of police powers. Unlike in the case of a conventional war, no low intensity conflict/counter-insurgency has ever been won without a major role for local forces and this still truer when the conflict has a dimension of identity, i.e. when the insurgent and state’s armed forces are drawn from different ethno-national, linguistic or religious groups. “Chechenisation” was a cornerstone of Vladimir Putin’s victory over the ferocious Chechen secessionist terrorist army. 

In the absence of local forces, the conflict becomes one between an army of occupation and the people of the area. The state requires an intermediary layer to avoid such polarization. If these local forces are not to remain irregular militia which could lapse into banditry, they have to be incorporated into the system and subject to the rule of law. This is where the granting of police powers to the Provincial Councils as per the 13th amendment, comes in handy.

In a recent, widely reported speech in Canada, Prof Ratnajeevan Hoole, whose scholarly credentials I greatly respect, has made an incomplete identification of the choices facing the Tamil people. He lists separation, federalism and assimilation. Having obliquely indicated a preference for the first option, he rules it out as unfeasible. He concludes with a robust call for federalism through international involvement. Prof Hoole unwittingly gives comfort to those Sinhala extremists who argue that Tamil moderates are closet Eelamists who prefer Tamil Eelam if it were feasible, would settle for federalism only because separation is not an option at the moment and would stretch federalism to the point of separation if given half a chance.

This leaves one with the realisation that the only realists among the moderate Tamils are not in the Diaspora, but on the island, and represented by Douglas Devananda, Chief Minister Chandrakanthan and Col. Karuna, i.e. the EPDP and TMVP. 

Prof Hoole also makes a grave analytical error in his identification of options. A glance around the world would show him that there is a fourth option, namely the devolution of power/autonomy within a unitary system, as practiced in the UK, China and the Philippines (if I were to name but three diverse examples). This is the option arrived at under the Indo-Sri Lanka Accord, which could not be implemented primarily (but not exclusively) because the LTTE went to war against the IPKF. Once that armed spoiler is out of the way, the devolution option becomes practicable.

Provincial autonomy as contained in the 13th amendment must be saved from two quarters: those who would seek to move beyond it by vaulting over it, and those who seek to dismantle, delay or dilute it.     

The Tamil community must be liberated from the structural political impasse they find themselves in. The Sinhalese must be emancipated from the structural economic-developmental, institutional and human resources impasse they find themselves in. Post-war Sri Lanka needs to catch up with the rest of Asia, the high growth area of the world. These objectives require a policy of Defence and Devolution.


(These are the personal views of the writer).

  • The Under Dog

    When the Wanni falls, I don’t think anyone will be surprised in the least when the Sinhala supremacists go running there to the plant their bo-trees and lion flags. In spite of the dog and pony show that has been put on in the East, many Tamils there seem to view the chief minister as a Sri Lankan Marshall Petain in Vichy France, fully collaborating with the oppressor. There’s a real opportunity to do it differently in the wanni. But it will be hard: with a continuing insurrection (even after the conventional war is over), the north will continue to be a police state, and human rights will be trampled on. In this scenario, most Tamils will just think that they lost, and we won. Unless of course the President shows a willingness to risk some of the political capital he has earned amongst the Sinhala and truly embrace pluralism. Meaning, he can’t just put in another Tamil lackey who suckles at the Presidential tit (i.e. Douglas Devananda); he needs to allow (and even hope for) a chief minister in the North who will challenge his regime. Only then will the signal go out to the financiers (the Tamil diaspora) that we finally get it. Then the war might truly end.

  • innocent

    Mr Dayan, you people were sleeping and were in the dream land for the last 60 years and even now you are dreaming. It is only when you accept the fact that one nation cannot be destroyed for the sake of another nation and the fact that the fate of the Tamil people should be decided by the Tamils and not by the Sinhalese, a reasonable solution can be achieved.

  • dayan jayatilleka

    The war in Chechnya has ended victoriously, though Underdog may not know it. And it wasn’t ended by placing in power , someone who would challenge Putin or Moscow! It was ended by killing shamil basayev, using airpowr and rockets to smash the chechen insurgents, and empowering ramzan kadyrov and his militia.

    by the way, after the conventional war was won, there was no chechen insurgency.

    even if there is one after the wanni is liberated, the sri lankan armed forces which are now masters of small unit jungle warfare, are more than up to the task.

  • aadhavan

    The writer displays a sense of paranoia about the prospect of a federal solution to the problem, a sense that is shared by the dominant voices in the southern polity. On the other hand, the desire he has that the thirteenth is not whittled down by the south, and his apprehension that a failure of the state to ensure genuine devolution will perpetuate the problem also displays his appreciation for the fact that anything short of genuine power sharing will not ensure a peaceful future for the island.

    With that in mind, his support for the thirteenth is indeed strange, and is best attributed to a belief within those in power that minor tinkering with the status quo will suffice. For one, the thirteenth makes it very easy for the centre to whittle devolution down, not just at the stage of framing the constitution, but during the process of administering and legislating on issues of relevance to the regions. The thirteenth does not even come close to ‘maximum devolution within a unitary state’ given that most statutes passed by a regional legislature can be undone by a simple law being passed in the central parliament as opposed to a constitutional amendment, which is much harder to achieve. Further, executive power remains effectively with the President and is not devolved, and neither is judicial power. This is in addition to the overloading of the concurrent list etc. Add to this mix this lingering sense of paranoia displayed in this article which will ensure continued centrifugal pressures on the process of devolution, and a political culture which is at best apathetic to the rule of law, and you get a pretty dismal prognosis for the prospect of genuine devolution or power sharing.

    It’s also strange that he seeks to use the UK and Spain as examples of devolution within a unitary state structure that Sri Lanka can emulate. Both these countries are in the process of debating whether or not a move to full federalism will be desirable. Spain for one, is regularly identified by political commentators as being quasi federal, (the same thing people use to describe India’s federalism) and the extent of devolution there and the checks and balances against central over reach cannot even be compared to the meager guarantees in the thirteenth. The UK on the other hand, has always been governed by the principle of parliamentary sovereignty, and is thus by definition unitary. For the UK to become federal, the must adopt a written constitution, and the failure of the UK to emerge as a fully fledged federal state owes itself more to fidelity to this principle rather than an unwillingness to allow for greater autonomy.

    The writer also fails to provide any reason as to why and how this new Sri Lankan identity that is supposedly going to be constructed by this regime, with minor tinkering of the constitution, the use of military power to quell voices within the Tamil community, the exclusion of dissenters from this process of ‘identity building’, and the use of proxies/puppets to do it’s own bidding in the regions is going to be any different to the Sinhala Buddhist identity that now masquerades as a Sri Lankan one.

  • dayan jayatilleka

    the best answer to aadahavan’s critical rears is contained inthe latest public opinion poll commissioned by the CPA and conducted by the centre for irish studies, the results of which are featured on this very website. the remarks by the director of the study ( no sinhala chauvinist!) confirm exactly what i’ve been arguing here. he points to the full implementation of the 13th amendment or, arguably 13th amendment plus , within a unitary state, as the best obtainable solution at the moment. given the figures contained in the survey, aadhavan has to figure out how on earth anyone in a democracy is going to get beyond the outer limits of that which is acceptable to the overwhelming majority. the LTTE’s guns obviously cannot do the job, nor could 70,000 troops from outside. tamil nationalism has to cut its programmatic-aspirational coat according to its demographic cloth (and i mean the demography of the island).

  • dayan jayatilleka

    oop sorry, that should obviously read “aadhavan’s critical remarks…”

  • aadhavan

    It’s instructive and interesting that the writer purports that policy be determined based on the inexact science of opinion poll tracking instead of political theory. That the Sinhalese polity is paranoid about power sharing and unwilling to move beyond a unitary framework as equal political partners with the Tamils is self evident, and was pointed by myself in the very first line of my response. The question is as to whether the thirteenth genuinely devolves power or whether it will be a mere facade for militarily imposed hegemony. My response indicates it will be the latter and no opinion poll answers that question. The writer should have the honesty to call a spade a spade, at least in this private forum. It’s good that he concedes that Tamil demands for further autonomy will be crushed militarily and constitutionally and that dissenters will be excluded from the construction of this future ‘Sri Lankan’ identity. He must go further and tell us what other delights we will enjoy once his dream is realised.

  • The Under Dog

    There is still a low level insurgency in Chechnya (troops getting killed in ones and twos). But there are no chechen bombs going off outside chechnya, so the military operation was clearly a success. Let’s hope our military victory means an end to the bombs (i have some doubts on this); let’s hope it happens quickly so that the 200,000 IDPs can go back to their homes soon. Let’s also hope that some of the positive signals emanating from the APRC (that it will be 13th amendment plus) won’t be buried in the stupor of victory (which is where people like Dayan need to make themselves heard–I assume he is in favour of 13 + ?). I still feel Devananda would be a mistake (he is a crook and a thug–his only claim to fame is that he is a survivor, a modern day Rasputin); Anandasangaree would be by far the better choice (he is a honest and gutsy man, and above all a realist)

  • dayan jayatilleka

    there is residual terrorism ( i.e. isolated acts) in chechnya, not a low intensity insurgency.

    anandasangaree is a nice guy, but a realist he is not. douglas may or may not be a nice guy, but a realist he is. why so? sangaree refuses to accept a solution within a unitary state even as a start line. his start line is a quasi-federal indian model, which won’t make it past a referendum.

    as for gutsy, douglas faced, fought back and survived both welikada and kalutara, i.e. murderous attacks, up close and personal, by both sinhala and tamil racists.

    am i in favour of 13 + ? depends on plus what/how much. i’m in favour of what chief justice sarath silva called for when he opened the courts in jaffna: 13 plus one. in other words a right sized plus sign, not an overly large one, because 13 itself barely made it through the supreme court.

  • dayan jayatilleka

    aadhavan wants political theory? ok, lets do political theory. something rather basic which i used to teach in my class on political theory is montesquieu’s The Spirit of the Laws, which points out that laws and constitutions refect the distinctive ethos of a place and peoples. The same point was implicitly made centuries earlier by good old Aristotle (not Onassis) who made a typology of constitutions. now the specific ethos of sri lanka and its overwhelming majority the sinhalese, has led them to preclude a federal option. it is this that is reflected in opinion polls. the same is true of places as diverse as china, the philippines and the UK. as to why this is so in the case of the sinhalese, please read my “the Longest war’ on this website.

    So there’s the theory: try moving outside of the ethos and there’ll be a revolution or counterrevolution, if you prefer. the only reform that can stick is one that reflects to the spirit of the laws.

  • I think in the end, the GoSL will have to back a TNA candidate as the chief minister of the Northern Province, after militarily destroying the links between the TNA and the LTTE. Once the latter is eliminated, the way will be open for a party that has the backing of the majority of the SL Tamils, minus the blood-stained hands. Further on down the road, the TNA will have to defeat the TMVP at the polls, or join with them in an alliance that will safely see both northeastern provinces under acceptable Tamil rule.

    The fact that the TNA candidates are free of the violence that taints the LTTE )unlike Sinn Fein and the Provos), will make them acceptable to the Sinhalese without having to win the majority trust by turning their coats. I’m sure that the TNA will be encouraged to make the ideological and administrative break with the LTTE once the latter is destroyed as an entity capable of driving policy.

    India’s recent refusal to meet with TMVP representatives, might be an indication of their partiality to the TNA as the true political representative of the Tamil people of SL. The TMVP has to be ultimately defanged for true peace to return in the NE.

    Likewise, the Muslim parties would also have to enter alliances with the TNA and TMVP if they are to retain credibility amongst their community.

  • The Under Dog

    I second David’s suggestion. But the question mark is whether the TNA would be willing. Remember these are the guys who put forward the whole concept of Eelam (back when it was the Federal party). Dayan says Anandasangaree would not accept a 13+, but in the military absence of the LTTE, he might be persuaded to come forward and put his neck on the line. He has tried hard to walk a middle path between the TNA/LTTE and GOSL. He would be ideal. Of course, we’re all hatching our chickens prematurely; the battle for the Wanni proper is still to come. The rains are also still to come… David, you’re the military expert–is this thing winnable? Will it be as easy as everyone makes it out to be? The kilometers to Killinocchi keeps counting down, and everyone’s asking ‘are we there yet?’ Can we really get there??

  • It is interesting to read the dream story of the writer. In essence, he believes in giving limited and not true democratic independnce to Tamils, to decide and express as to what political poicies they would like to implement.. Tamils should be allowed to decide 100% as to who their leaders are and not Colombo !! The majority, which is racist, dictatorial and unfit to decide, should never poke their nose on Tamil matters. Being so dictatorial may work for China but not the North East of the island, is proven historicaly.

    The writer supports the war and is militaristic in approach rather than being democratic and political. If so, why should LTTE be eliminated ? Will it ever make a difference? The Sinhalese are just trying to take control of North is the truth.

    The war will never be over as the writer points out.. It is a pipe dream a person is in, when he thinks that LTTE could be defeated. Any political approach should be pragmatic. Tamils will always vote for Tamil Eelam whether the military runs over Kilinochchi or not. Jaffna was run over by the army in 1995, yet more than 85% of the people still support Tamil Eelam. Any solution without that realisation is bound to fail.

    The writer completely ignores the wish of the International Community and the human rights aspect of the situation at any time. The island cannot exist without trade with the world.

    Russia is supporting the break away country of Southern Ossetia now but they were against any form of separation after the separation of Chechenya. Therefore, it is wrong to think that India or the west can never support a breakaway Tamil Eelam. The recent remarks by India to Sri Lanka to watch what is going on in the world was a reference to the happenings in Georgia. The writer should wake up to reality than wishful dreaming !!!

  • aadhavan

    The writer merely repeats what is universally known, that the Sinhala polity or ‘ethos’ as the writer sees it, is resistant to the idea of power sharing. That vague distrust of the notion of equality for the Tamils as a group is a fact. What is not a fact is that the Sinhalese people have collectively drawn a line in the sand and said ‘thus far and no further’. Were the Sinhalese in favour of the 13th amendment when it was passed? Were the Sinhalese in favour of federalism when they supported Ranil Wickremasinghe for that brief period of time in during the CFA years? The answer is not clear. The Sinhalese were arguably more keen about federalism four years ago than they were about the thirteenth twenty years ago. Remember, you had the head of the two Sinhalese parties paying lip service to federalism only a few years back. So this idea that there is a firm line in the sand is to overly narrow down what is a general sense of unease about further power sharing.

    More importantly, terms such as federalism, unitary and ‘maximum devolution within a unitary constitution’ have no fixed meanings although they are not meaningless. You have a continuum, and the writer understand this. Spain and arguably the UK are are examples of quasi federal models, India started off as unitary and is now almost fully federal, with the shift being conceived purely by court activism and not through any constitutional amendment or ‘people based’ means. So labels are obscure, shifting and malleable. Details must be discussed in relation to specifics, and that process cannot get off the ground if one side is tied dogmatically to status quo. Equally important to what is written in the text of a constitution is the political culture that goes with it. Again dogmatic assertions that the status quo, which was showed down the throat of the Sinhalese by India twenty years ago, is the furthest one can go don’t help create a culture useful to constructive dialogue. Speaking of which, isn’t it strange that the writer now supports a constitutional model that was by all accounts ‘showed down the throats’ of the South by the ‘great northern invader’?

    What the previous para means is that politicians and parties who seek to argue that the Sinhala people are not willing to go beyond this particular constitution or amend that particular article of the constitution (that 99% of the Sinhala population will not be aware of) are being disingenuous. What they seek to do is to prevent further sharing of powers, drawing lines in the sand- lines the Sinhala people are not familiar with or even understand- and then seeking to explain their opposition to specific, detailed models by referencing this general disinclination to power sharing among the Sinhala people. It’s seeking to justify the specific by arguing the general. The disingenuity is on display here. Ultimately the Sinhala leaders can use this general ‘ethos’ to rationalise resistance to change and further their own desire to centralize power reduce the minorities to subject peoples, or seek to engage their own people, channel that unease without exploiting it.

    Blacker and UnderDog, isn’t it a tad bit presumptuous if not undemocratic to postulate as to which Tamil political party the government should back. Why not led the Tamils decide who they will back. What if the person the government backs loses the election, or should the ‘backing’ extend to ensuring that the person doesn’t lose the election?! What if the political party in the south changes? Who backs whom then? Backing of the centre is needed only when you need to support an undemocratic regime, i.e- an armed group to do your own bidding, or an electorally unpopular entity to ‘back’ you in turn after he is installed undemocratically.

  • dayan jayatilleka

    if aadhavan thinks that the UK is quasi-federal this discussion is meaningless. at the universal periodic review of the UN HRC the UK govt’s written submission provided the self-definition: “a unitary country ….with devolution of power”. perhaps aadhavan knows more about the UK state than the UK state itself?

    anyone who thinks it is undemocratic to prescribe the outer limits of tamil political choice should look at india. any political party advocating separatism will be proscribed. and have you guys watched what happened to the kashmiri separatist demonstrators? they buried a leader an allegedly political ( non-guerrilla) political figure last week, after police shootings.

    get this: every state prescribes limits and enforces them. that’s what a state does. that’s the nature of the state. and that, my dear aadhavan lies at the heart of political theory , which you are so fond of. unfortunately you seem to be fonder of it than familiar with it…

  • dayan jayatilleka

    saravanan, sarvanan , sarvanan, the indians may have shoved the 13th amendment down the sinhala throats ( by the way, i supported the 13th amendment then and i do so now), but the sinhalese are still here, the IPKF is not, nor is the merger, and tamil eelam is shrinking by the day in both numbers and territory. having been burnt by their experience, the indians aren’t coming back. and no one in the neighbourhood is going to intervene militarily in the affairs of the current SAARC chairman, by the time whose term of office is over, the war will be done.

    there are three ways in politics to achieve anything: ballots or bullets, or the bullets of the outside actor. tamil eelamism doesn’t have the ballots, its losing with the bullets, and the outside actor scenario came and went in 1987-90. its plumb outta options.

  • punitham

    After 60 years of Don Senanayakes through to Dayan Jayatillakas, what chance of any democracy, pluralism or whatever? A country with a parliament that brought a no-confidence motion against its Opposition Leader because he was a Tamil! Sri Lankan Tamils have simply a very unfortunate history and geography that is a combined curse. How fortunate Obama is! Dons/Dayans should be hanging their heads in shame!!

  • The Under Dog

    aadhavan, as you rightly pointed out, we are being presumptuous and undemocratic. Apologies for this. Seeing that a thug who continues to murder when ordered to do so was ‘appointed’ CM in the east, I’m hoping someone of a kinder nature would be ‘appointed’ in the north. Ideally, I’d love to see the northern Tamils decide for themselves. Realistically, this will not happen under this govt or any other govt. Any legitimate Tamil candidate who is not the ‘chosen one,’ will be bundled into a white van and never heard of again. But then, this is true of life under the LTTE too, is it not?

  • aadhavan

    The writer is free to conflate the proscription of outer limits of Kashmiri political choice which he derives from the proscription of Kashmiri secessionist activity, with the self proclaimed proscription of a federal setup that he postulates, even though the Sri Lankan constitution only prescribes talk of a separate state within the territory of Sri Lanka, and not anything beyond 13th amendment plus. But merely for argument’s sake, may it be pointed out that within the realm of international law, the idea of a separate state within the territory of another state is a vacuous idea. It’s nonsensical, a contradiction in terms. But that’s purely for the sake of argument. Once the writer wraps his head around that one, he may appreciate the utility or futility of mandating these ‘outer limits’ within constitutions which are (strictly) legally incapable of accommodating alternatives.

    If the Sri Lankan state is going to draw lines in the sand, refuse to grant even a Scotland type devolution (with the granting of genuine executive power to the regions and broader devolution of legislative competencies) even though its agents themselves cite Scotttish and other British models as archetypal devolutionary regimes within a unitary constitution, much is revealed about the state’s unwillingness to abide by it’s own mantra of ‘maximum devolution within a unitary state’. If on the other hand, the writer believes that Sri Lankan devolution can mirror British models of devolution, he must tell us which waste paper basket we must throw the idea of constitutional supremacy into, since the British abide by the theory of parliamentary sovereignty, which is diametrically opposed the idea of constitutional supremacy,

    If the writer in referring to ‘the outer limits of political choice’ is going to stick to ‘status quo or nothing else’, then that is instructive that the current government and its cheerleaders have no regard for Tamil choices and have every intention of using this general ‘disinclination to power sharing’ among the Sinhalese that I referred to in the previous response to browbeat the Tamils and choose the Tamils’ own leaders (by the side opposed to the Tamils on what he and some discredited American nut claims is the other side of a civilizational fault line) -undemocratically – Kadyrov style or should I say Putin style? Again i wonder, why would the writer be interested in choosing Tamil leaders for state ‘backing’ if he believes the thirteenth provides the Tamils with the opportunity to choose their own leaders? Does the writer presume to know better than the Tamils about who it’s own representative should be? If he does, why bother with democracy? He could go the way of China and Russia unapologetically!

    Finally, a word on the UK. I don’t presume to know more than the pommy diplomats about the unwritten UK constitution than I do about the Indian constitution than the Honourable Justices of the Indian SC. One calls their constitution unitary while the latter terms theirs to be federal. I think both are on a continuum somewhere in between. My humble apologies to both.

  • Ekcol

    dayan’s paper and the subsequent discussions reminds me of a tv show in australia in the late eighties. It was hosted by a robertson and I think it was called robertson’s hypothetical. he invites practising specialists from various fields, sets the scene and poses a hypothetical question starting with “if”. he listens to their response and moderates and challenges the various specialists to respond to the other specialists ‘outrageous’ ideas.

    i used that technique in my class once a week. i would sometime pose unimginable and outlandish ‘if’ questions. for example, “as the clock strikes one in the morning, all living things lost the power to reproduce!” Students liked that. or the sun disappeared. the students were to respond what each one would do to survive and help others to survive . I was amazed by the creative and critical thinking abilities of my students. the discussions on those questions covered not only the science but all the disciplines, including sociology, and local and global politics. dyan, if and when you return to the classroom, i recommend you try out the hypothetical, ‘if’. now that you have tried it out in groundviews you will be able to become an expert at it. i am serious not sarcastic. You are too engrossed in the problem that you are unable to be in the ‘null point.’ ‘null point’ is the point where there is no force or power but it is between opposing forces.

    post war politics or post ltte politics, i am sure all of you will agree, is hypothetical. independent thinkers should not shy away from hypotheticals however far fetched it is. what will happen to sl post rajapakses? we all know what happened post ranil or chandrika, premadasa and so on down the line to swrd. he should have engaged in hypothetical discussions. i guess his oxford education and the gift of the gab and his lineage blinded him to the consequence of his method of acquisition of power.

    swrd understood the power of ‘genie.’ the ‘genie’ whose power and design the british understood and trapped it in the bottle. it stewed until 1948. it could not get anyone to let it out. swrd came to its rescue. swrd thought that he could put it back into the bottle after it granted his wish. the ‘genie’ was ungrateful and did away with its liberator. srimavo and her leftists broke the bottle and the cork (section 29) so the genie will never be put in the bottle. the ‘genie’ has found its natural home in the sinhala buddhists and roams unhindered except by the ltte. the ‘genie’ now has the willing sinhala buddishists and the rajapakses as its tool. if rajapakses agree to 13th amendmend with, like dyan said, tiny plus!!! (how much is tiny? is it measured in nanograms!!!) what will the ‘genie’ do to them. there is a hypothetical worth exploring!

    pirapakaran must have played out all the hypotheticals before taking up arms. he wants only to keep the ‘genie’ out of his space. which tamil wouldn’t. don’t tell me, sangaree, devananda, pillayan or karuna will. they know all about the ‘genie’ what it can do. right now, they are doing poojas to the ‘genie’. but for how long will the ‘genie’ accepts their poojas and dish out their selfish, petty wishes? If Buddha’s teachings cannot keep the ‘genie’ out of the sinhala buddhists, which other philosophy can?

  • dayan jayatilleka


    The Democratic convention has adopted as its slogan, the theme One Nation. Barack himself has opposed reparations for slavery and expressed second thoughts on affirmative action. So its not DS Senanayake or Dayan Jayatilleka who should hang his head in shame. Its the Tamils who tried the route , not of Barack, but of the US Southern confederacy, which was put down by Barack’s hero Lincoln. At least now, Tamil politics should go back to Barack!

  • Ekcol

    Speaking of Lincoln, you may enjoy a quote from him:
    “If, by the mere force of numbers, a majority should deprive a minority of any clearly written constitutional right (my note: Sec 29 in Ceylon’s case), it might, in a moral point of view, justify revolution – certainly would, if such a right were a vital one.”
    Abraham Lincoln
    (First Inaugural Address, March 4, 1861)

    While you are thinking about it, here is one from Justice Oliver Wendhal Homes:
    “I have always said that the rights of a given crowd are what they will fight for.”
    Justice Oliver Wendall Holmes
    In “Holmes Laski Letters.” July 26, 1925. edited by Prof Frankfurter, later Justice Frankfurter.
    You probably have read about Russia’s stand on the the Breakaway states from Georgia.

    While you are talking about Barak Obama, you may want more food for thought. Here is what his VP candidate Joe Biden wrote:

    New York Times
    May 1, 2006
    Op-Ed Contributors
    Unity Through Autonomy in Iraq
    A decade ago, Bosnia was torn apart by ethnic cleansing and facing its demise as a single country. After much hesitation, the United States stepped in decisively with the Dayton Accords, which kept the country whole by, paradoxically, dividing it into ethnic federations, even allowing Muslims, Croats and Serbs to retain separate armies. With the help of American and other forces, Bosnians have lived a decade in relative peace and are now slowly strengthening their common central government, including disbanding those separate armies last year.

    Now the Bush administration, despite its profound strategic misjudgments in Iraq, has a similar opportunity. To seize it, however, America must get beyond the present false choice between “staying the course” and “bringing the troops home now” and choose a third way that would wind down our military presence responsibly while preventing chaos and preserving our key security goals.

    The idea, as in Bosnia, is to maintain a united Iraq by decentralizing it, giving each ethno-religious group — Kurd, Sunni Arab and Shiite Arab — room to run its own affairs, while leaving the central government in charge of common interests. We could drive this in place with irresistible sweeteners for the Sunnis to join in, a plan designed by the military for withdrawing and redeploying American forces, and a regional nonaggression pact.

    It is increasingly clear that President Bush does not have a strategy for victory in Iraq. Rather, he hopes to prevent defeat and pass the problem along to his successor. Meanwhile, the frustration of Americans is mounting so fast that Congress might end up mandating a rapid pullout, even at the risk of precipitating chaos and a civil war that becomes a regional war.

    As long as American troops are in Iraq in significant numbers, the insurgents can’t win and we can’t lose. But inter-communal violence has surpassed the insurgency as the main security threat. Militias rule swathes of Iraq and death squads kill dozens daily. Sectarian cleansing has recently forced tens of thousands from their homes. On top of this, President Bush did not request additional reconstruction assistance and is slashing funds for groups promoting democracy.

    Iraq’s new government of national unity will not stop the deterioration. Iraqis have had three such governments in the last three years, each with Sunnis in key posts, without noticeable effect. The alternative path out of this terrible trap has five elements.

    The first is to establish three largely autonomous regions with a viable central government in Baghdad. The Kurdish, Sunni and Shiite regions would each be responsible for their own domestic laws, administration and internal security. The central government would control border defense, foreign affairs and oil revenues. Baghdad would become a federal zone, while densely populated areas of mixed populations would receive both multi-sectarian and international police protection.

    Decentralization is hardly as radical as it may seem: the Iraqi Constitution, in fact, already provides for a federal structure and a procedure for provinces to combine into regional governments.

    Besides, things are already heading toward partition: increasingly, each community supports federalism, if only as a last resort. The Sunnis, who until recently believed they would retake power in Iraq, are beginning to recognize that they won’t and don’t want to live in a Shiite-controlled, highly centralized state with laws enforced by sectarian militias. The Shiites know they can dominate the government, but they can’t defeat a Sunni insurrection. The Kurds will not give up their 15-year-old autonomy.

    Some will say moving toward strong regionalism would ignite sectarian cleansing. But that’s exactly what is going on already, in ever-bigger waves. Others will argue that it would lead to partition. But a breakup is already under way. As it was in Bosnia, a strong federal system is a viable means to prevent both perils in Iraq.

    The second element would be to entice the Sunnis into joining the federal system with an offer they couldn’t refuse. To begin with, running their own region should be far preferable to the alternatives: being dominated by Kurds and Shiites in a central government or being the main victims of a civil war. But they also have to be given money to make their oil-poor region viable. The Constitution must be amended to guarantee Sunni areas 20 percent (approximately their proportion of the population) of all revenues.

    The third component would be to ensure the protection of the rights of women and ethno-religious minorities by increasing American aid to Iraq but tying it to respect for those rights. Such protections will be difficult, especially in the Shiite-controlled south, but Washington has to be clear that widespread violations will stop the cash flow.

    Fourth, the president must direct the military to design a plan for withdrawing and redeploying our troops from Iraq by 2008 (while providing for a small but effective residual force to combat terrorists and keep the neighbors honest). We must avoid a precipitous withdrawal that would lead to a national meltdown, but we also can’t have a substantial long-term American military presence. That would do terrible damage to our armed forces, break American and Iraqi public support for the mission and leave Iraqis without any incentive to shape up.

    Fifth, under an international or United Nations umbrella, we should convene a regional conference to pledge respect for Iraq’s borders and its federal system. For all that Iraq’s neighbors might gain by picking at its pieces, each faces the greater danger of a regional war. A “contact group” of major powers would be set up to lean on neighbors to comply with the deal.

    Mr. Bush has spent three years in a futile effort to establish a strong central government in Baghdad, leaving us without a real political settlement, with a deteriorating security situation — and with nothing but the most difficult policy choices. The five-point alternative plan offers a plausible path to that core political settlement among Iraqis, along with the economic, military and diplomatic levers to make the political solution work. It is also a plausible way for Democrats and Republicans alike to protect our basic security interests and honor our country’s sacrifices.

    Joseph R. Biden Jr., Democrat of Delaware, is the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Leslie H. Gelb is the president emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations.

  • dayan jayatilleka

    dear Eckol,

    US civil war: you may also like to read accounts of general sherman’s march through georgia. makes the SLA seem like the peace corps.

    and man, obviously i knew about biden and iraq, but i didn’t know that sinhalese and tamil militia were blowing each other’s civilians up every day in Colombo.

    anyone who wants to intervene in a durable multiparty democracy like sri lanka against the wishes of the majority and its army will have to buy plenty insurance and pack plenty body bags. i can’t think of any foreign leader who would want that. sri lanka isn’t in europe. its in asia, the scene of the west’s most disastrous military experiences: korea, vietnam, and now the quagmire of afghanistan.

    as for Barack , here’s the thing: every potential Barack and Michelle Obama among the tamils: every single western educated Tamil intellectual in politics with a cross-over appeal among sinhalese, was murdered by the Tamil Tigers–Lakshman Kadirgamar, Neelan Tiruchelvam, Rajini Tiranagama, Kethesh Loganathan.

  • Aadhavan, yes, it’s presumptuous to discuss any process post-LTTE, but I think discussion’s good. However, I don’t think my comments were undemocratic at all. My comments were framed in the context of a non-federal system (though I’m not opposed to federalism), with the current administration and executive in power. Since the GoSL obviously will want to retain power in the north, it will want to “back” a preferred candidate or party, as it did with Pilliyan & the TMVP in the East, by aligning themselves with said candidate and party. In this case, I suggested the TNA, simply because the latter will also get far wider backing from the Northern Tamils as well as the international players than will the TMVP (for reasons already explained). If the Northern Tamils would rather vote Dougie or Anandasangaree in as CM, all well and good, but I thing the GoSL will look to align itself with the sure thing, and I think the TNA has the best odds.

    Under Dog, I think the TNA will see where it’s bread is buttered, and will choose GoSL protection rather than face the dangers of running up against Dougie, Pilliyan, etc without the LTTE guns to back ’em.

    I wouldn’t call myself a military expert at all, UD, just an informed observer. Yeah, the rains are coming, but fighting into Kilinochchi will mean urban warfare where you can’t really use armour and fixed wing aircraft. The military will want to use the interim period to cut off Kili and destroy the LTTE in the field where the former can deploy its jets, tanks, and arty.

    It’s still impossible to tell how long it’ll really take, in spite of our brass winding up the masses, but short of a catastrophic disaster such as the LTTE killing both the Army commander and the DefSec, I don’t see a military defeat of the LTTE being prevented. However, it won’t be easy, and there’ll be a lot of casualties on our side, far more than the two or three a day we’re seeing now. The Tigers will fight hard and to the end if their brass isn’t killed off first, and so far we haven’t managed that.

  • Ekcol

    i assume that the discussion on “post-ltte” political scenario is coming to a close, I will be interested in hearing the views of david b. – military specialist on sl, and dyan, j the sl political specialist, on the military and political consequence of another ‘jeya sikuru” under the rajapakses. That is, the hypothetical jeya sikuru II.

    dyan, david’s interview with a sl mercenary in Iraq is a good read. Though it reads like fiction (he writes well) the internet is full of facts on reports on such occupations in Iraq. It is common knowledge that SL had and has mercenaries since JR’s and Athulathmudali’s time. SL has Tamil militaries on payroll – monetary and otherwise including diplomatic passports with faked names. Then of course there were and are Tamil political mercenaries recruited by sl. You have mentioned the names of some of them.

  • self determination

    so, the brilliant dayan J thinks the solution to the problem is the 13th amendment… plus something…

    the 13 amendment and the Indo-Sri Lankan Accord were IMPOSED on the tamils by the govts of India and SL…

    in all of his long winded, ego enhancing, self aggrandizing tripe nowhere are the rights of the tamils to choose their destiny, their leaders and their views on a political solution…

    he is the worst kind of oppressor, one that is able to justify his oppression of the “other” with long words and convoluted arguments that put a pretty face on the horrors of the govt he shills for…

    if the LTTE is defeated this is what will happen:
    1) continued colonization of the NorthEast – to make all districts reflect the national proportions of the populations…
    2) forced assimilation through the continued non implementation of the language laws

    in essence cultural genocide…

  • dayan jayatilleka

    The LTTE has been defeated in the East, and I don’t notice any “continued colonisation, forced assimilation or cultural genocide”. Maybe I missed something, as did the rest of the world?

    if the LTTE is defeated in the NorthEast, those areas will experience that which they couldn’t in 1987, because the LTTE went to war against the IPKF– the hitherto unexplored potentialities of the 13th amendment and the PCs.

    As for the rest of the nightmare scenario, this assumes that all Tamil parliamentarians including the TNA will give up whatever leverage they can exercise at Presdentia and parliamntary elections held, not as before , in a first past the post electoral system, but under proportional representation.

    Within a competitive electoral marketplace, the Tamils will punch their weight.

  • self determination

    1) there is ample evidence of the ongoing colonization in the East – but the argument is summed more eloquently than i ever could here: (

    and despite what you may think of tamilnet this is a fact ( that can be validated by any international reporter who wants to go to Vaharai and see…

    but it’s not a “sexy” story for them…

    2) you don’t address the issue that the tamils had no say in the Indo-Sri Lankan Accord (which as it’s name implies was between the indians and the sri lankan state… the accord was forced down the tamil’s throat 10 years after they voted for separation in 1977

    3) every tamil leader expect VP has sold their elecorate down the proverbial river for a few shekels

    you can fool the IC but not the tamils

  • self determination

    and to preempt you accusations of tamil bias – here is a white man saying the same thing… (and you’ll probably discount him as being part of the neo-colonial mentality of the west trying to impose their will on the poor little brown man by using human rights as a means of intervention in your internal affairs) but the facts remain…

  • A political scientist once said that an amicable divorce or peaceful separation between two countries takes place when there is a mixture of democratic traditions and constructive mentality. Peaceful separation was hailed by Russian revolutionary Lenin, who saw it as the right of nations, to determine by themselves, their own destiny.

    Belgium and Netherlands in 1820, Austria and Hungary in 1867, Norway and Sweden in 1905, Singapore and Malaysia in 1965 and Czechoslovakia and Slovakia in 1993 are countries that opted for amicable divorce. They are now harvesting the benefits of peace, progress and prosperity.

    Unwilling to be in the republic of Sri Lanka(SL), the people of North East(NE) of the island of Ceylon, naming their country as Tamil Eelam(TE), decided to go for a divorce in 1977, in the most democratic tradition acceptable to the democratic world, by popular vote and self referendum.

    The divorce was for a marriage created by Britain in 1948, in the “Union of Ceylon” The interesting question is “why is there a delay in the creation of TE?”

    Although, the divorce of TE was requested in 1977, the reply from Sri Lankan state was always violence, war and bloodshed for the past 31 years. Eventhough TE has more legal and political legitimacy for its independence than Kosovo, which is an independent country in the EU, and South Ossetia and Abkhazia, which separated from Georgia last week, it is not yet independent.

    Considering the factors necessary for amicable divorce of (a) democratic traditions and (b) Constructive mentality; as far as the South is concerned, democratic traditions though not good appear to be sufficient. But the problem is with the mentality of the Sinhalese, which is not at all constructive for an amicable divorce. In fact the mentality is destructive causing genocide.

    The Sinhalese often have two main reasons for refusing an amicable divorce.

    Firstly, they fear that TE would join up with Tamil Nadu and overrun SL. This foolish and unsubstantiated fear is planted by politicos, monks and historians who interpret mythology as history.

    The Sinhalese fail to consume the truth that in the present world, with the functioning of the UN, invasion of one country by another is impossible. Invasion of Kuwait by Iraq and the UN intervention is a classic example for it.

    Secondly, the reason given by the Sinhalese is that Tamils are unfit to rule themselves and cannot survive alone !!

    This reason reminds me of a Tamil Proverb which says “Wolf is crying because a goat is getting wet”. Jealousy and Rhetoric are prevalent.

    Surely, if peaceful separation of TE would have been wisely done 31 years ago, we would have had our island as the most peaceful and prosperous island. Ugly incidents and sufferings of war destruction, killings, disappearances and displacements could have been averted. SL was unfortunate not to have had a leader who cared for the prosperous living of every one in the island.

    The truth is that Sinhalese, a people with destructive mentality are determined to destroy themselves and the others. Sinhalese should learn to be more open to respect and grant the request of Tamils in the country if they desire peace and prosperity for the entire island.

    It is with these in mind I consider the present proposal to implement the 13th amendment as ridiculous.

    It is logical to say that when any marraiage does not work between the partners because the husband has a cruel and wicked mentalty and if the husband is interested in keeping the marraiage, he should strive to change and get rid of his useless mentality and be decent and respectful to his wife. Change to a constructive mentality is essential.

    This never happened for the past 60 years to the Sinhalese of SL. All what happened was the intensification of horror and terror, with a “no care” attitude, yet insisting “no divorce” to TE.

    Apart from cruelty, the “husband” went around the world mourning about his horrible wife. And now suddenly, the “husband” wants to “live together” yet in the same house. Further the propsed “live together” package still tries to impose his cruelty, horror and terror with absolute control.

    Surely, the package is a rhetoric and waste of time. The husband should come out and say as to how he would grant an amicable divorce, with the husband and wife living in separate houses yet respecting each other. Perhaps then peace progress and prosperity could set in.

  • Ekcol

    Well said Sam. Some of the Tamils that dyan j admires whom he has mentioned have or had what is called, “Beaten wife syndrome.” They find no fault with the offender. they blame themselves (their community) for the predicament. They like to continue the painful relationship.

    The field of conflict resolution has not progressed beyond that of Marriage Counseling. In marriage at least, the law provides a judicial recourse – separation, divorce, alimony and division of assets and liabilities. In marriage problems the law has the coercieve force to enforce it. Tamils had judicial recourse to appeal to the Privy Council, but it was taken away by Srimavo and her leftists who sold their principles for ministerial shekels. Britain who guaranteed Sect 29 kept mum. They have taken the side of the majority from which they wanted to protect us.

    Prof. G.L. Peiris, then Minister of Constitutional Affairs, pointed out while defending his August 1996 draft proposal, that a constitutional,
    “…safeguard was provided for the minorities by Article 29(2) of the Soulbury Constitution. It prevented parliament from conferring benefits on the majority community and imposing disabilities on the minorities. The Privy Council in Bribery commissioner Vs Ranasinghe had ruled that Article 29(2) can not be amended even with a two-thirds majority. It was on the basis of this safeguard that the Tamils acquiesced in the granting of independence in 1948.”
    Ceylon Daily News, 12 March 1997

    This safeguard was taken away by the majority. But then who will want to give credence to the appeal of a flip flopper.

    Tamils had no choice but to act alone and they had Locke’s philosophy to declare a state of war with the Sri lanka government:
    John Locke, in Chapter Three: “Of the State of War,” in “The Second Treatise of Government” (1681), has this to say about the state of war between two individuals (in the case of Sri Lanka, the Tamils and the Sinhala Buddhists):
    “17. And hence it is he who attempts to get another man into his absolute power does thereby put himself into a state of war with him. It being to be understood as a declaration of a design upon his life. For I have reason to conclude that he who would get me into his power without my consent would use me as he pleased when he had got me there, and destroy me too when he had a fancy to it; for nobody can desire to have me in his absolute power, unless it be so to compel me by force to that which is against the right of my freedom i.e. make me a slave. To be free from such force is the only security of my preservation, and reason bids me look on him as my enemy to my preservation, who would take away that freedom which is the fence to it. So that he who make an attempt to enslave me thereby puts himself into a state of war with me.”

    Sri Lanka used democracy to enslave the Tamils without regard to the warning of Alexis de Toquville;
    “There are communities in which the members of the minority can never hope to draw the majority over to their side, because they must then give up the very point that is at issue between them… The moral authority of the majority is partly based upon the notion that there is more intelligence and wisdom in a number of men united than in a single individual…”
    (Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, Chapter XV.)

  • Dayan,

    On Tamil matters, Sinhalese always like to speculate politics with wishful thinking with a view to satisfy their ego to control and oppress Tamils. This stops them from being pragmatic and the North East problem remains unresolved. Please try to understand this dangerous psychology from the opinion expressed by Ekcol.

    There were Sinhalese pundits who said that Tamil Nadu will never support Tamil Eelam. After the conclusion of the recent statistical survey in Tamil Nadu, where it was found that there is massive support for Tamil Eelam the pundits are silent. All what pundits uttered was foolish, misleading and wasteful.

    I recently heard another wishful thinker saying that the Tamils do not want Tamil Eelam. And now, I hear you saying that India will never ever support a sovereign Tamil Eelam.

    Dayan, dont you know that in politics there are no permanent enemies and no permanent friends?

    The only cure for this ego to oppress Tamils and be free from any wishful thinking by the Sinhalese would be to live in separate houses as Sam suggests in this column.

  • dayan jayatilleka

    If the tamil leaders who support GOSL are “beaten wives”, what would describe neelan, Kethesh, rajini, amirthalingam, Yogeswaran, mrs Yogeswaran, lakshman kadirgamar, padhmanabha, maheswari et al?

    john locke was talking about the right of rebellion against an autocracy, not a competitive electoral democracy, and Alexis de toqceville’s critical observations about majoritarianism were not in any way a justification of armed rebellion– it was a cautionary note about leveling down.

    GLP in 1996 is quoted with hypocritical approval. however neither the Tigers, nor the TNA ( TULF) express readiness to negotiate GL and CBK’s 1995-7 union of regions package. wrong move.

  • wijayapala

    Dear David Blacker,

    “The fact that the TNA candidates are free of the violence that taints the LTTE )unlike Sinn Fein and the Provos), will make them acceptable to the Sinhalese without having to win the majority trust by turning their coats. I’m sure that the TNA will be encouraged to make the ideological and administrative break with the LTTE once the latter is destroyed as an entity capable of driving policy.”

    I think I would entirely disagree with you. The TNA has most certainly been associated with LTTE violence given that the TNA has been the prime beneficiary of the LTTE’s intimidation/fascism against anti-LTTE Tamil parties and subversion of Tamil democracy. There is a TNA politician whose nickname among the Jaffna Tamils is “Kuthirai” (horse) because he “rode in” on false ballots in the last parliamentary election.

    The above nickname alone should dispel the notion that the Tamils are enthusiastically pro-TNA and feel that the TNA represents their interests. The truth is that before the war, the Tamil vote was split between the TULF and the UNP/SLFP, because the latter could deliver patronage that the former could not. Duraiappah, the mayor of Jaffna town was SLFP. The UNP was strong in the Eastern Province until JR sponsored a mini-holocaust in 1983.

    My take is that when the LTTE is flattened, the TNA as the LTTE’s dedicated proxy will lose its credibility and collapse, its members disappearing into the woodwork or joining the diaspora crowd. The Tamils are currently bereft of leadership thanks to the LTTE’s legacy of terror, and it will take years for a new generation of leaders to fill the void.

    “Yeah, the rains are coming, but fighting into Kilinochchi will mean urban warfare where you can’t really use armour and fixed wing aircraft.”

    I’ve been through Kilinochchi and I wouldn’t exactly call it an “urban environment.” There is a relatively large population but it is spread out. In fact, the terrain there is very wide and open, described as perfect “tank country.”

  • wijayapala

    My dear Sarwan,

    “It is a pipe dream a person is in, when he thinks that LTTE could be defeated. Any political approach should be pragmatic. Tamils will always vote for Tamil Eelam whether the military runs over Kilinochchi or not. Jaffna was run over by the army in 1995, yet more than 85% of the people still support Tamil Eelam. Any solution without that realisation is bound to fail.”

    The problem with a political solution without the military defeat of the LTTE is that the LTTE will never allow any non-LTTE Tamil leader to rise up. The LTTE’s concept of Tamil leadership is a collection of terrified parliamentarians who prance around holding Prabakaran photographs to their chests. Anandasangaree had the balls to refuse to stoop to such degrading behavior and for that he is called “traitor.”

    This is the primary reason why any kind of devolution will not work with the LTTE around. Contrary to what the pro-federalists argue, devolution hands power to regional leaders not the people per se; devolution only benefits the people when this regional leadership is pro-people.

    As for Tamils’ support for Eelam, it is clear that you have not been in “Eelam” for a while. The Tamils in the N-E much much unlike their diaspora counterpoints are not a bloodthirsty bunch and will support whichever side that will end the war. The SLA had a relatively easy time taking Jaffna in 1995 ***because the Jaffna Tamils wanted the LTTE out***. Here is what pro-LTTE D. Sivaram had to say about the Jaffna campaign:

    The (LTTE) high command found soon after the withdrawal of Op. Leap Forward from the southern Valigamam sector that the army was capable of obtaining quite precise information about its military positions in the peninsula. Many key installations and supply dumps were exposed to very accurate artillery and air attacks.

    With all these in danger of being destroyed, the very prospect of a prolonged resistance in the peninsula based on close combat in the built-up areas which could have inflicted heavy casualties on the army became impossible. The LTTE found that very precise information was going to the army from the local population. And there was no way, given the topography of the peninsula, that it could effectively hide the military positions required to counter the army’s advance during Riviresa.

    The LTTE failed to capture Jaffna in 2000 not because of the SLA’s rocket launchers, but because the people refused to cross over to LTTE territory and allow the Tigers to use their firepower against the SLA remants in Jaffna town.

    “There were Sinhalese pundits who said that Tamil Nadu will never support Tamil Eelam. After the conclusion of the recent statistical survey in Tamil Nadu, where it was found that there is massive support for Tamil Eelam the pundits are silent. All what pundits uttered was foolish, misleading and wasteful.”

    Here is what R. Venugopal had to say about the pro-LTTE Ananta Vikatam’s poll:

    All this brings us back to the question of what explains the support for separatism in the Ananda Vikatan survey. Leaving aside the question of the bona fides of the survey, and its methodology, what it implies in reality is not support for secessionism as much as hostility and revulsion for the present government, and deep sympathy for the humanitarian plight of Sri Lanka’s Tamils, who are once again found washed ashore and huddling miserably on the beaches of Rameswaram.

    To some extent, it reflects the fact that the news media in Tamil Nadu, especially the Tamil-language media is indeed biased and one-sided, and disproportionately features the views, concerns and interpretations of Sri Lankan Tamils, and pro-LTTE spokesmen over the Sinhalese. This much is to be expected of it. The Tamils of India are by and large ignorant of the political aspirations and historical consciousness of their Sinhalese neighbours across the straits – just as the fanciful portrait of Dravidastan reflects the same in reverse.

    What this means is that these polls results will not equate to heavy Indian Tamil lobbying for India to save the LTTE.

  • wijayapala

    Dear Aathavan,

    “It’s also strange that he seeks to use the UK and Spain as examples of devolution within a unitary state structure that Sri Lanka can emulate.”

    I don’t think Dayan brought up Spain, actually I used Spain as an example in another thread. Both Spain and UK have appropriate systems to offer Sri Lanka, because both are/were unitary states which sought to devolve power, as opposed to federations like Switzerland which were essentially “brought together.” The Spanish and UK systems are characterized by devolution by referendum: the people of each region votes to determine whether or not they will get a regional government.

    This is the best path that Sri Lanka can take, because it will directly involve the people in devolution.

    The British people have resoundingly rejected federalism:

    On 8 July 2004 it was announced that the referendums would be held on 4 November (see Northern England referendums, 2004) but on 2 July Nick Raynsford announced that only the North East England vote would go ahead on that date.

    On 4 November 2004, voters in the North East rejected the proposal by 696,519 votes to 197,310. This result was seen as a block to elected regional assemblies elsewhere in England outside London. On 8 November, Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott told the House of Commons he would not move orders for the other two regions within the effective time limit of June 2005 permitted by the Act.

    Interesting that the English have rejected “self-government.” In any case, British-style devolution may not work in Sri Lanka because there is a disagreement regarding the unit of devolution. Whereas all British agree what are the territorial boundaries of Scotland and N. Ireland, the Sinhalese and Muslims dispute the Tamils’ demand for N-E merger. Devolution by referendum will be undermined because there will be a debate whether the referendum should be held in the Northern and Eastern Provinces separately, or just one referendum for the entire N-E.

    Spain took a different path, but it must be noted that it took a very gradual path to federalism. Regardless of what it is today, its constitution still upholds Spain as a unitary state. The people in each Spanish region had to vote for a regional government. The Spanish concept has a great deal to offer Sri Lanka.

  • Ekcol

    “GLP in 1996 is quoted with hypocritical approval. however neither the Tigers, nor the TNA ( TULF) express readiness to negotiate GL and CBK’s 1995-7 union of regions package. wrong move.”

    When the package was published, LTTE rejected it. Some retired govt servants who were in Kilinochchi asked the LTTE to accept it. Not becuase that they approved of the package but their reason was that their experience told them that the very next day the Sinhala Buddhists lead by the Monks would parade the streets demanding the resignation of CBK.

    The govt servants were right, judging by what happened to the 2000 watered down package. Refer to the Hindu and Island quotes below. The pictures of the “Fast unto Death” by Monks, and the numerous Monks of the Maha Sangha demonstrating are in the Island also.
    “Monk Fast to Death Ends When Government Withdrew the Constitutional Reform Bill.” The Hindu, 8/8/00

    “Maha Sangha tells Sinhala Urumaya: Block Reforms.” (The Island July 31, 2000.)
    Need I tell you anything more about what the gosl can and cannot do and their deception of the Tamils and the Sinhalas.

    You may have visited Kilinochchi. Have you lived there? Have you seen the bombs fall and lived with displaced people in shelters with them? Have you lived in Jaffna for any length of time during the past fifteen years? I can give you an estimate of the percent people who support the LTTE’s struggle for Tamil rights. But you and dyan will dismiss it as wishful thinking. You, dyan and the US amb are off the mark. But then what of it. Or who cares?

  • dayan jayatilleka

    ok, ok, so what’s the point? the Tigers scorned CBK and GL’s package and wound up losing jaffna, never to regain it ( except for the neck of the peninsula in 2000). any liberation movement with enough brains would have accepted CBK-GL’s package as a base for negotiations and allowed the sinhala chauvinists to do the objecting. but the any national liberation movement with brains would have gone to tokyo for the door conference in april 2003. any liberation movement with brains would have not fought a war against the IPKF at a time the sinhala army was confined to barracks. it would have permitted the sinhal chauvinist to be the sole or at least main armed opponents of the accord. no liberation movement with brains would have murdered rajiv gandhi. no liberation movement with brains would have barred tamils from voting at the last presidential election. by all means blame the sinhalese chauvinists for their sins, but don’t blame them for the sheer stupidity of the Tigers and those Tamils who cheer them on. they forgot a fundamental lesson: never start — or, more importantly, re-start– a war you can’t win.

  • wijayapala

    Dear Ekcol,

    “You may have visited Kilinochchi. Have you lived there? Have you seen the bombs fall and lived with displaced people in shelters with them? Have you lived in Jaffna for any length of time during the past fifteen years?”

    Most of the diaspora Tamils who support the LTTE have never lived in Kilinochchi or Jaffna within the last 15 years, and have never had to live in shelters. They support the LTTE because they have no grasp of the cost of the war to the Tamils.

    I once met a diaspora Tamil who told me that if every single Tamil in Sri Lanka gets wiped out fighting the SL govt., it will be ok because there are Tamils living in other countries who would survive.

    “I can give you an estimate of the percent people who support the LTTE’s struggle for Tamil rights.”

    I am only interested in the percentage of Tamils who are willing to risk their lives to save the LTTE from destruction. Prancing about on maaveerar nal and raising Nazi-style hand salutes to pictures of Thalaivar is not sufficient.

    Take a look at DBS’s newest article:

    More than 8,000 persons have been detained by the LTTE at various times in Thunukkai of whom only a small number are among the living today.

    If an intensive search is conducted in the vicinity the probability of mass graves being unearthed would be very high .Once again tiger inhumanity to fellow Tamils would be spotlighted.

  • Eckol

    dyan and wijeyapala,
    i dont think i can convince you both with any argument with respect to the cause of the problem or the legitimate rights of tamils. I can understand how all the political and lay tamils in the thirties to the eighties felt trying to convince their sinhala counterparts on the rights of the tamils. where such eminent people failed, i cannot succeed. I tried to give a point of view of another politically lay tamil who was once a moderate. I can also understand why those people who dyan implies are without “brains” took up to arms or did not want to be trapped and destroyed.

    I have asked for a post-war scenario if the SL forces in the Vanni are driven back or if the SL forces in jaffna are defeated. But dyan who ventured post-ltte, is silent. May be dyan did not want to be objective on such scenarios or may be it is commonsense and does not need great imagination that dyan is endowed with.

    wijeyapala talks about right to referendum in scotland, wales and britain but has not proposed how the tamils can be given the right to referendum without worrying about territories of n and e, or territories controlled by the liberation movement. hold the referendum of tamils in areas controlled by gosl. I would not suggest a poll where sinhlas are asked about self-government to the tamils. in such a poll, the pollsters will not be safe. i cannot imagine a gosl administration conducting such a referendum unless they are willing to take the risk of loosing power or their lives.

    dyan, i think you would agree that if the various gosl administrations since 1956 had brains, there would not be groundviews or cause for these discussion. there would not have been 100,000 deaths and a million or more displaced multiple times, not speak of the distruction of schools, churches and kovils, etc. Or may be they had the brains, but the brains were controlled by those in real and fake maroon robes to do their bidding.

    One thing I have learned from this forum is that the discussions in it is a vaild sample of opions of what is out there in the real world with respect to our problem.

  • Eckol, asking for a post-Jaya Sikuru scenario is hypothetical in the extreme, given that the SL Army has completely changed tactics when it comes to both offensive and defensive ops. Given that the Army no longer concentrates force on a narrow front, nor relies on land routes to give armour access to the blade edge, it’s unlikely any single LTTE counterattack could do anything but localized damage. The Army also no longer practices the doctrine of single large fortified bases from which to project power in an area, but instead has smaller interlocking bases for mutual defence, so there is no single target for the LTTE to focus on. It’s the reason why there have been no successful LTTE counterattacks nor any bases overrun.

    However, if you still ask for such a scenario, and the closest one you can arrive at is if the LTTE are able to roll back one of the teeth brigades of one of the divisions. Even then, brigades on a parallel axis could cut the LTTE supply lines and envelope the counterattacking force. So you’d see a scenario post-Muhamalai. No real setback, but some short-lived embarrassment.

    Wijayapala, I can’t disagree with your assessment about the Kili area being tank country, nor about it not being really urban. I don’t mean urban the way Iraqi population centers are urban. But the fact that there are large civilian groups in the area will mean that fixed wing aircraft, arty and armour cannot be effectively used.

    However, the rains will come in force only by end October or mid-November, so we’ll see what happens by then.

    Again, I caan’t really counter your arguments on the TNA’s position in the Northern Tamils’ minds, but it was my impression that they probably command more popular support than the other Tamil groups, and once allied with the GoSL will be in a prime position.

    However, I disagree with your suggestion that they are tainted by the LTTE’s violence. Yes, they directly benefited from the LTTE’s armed presence, and are funded by the LTTE, but their members have not directly participated in terrorism the way Martin McGuiness of Sinn Fein (for example) did with the provos.

  • Ekcol

    your analysis is spot on. in time there will be an impasse. you are not correct to say that tna is funded by the ltte. they are independently wealthy and they get the same benefits as other mps. they serve at great risk to their lives. you are correct that they have greater support from tamils than the paramilitary groups or sangaree.

    the hypothetical scenario i was asking for was, what will happen to the political and military situation in the south if the army was driven back to thandikulam, and mannar, however improbable that may seem to be at this time. for eg. will there be a universal draft? what will happen to the present administration? etc. i do not expect dyan, j, a member of the administration, to speculate. i realise the sensitive nature of such speculation and do not expect you to speculate.

  • “your analysis is spot on. in time there will be an impasse”

    Ha ha, Ekcol, your eagerness to find justifications for your theories are affecting your ability to comprehend. Which part of “No real setback, but some short-lived embarrassment” do you equate with an impasse?

    Your hypothetical supposition is about the same as asking “What will happen if India invades in support of the LTTE ?” Not impossible but highly unlikely. However, I’ll humour you by saying that it will definitely weaken the present administration a lot (and depending on how close to an election it happens) even topple it. However, there will be no draft. Numbers isn’t a problem for the Army (it never has been); the problem is money. A draft will weaken the economy even further by pulling people out of the civil workforce.

    A more pertinent question will be to ask what the LTTE can do to even come close to slowing down the Army; forget about stopping it and never mind pushing it back. For instance, after the fall of Kalvilaan on August 13th, the LTTE counterattacked six times, using elements of the Imran Pandiyan, Charles Anthony, and Siruththai commandos, and were thrown back each time by soldiers who hadn’t even time to prepare proper defensive positions. Sathasivam Sathanandan (aka Vithees or Vikkees), commander of the Siruththai was killed. To imagine that the LTTE could now roll back the Army to Mannar is laughable.

  • “you are not correct to say that tna is funded by the ltte. they are independently wealthy and they get the same benefits as other mps. ”

    Don’t be absurd. The TNA is acknowledged (even by Tamilnet) to be “united” with the LTTE. If we’re having a discussion, pay me the basic courtesy of not insulting my intelligence with such immature lies.

  • Dayan Jayatilleka

    the TNA’s propective role has to be diferentiated as between centre and periphery. i do not see a role for it as GOSL’s partner in the provincial councils, because the former will not risk a repetition of the vardharajaperumal fiasco. given its ideology, the TNA will not accept the parameters of the 13th amendment. i just do not see the lankan state, public opinion and the armed forces countenancing a loss at the negotiating table of what has been won on the battlefield –given that the proximity of tamil nadu renders the northern and eastern PCs the strategically vital periphery of the state. however, matters are different at the centre. the TNA can maximise its leverage at national elections, and use its seats as bargaining chips to secure tamil rights. if we are to move beyond the 13th amendment, it will be as a result of such a tie-up. knowing the TNA though, i suspect it will tie up with Ranil’s unelectable UNP and render that party still more unelectable….! if it is sensible, it will tie up with the present administration, firmly committing it to policies of multiculturalism, anti-discrimination and devolution .

  • Dayan Jayatilleka

    i didn’t want to speculate on the miltary scenario because i had already been ruled out of court as a member of the administration. furthermore, i agree with david’s perspective, which is that of an ex-practitioner. but now that you’ve asked me, here it is. if the SLA is pushed back to mannar or wherever, it doesn’t really matter, because that has been the case before. the only thing that happens is that majority opinion propels this government or elects another one that send the army right back in and re-takes the territory. just look at the history of the conflict: there was a time when the GOSL didn’t have jaffna. and another time when it had to make way for 70,000 foreign troops. but the long run dynamic and secular trend is clear. the majority keeps pushing back. even when Ranil was elected PM, the UNP did not get the majority of sinhala votes. he made it only because the SLFP and JVP ran separately.

    now let’s get to the brains department. we are talking about a state that survived a broad front of armed eelam groups backed by the regions superpower, then an over presnece of foreign troops, then asourten amed insurgency, and of course a protracted campsign by one of the world’s most ruthless and successful terrorist armies. it survived all of this, battered but without a military junta in charge, with competitive elections and some of its comparative social indicators intact. now that may not be due to brains, but there’s obviously something at work, successfully .

    in any case a cynic would say that the south doesn’t need brains so much because its got the numbers and the natural endowments. a northern insurgency should have had the brains to figure that out.

    talking about moderation and tamil rights, i’m a guy who was indicted under the Prevention of terrorism act and the emergency on 14 counts including conspiracy to overthrow the state through violence– and dodged death at the JVP’s hands as well. all that had a lot to do with standing up for tamil rights. if you want to know what happened along the way and how come we are debating this from where we are respectively at, watch the documentary No More Tears Sister, about Rajini Tiranagama. Spare a thought also for Neelan Tiruchelvam, K Padhmanabha, Kethesh Loganathan, A Amirthalingam and others who fought for those rights. the basic precondition for the fight for Tamil rights today is to get the LTTE out of the way, deprive the Sinhala chauvinists of their best excuse and let the electoral marketplace re-open.

  • wijayapala

    Dear Eckol (Ekcol?),

    wijeyapala talks about right to referendum in scotland, wales and britain but has not proposed how the tamils can be given the right to referendum without worrying about territories of n and e, or territories controlled by the liberation movement.

    You are correct, I did not offer a specific solution in my previous posts. I did say that the Spanish example would be better suited for SL than the UK example. I will elaborate.

    Just as Sri Lanka is divided into small administrative districts, Spain is divided into small “provinces” that serve as the building block for the Spanish unit of devolution (but the Spanish “provinces” are NOT the unit of devolution themselves). I believe that the SL districts should serve as the building blocks for units of devolution in the sense that the people of each district will vote for what they want their district to do. The various political parties will present proposals for how the units of devolution will be demarcated, and the people of each district will vote.

    For example, TULF can propose that the 8 districts of the N-E form one merged regional unit. The people in each district will then vote to see whether their district will 1) join this large unit, 2) follow the proposal of another party, or 3) not have any devolution. If the majorities of all 8 districts vote for this proposal, then the large N-E unit will be formed. However, if one or more of these districts (such as Trinco or Ampara) votes against this proposal, then the N-E regional unit will only consist of those districts who voted for it (i.e. Jaffna, Mannar, Vavuniya, Mullaitivu, Kilinochchi, Batticaloa).

    This process might seem long and complex but it is more or less what the Spanish did to reform their unitary state. This idea obviously needs tweaking but I think it would be a great starting point for discussions on devolution. It is a good option because it is flexible and allows for change. It has the potential to meet the aspirations of all communities, giving the Sinhalese the option to NOT have a regional govt. which will waste resources like the present PCs. Most importantly, it will empower the people and not the politicians.

  • wijayapala

    David Blacker,

    I don’t mean urban the way Iraqi population centers are urban. But the fact that there are large civilian groups in the area will mean that fixed wing aircraft, arty and armour cannot be effectively used.

    I see your point now. Thanks for the clarification.

    Numbers isn’t a problem for the Army (it never has been);

    Numbers have been important for the role of securing retaken territory. Anuruddha Ratwatte detailed police officers and SLN to patrol the retaken stretches of the A9 highway because there wasn’t enough SLA to fill that role. When the LTTE counterattacked in 1999, they targeted and exploited these weak defensive positions to achieve their breakthrough.

    We will have to keep our eyes peeled whether the SLA’s ranks begin to thin and Gotabhaya begins to rely on police or SLN. However, recruitment seems to be unbelievably high. I have heard an argument that the weakened economy gifted to us by Mahinda’s cronyism has helped SLA recruitment because there are no other employment options.

    The TNA is acknowledged (even by Tamilnet) to be “united” with the LTTE. If we’re having a discussion, pay me the basic courtesy of not insulting my intelligence with such immature lies.

    Eckol isn’t exactly lying. The TNA is probably not funded directly by the LTTE but rather by the same sources which fund the LTTE- the Tamil diaspora. The same goes for some Tamil media outlets like Tamilnet.

  • Ekcol

    david, b.
    Thanks for humouring me. I was going to ask for your thoughts on other improbable scenario, but i shall refrain from it.

    “Don’t be absurd. The TNA is acknowledged (even by Tamilnet) to be “united” with the LTTE. If we’re having a discussion, pay me the basic courtesy of not insulting my intelligence with such immature lies.”

    now who is insulting who? what benefit would a person in his seventies, who has never been accused of telling lies, gain by telling lies or “immature lies” to you or to anyone? while i am at it i like to give my definition of a lie, and definition of a truth:
    a lie is not a lie if it meets two conditions, 1. it should not harm anyone, 2. it should benefit many. truth is an event of high probability.

    tna associates with those, ltte or the diaspora, who complement their stand on the rights of the tamils irrespective of whether they are in sl or outside sl. What is wrong with that? Does not sinhala, muslim and even some tamil diaspora associate with unp and slfp?

  • Ekcol

    the district as a unit of devolution proposed by jr has had its history which i am sure you have studied. you would also know that jr arbitrarily and ‘temporarily’ annexed part of mullaitivu district to a’pura district. divide and control is a colonial concept as you know. the problem did not arise from rights of administrative districts. the primary problem is the rights of the tamil people not administrative or units of devolution.

    then there is the problem of the gosl altering the composition of electorates in the n and e under the gal oya and mahaveli’s various systems’ colonisation programs. so which census would you consider, pre gal oya, or pre 1997 or 1981 census? even if what you suggest is accepted by tamils, who is going to guarantee and conduct such a referendum as you suggest without interference by interested parties? definitely not the current gosl administration.

    the districts as administrative units have served their purpose well. they should still remain as administrative units. instead of first deciding on district administrative units to be devolution units, why not hold a referendum of the tamil and the sinhala peoples separatively to determine whether they want districts as the unit of power sharing. naturally, to be fair, an independent authority is needed to conduct such a referendum. if two-thirds of the tamils agree then the next step can be taken. what the sinhala people vote for would be for the southern units.

  • wijayapala

    Dayan and David,

    When talking about the future of Tamil politics in a post-LTTE situation, it might be helpful to first establish what the context of Sri Lankan politics as a whole would be in that situation.

    The trend right up to 1983 appeared to be a confrontation between the elites and the marginalized within the Sinhala community due to the undelivered promises of both the UNP and SLFP. This trend was interrupted by the Eelam Wars (although JR’s capitulation to India helped spark the 2nd JVP uprising), and these wars have sucked in tens of thousands of Sinhala youth who may otherwise have been struggling against a corrupt and inept regime.

    When the LTTE is brought to an end, the govt. will have to figure out how to rationalize the military’s current size and ensure that the demobilized soldiers do not get absorbed into the underworld (although I am sure that the political parties have plenty of openings for thugs). Then there is the state of the economy and the expectation that Sri Lanka will face a bright future once the LTTE is gone. Is Mahinda up to the task of fulfilling this expectation?

    If I were to hazard a guess, I would argue that the pre-1983 trend will resume with the destruction of the LTTE. The Sri Lankan youth who participate in anti-systemic revolutionary activities will not be the naive buffoons of 1971 but will more likely have or have access to the experiences of high-intensity combat. The current JVP of course still has the low-quality leadership it always had in the past, but this may actually make it more of a threat. If this trend resumes, it is possible that the UNP and SLFP will find they have common interests in maintaining their status quo. In short there is a good chance that there will be a major realignment in Sri Lankan politics.

    I agree with Dayan that the TNA remnants may try to redefine their identity by absorbing into the UNP, the safer bet since the SLFP probably will not have much to offer the post-LTTE Sri Lankan electorate. I suspect that the EPDP and TMVP may become havens for the lower-caste Tamils who are more susceptible to patronage politics (as before 1983).

  • [Editors note: “Ekcol” and David, please desist from calling each other liars and other names. The spirit of engagement this site seeks and has in the past seen from you both is noted here. Ekcol, David’s comment below started by doubting the veracity of your claims.]

    To say that the TNA isn’t funded by the LTTE is akin to saying that Sinn Fein wasn’t funded by the PIRA, or that UNHCR isn’t funded by the UN. Many people directly contribute to UNHCR, and not for instance UNICEF, but funds are mutually accessible and is administered by the umbrella organization.

    Wijayapala, I still think that the TNA will need to align itself with the administration of the time if it is to survive the internecine “mopping up” of the NE that will occur once the LTTE muscle is removed. I doubt the TNA will be able to stand up to the armed thugs of the TMVP and EPDP, which will themselves be aligned with the administration.

  • Ekcol

    I shall consider the matter closed.
    Wish groundviews all the best.

  • wijayapala


    the district as a unit of devolution proposed by jr has had its history which i am sure you have studied.

    That is why i do NOT propose the district as the unit of devolution, as I clearly stated above, but rather as the building block for a larger unit of devolution that would be decided by the people of the districts.

    the primary problem is the rights of the tamil people not administrative or units of devolution.

    I can tell you that 25+ years of war have done absolutely nothing for Tamils’ rights. If we want to talk about a political solution then we have to talk devolution.

  • wijayapala

    David Blacker,

    I doubt the TNA will be able to stand up to the armed thugs of the TMVP and EPDP, which will themselves be aligned with the administration.

    How long do you think the EPDP and TMVP will remain tied with Mahinda with the LTTE out of the picture?

  • Wijayapala, to my way of thinking, none of the Tamil political parties will be strong enough on their own to stand without the patronage of the Colombo administration. Either they all (EPDP, TMVP, and TNA) join an alliance with the Muslim parties (which might take some doing) or they align with the Colombo administration (taking for granted that it’ll be the present one). Also, one must remember that even if the LTTE is broken as an entity their will still be breakaway remnants that will conduct terrorist/guerrilla action for some years to come, thereby destabilizing the NE (similar to the East at the moment).

  • The Under Dog

    With all the predictions regarding political realignments post Wanni-victory (if this happens), let’s not discount the Military as a political force in its own right. Whatever political mechanism is put in place will have to be done with the blessings of the Military (and their ideologues in the Sangha). MR may hold their leash, but I dare say that the dog at the other end of it is getting more powerful by the day. Are we replacing the claws and teeth of a ravenous Tiger with a ravenous Lion? Interesting times…

  • Remember the CFA, Under Dog? The military was being regularly humiliated, having its intelligence operatives killed, having to stand by while the Tigers flaunted their CFA violations, while the administration itself emasculated its own special operations capability. Was there any voice of dissent from the military against the administration?

    Remember when in ’87, the Army had its boots firmly on the separatists’ testicles, but had to stand and watch while foreign troops were allowed in by the administration, had to return to barracks in humiliation after having fought so hard across the Jaffna Peninsula? Was there any revolt against the administration?

    The Army and the rest of the military will follow the administration’s orders as it always has. This isn’t Pakistan, or Uganda.

  • Dayan Jayatilleka

    one must draw a distinction between a postwar political voice/influence of the military, and a postwar strategic/security input. the SL military successfully fought two southern insurgencies, with no postconflict enhancemet of its political voice or profile, and there is no reason to think things will be otherwise after this war. if the military were to be politically assertive , it would have been so when it –and the sinhalese– were being humiliated during the CFA. on the other hand, it would be unwise not to secure the input and respect the views of the military professionals on the security red lines of any postwar arrangements. nor should the socio-electoral weight of a large military be ignored.

  • The Under Dog

    David, I think the precondition for this to happen is not a disenchanted military, but a disenchanted public, which we certainly have. The gosl is popular only for its position on the war but is very unpopular for the nepotism, cronyism, and extravagance that everyone sees; meanwhile, the military has been elevated to a God-like position (this has never been done this effectively before–their propaganda is truly first class). Interestingly, whenever I ask Sinhala people what they feel about a military dictatorship, the vast majority says it would be the best thing to happen to Sri Lanka (so much for faith in democracy!). Add to this a General who runs a very tight ship (a big one at that), and is marginalizing anyone within the organization that does not profess personal loyalty to him, and we do have some possibilities. All I’m saying is this: the path is wide open to the General if he has the inclination and chutzpah to walk it. And the public will applaud him for it.

  • dayan jayatilleka

    no public opinion poll bears out what you say. and if the ruling coalition’s electoral performance is evidence of a disnechanted public, i wonder what the electoral statistics of an enchanted public would be like. if i remember rightly, the last poll on the the popularity of the present president showed a stratospheric percentage. as leader there ain’t any other personality on the island who would come even close.

  • Under Dog, let’s take this a step at a time. First of all, a disenchanted populace has absolutely no influence over the military, unlike in say Thailand or the Philippines where the military brass is very political. In SL the military officers as well as the rank and file think the civilian population is a bunch of idiots and don’t identify with them. Why do you think the JVP, having the general support of the disenfranchised southern populace was unable to convince the military to mutiny against the state? Saying that the population wants a military dictatorship (while a very unrealistic generalization) is pointless since that has no pull on the military. That very same populace grumbles and complains when it has to go through a checkpoint or is inconvenienced by road closures. I doubt it’ll support military rule if it knew what that entails.

    Next, let’s look at the military itself, and in particular the Army. While I acknowledge that the Army commander enjoys near cultlike status (far surpassing even what Kobekkaduwa had in his lifetime), and that arguably the war and the military is at its most popular (though I think it was just as popular in ’90-’92), it has little to do with how the military lives and breathes. The Army in particular is heavily tribalized in the British tradition, with true loyalty being given not to the Army itself but to the individual regiments. Therefore, it is anathema for a Gajaba battalion to revolt in favour of a Sinha officer, or for CLI mutineers to depend on the support of Gemunu Watch troops. It becomes even more fractious when you add in the equations of the Air Force and Navy. While it’s true that Munasinghe (a Sinha officer) commands widespread support in the Army, he commands it only as long as his battalion and brigade commanders (who in turn command the loyalty of their own troops) remain loyal to him, and that latter is never guaranteed, particularly as you move further up the command structure.

    Most civilians look at the Army as this vast green machine, but its actually more like a collection of warring tribes.

    A small anecdote — at Elephant Pass in ’91, the 6th Sinha Rifles was holding the base and a Tiger infiltration team was caught in the wire at night. As the flares went up, the Tigers shouted “Gemunu, Gemunu!” and were wiped out. A corporal manning a .50 that did most of the killing was asked by a senior officer why he didn’t hesitate in opening fire, and he replied “We thought they were Gemunu Watch.”

  • The Under Dog

    David, point taken, and I liked the anecdote. Though, this guy’s cult like status still sets off alarm bells in my head (could that override regimental loyalty?).

    Dayan, the election victory was a resounding mandate for the war effort (the President said so too, and that’s the campaign the UPFA ran). Take the guns away and the UPFA is naked. That’s a dangerous political vacuum to have (the UNP cannot fill it–i don’t think any politician has the credibility to do it). Hence, my worry that someone outside the usual political sphere might put a toe (or rifle barrel) in the water.

  • Theoretically, Under Dog, it’s a legitimate concern. His status could override regimental bias, but as I said, that’s not the only bias. However, Munasinghe doesn’t command the unswerving loyalty of his contemporaries who are currently just below him on the ladder. The Army traditionalists view him with suspicion, as do the Air Force and Navy brass who feel he’s usurping their forces’ elite status. Frankly, I feel there’s just too much stacked against Munasinghe were he to attempt a coup, even if he wanted to. Sri Lankans are far too eager to miss the forest for the trees, and I’d instead look far more carefully at Gotabhya Rajapaksa than at Munasinghe. He has the right military credentials to command the military’s respect while remaining removed enough from it to avoid the bias. The Sri Lankan military is unlikely to initiate a coup from within its ranks; but there’s always the chance that an unscrupulous administration or element within that administration could use the Armed Forces to hold onto unconstitutional power, or even to muscle in on a constitutional loophole.

  • The Under Dog

    David, I think you mean Sarath Fonseka, not Munasinghe (though their was a Sarath Munasinghe in the army too).

  • dayan jayatilleka

    this is the “naked” UPFA’s –what?– 24th or 25th electoral victory over the UNP? and the guns were around only during the last outing or two. what of the previous 20 plus? the point is simply this: guns or no guns, so long as RW is the candidate , the UPFA is quite adequately clothed.

  • Under Dog, yup, sorry, Sarath Fonseka. Was just rereading parts of Munasinghe’s memoirs, so I guess I had him on my mind. Lol.

  • From the “jumpy and unpragmatic arguments” of those who are determined to deny the legitimate right of Tamils to rule themselves in an independent Tamil Eelam, it is very very clear that there are some who are paid by the GOSL to do this job of opposing against their conscience.

    The debate has become rhetoric benefiting nobody except the ego of the Sinhalese oppressors and their cohorts.

    I would suggest those who talk too much, to right in their diaries that Tamil Eelam will be carved out by the year 2014.

    Any number of soldiers or power from the Sri Lankan state will not be able to prevent the dawn of Tamil Eelam. By the year 2014, all the soldiers from Sri Lanka will leave the independent state of Tamil Eelam.

    Think as to how you can live with it than unwisely acting as to how best you could prevent it.

  • “Tamil Eelam will be carved out by the year 2014.”

    Wasn’t it once “Eelam by 1994” and then “Eelam by 2004”? So now it’s “2014”? Why not say when Hell freezes over? That’ll be a more easily foreseeable date.

  • Priyanath Bandara

    As you are advocating war as a necessary step toward establishing a lasting peace in Sri Lanka and are going to the extreme of stating that those who oppose a violent solution as foregoing their right to engage in the politics of legislating a (post war) peace, then please explain to me, a citizen of this State, what exactly it is that you want me to fight for?

    Is it to keep a plot of land intact? If it is, it is not a cause I am willing to lay down my life for. Perhaps you might invoke the language of your political masters to make the case for the territorial integrity of the post-colonial Sri Lankan state.

    That, perhaps, is a more reasonable argument. But it is still merely an argument, and I remain to be convinced that the State I am asked to fight for is, indeed, worth laying my life down for.

    Since independence, the State has failed the vast majority of its citizens in all respects. The rural people of the country, irrespective of ethnicity or religion, have, in every sense, been denied their very humanity. When we seek the assistance of State institutions such as the police in our day to day lives, we are greeted with suspicion, contempt and outright cussedness. At the drop of a hat, we are assaulted, tortured and false charges framed against us. Our rural schools are ill-equipped and the staff ill-trained. We are stuck in this rut of postcolonial agrarian modernity with no hope for upward mobility.

    State agents mercilessly use their power to deny our rights, and indeed our humanity, at every turn. Politicians, corrupt by definition, act with impunity to safeguard their own interests. And dissent is a dangerous thing for which a person may have to pay with their life at worst, or be denied the right to participate in a political process, at best. (That is, what you are arguing for, isn’t it? )

    Free education is a farce – as it it not equivalent to a quality education. To date, no one has advocated that the state divide its budget equally for every child – rather than propping up a few elite urban schools. After all, all children are (supposed to be) equal in the postocilian Sri Lankan State, and should not be denied the resources for a quality education simply because of having been born into poverty.

    The list is endless – and perhaps urban privilege leads many of us to ignore the structural impediments that stand in the way of the vast majority of our people.

    But the State, which you represent, has offered us the ideology of nationalism – of Sinhala Buddhist nationalism, to be precise – as the primal vision of the postcolonial nation-state. You know, that agrarian model of development, and the wewa, dagaba, gama, pansala business. And what a powerful ideology it has been – in ensuring that we ignore corruption, forego our very humanity, tolerate brutality by the police, put up with sub-par education and healthcare.

    We are exhorted to view Tamils (and indeed Muslims and Christians) as the cultural Other and as terrorists. Ethnocentrism eeks out of every crevice of the bureaucracy, and pore of every politician.

    These are issues that the State can address even now. To educate our children that ethnic differences are essentially cultural. And that no person should have any more, or any less, rights in our State based on cultural categories such as religion, caste, class, ethnicity and so forth.

    But these are issues that you are unwilling to address. Legitimate criticism is ignored, and the capacity to respond to criticism stunted. Any criticism is not responded to on the basis of its substance, but through the deployment of a refrain such as: “This is an attempt by mischiveous elements to tarnish the good image of (fill in the blank with the name of your favourite politician)”

    Things get only worse if you are unfortunate enough to be a Tamil in this postcoloinial State.

    Secularism is, indeed, dead.

    Now, what was it, pray, that you wanted me to lay down my life for?

  • Ekcol

    Priyanath Bandara,
    Thank you for so eloqquently expressed views on our conflict. I like to share with you and other like-minded persons a copy of a letter written to the UN Sec Gen. which I am given permission to share.

    [Editors note – Dear Eckol, copying and pasting lengthy press releases not directly connected to the post or the discussion is discouraged on Groundviews. One can easily provide a link to the source and capture the gist of the argument here.]

  • dayan jayatilleka

    no one wants you to lay down your life for anything. sri lanka– unlike the shrinking tamil eelam– has an all volunteer army.

    the war is being fought for the same reason that abraham lincoln fought a civil war which consumed 650,000 americans: to keep the country as one, undivided and indivisible.

    if anyone takes up arms for a separate state, any state suppresses them violently. if anyone maintains a separate army, the state suppresses it because a state enjoys a sole monopoly of legitimate force or else it is not state worthy of the name.

    if anyone agitates for a separate state peacefully, then , in states ranging from india to spain, they are suppressed nonviolently by law.

    recent demonstrations for a separate state in the kashmir were fired upon and at least two separatist leaders were killed. this was by a quasi-federal secular democratic state, india.

    the sri lankan state cannot be held to different standards.

    as for the silly obfuscation of the qualitative difference between the democratic South and Tigercontrolled North, this sort of website cannot and does not exist in the latter but does so in the former.

  • Sie.Kathieravealu

    I left a comment for comment by Mr.Dayan Jayatilake and others. My comment was different from that of others in that it was a set of suggestions to arrive at a solution for ALL the problems – including the Tamil problem – faced by our country. The basic idea was eradication of corruption which would solve more than 80% of our problems and in particular the problem called “Tamil Problem”

    Corruption includes extravagance, waste,negelect and every form of malpractice, dishonesty, abuse, misuse, unreasonable exercise of power,failure or refusal to exercise power, anything and everything left undone which results in the right of the people being denied or impaired.

    Accordingly if corruption is eradicated a large slice of the basic grievances of the Tamils would be automatically met and the balance can be easily settled without going for a division of the country.

    In my humble opinion federalism is not a solution for the Tamil problem. Federalism is somewhat similar to the present Provincial Council system. Everyone knows the fate of the North-East Provincial Council. All provincial Councils and for that matter Council elected by popular vote can be dissolved at any time by the President and subsequent election held at the will and pleasur of the President.

    And so the present system of governance must be changed if we are to have sustainable peace, prosperity and a pleasant living for all the people in this bountiful country of ours.

    So let us move towards a solution rather than continue to express or analyze the problems.

    That is why I put forward a set of suggestions as a means to SOLVE ALL THE PROBLEMS and called upon everyone to comment on it.

  • Ekcol

    Is it OK for a lengthy article to be cut from the Island newspaper and and pasted? The author could have given a link and summarised!!!
    I guess the author could do it and not the others.

  • Ekcol, spare me the prissy number. Your lengthy comment was submitted to many posts over many months and has, on each occasion, had no relevance at all to the issues being discussed.

    Dayan’s article was sent to Groundviews for publication and I am committed to featuring voices I do not agree with at all, or find it hard to, precisely for that fact. It helps me think through my own bias.

    That he has gone to give the article to the Island after sending it to me is entirely his prerogative. If you wish to be published, please send something in. It is after all the nature of the web to find the good juxtaposed with the banal.

  • Priyanath Bandara

    Dayan, the state doesn’t exist outside of its people – it really is not a Leviathan, as Hobbes would make it out to be, but is constituted by its citizens. The power of the state wrests in its citizens, not in an arbitrary, ad-hoc, intangible structure that is conjured up as a State that stands above us. If you want its citizens, such as myself, to support the war effort, then you have to provide us with a reason to do so, because we are supposed to be fighting for an idea – what the state ought to be – rather than for a plot of land.

    So far, the only offer your government (and others before yours) have placed on the table is the hegemonic ideology of Sinhala Buddhist nationalism. Inherent is the notion that those dispossessed of this identity are somehow inelligible to participate fully in the practices of state-production.

    My argument (as stated earlier) was that EVEN the Sinhala Buddhist people whom the State has claimed to represent have been failed through ongoing processes of structural violence. You appear to acknowledge this fact when you say that postcolonial state-formation was flawed, and hence the rise of Tamil militancy. But the argument that war is a necessary step before you can address these underlying issues is fundamentally flawed. There is nothing that prevents the State from endorsing a politics of inclusion by first recognising that its institutions are rotten to the core, and then ensuring that they are meaningfully reformed to ensure the rights of ALL its citizens are equally protected. To ensure equity in education, full participation of dissenting voices in the political process, addressing structural impediments that stand in the way of upward mobility amongst the rural masses. That murderers are brought to justice, and corrupt officials and politicians brought to book.

    Some politicians such as SWRD (whom James Manor calls an expedient utopian) engaged in vituperative and ethnocentric party politics in the full knowledge that it would lead the country to ruination. Contrast that with your political masters who emerged as part of the next generation of politicians. They have fully embodied this discourse of hatred and ethnocentrism, and are perhaps even not aware of the possibilities of adopting secular ideals in their practices.

    If the State you represent is unwilling to recognise the very humanity of its citizens by engaging in some form of corrective action (implementing the 17th amendment would be a good start) then please spare me your polemics of how the war is a necessary step toward establishing a lasting peace. You know it is not. You recognize that the State has failed EVEN the very (Sinhala Buddhist) people it claims to represent.

    And you have no right to exhort these very people your State has failed ever since independence to rise up to its defence by sacrificing their lives for it.

    No, I will not support your war.

  • amazing

    wow,, very powerful and reasoned statement by priyath bandara…
    i’d like to get to know you or read more about you…

    the leaders of SL have failed their people…
    the tamils knew this from the beginning…
    peaceful protest in the 50’s & gos turned to a national liberation struggle because the tamils don’t have confidence that the state, as it exists and has existed, can not redress their grievenaces…

    please let us separate and then you can sort out your country and we can sort out ours and then we can come back as a “union” like the EU…

    before WWI & WWII europe consisted of empires with multi-lingual and multi ethnic populations… but they weren’t stable… and now almost each country is a mono ethnic grouping – except a few like belgium (for now) and switzerland… why is it that in the post colonial era, the world can not recognize that the trauma that Europe underwent in the 20th century is what the ex-colonies MUST go through – after which they can come together ON THEIR OWN TERMS as the EU has…

    think about it people…
    or just kill all the tamils and convert those that remain to Buddhism like the Sinhala MEP Nirj Deva suggested.