Colombo, Constitutional Reform, Peace and Conflict, Politics and Governance

Tamil politics tomorrow: Options, challenges and pitfalls

The armies clash in the night but what of the morning after?

The underlying ethno-national question, that of the relationships between the Sinhalese, the Tamils, the Muslims and the state, remains, but it does not remain unaltered.  The war grew out of the nationalities question but it has in turn affected and altered it. Those who acknowledge the existence of the issue fail to recognize that the outcome of the war, actually wars, have impacted upon the underlying issue itself. When one gambles and fails, when one plays a zero-sum game and loses, that has consequences. On the other hand, those who stress the discontinuity, the rupture, that the outcome of the war signifies, do not concede the fact of continuity of the under-girding complex of issues. 

What is needed is a mutual realization on the part of both major communities. The Sinhalese must know the limits of the victory achieved, while the Tamils must recognize the extent of the defeat sustained.  There must be no illusions on either side. The state – sustained by the majority– has beaten the hard power of the Tamil separatist or ultranationalist cause. It has not yet beaten the soft power of Tamil separatism, which is global in scope and scale. One MIA may make up for thousands of Tigers KIA.

While Tamil separatist hard power could only be beaten by repression, by military means, its soft power can only be beaten by reform, by political methods. Is the state and are the Sinhalese capable of this shift of mode?

The State and its supportive majority must realize the importance of the global, the international as a unit of analysis, and the external as a dimension of reality, while the Tamils have to realize the importance of the national, the local, the island-wide as a unit of analysis and dimension of reality.

Which of the two are more important? Though each aspect- the international and the national—assumes a different importance over time and subject, the most important in the final analysis is the national, the local, the specific. Mao explains the importance of the internal over the external by saying that a hen may sit on a stone but it will never hatch, while an egg will, even if the source of heat is external. The external, says Mao, can only operate through the internal. As far as the internal factor goes, the preponderance of the Sinhalese and the predominance of the state must be borne in mind.

The election of December 2005, the repeated public opinion polls figures, the war and its imminent outcome all signify a seismic shift in the national/domestic balance of social forces, which the leadership of the ethnic minorities, the Rightwing Opposition and Colombo’s civil society have yet to recognize.

Therefore the Tamils have to sell the Sinhalese something they would be willing to buy at a price they would be willing to pay. The military defeat of the LTTE is not only the defeat of Tamil separatism, it also leaves no space for the older, underlying project of Tamil nationalism, namely that of Federalism. The inability of the old Federalism to stand up to armed separatism, indeed the continuum of Tamil federalism and separatism (Vadukkodai, the TULF), means that there is no life for the federalist project after the failure of the Tigers. It has to be recognized that not only has Tamil separatism failed, so have almost six decades of Tamil federalism.

This does not mean however, that the cause of Tamil autonomy has been defeated or that the case for devolution has no space. Tamil political discourse has to rediscover the heritage of Tamil progressivism. That progressive past had three generational layers: the Jaffna Youth Congress, the Marxist Left from the LSSP to the Maoists, and the Eelam Left. The Tamil Left of the earlier generation thought only of the island as whole but not as much as it should have of the Tamil majority areas. The Eelam Left thought of both the North and East and also of the island as a whole, which is why the term they chose was Eelam, not Tamil Eelam—for which they were criticized by the Tigers and the TULF.

When something has failed it is wise to retrace one’s steps back to the thinking of those who, at the time, predicted and warned against that failure. The Eelam Left predicted the failure of the Tigers, while the older Tamil Marxists foresaw the failure of bourgeois Tamil nationalism, federalist and separatist. What is necessary is the revival of two aspects of these three generations of Tamil progressivism. It is almost totally forgotten that the Tamil Marxists of the LSSP, CPSL and CCP (Trotskyite, Muscovite and Maoist) all critiqued and rejected the policies, ideology and slogans of the Federal party. Unfortunately, Tamil progressives today, mainly in the Diaspora, have forgotten this critique and the reasons for it, and have converted to federalism.

Also forgotten is the no less important fact that the Communist trend within the Tamil Left, which was the preponderant trend unlike within the Sinhala or Southern Left (an interesting asymmetry), stood precisely for regional autonomy, and after the founding of the Federal Party, indeed counter-posed regional autonomy to federalism.   

While the Eelam Left could realistically conceive of an alliance only with an internationalist Southern vanguard or proto-vanguard (in reality, focos), the earlier Tamil Left, especially the Communists had conceived of its demand for regional autonomy as part of a programme for the broadest possible national democratic united front of anti-imperialist forces. (This was the line of the 4th Congress of the Ceylon Communist Party held in Matara in 1950 and heavily influenced by Dr SA Wickremesinghe’s encounter with Mao ze Dong at the World Federation of Trade Unions Congress in Beijing the previous year). It is this latter understanding of the need for integration with the Southern anti-imperialist, nationalist and progressive mainstream, that has now to be revived by a realistic Tamil politics.

The politics of exile hardly works in a functional if damaged and distorted democracy. If Diaspora-driven or off-shore sourced (Tamil Nadu), Tamil politics will remain a virtual reality or theme park. If the Tigers are crushed we shall see Diaspora politics gradually becoming as irrelevant as those of the Irish, the Khalistanis, and the Chechens.

If tomorrow’s Tamil political interventions within Sri Lankan territory are pro-Tiger, para-Tiger or Tiger proxy projects rather than authentically post-Tiger/non-Tiger projects, they will be legitimately suppressed by the Sri Lankan state.

What is needed is a grassroots, from the ground up, Tamil political project which is democratic, reformist, autonomist and simultaneously integrationist.          

Tamil politics after Prabhakaran’s defeat must be governed by stone-cold Realism. Realism dictates that Tamil political leaders identify the political space actually open to them; understand its contours and boundaries. This is the political space on the ground in Sri Lanka, not in the suburbs of Chennai, London or Toronto, which are irrelevant except for the emotional gratification of the Diaspora. Tamil Nadu agitation shows no evidence of causing a relaxation of the resolve of the Sinhalese and/or the state; on the contrary it hardens opinions and shrinks space. As the case of Cuba demonstrates, a blockaded island finds unaffordable, concessions and compromises containing the slightest risk of the centrifugal.

The optimal conditions for the Tamil nationalist project were when the Sri Lankan state had morally discredited itself after July 1983, and India (not just Tamil Nadu) was supportive of the Tamil armed movement. Those conditions have not been present for decades and are unlikely to return. Even in those highly favorable circumstances the maximum that could be obtained for the Tamils was the Indo-Lanka Accord and the 13th amendment to the Sri Lankan Constitution, making for Provincial autonomy. Nothing further was possible, despite 70,000 Indian troops being on Lankan soil. Today and tomorrow, the struggle must be for the preservation of these gains. All Tamil politics must be in the context of the full implementation of the 13th amendment. Any slogan which goes further will not only be Utopian but may provoke a backlash and a rollback of even this space.

The tragedy of Tamil politics is that both the Tigers and the EPRLF failed to recognize that the 13th amendment represented the limits of the possible. The Tigers stand was rejectionist and violent, but even the EPRLF declared the 13th amendment as inadequate before they entered the Provincial council to work it. Therefore they never really settled in to work within those parametric constraints.

The a priori argument of insufficiency of the unitary system or the 13th amendment does not hold water. Following decades of armed militancy and civic resistance, against the backdrop of centuries of struggle, the Irish Republicans accepted a settlement that entailed internationally supervised decommissioning of arms, the retention of the Constitutional monarchy, no Troops Out, a retention of some British troop presence, no Republic or even a promise of it, no federal arrangement with Great Britain, and the explicit preservation of a unitary system, albeit with the devolution of power. If devolution within a unitary state is good enough for Irish nationalism, it should be adequate for Tamil nationalism.

Tamil politics must concentrate on the electoral space that will re-open at all levels. This re-enfranchising of the Tamil people in a system of proportional representation will give Tamils considerable representation in Parliament. If they opt wisely to form a coalition with Mahinda Rajapakse, they can neutralize and outweigh the influence of the Sinhala hard-line parties and dark fantasies of settler-colonized permanently Occupied Territories, ensure the full implementation of the 13th amendment, prevent any unjust legislation, push for the elimination of all forms of discrimination, and accelerate the economic development of their areas. If they ally with the Rightwing Opposition which is tarred (perhaps for generations to come) with the brush of appeasement, they will continue to find themselves at a political dead-end.       

(These are the strictly personal views of the writer) 

  • Realist

    Why Tamil should align with Mahinda? I think they should align with UNP which in the last 20 years at least came up two important amendments 13 and 17 to ensure the rights of the people which includes not only Tamils. So i think they have a better chance with the UNP than the racist and corrupt Mahinda and Co. Listen to Gotabaya and even some section of the Sinhalese get scared to live in SL.

    • Dayan Jayatilleka

      Do the math. The Tamils should unite with Mahinda because it is the smartest thing to do. The UNP ain't gonna win an election under this leadership. If the Tamils unite with it, even fewer Sinhalese will vote for it! It is better to support mahinda, who will win, and neutralise the Sinhala chauvinists. That's the only way to implement the 13th amendment. What are the other choices and where will they lead? Mahinda is going to get an even bigger Sinhala vote after this historic military victory, than he did in 2005. The Tamils need a Realist like an S Thondaman, who obtained more for his people — inclduing the restoration of the vote– than the Northern tamil leaders did for their people. The latter have only left the Tamil people of the North and east in a worse position than they were before the struggle.

  • The same old Dayan. Now wants the tamil nationalists to join Mahinda. When would our 'intellects' understand that politics is not about defeating the rightwing or that these policy less rainbow alliances whose only objective is defeating the UNP would archive nothing for the country.

    • Dayan Jayatilleka

      Dear Liberal Lanka, No it is not about defeating the Rightwing UNP. That's just an adjective. The point is that the UNP under this leadership has not won an election ( except in 2001) since it took over in 1994, and will not in the foreseeable future. What purpose does it serve the Tamils to ally with a party that will keep losing? If they join Mahinda at least they may be able to neutralise the bad guys and save the 13th amendment. It is a defensive struggle, not an offensive one. Get that?

  • No dayan no, i don't get this left and right bullshit. There are no right wing in Sri Lanka.

    SLFP lost all the elections from 1977 to 1994. So did you advocate any one or at least the tamil parties to join UNP? Why didn't you join the winning UNP rather than forming a new one?

    you don't join the bad side to neutralize the bad elements. You fight the bad elements from the other side. By joining with Mahinda tamil politicians will gain some ministerial posts, that all. The cabinet would be increased by another 10 or 15. As a citizen i don't want the cabinet to be increased, not by one. I don't care about neutralizing bad elements. If there is any bad element in his government, it is Mahinda's duty to get rid of them. Why should I pay for his inability?

    You are encouraging more and more Thondamans and Hakims. It is not about tamil, sinhala or muslim, these policy less rainbow alliances would make nothing but more and more of chaos.

    • Dayan Jayatilleka

      Liberal lanka, I have nothing against aligning with the UNP if that is the most viable progressive alternative available. You obviously are unaware that I was a strong and prominent supporter of President Premadasa, who was a UNP president, and totally endorsed the bloc that the CWC, SLMC, EPDP and PLOT had with him. But Ranil is no Premadasa, and cannot win an election. If Karu, Rukman or Sajith were leading the UNP I'd have said that the Tamil parties should strongly consider uniting with it. If however they align with Ranil they will sink with him while sinking him. I do advocate and promote Thondamans, but that's S Thondaman Sr, not Arumugam. And I also would promote more Ashraffs, never Hakeems.

  • Tamil genocide is being successfully carried out by influence peddling by the Sri Lankan state in other countries, blatant lies and criminal actions. The world was taken for a ride for long, away from the truth. In the process, many Sinhalese have become truthless criminals against Tamils and on Tamil matters.

    In 1980's, JR Jeyawardene, a foxy president on Tamil rights, sent his bomber aircrafts to destroy Jaffna Hospital. The patients in the intensive care unit were killed. The flesh and blood of civilians were scattered everywhere. It was criminal and very cruel. Without batting an eyelid, JR told a blatant lie to the world that there were "terrorists" in the hospital.

    It ended there. The world refused to investigate the killings and refused to hear the cry of Tamils that it was an act of genocide. It was a great mistake.

    JR also bombed Navaly church and many temples and killed refugees there. The cunning "fox" again lied that those killed there were "terrorists".

  • The criminal president should have been charged for war crime in the Hague. But the world let him loose. The world gave thereby an open licence to any Sri Lankan state to kill Tamils.

    Since then, history was repeating for nearly 30 years. The world was still silent. Now, cluster bombs are being dropped and hospitals are being bombed daily. Tigers do not have cluster bombs, yet, they are being blamed to cover up genocide by the state. The state continues to be truthless and dishonest with an ego to kill Tamils to satisfy their blood thirst.

    To succeed in deceit and dishonesty, news reporters or monitors are disallowed. Journalists and the media are threatened or killed. But Rajapakse and his military are failing. Evidence, enough of it, is already available on the table, to take the soldiers to war crimes court.

  • Yesterday, in his "independence celeberation" speech, at a time when the state is carrying out ruthless repression and genocide, Rajapakse did not even mention about the civilians killed in hospital bombings. It was non event for a president!

    The occasion though called "independence celeberation", was to propagate and justify brutal oppression of Tamils. Can Tamils ever trust these brutes in one country for their safety, security and peace? Never.

    • Dayan Jayatilleka

      I watched the spokesperson of Caritas Canada interviewed last night on Al Jazeera, by its Washington Desk, and she said they do not know who bombed or shelled the hospital, so why does anyone take for granted that it was the sri Lankan armed forces? She also added quite categorically that it was the LTTE that was not letting the civilians go. Ethiraj Anbarasan of the BBC said today that the ICRC and UN confirm this. So why blame GOSL?

  • "What is needed is a grassroots, from the ground up, Tamil political project which is democratic, reformist, autonomist and simultaneously integrationist."

    In responce to the above para in your lengthy article, I give below some suggestions which include everything you have said in the quoted para.

    If you are sincerely interested in what you say kindly respond.

    Ground Views can make this as a separate article and open a discussion on it. We had been continuing to express our views on the situation and causes and some stressing vaguly that peace has to be achieved without coming forward with any concrete suggestions.




    Current wars have to be ended and new wars have to be prevented. To achieve this goal the present system of Democratic Governance has to be changed to one that is really democratic in its true sense.
    In the present so-called ‘democratic system’ – which is a fertile ground for corruption in various forms – it is only the powerful with a gift of – inflammatory speech, money and muscle power – can aspire to join the “ruling class” to suppress or convert all others as their “subjects”.
    In my opinion "Corruption" includes any kind of waste, neglect 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.
    Without a "just society" in existence much talked about "terrorism" cannot be eradicated. For the creation of a "just society" there should be "good governance" in the country. For the creation of "good governance" in the country "corruption" in ALL its forms must be eradicated. And to eradicate "corruption" of any form the present democratic system of governance, where full power to make final decisions ultimately rests in the hands of one person, must be changed.

  • So the only way to salvage a country is to change the present system of governance to one that is truly democratic where the final decision-making power will NOT be in the hands of ONE person BUT shared by as many people as possible and thus restricting any hasty decisions of an individual or of one group, that might lead to trouble everywhere.
    In my humble opinion to achieve peace and good governance with transparency and accountability in any country, the system of governance must be made truly democratic. The powers of the Parliament (the decision making supreme body of a country) should be split and separated and each of the separated powers must be handled by different groups of persons specifically elected and empowered by the people for the purpose of handling each set of the separated powers or duties as the case may be, so that no single group has the full power. All the groups together will make the whole. The country is not divided but the powers of parliament are divided or separated.
    Different groups have to be elected for such purposes as administration, fiscal management, planning, implementing, policy and law making, auditing and for any other function that may be deemed necessary.
    The group that is entrusted with the power to make laws and regulations shall not be given the duty/power of implementing/administering the laws and regulations.
    Particular care should be taken to see that all powers and particularly important powers are not concentrated in one place and that they do not overlap and there must not be a secret budget to be handled by a single person.
    All transactions should be transparent including Diplomacy which has to be diplomatically transparent.
    One set of powers dealing with the development of the country should be given to the set of representatives at the village level. The people of each and every village must be empowered to determine their way of life (lifestyle). The life-style of a village, its lands and resources shall not be disturbed by external forces.
    All plans of development of a village that remotely/indirectly affects the village must have the concurrence of the people of the village concerned.
    It has to be ensured that people are treated equitably regardless of their gender, race, colour, ethnic or national origins, age, disability, socio-economic background, religious or political beliefs and affiliations, marital status, family responsibilities, sexual orientation or other inappropriate distinction;
    The decision-making powers with regard to each and every set of powers must be spread through-out the country.
    With such system in practice discrimination, injustice, bribery and corruption, the four pillars of an Evil society can be eradicated. When the above four pillars of Evil are eradicated, the people would be living under a system that would guarantee sustainable peace, prosperity and a pleasant living with respect and dignity to everyone in any country.

  • Since all political and other powers flow from the sovereignty of the people, it is proposed herein that these powers be not given directly to only one set of representatives but distributed among different sets of representatives (groups) of the people elected on different area basis (village and villages grouped) to perform the different, defined and distinct functions of one and the same institution – the Parliament – like the organs of our body – heart, lungs, kidneys, eyes, nose, ear etc. – performing different and distinct functions to sustain normal life.
    In these suggestions the powers of Parliament have been so separated and distributed among different sets of people’s representatives in different areas so as to dilute the powers of an individual representative or that of a set of representatives in any area.

    The set of representatives elected and empowered to perform a function in an area by the people of that area must be restricted to that function and in that area only and must be forbidden from interfering with the functions entrusted to another set of representatives similarly elected and empowered.

    Say a set of representatives elected and empowered to enact laws for the smooth administration of the country must be forbidden from interfering in the functions of the set of representatives elected and empowered to administer a region within those laws or in the functions of the set of representatives elected and empowered to implement approved development projects in an area, or with the functions of the set of representatives elected and empowered for the fiscal management of the country or with the functions of the representatives elected and empowered to plan the development of an area and so on and so forth in respect of other functions of the parliament.

    Through this system of representation and empowerment – different sets of representatives in different areas for different distinct and defined functions of parliament – "corruption" of any kind and at any level cannot easily arise. If there is no "corruption" then there will be peace and good governance in the country, which is the need of the inhabitants of a country.
    In my humble opinion this new concept of democracy while delivering good governance would preserve the sovereignty and dignity of the people – collectively and individually, who are, under the present system, treated as “subjects” of the “ruling class”.
    To be more explicit the concept is explained below:
    1. A group elected and empowered or entrusted to enact laws for good governance, taxation and connected affairs (One Group functioning at National level and elected on district basis).
    2. A group elected and empowered or entrusted to generally manage the finances of the country including collection and disbursement of revenue on the basis of the laws enacted by another group, national planning and connected affairs in consultation with other groups. (One Group functioning at National level and elected on regional basis).
    3. Groups elected and empowered or entrusted to administer different regions of the country and approve project proposals submitted (Groups functioning at Regional level and elected on divisional basis).
    4. Groups elected and empowered or entrusted with the functions to prepare and submit project proposals for confirmation (Groups functioning at Village level and elected on village basis).
    5. Groups elected and empowered or entrusted to implement approved project proposals (Groups functioning at District level and elected on sub-divisional basis).
    6. Groups elected and empowered or entrusted to coordinate and confirm project proposals submitted (Groups functioning at Sub-divisional level and elected on village basis).
    7. Groups elected and empowered or entrusted to monitor the functions of all groups for transparency, accountability and irregularities with an eye on the elimination of corruption. (Groups functioning at Divisional level and elected on village basis).
    All the above groups are equal (pari pasu) in status as they are part and parcel of one and the same institution – the Parliament.

  • There is a line of thought that there are too many elections in this concept, forgetting the fact that even in the present system we have many elections. We have elections to elect an Executive President, a Parliament, nine Provincial Councils and a large number of local government institutions.
    But there is a difference between the elections that are being held now and the elections proposed. In the existing system, elections are being held for four different institutions or four different establishments with the functions overlapping and connected vertically with one above or below the other – Executive President, Parliament, Provincial Councils and Pradeshiya Sabahs – and while one institution controls another, it is dependent and/or is a competitor to the institution next or all others. But in the new concept it is entirely different –different groups are elected on different area basis to perform different functions of the same institution – Parliament that do not overlap and all these groups are of equal status and connected horizontally and are part and parcel of one and the same institution – the Parliament.
    There would be only one institution – the Parliament – that would satisfactorily govern the entire country and thus reduce the financial burden and cumbersome bureaucracy while increasing all round efficiency coupled with streamlined speedy development, resulting in the thunderous prosperity of the country with a pleasant and happy living to all its inhabitants
    Election and Composition: Every area would be a multi-member electorate electing a minimum of two members. Members of the various Councils would be elected from among those residing within that area on “first passed the post” basis subject to gender and age group conditions being fulfilled and where necessary and possible trade, political ideologies and ethnicity being considered. The number of members of any one gender or age group shall be a minimum of 20% of the total to be elected from an area to a Council and at least one member from other ethnic minorities if they form more than 10% of the eligible voters. The members so elected would be considered as independents. The number of elected members in a given Council – other than the Legislative and Executive Councils – would vary from Region to Region depending on the number of sub-administrative areas in that region, governed by the principle of equal number of members to the same or similar councils from similar areas – irrespective of the size and population of the area concerned. (Same as the principle applied in the election to the Senate in the US – two members from each State).

  • Eligibility: No person shall be eligible to contest or to become a member of a Council if he/she had been a member of that council within the last two years immediately preceding the date of election. He/she shall be eligible to contest to any other Council. This clause shall apply to all members of his/her immediate family and only one member of a family can seek election to any of the councils at any one time. A person cannot serve for more than two terms and in more than two councils during his/her life-time.
    A person while holding a ‘post’ in the government or government controlled institutions or public limited liability companies quoted in the Stock Exchange shall not be eligible to seek election to any Council.
    The term: (period) of all councils shall be four years and elections should be held only once in every four years and dates to be fixed in the constitution itself as in the U.S.A. with a succession clause to fill any vacancy that might occur in between election dates.
    Responsibility: Any person or group or groups of persons violating the constitution shall be personally held responsible for same and dealt with suitably.
    Independent Commissions: shall be appointed for the proper administration and control of the various services that have to function independently according to laid down procedures. These commissions are accountable and answerable to the Head of State. Interference in the functions of any Commission in any way by anyone including the Head of State, Heads of Councils or any member of any Council shall be considered as a violation of the Constitution and be dealt with suitably.
    Composition of Independent Commissions: Every commission shall consist of one member from each of the Regions elected jointly by the members of the Regional and other Councils of each Region. The members of both National Councils shall jointly elect a member of any Commission, who shall be the Chairman.
    The Head of State: The Head of one Region will act as the Head of State with the Deputy Head of another Region as the Deputy Head of State for a period one year with the Heads and Deputy Heads/Assistant Heads of the other Regions taking their turns in rotation. If the Deputy Head of one Region happens to belong to the same ethnic group as that of the Head of Region who is acting as the Head of State then the Assistant Head of that Region would act as the Deputy Head of State. The Head of State and his/her Deputy would be guided by the Executive Council in their actions and would have the powers and responsibilities similar to that of a Head of State of a country where the Parliament is supreme. (India and Malaysia might be quoted as examples.). The Head of State is accountable to the Executive Council. In any Region, the Head of Region and the Deputy Head of Region shall not belong to the same ethnicity IF that region has a population of more than 10% belonging to other ethnicities. (This provision is slightly different from the provisions in the South African Constitution for the members of the Cabinet).
    The constitution has to be amended to include the above suggestions as modified.
    Please feel free to request for any clarifications. Many suggestions that need consideration have been left out herein but would be included as the discussion proceeds.
    Comments, objections, constructive criticisms of any short comings or defects in the above suggestions and suggesting suitable remedies to end present wars and prevent future wars are most welcome and may pleas be addressed to [email protected]
    The age of warrior kings and of warrior presidents has passed. The nuclear age calls for a different kind of leadership….a leadership of intellect, judgment, tolerance and rationality, a leadership committed to human values, to world peace, and to the improvement of the human condition. The attributes upon which we must draw are the human attributes of compassion and common sense, of intellect and creative imagination, and of empathy and understanding between cultures." – William Fulbright
    I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something,
    And because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do the something I can do,
    What I can do, I should do. And what I should do, by the Grace of God I will do.
    — Edward Everett Hale (1822 -1909)

    • Dayan Jayatilleka

      This contains some good and interesting ideas but they are not currently practicable and the Tamil people cannot wait without being represented adequately. this means using the space available under the existing constitutional order, i.e. the Provincial councils, Parliament and judiciary.

  • Bubba

    The world tollerates Rajapakse because his actions pale in comparison to the LTTE leader. LTTE actions have made it impossible for the world to complain about how the Sri Lankan gov. chooses to deal with what would be an intolerable problem to any gov..

  • rajivmw

    Some excellent ideas here. I doubt they can all be effected at a stroke, and as DJ advises, we must start within the space and opportunity available now. The process of reform will move in incremental steps, and that might be for the best, since this country has been put through too many sudden and ill-considered transitions. But progress there must be, animated by thoughts, guided by principles, and you have done well to offer yours. More power to you.

  • Devolution of power is not merely a necessity of Tamils but of all parts of Sri Lanka that have been deprived not only opportunities but basic necessities and simple conveniences because of an inefficient, corrupt and unjust concentration of power and economic opportunity in Colombo – depriving equal opportunities to the rest of the country.
    Tamils have been grieved further as a result of institutionalised discrimination, but even if both Tamil and Sinhala Racist elements cease to exist from this moment, the social asymmetries will remain – locking Mulativu and Monaragala in poverty while more luxury condominiums are built in Colombo.
    These asymmetries have always been exploited in post independent Sri Lanka by those seeking votes and power. They have used and still use these inequalities to insinuate an (existent or non-existent) racism as their cause.
    We as a society have to grow up and grow out of such petty thoughts, but that involves a revolution in the way we think. Perhaps a revolution is necessary to induce us to think! But our politics has to change too and such a change can only be brought about by our vote.
    No matter whether we implement the 13th amendment (or not), or a Federal structure (or not) or preserve the status quo (or… NOT) we have to demand better from the politicians we elect. We have to be dutiful in electing competent and honest people as our representatives. We have to be mindful not to be manipulated by them or let them exploit our differences, grievances and vulnerabilities. We have to demand that they listen to us and not dictate to us. We have to ensure that those who do not, are voted out and replaced by others who are more worthy of our trust and cooperation.

  • punitham

    ''The Tamils need a Realist like an S Thondaman, who obtained more for his people'' is only ''crumbs off the table''. Just one example: last year I read in the Daily Mirror that nearly 9,500 upcountry Tamils couldn't vote in the provincial election.
    There has been only a cosmetic change in the structural violence of the government institutions towards all Tamils in the last sixty years.
    Barring journalists from the heavily militarised Northeast in the last thirty months, it's the reports of fact-finding missions that gave a glimpse into the fear and hopelessness of the people there. Not all reports were translated into Sinhala.
    The South has been kept in the dark as to what the occupying army of forty years has been doing in the Northeast.

    • wijayapala

      So Thondaman only got "crumbs off the table." Why don't you tell us what your own leaders had gotten for you- Chelva, Amir, and the one and only Thalaivar????? After 60 years who are better off- the N-E Tamils or the Upcountry Tamils?

  • citizen

    Enlighten us then man! And sow us how – if as you imply and possibly believe, the LTTE is any better? People who have attained power democratically or assumed power undemocratically, have often used violence in the hope of consolidating their power and whenever they felt a lack of confidence in their power to control and manipulate the masses.
    So wake up from your monochrome Tamil dream punitham, and dream with the rest of humanity… become part of the world around you that is rich with diversity, without seeking refuge in your own ethnicity.

  • punitham

    Chelva and Amir were put under house arrest after 1956 riots and in prison after 1958 riots!! Now ''Tamil politics must be in the context of the full implementation of 13th amendment. Any slogan which goes further will not only be Utopian but may provoke a backlash and a rollback of even this space.''

  • Dayan Jayatilleka

    What on earth does the wrongful arrest of Chelva and Amir have to do with the 13th amendment? India knew all about the history of the Tamil political struggle when it agreed with Sri Lanka on the 13th amendment – and that was because the weight of Tamil Nadu led by MGR, the armed eelam struggle of the LTTE and others and the weight of the Indian state as represented by 70, 000 troops, could not extract a greater reform from the Sri Lankan polity. That's the structural space, buddy : use it or lose it.