THE STRUGGLE FOR EQUALITY, JUSTICE AND DEMOCRACY IN SRI LANKA

This year marks the twentieth death anniversary of Rajini Thiranagama, doctor, lecturer, feminist and human rights defender, and the first death anniversary of human rights lawyer and political activist Maheshwari Velauthan. The former was shot dead by the LTTE as she cycled home to her children after presiding over an Anatomy examination, the latter shot dead by the LTTE as she cared for her sick mother. They were among thousands of Tamils killed by the LTTE simply because they did not agree with it. For Tamil progressives like them, the defeat of the LTTE mitigates one source of terror.

The LTTE’s claim to be the sole representative of Sri Lanka’s Tamils could be sustained only by the physical liquidation of all those who disagreed with, criticised, or simply posed a challenge to its leadership, even from within the organisation. This meant that all Tamils with a different vision of the struggle for equality, justice and democracy had to choose between risking their lives (and, like Kethesh Loganathan and T. Subathiran, all too often losing them), accepting security cover from the government of Sri Lanka (which obviously crippled their capacity to criticise that government), and exile. Any Tamil who believed in the possibility of Tamils living alongside people of other communities in a united Sri Lanka was considered a traitor and sentenced to death. Probably the first of such ‘traitors’ to be executed by Prabakaran was Alfred Duraiappah, the popular Mayor of Jaffna, who was killed in 1975; Neelan Thiruchelvam and Lakshman Kadirgamar came later. Standing up for freedom of expression, freedom of association and the right to vote in free and fair elections were all aberrations punishable by death. Parents who resisted the forcible conscription of their children received violent punishment. Indeed, questioning the decisions of the Supreme Leader in any way was an act of treachery. In fascist Tamil Eelam, internal terror was all-pervasive.

Could an organisation which destroyed the freedom of Tamils fight for their liberation from oppression? Clearly not. Could an entity which stood for an exclusively Tamil nation, in which Muslims and Sinhalese would be massacred or ethnically cleansed, pose an ideological challenge to exclusivist Sinhala nationalism? Hardly. The LTTE was simply a Tamil translation of the most reactionary Sinhala fascist politics. Where Sinhala nationalists stereotyped all Tamils, Tamil nationalists stereotyped all Sinhalese. Where the former claimed exclusive ownership of the whole of Sri Lanka, the latter claimed exclusive ownership of a third of the island. The politics of both harked back to the days of absolutist monarchies. Far from helping Tamils in their struggle for democracy, the LTTE created a further obstacle to be overcome. From this perspective, although its demise has occurred in the most horrific circumstances, prospects for the struggle for democracy in Sri Lanka have improved.

Conditions for a Successful Struggle
However, the success of this struggle would depend on several factors. The reactionary mirage of a totalitarian, exclusively Tamil state needs to be laid to rest once and for all. Such an agenda does not acknowledge the reality in Sri Lanka, where diverse communities are represented in all parts of the island – indeed, the most oppressed of the Tamil-speaking communities, the Hill-country plantation workers, did not fall within the proposed Eelam at all – and diverse peoples and cultures are inextricably intertwined. The incredible violence required to tear us apart cannot be allowed to go on. Whether we like it or not, we sink together or swim together.

Instead, Tamil progressives would need to fight for a vision of a democratic Sri Lanka which is a homeland for all its diverse peoples. They would need to fight for this in alliance with other minority communities as well as Sinhalese progressives. And they would need to win over a majority of Tamils to this vision: not so difficult within Sri Lanka, harder in the diaspora, much of which is disconnected from the reality in Sri Lanka in many ways. This effort would need support from Tamil and Muslim political parties and other formations which have hitherto tended to remain in the government fold out of fear of reprisals by the LTTE. Now that this threat no longer looms over them, they need to come out and present their demands to the Rajapaksa regime and ruling party, threatening to withdraw their support if the demands are not met.

The same is true of Sinhalese progressives in Left parties and other formations. While some have consistently supported the struggle of Tamils for justice, others have veered to one side or the other. We do not need to go as far back as the 1960s and 1970s, when Left parties which had previously stood up for minority rights when Upcountry Tamils were disenfranchised and the Sinhala Only Act was passed joined the Sinhala nationalist bandwagon. As recently as January 2008, Tissa Vitharana of the LSSP – who had earlier laboured conscientiously to produce a viable political solution based largely on the excellent proposal presented by a multi-ethnic majority of the Panel of Experts to the All Party Representative Committee (APRC) – lost his nerve, and instead of presenting the real APRC proposals to President Rajapaksa, presented him with a mutilated version of the 13th Amendment (introduced as a result of the Indo-Lanka Accord) which had just been given to him by the president! This bizarre farce was yet another instance of Sinhalese Leftists aligning themselves with a government dominated by Sinhalese fascists. If these Leftists wish to redeem themselves, they too must threaten to withdraw their support to the government unless it accepts and implements far-reaching political reforms that redress the genuine grievances of minorities.

On the other side, some Sinhalese Leftists, who had split away when their parties embraced Sinhala nationalism, subsequently provided implicit support to the LTTE’s fascism in the name of supporting ‘the right of Tamils to national self-determination’, ignoring Rosa Luxemburg’s pertinent question: who determines the will of the ‘nation’? In this case, the answer, clearly, was the Supreme Leader, Prabakaran, who took it upon himself to determine the lives – and deaths – of all Sri Lankan Tamils. Was this a worthy cause for socialists to support? Surely not, given that it involved slaughtering Tamil socialists! Paradoxically, their implicit support for the Tamil fascist agenda indicated unconscious Sinhala chauvinism (or, in the case of their European comrades, racism): the belief that Tamils are inferior beings, not yet ready for democracy. Furthermore, even Lenin did not argue for the ‘right to national self-determination’ in circumstances where an oppressed community was dispersed among a national population. Creating ethnically ‘pure’ enclaves, as the LTTE attempted to do in 1990, involved massacres and ethnic cleansing on a massive scale, defined in international law as crimes against humanity. A genuine liberation movement, which is supported by the people, cannot be defeated militarily. The military defeat of the LTTE occurred because it and its agenda were rejected by the Tamil people in Sri Lanka whom it claimed to represent.

These Leftists, along with Sinhalese liberals who followed a similar path, have to redefine ‘self-determination’ to mean real control over their own lives for all Tamils – and other minorities – in all parts of Sri Lanka. They could then play a much more useful role, persuading the Sinhalese masses to support this cause too. There is certainly a minority of rabid Sinhala chauvinists, but the majority of Sinhalese do not hate Tamils. Celebrations of the government victory over the LTTE have been interpreted as an expression of Sinhala chauvinism, and some of them have certainly been orchestrated by chauvinist elements. But Nirupama Subramanian pointed out that there were similar celebrations when the Cease-Fire Agreement was signed in 2002 – indeed, celebrations began in December 2001, when the UNP was elected and promised to bring peace – and Chandrika Kumaratunga swept to victory in 1994 on a promise of bringing peace through negotiations. What the war-weary people (including Sinhalese people) of Sri Lanka wanted, and still want, is peace. At that time, they thought that negotiations with the LTTE would bring peace, but they were disappointed. Now they think that a military victory over the LTTE will bring peace, but are likely to be disappointed again, unless Sinhalese progressives can convince them that only equality, justice and democracy can bring a lasting peace.

A precondition for this is that they must be made to understand that there is a problem which has not been solved by the military victory, since recognition of a problem is a necessary step for its solution. Many Sinhalese – including members of the English-educated diaspora – are astonishingly ignorant about what has been happening in Sri Lanka since Independence, taking the position that the only problem has been one of terrorism. Educating them about the persistent discrimination and violence against Tamils, which led to and fuelled the conflict, would be a vital contribution for Sinhalese progressives to make. It is also worth reminding Sinhalese people in Sri Lanka that equality is the bedrock of democracy, and that they allow democracy to be undermined at their own peril. The last time they allowed state security forces to torture and kill Tamils on a large scale, in the late 1970s and early 1980s, this was followed by the same security forces torturing and killing an estimated 40,000-60,000 Sinhalese between 1987 and 1990. The Rajapaksa regime shows disturbing signs of sliding into the same totalitarianism unless it is halted by the public. The struggle for justice and democracy is a programme which can unite working people of all communities, rather than dividing Tamils from Tamils, Sinhalese from Tamils, and Tamils from Muslims.

Immediate Programme for Progressives of All Communities
The most urgent priority is to ensure the survival and fundamental rights of all the civilians displaced by the war. Failing this, the death toll will mount catastrophically, and this time, the government alone will be to blame. Food and water, medicines and doctors, clothing, shelter and so on must be procured from all agencies which are offering to provide it, and distributed in a rational manner which does not simply ensure the survival of the strongest, as some women in the camps have complained. The government itself has appealed for help, making it clear that it cannot cope with the task, so international agencies should be involved in the relief effort. Unless they and independent reporters are allowed in the camps, sickening stories of rapes, killings (especially of women and girls), abduction of children, and starvation deaths cannot be discounted. After all, senior citizens were released from the camps only after the District Magistrate in Vavuniya determined that 30 of them had died of starvation and malnutrition, and more were dying on a daily basis, so there is official confirmation of this particular story.

This is not just a matter of humanitarian concern. These people are citizens of Sri Lanka, and incarcerating them in prison camps, as has been done so far, is a violation of their fundamental rights. If the government fears that terrorists are hidden among the civilians, they need to screen them rapidly, move LTTE fighters into prisoner-of-war camps, register both civilians and fighters, provide civilians with identity cards and freedom of movement, and provide fighters with humane conditions and rehabilitation. All this needs to be monitored by the UN and ICRC. Unfortunately, we cannot trust the government, given several high-profile killings (like the killing of five students in Trincomalee in 2006, the massacre of 17 ACF workers, and the murder of Lasantha Wickrematunge) and thousands of less-publicised ones, all of which bear the mark of state-linked death squads. Unless some agency other than the state monitors the screening and the camps, and keeps lists of both civilians and LTTE cadres, there is every possibility that thousands of camp residents will be abducted and killed.

Keeping a register of people in the camps and giving them freedom of movement is also vitally important for families that have been separated, and people desperately trying to locate loved ones. The President, in his address to parliament, referred to mettha (loving kindness) and karuna (compassion), but there is little evidence of these Buddhist values in the way that these traumatised civilians have been treated by the state. Running the camps by a civilian administration, access to them for international and local aid workers, and freedom of movement for the inmates would be preconditions before we can talk of mettha or karuna.

In the slightly longer term, all the displaced should be assisted to resettle back in their original towns and villages by the end of the year. Now that the war is over and terrorism, according to the president, has been vanquished, there is no need for High Security Zones, and industrial zones and the Indian-built power station also should not be located on the land of displaced people, neither in the North nor in the East. It is important to emphasise that the displaced include tens of thousands of Muslims, some of whom have been languishing in camps since 1990, and any resettlement programme must cater to those Muslims who wish to return to their original habitats.

The end of the war and defeat of the LTTE also demolishes the excuses for various other ‘special measures’, among them: carrying of arms by cadres of other Tamil groups, supposedly in order to defend themselves from the LTTE: all these cadres should be disarmed; the emergency provisions and anti-terrorism legislation which have destroyed the rule of law in our country and allowed the state to act in a dictatorial, brutal and corrupt fashion: all these should be withdrawn forthwith; and the silencing of the press and imprisonment of journalists, which should be replaced by the immediate release of journalists like J.S.Tissainayagam and the restoration of freedom of expression. All these special measures promote state terrorism, and what is the point of eliminating LTTE terrorism only to fall prey to a different band of terrorists?

In the longer term, it is crucially important to introduce and implement a new, democratic constitution, without which the cycle of violence will simply begin again. Mahinda Rajapaksa’s speech indicates that he has no intention of introducing a political solution to the conflict; his reference to respect for ‘the principle of the unitary state that has been established in our Constitution’ shows that he has failed to learn from history, and is therefore quite capable of repeating the mistakes that led to the war in the first place. When Sri Lanka was first defined as a ‘unitary state’ in 1972, there was no separatist movement, no militant groups; soon there were both. The same Constitution confirmed Sinhala as the only official language, gave a special place to Buddhism, and removed protection from discrimination for minorities: in other words, it was clear that a ‘unitary state’ was synonymous with a ‘Sinhala-Buddhist state’. The 1978 Constitution, which introduced the all-powerful Executive Presidency, turned this into a totalitarian Sinhala-Buddhist state.

Since 1995, there have been several attempts to formulate and put in place a new, democratic Constitution, yet the President seems to be ignorant of all these efforts, including his own creation of the APRC, when he talks about the necessity to ‘find a solution that is our very own’. Where was he when the APRC crafted an excellent political solution well over two years ago? Or was that not a ‘solution that is our very own’ because it was based on the proposals of a multi-ethnic panel of experts? Does ‘our very own’ mean ‘Sinhala-Buddhist’?

A credible political solution would need to abolish the Executive Presidency and special place for Buddhism in the Constitution; ensure real parity for Sinhala and Tamil; put in place a Bill of Rights that rules out discrimination on any grounds whatsover in all parts of the island, and guarantees other rights like freedom of expression and association; includes the right to life, which is missing from the existing Constitution; devolves power to the Provincial Councils to a much greater degree than the 13th Amendment; and ensures greater representation of minority communities at the centre through a bicameral legislature.

The minority and Left parties that are currently part of the government must give Mahinda Rajapaksa and the SLFP notice that they will quit unless he implements the measures outlined above, and thus force him to choose between them and the Sinhala Right. In the event that he chooses the latter, they should form a third front – since the UNP is as compromised as the SLFP – and start campaigning for this programme as soon as possible. Whether they win or lose the next elections is less important than demonstrating to the people of Sri Lanka – and especially the minorities, who have suffered so much – that there are political leaders in Sri Lanka willing to stand up for equality, justice and democracy.

  • punitham

    Rohini
    I’m choking but my fingers are on the keyboard.

    You’re proposing Utopia – a challenge to so many who want to hold power in Sri Lanka.

    But then it is actually a challenge to all CITIZENS (outside the camps).

    Rohini
    Thanks a million for the article.

  • saman

    the mice come out when the only the big cat is killed…

    would have been great if this came out in the LTTE times, (but then understandably you would be also under pressure)…

    “in other words, it was clear that a ‘unitary state’ was synonymous with a ‘Sinhala-Buddhist state'” well why should it always have to be sinhala buddhists?

    this will need a referandum i believe in the constitution (to change this) hence i doubt you will be able to do this.

  • http://panhinda-samaga.blogspot.com/ Migara

    //A credible political solution would need to abolish the Executive Presidency and special place for Buddhism in the Constitution//

    Let the cat jump out of the bag!

    Why do you want to remove special place given to Buddhism? Our constitution never says that Buddhism is the national religion. The countries like Norway, Denmark and UK have a national religion. In Norway, children of one sector of Christianity, which is their national religion, should be raised with same religion. They cannot change the religion. How is that compared to SL constitution? In UK, the King/Queen should be of particular religion.
    Here are excerpts of the oathes given at head of states in various countries
    Netherlands – the King – “So help me, God Almighty!”. That means atehist or a person that belives non-abrahamic religion cannot be the King/Queen in Nederlands.
    India – President and Vice-President “do swear in the name of God”. Once again Buddhist, atehist or a Jain cannot be Indian president.
    Germany – Chancellor – “So help me God”
    Australia – Governer General – “So help me God!”
    UK – Queen / King coronation oath – “Will you to the utmost of your power maintain the Laws of God and the true profession of the Gospel? Will you to the utmost of your power maintain in the United Kingdom the Protestant Reformed Religion established by law”

    No one even makes any satement about these religous laws and customs, but everyone (most of these are from above countries) will want to remove Buddhisms foremost place while they have bigger irregularities in their constitutions. What a bunch of hypocrites?

  • Dhivya

    Great article! “we sink together or swim together” :)

  • punitham

    I strongle believe that ”Many Sinhalese – including members of the English-educated diaspora – are astonishingly ignorant about what has been happening in Sri Lanka since Independence” is the main reason for the birth and the growth of the LTTE.
    Press censure, malicious presentations in textbooks and much more malicious utterances of some Sinhalese politicians ensured the ignorance.

  • Chandi

    Why do we always have to point fingers, I am Sinhalese, I am Buddhist, I respect and value my nationality and my religion, and I do respect other peoples right to respect their culture, nationality and religion, I believe in freedom without feeling of superiority, all of us humans needs to hang on to some belief. If I were born to a Tamil family I would be a Tamil, but I was born to a Sinhalese Buddhist family, so I am Sinhalese Buddhist. Most of our ethnicity and religion are determined by our birth, not by our choice, but we act as if it was our choice. Most of us do not even follow our traditions, do not live up to the values espoused by our religious teacher, if we had, we would not be in this mess, all main religions talk of non-violence, love, compassion and respect.

    I am 35, I have never been to Jaffna, never to Trinco, never to Batti, I would love to. I have seen this war raging all my life, I am scared to go out without my ID, there were times I was scolded at checkpoints for forgetting my purse, not having my ID, I was asked by security people if you are citizen of this country, you have to have proof of it. Our vehicle is stopped three to four times before I reach my office at checkpoints. I am not blaming or complaing of the security forces, they are doing their job, yet, I want all these to stop.

    I work with Tamil friends, I see no difference between them and me, I know all of us want to live in a peaceful country, I think compared to that, whatever compromises we have to make is worth it. I look at my children, I look at all the children I passy on my way to work, and tears well up in my eyes, the best gift we can give them is a peaceful country, where all of us can move about without fear.

    I see the beauty of this country, this small island, it is big enough for all of us, whatever ethnicity we belong to, religion is something in our hearts, it is not something that can be legally mandated, just let us have the freedome to practice whatever religion we want, just make sure your practice does not hurt or harm anyone else. Constitution cannot guarantee we respect and follow a certain path. During Buddha’s time there was no constitution that said people have to be Buddhist, it was just whoever wants to follo the path followed it. What we need is freedom, and some limits to our freedom by law to ensure that freedom does not hurt anyone else.

    Let us stop this fingerpointing, let us accept that we all have our faults, it is time we put the past behind and build a new and a peaceful country, where we all feel we belong and we have equal rights and where we are happy to be and love to be

  • raj

    Brief case, biological or chemical is the solution. VP was an idiot for thinking a force of 20,000 can fight 200,000 in a conventional set up. In the new model a force of 500 can equalise 200,000 with our modern knowledge !! strike nodal points. If the there are no rules of war i.e a White Flag is not respect or the ICRC not permitted access…then we must accept there are no rules of the modern warfare.

    The issue of ICRC acces was 1948 Geneva Convention and white flag…so if the SL Govt has abandoned them then brief case, biological or chemical on civilian is ok ? or am I wrong on what basis

  • raj

    P.S a strange disease on the tea crop…attack on tourism hotels..these are nodal points for srikes..you need 500 in terms of manpower ..asymetrical warfare or much less !!!

  • raj

    Chandi very nice but…why increase the army size with the war over…obviously to ensure “….there are no minorities..” no different people any more…you I am tamil…reverse the situation and you are a minority Sinhalese and I destroy your culture like the native americans…..i think Singhalese are fantastic people in spirit….and you want ur identity to vanish as a minority…the trajedy of the modern age is we are destroying diversity…or various music, food, beleiefs, clothes etc etc…thats what it means when u say there are :”no minorities”

  • raj

    Chandi in other words we are homogenous with the majority !!! We all Sinhalese……..and the effect it that we as Sinhalese will fight with each other about who is more Sinhalese…it is the nature of human being to reduce their mind and the society..more and more..if it is not the state…it is the province…then it is the village and then the family…the basis of all conflict is ultimately SELF IMPORTANCE AND DOMINATION

  • EW Golding

    “A credible political solution would need to abolish the Executive Presidency and special place for Buddhism in the Constitution; ensure real parity for Sinhala and Tamil; put in place a Bill of Rights that rules out discrimination on any grounds whatsover in all parts of the island, and guarantees other rights like freedom of expression and association; includes the right to life, which is missing from the existing Constitution; devolves power to the Provincial Councils to a much greater degree than the 13th Amendment; and ensures greater representation of minority communities at the centre through a bicameral legislature.”

    GO TELL IT TO THE MARINES. DO YOU REALLY EXPECT ANY OF THIS TO HAPPEN?
    OTHERWISE WHAT? LSSP & CP SHOULD WITHDRAW FROM GOVT SAYS HENSMAN! MIGHTY EARTH-SHATTERING EVENT! IN ANY CASE THOSE WHO KNOW THEM KNOW THAT MERVYN SILVA & 1/2 THE SLFP WILL WITHDRAW BEFORE TISSA & DEW GIVE UP THEIR MINISTRIES OR VASU HIS SINECURE. GET BACK TO TERRA FIRMA HENSMAN!

    “On the other side, some Sinhalese Leftists, who had split away when their parties embraced Sinhala nationalism, subsequently provided implicit support to the LTTE’s fascism in the name of supporting ‘the right of Tamils to national self-determination'”

    PATENT POPYCOCK. WHETHER ROSA OR LENIN WAS RIGHT ON SELF-DET IS A FAIR ISSUE TO DEBATE. BUT TO REDUCE ONCE SIDE ON S-D THEORY TO FELLOW TRAVELLERS OF FASCISM IS RICH! HENSMAN IS CLEARLY GETTING UNHINGED!!

    PARA BY PARA A SELF-CONTRADICTORY ARTICLE; HYPOCRITICAL TO THE POINT THAT IT CANNOT MAKE UP ITS MIND ABOUT THE FUNDAMANTAL QUESTION OF THE MOMENT; WHETHER TO STAND WITH THIS GOVRNMENT AT THIS CONCRETE CONJUNCTURE, OR TO OPPOSE IT. GOOD ATICLE FOR READERS WHO DO NOT NEED TO MAKE ONE SINGLE PRACTICAL POLITICAL DECISION IN THEIR LIVES.

  • punitham

    I was born a Hindu but I stopped ‘practisisng religion’ in the 70s(in MY 20s). I wish to respect ALL human beings.
    I appeal to all the Sinhalese to prevail upon the government to let aid agencies help the people in the terribly overcroded ”holding camps” to which paramilitaries and army have free access.

  • punitham

    The most militarised country in South Asia is going to increase its troops 50%.
    Why?
    What we saw in the last sixty one years will be nothing compared to what is going to happen from now on.

  • punitham

    Some of the people in the holding camps would have just escaped
    i. the aerial bombing of 80s and 90s
    ii. arrests/torture/”disappear” in the name of Prevention of Terrrorism Act and impunity of armed forcesand
    iii.Tsunami
    and would have got displaced scores of times in the districts of Jaffna, Mannar, Mullaitivu and Kilinochchi.
    ….
    ……
    UN has been a mechanism where Sri Lanka has been doing expert damage control for five decades.

    This is a part of structural violence.

  • punitham

    There is absolutely no sign that things are going to get better. But all signs that they are going to get as bad as can be.
    There is no life for ethnic minorities living under ethnic majorities – UN is an ideal mechanism for enabling oppressive majorities to be more oppressive because many states are human rights violators and gang up together.
    What happened on 26/27 May 2009 at the eleventh Special session of UNHRC has been like that for decades:
    Leo Kuper in Prevention of Genocide( 1985 ) commented on the failure of the United Nations Sub Commission on Human Rights to condemn the genocidal attack(July 1983) on the Tamil People: “….there were also political currents observable in the alignment of members, though I could not altogether fathom the geo political considerations involved. In the end a very mild resolution was passed calling for information from the Sri Lanka government and recommending that the commission examine the situation at the next meeting in the light of the information available. There was, however, only a bare majority for the resolution (10 for, 8 against and 4 abstaining). It is unfortunate that the United Nations did not take a firm stand at this stage…”

    Above everythingelse, Sri Lanka was blessed with JRJ that even the future generations cannot escape his venom.

  • punitham

    While the world is focused on Vanni and Vavuniya, people in the other districts of Northeast are not only suffering ”out of sight’ and ‘out of press’ and thus ‘out of mind’ but causes for further resentment(that will certainly continue to be squashed brutally) are also being put in place.

  • Realist

    I must correct a wrong impression that somebody here gave regarding state religion in Denmark etc. He said that one can’t change ones religion there.This is not true. These countries adopted the state religion several centuries ago and it is not implmeneted to the detriment of any other religion. The Protestant countries adopted the concept after the Treaty of Westphalia because there were classifications between Catholic and Protestant countries in the Treaty. The Catholic countries didn’t see any need for formal recognition as the state religion. Also Jesus Christ stood for separation of Church and state.
    I personally have no objection to the special place given to Buddhism provided the rest of the wording in the Constitution is also followed which spells out that it will not affect the rights of other religions set out in Articles 10 and 14.

    The mistake the LTTE made was to assume that India would somehow come round to the view of a separate Tamil state in Sri Lanka. They are very unlikely to do so becasue it would stir up Tamil nationalism in Tamil Nadu. This point was not realized by the Tamils. Now they have to depend on India for upholding the rights of the Tamils and to what extent India will do so remains to be seen.

  • punitham

    Utopia, …. …. …

    We’re moving faster and faster away from it.

    Sinhalisation of Trincomalee has been getting faster and faster, and at neck-or-nothing speed in the last three years.

  • Chandi

    I am sorry if I hurt anyone here, didn’t mean to, when I said minority, no one should feel so, no one should feel like that, we should feel that we all have rights, to be what we want to be,

    We always refer to ethnic minorities, we are all minorities in either way, in the way we think, we feel, what we are economically, socially, always a minority.

    I visited an orphange yesterday, it is a minority, children without parents, the disabled, or differently abled, they are a minority, often ignored, because they do not have a voice, or used by others to further their gain, money, presitige, political gains….

    It is how we define, minority, to me, all I want is for all of us to be happy here, to feel they belong, I never think of destrying anyones culture, religion, I want this country to be a place where all can practice their religion, the way they want, that is what is said,

    sometimes, it is the way one looks, if you look with a biased, prejudiced mine, you always see things as you want to see them, not as they really are….

    May all beings be happy, be free of anger, of hatred, of ill will…..may they be full of compassion, tolerance…..

    Let us not judge people by their relgion, or by thier ethnicity, simply because I am Sinhalese does not make me an extremist, who wants to destroy Hindus…

    As long as we think like this there will never be peace and harmongy in this country……

  • kichchi

    The Author says:
    “A credible political solution would need to abolish the Executive Presidency and special place for Buddhism in the Constitution; ensure real parity for Sinhala and Tamil; put in place a Bill of Rights that rules out discrimination on any grounds whatsover in all parts of the island, and guarantees other rights like freedom of expression and association; includes the right to life, which is missing from the existing Constitution; devolves power to the Provincial Councils to a much greater degree than the 13th Amendment; and ensures greater representation of minority communities at the centre through a bicameral legislature.”

    JUST READ BELOW for some similarity to the above and send your comments

    Probably the best concept for a political solution with meaningful and just power sharing arrangement.
    An earnest APPEAL to all those who strive for sustainable peace in Sri Lanka
    “The lack of engagement and communication, in turn adds to the sense of estrangement. This is not in the interests of either side, particularly the Sri Lankan people who yearn for peace, a just solution to the ethnic conflict and the hope of prosperity at least for their children.” – Jehan Perera, Executive Director of the National Peace Council of Sri Lanka.
    With the above end in view please spare a part of your valuable time to ABSORB the meaning of the views submitted below.
    Too much of time has been wasted in discussing the origins of the problems and the paths taken by various real patriotic and peace-loving persons to solve the problems in the ways they sincerely believed as the best. The problems have grown and evolved and had been twisted by many to suit their way of thinking.
    So, it is high-time we start to RETHINK in terms of a solution that would address the ASPIRATIONS ALL THE PEOPLE in the country, not just the aspirations of the Tamils, in a just and meaningful way rather than continue to criticize other people for their “faults”.
    Failures are the pillars of success. We have learned a lot of things through experience. With the experiences gained we will have to work for a change of heart not just a change of mind of all the people in the country.
    “People who value democracy, equality and equity, needs to pressure the Sri Lankan state to take immediate action towards a meaningful and just power sharing arrangement. That is the only way to ensure security and the dignity of the peoples of Sri Lanka.
    If peaceful coexistence through power sharing is not achievable, the only other solution that would be available will be secession” – Mr. Lionel Bopage, former Secretary of the JVP.
    There is a vast difference between the policy and thinking of the ORIGINAL JVP to which Mr.Lionel Bopage belongs and the policy of the present JVP.
    A new concept that moves towards a meaningful and just power-sharing arrangement based on true democracy – a large number of people participating in the governance of the country based on equality, equity – is a great deviation from the usual thinking of the meaning of the word “sharing of power” is given below for the perusal and comments of concerned people.
    Many, who call themselves as ‘moderates’ and advocating a “Unitary State” are not willing to consider this NEW concept of the phrase “sharing of power” that gives a certain degree of ‘power’ with ‘responsibility’ to as many as possible including the poor and voiceless silent majority in the country and not excluding the so-called “minorities” and still maintain the “character” of a “Unitary State”
    Now, one word, for those who are actually and sincerely interested in fostering a unitary-state by supporting “devolution” as a means to achieve sustainable peace, please avoid thinking in terms of “devolution” and instead please try to think in terms of “sharing of powers”, rights, duties and responsibilities that cannot be taken back at any time by any government or individual by any method.
    The best political solution to address the problems faced by various sections of the Sri Lankan society – particularly the poor, the politically weak and the “minorities” who do not carry any “political weight” – would be to DILUTE the powers of all elected representatives of the people by separating the various powers of the Parliament and by horizontally empowering different sets of people’s representatives elected on different area basis to administer the different sets of the separated powers at different locations.
    It has to be devolution HORIZONTALLY where each and every set of representatives would be in the SAME LEVEL as equals and in par and NOT VERTICALLY, where one set of representatives would be above (more powerful than) the other, which is the normal adopted practice when talking of devolution, in this power-hungry world. It is because “devolution of power” has been evolved “vertically”, we have all the trouble in this power-hungry world. So, for sustainable peace it should not be the present form of “devolution of power” but “dilution of powers” or “sharing of powers” in such a way that no single person or single set of people’s representatives be “superior” to another.
    This system would help to eradicate injustice, discrimination, bribery and corruption – the four pillars of an evil society – and help to establish the “Rule of Law” and “Rule by ALL” for sustainable peace, tranquility and prosperity and a pleasant harmonious living with dignity and respect for all the inhabitants in the country. Everyone must have “equal” powers, rights, duties and responsibilities and most importantly everyone should be deemed “equal” and treated “equally” before the law not only on paper but also practically – be it the Head of State, The Chief Justice or the voiceless poor of the poorest in the country.
    Since all political and other powers flow from the sovereignty of the people, it is proposed herein that these powers be not given to any ONE set of representatives but distributed among different sets of people’s representatives (groups) 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 enable us to sustain normal life.
    A detailed version of the concept, which is quite long is available for discussion by interested individuals with an aim to change the hearts not just a change of mind of the citizens of this country who aim to preserve a UNITARY form of Government with every section of people from every part of the country PRACTICALLY PARTICIPATING in the GOVERNANCE OF THE COUNTRY in a meaningful way. In a way it may be termed “participatory democracy”. In this system the COUNTRY IS NOT DIVIDED but the “powers of governance’ of the Parliament is separated and administered COLLECTIVELY by different sets of peoples representatives.
    The system suggested is neither a federal state for which “Thanthai Chelva” worked hard through non-violent means for nearly thirty years nor the “Two State Solution” for which the LTTE is fighting through violent means for more than thirty years. It is a combination of both and is between both but still a “unitary” state.
    The solution advocated can be compared to the policy of the EPDP – a partner in the present government – “self-governance at Regional Level and collective governance at the National Level”. Basically there are some differences between the suggestions above and that of the EPDP. First, the above suggestions are for sharing of power horizontally and EPDP’s suggestions are for sharing power vertically. Second, EPDP’s suggestions are for addressing the aspirations of the Tamils while the above suggestions are for addressing the aspirations of the PEOPLE, not just that of the Tamils alone. A careful perusal of the above suggestions in FULL will enlighten the need for such an approach.
    These suggestions are for Regional Self Governance controlled by a Council of Districts and a Council of Regions and are NOT for a “Union of Regions” as proposed by Ms Kumarathunga.
    Give and Take is the best policy. Rule or control your “self” and allow everyone to rule themselves.
    LIVE AND LET LIVE
    IF THERE IS A SINCERE WILL to treat all inhabitants of the county with dignity and as respectful citizens of this country, enjoying equal rights in all respects, then THE ABOVE IS A WAY
    The above suggestions are by a voiceless member of the silent majority who wants all voice to be heard.

    .

  • punitham

    Nothing works unless the government provides justice and security to all its citizens:

    1. http://www.amnesty.org.uk/uploads/documents/doc_19457.pdf

    In the country of my birth I couldn’t give an independent statement because I was intimidated – Ponnuthurai Yogarajah, March 2008
    Two months later, in May 2008, the Sri Lankan government ordered an end to the use of video conferencing in the Commission’s hearings

    2. http://www.uthr.org/SpecialReports/spreport32.htm

    ‘Sinhalese’ fishermen have been brought under naval protection to fish in the sea off Mannar Island without any restriction. The local Tamil and Muslim fishermen are allowed only about four days a week on the pretext of security for some minor naval movements. The trawlers with Sinhalese fishermen use large Japanese nets of a kind now banned internationally, which drag the seabed, pulling out coral, the nets of local fishermen and damaging the breeding ground, eggs, weeds and fish fodder.

    On 28th May the Tamil fishermen protested and had an argument with a group of Sinhalese trawler fishermen, who using the communication set the Navy provided, informed them of the boat number. When the Tamil fishermen came ashore, naval men who were waiting for them with batons, made the Tamils kneel and beat them up severely.

  • davidson panabokke

    My dear brethren

    Once, just once, let us heed the recommendations of Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, International Crisis Group, International Bar Association Human Rights Institute or the UN.

    Just once and see if they will make a difference in our lives.
    (After all we never stopped appointing Commissions).

  • ForATruelyIndependantSriLanka

    My dear davidson panabokke,

    “Just once and see if they will make a difference in our lives” – They made plenty of difference the last time they did just that.

    You seem to have forgotten (or avoiding) what happened during the tsunami aid times, where uncontrolled access was given to UN/ NGOs. Most of aid went to the LTTE cuase. (forcibly or voluntarily)

    The sentiment “Fool me once, shame on you, Fool me twice shame on me” suits this situation fine.