SRI LANKA’S POST-WAR FUTURE: A RADICAL PLURALIST RESPONSE TO THE ETHICAL REALIST VIEW

I had not intended contributing to Groundviews’s commemoration of the first anniversary of the end of the war, for the simple reason that there having been no movement whatsoever on post-war constitutional reform, I did not wish to add another gripe of a general nature to this ‘liberal echo chamber’ of ours. Two publications in the past few weeks however have persuaded me that perhaps there is something worthwhile to discuss about constitutional reform from a liberal perspective. The first was the Peace Poll conducted by Dr. Colin Irwin of the University of Liverpool, which contained some astonishing findings about the state of public opinion with regard to power-sharing, and second, Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka’s nuanced conceptualisation of a ‘sustainable peace’ in post-war Sri Lanka elsewhere in these pages.

Dr. Irwin’s questionnaire is based on the APRC proposals of 2009 which envisage, at least notionally, a measure of devolution and power-sharing that exceeds what is presently provided under the Thirteenth Amendment, but which is firmly within the formal framework of the unitary state. The findings are impressionistic, due to two reasons. Firstly, since no one really has any clear or precise idea what the APRC’s official proposals are (and for that matter, whether they are final or work-in-progress, or how seriously the government regards them), those participating in the survey responded to what the questionnaire described as being the APRC proposals on fourteen constitutional issues. Secondly, the fourteen propositions put to the respondents are framed in such broad, neutral and sensible terms that only those opposed to motherhood and apple pie, or the nationalist lunatic fringe on either side of the ethnic divide, would really object to any of them. But the multifarious devils that lurk in the detail of these bland formulations have the potential to make the high levels of support for reform evaporate, as we know only too well from Sri Lanka’s chequered history of constitutional reform attempts. As far as impressions go though, this is as good as it gets, and the survey is a useful tool for moving the debate in a more constructive and enlightened direction, and a particularly useful one for Mahinda Rajapaksa should he attempt the metamorphosis from politician to statesman. Fat chance, I hear you say, but eternal optimism is the first vocational qualification of the Sri Lankan liberal.

To me, the most striking finding is in Table 24 of Irwin’s survey in which it is revealed that a massive 83% of Sinhalese responded that they would support, in a putative referendum, a constitutional reform package that encompasses measures for democratisation (for e.g. abolition of the executive presidency and the strengthening of fundamental rights), and which, provided the unitary state is retained, also devolves more power than the Thirteenth Amendment (9% answered ‘Don’t know’). Thus the visceral antipathy to sharing power with minorities that is associated with Sinhala-Buddhist chauvinism – unambiguously represented by such parties as the JHU and the NFF within the ruling UPFA – is shared by only 9% of the Sinhalese. As the proviso with regard to the Sinhala community’s palpable attachment to the symbol of the unitary state demonstrates, this is a clear rejection of more radical forms of power-sharing, especially federalism. But it also forcefully underscores the point that Sinhala-Buddhist nationalism’s more doctrinaire and exclusivist constitutional agenda, ostensibly speaking for the majority, is being advanced and implemented by political actors entrenched within the institutional establishment of the state, by loudly vocal and disproportionately influential sections of civil society such as the politicised Buddhist monkhood, and by some idiot savant columnists, who in fact represent only a miniscule proportion of public opinion.

These findings of Irwin’s survey with regard to the constitutional aspirations and anxieties of the Sinhalese constitute one of the empirical bases of Dr. Jayatilleka’s reflective article, in which is made an ‘ethical realist’ case for a post-war civic nationalist state that in form represents ‘enhanced provincial devolution within a unitary system’. This rigorous defence of the unitary nation-state (but conceptually of a more liberal and pluralistic kind than what obtains in reality) is supported by arguments from foreign policy and strategic considerations; a historicist critique of Sinhala chauvinism and a realist critique of Tamil nationalism and cosmopolitan liberalism; and from a normative standpoint on nation-statehood that is classically modernist, but with an active effort to contextualise the notion of the modern demos in the ethnocentric pluralism of Sri Lanka’s statal polity.

I regard Dayan’s position as that of a ‘liberal statist’ which is genuine in its commitment to the kind of pluralism which may be secured through individual liberty and equality, through the separation of the public and private spaces, and its hermeneutically innovative concern with the reinterpretation of historiographical political concepts for modern relevance, but which accords a centrality to sovereign statehood especially in its external dimension that is not negotiable. It is thus liberal because of its commitment to equality, pluralism and modernity (liberalism is not necessarily synonymous with federalism even in Sri Lanka), and it is statist because it rejects any attempt to downgrade the central importance of state sovereignty – not only as a legal safeguard, but also as the necessary condition of independence of a non-western, developing country – by sub-state nationalisms and secessionism, or by liberal cosmopolitanist human rights arguments, or any other kind of international intervention except at and to the extent of the invitation by the state itself, or presumably as allowed by Chapter VII of the UN Charter (i.e., never).

It is in sum, however, a very conventional model of sensible, modern nation-statehood in a plural society, the pragmatic conservatism of which, one imagines, would have appealed to the Soulbury Commission. That even such a mellifluously nonthreatening perspective as this is regarded as dangerously liberal in President Rajapaksa’s post-war administration reveals the startling seriousness with which centralisation is taken at the centre of power.

A preliminary point I want to note is about the methodology of reasoning in public intellectual discourse that Dayan employs, which also in a sense anticipates my critique of the substantive constitutional model he proposes. The realist approach holds that the ‘is’ cannot be derived from the ‘ought’, and the ethical realist approach seeks to derive the most ‘progressive ought’ from what ‘is’. Since this is not the only method of reasoning in the humanities and social sciences, the question in relation to liberal ideas for constitutional reform in a democracy seems to be whether a refusal to follow it renders a non-realist approach ‘unrealistic’. Inversely put, should public opinion be the main (if not the only) original source of ideas; and is the value (if not the validity) of ideas contingent on a social majority’s acceptance?

Recalling the way in which President Lincoln introduced Emancipation – the opposing Union perspectives on which were represented in his Cabinet by Seward on the one hand and Chase on the other – through an adroit mixture of political management, skilful timing and inspirational rhetoric, the liberal tradition to which I belong would firmly answer no to both these questions. Popular majorities, inherently concerned with the here and the now, are notoriously incapable of discovering the ‘political truth’, and whatever the form and content of the political truth, liberal or chauvinist, it clearly is hatched and promoted by an elite as the Irwin survey shows. The task is easier for populist elites by their very nature, because all they have to do is pander to and inflame the basest instincts of a society in order to mobilise a democratic majority. But leadership is greatest when it succeeds in taking the electorate with it to higher order moral and political objectives, especially against reflexive opposition from quotidian majorities.

The role of realism in democratic political leadership therefore is in determining questions of timing, presentation and persuasion, not the creation or articulation of ideas and beliefs themselves. President Johnson’s Great Society and, if not exactly in the same epochal category, President Obama’s healthcare reforms, belong to the same tradition of liberal, democratic leadership. Likewise, the Laskiesque substantive core wrought by Nehru and Ambedkar in the Indian Constitution contrary to what was the arguably more organically authentic vision of Savarkar, and President Mandela’s leadership in the enshrinement of a sophisticated schema of federalism in the South African Constitution, against the majoritarian unitary state pathology of the anti-apartheid liberation movement.

Democratic responsiveness is not the same thing as circumscribing policy possibilities by reference to the popular majority, and the proper place of realism in the task of the public intellectual is not in conditioning the articulation of ideas to the wants and fears of the popular majority, but in choosing the presentational methods of persuading the majority to adopt unorthodox thinking. Perhaps the best illustration of this in the Sri Lankan context is the idea of federalism itself. Federalism remains a brilliant idea for Sri Lanka, and its distortion, vilification and consequent wholesale rejection is due to the abject failure of its proponents (like me) to articulate its merits in a relevant and persuasive way to all sections of public opinion. As in fact Colin Irwin’s first poll in 2008 showed, there is substantial support for federal-type decentralisation if only it is not called that, and it is what elected and administrative officials including ruling party Chief Ministers at the provincial level have been saying consistently, from Varatharajaperumal to Gamini Jayawickrema Perera, and Berty Premalal Dissanayake to Sivanesathurai Santhirakanthan. The periphery understands and desires decentralisation of a fairly high order in Sri Lanka, and it seems to be the case that shorn of the pejorative connotations of the term itself in abstract, the relevance, utility and value of the federal idea has been proven at a very practical level.

Bandaranaike set the pusillanimous precedent of surrendering democratic political authority and leadership to the chauvinists, which has since been scrupulously followed by all heads of government because they are at one with the chauvinists, or it is in their interest to use the chauvinist opposition as an excuse to evade the loss of centralised power and patronage that results from the radical decentralisation of federalism, or in the case of Kumaratunga and Wickremesinghe, just plain confusion, incompetence and arrogance. Thus the lack of realism here is not in the conception of federalism as a self-evident constitutional response to the policy challenges of democratisation and multiethnic accommodation, but in what have been either non-existent or ill thought-out methods of persuasion. President Kumaratunga’s attempts at attitudinal change to power-sharing failed because of the inherent flaws of her ‘war for peace’ policy as well as the generally here-nor-there quality of her administration. The record of Ranil Wickremesinghe’s technocratic elitism and disdain for the messy process of democratic politics is its own indictment.

However, in terms of both his substance and method, Dayan is not a federalist because there is no public support for federalism (i.e., a majority of the Sinhala majority), but if there were, he would probably not object to it. This certainly makes Dayan’s position ‘realist’, but given that there is equally clear empirical evidence of the Tamil desire for federal autonomy, what I want to explore further is whether it is also ‘ethical’ as he claims. There are two matters of evidence I want to establish at the outset.

The first is that I regard Tamil nationalism, not as some sort of illegitimate extremism propagated by a disaffected Tamil political class, but as a real, genuine, democratically demonstrable and phenomenologically consistent desire among Tamil people to be recognised as a distinct nation, with a common culture, language, history and territory. The specific legal and constitutional claims made on the basis of this assertion of nationhood, are distinct from the assertion itself. Accordingly, such claims – power-sharing at the centre, linguistic parity, federal autonomy, and external and/or internal self-determination, and so on – have varied over time in response to changing political contexts. However, with the sole and significant exception of the LTTE which was irredeemably separatist, there is a default constitutional position that is consistent in Tamil nationalism, and that is asymmetrical federal autonomy within a united state. The documentary evidence for this conclusion is the multitude of proposals that occur in the continuum between the resolutions of the Federal Party’s first national convention in 1951, to the TNA manifesto for the April 2010 general election, via Thimpu. These constitutional assertions of Tamil nationalism are supported in a general psephological trend in elections since 1956, notwithstanding the general election of 1977 and the presidential election of 2005.

The second evidential issue is that I am unable to agree with Dayan’s presumption about the general constitutional opinion of the Sinhalese, not only because of what I think is the role of political leadership and the public intellectual, but also because I believe that until such time as there has been, not only an intellectually honest and properly informed, but also a civilised debate on federalism in which the Sri Lankan electorate and especially the Sinhala polity have had a chance to assess their choices, the jury’s out on whether the Sinhalese are as implacably opposed to federalism as has been made out. That is one of the broader and most important inferences to be drawn from the findings of the two Irwin surveys at the critical junctures of March 2009 and March 2010.

Substantively then, I want to critically deal with three aspects of Dayan’s argument: (a) his proposal for a ‘hierarchical consociation’ and the principles underlying it; (b) the historicist arguments he uses in two distinct ways, firstly to challenge existing Sinhala and Tamil nationalist constitutional historiographies, and secondly in the theory of nationhood he implicitly relies on; and (c) the use of international relations/law categories as analogies in the construction of constitutional concepts.

Dayan calls his conceptualisation of the state, its constitutional substance, ‘a model of equal citizenship but of unequal power and influence: a domestic Yalta model’ in which ‘there will be neither sole ownership nor equal partnership but there will be shareholder-ship by all communities.’ This ‘ethical’ appeal to fairness in the accommodation of pluralism is balanced by the ‘realist’ recognition of the Sinhala preponderance of numbers, and their existential interest in preserving the unitary state. In my view, a devolved unitary state constructed along these lines in a context defined by the demographic and territorial configuration of Sri Lanka’s statal society, together with its hegemonic political and constitutional discourses, would in practice be no different to what prevails. As Dayan clearly accepts, his ‘is not a model of Sinhala political monopoly, but of Sinhala political pre-eminence (hegemony?) in power relations’. The reference in parenthesis to hegemony completely undermines the notion of shareholding that is central to ethical realism, because this is in effect an argument for the legal institutionalisation of a de facto situation of power relations, both of which are already in place.

The task of law in general and constitutions in particular in pluralist settings, unlike international relations or political power relations, is to mitigate the de facto dominance of numerical or other forms of power. The perennial critique of constitutions and constitutionalism in Sri Lanka has been that they seek to constitutionalise majoritarianism, out of a wholly misplaced sense of insecurity that characterises Sinhala-Buddhist nationalism. Like England in the United Kingdom and Anglophone Canada, very little of the societal, economic and democratic pre-eminence that the Sinhalese presently enjoy will be altered to their detriment as a result of federal, or any other meaningful constitutional form of accommodation of the Tamil national claim within the framework of a single state, although hegemony and assimilation to the detriment of minority communities will not be allowed. And that is also the realist truism that Tamil nationalism has to accept: that there was and is no prospect of successful secession in the regional geopolitical context, and even in a constitutional arrangement that provides extensive autonomy in the North and East, the Sinhala societal pre-eminence within the broader statal polity is a fact of life.

Instead of addressing this unnecessary, fearful and reactionary backwardness in the Sinhala-Buddhist mindset, Dayan qua public intellectual, not only uncritically takes it at face value, but in seeking to justify its defensive majoritarianism, he also overestimates Tamil nationalism’s power outside Sri Lanka and overstates its influence on foreign governments, intergovernmental organisations and international NGOs. As even a desultory observer of the Tamil diaspora can see (an excellent recent report of goings on being D.B.S. Jeyaraj’s column in the Daily Mirror of 29th May 2010), the arcane factionalism and directionless recession that is consuming its energies is more farce than threat. Thus what he succeeds in doing is merely to substitute the ‘blood and soil’, ‘kings and battles’ arguments of the chauvinists with a seemingly more sophisticated justification framed in strategic international relations language for the perpetuation of the majoritarian unitary state, in which none of the pluralism safeguards he proposes would have much practical effect because there is an ab initio concession to majoritarian hegemony no different from the status quo.

It is thus not an adequate response to the challenge of pluralism we confront in Sri Lanka, a challenge which is framed by the existence of more than one nation/nationalism within the territory of an existing state. The state’s inability to reflect that pluralism in its constitutional arrangements led, eventually, to civil war, which the state won by military means last year. That was politically and historically important no doubt, but it does not, as the results for the TNA in the April 2010 general elections and its manifesto commitments on federalism, shared sovereignty, and the first three Thimpu principles demonstrate, change the basic political facts of the underlying constitutional problem. Admittedly, Dayan concedes that ‘given the existence of more than one community on the island, power and sovereignty must be shared between them all.’ But there is a significant difference between Dayan’s position and the Tamil nationalist claim in respect of power and sovereignty sharing, and in this respect, his use of the term ‘community’ is normatively important in two ways. Firstly, it arises from his classical modernist or functionalist theoretical approach to nationhood at the statal level which can accommodate only one nation within a state, and therefore some other category – ‘community’ – must be used to describe sub-statal group claims. The second implication of the use of the term community is that it is an in limine denial of the Tamil claim to distinctive nationhood and its consequential rights.

There is no reason, apart from the en vogue inward looking nativism pretending to be patriotism, that we cannot look elsewhere to learn how more than one nation can be constitutionally accommodated, without compromising an inch of our commitment to a united Sri Lankan state. The foremost conceptual obstacle to this is our slavish adherence to the Westphalian paradigm of the nation-state in which the political concept of the nation must coincide exactly with the legal concept of the state. This is made infinitely worse by the fact that, whereas in the Westphalian model what is meant by ‘nation’ is a thoroughly deracinated normative concept of a unity of values, our nation-state, with its procedural democracy and majoritarian unitary state, represents the nationalism of the Sinhala-Buddhists to the exclusion of others. This fundamental anomaly is neither objectively fair nor is it politically viable. We need therefore to disaggregate the two concepts of nation and state from the traditional ‘nation-state’ and develop the necessary constitutional principles of accommodation from there. This involves the constitutional recognition of multiple nationalisms, the provision of the constitutional space for their autonomy (self-determination), and their constitutional representation at all levels of the state, in exchange for which, sub-state nationalisms would be constitutionally required to commit unequivocally to the unity of the Sri Lankan state and to contribute in good faith to its full political and constitutional development as a united state. This model of radical national pluralism does not in any way prevent the formation of a state national identity, and in fact may promote it through the reciprocal loyalty that arises from the periphery in exchange for generous autonomy.

What I think we have to bear in mind is that there is a fundamental lack of realism in realist accounts of Sri Lankan constitutional historiography, and this analytical weakness arises out of the realists’ reliance on the ‘monistic demos thesis’. This means that they visualise the traditional nation-state in entirely unitary terms; that is, not only unitary in constitutional form, but also unitary in terms of nationhood. To be sure, this unitarism has a liberal ancestry in that the very movement of modernism in political theory begins with the attempts to construct a nation of shared values and rights-based citizenship as a progression from what were considered to be ‘pre-political’ or primordial notions of nationhood based on ascriptive factors such as ethnicity. Modernists like Dayan might be willing to concede ethno-territorial group autonomy at the sub-statal level for political management or strategic reasons, but there are limits to this, dictated by the overarching commitment to one nation within the state. This is the reason why national pluralism cannot be conceptually accommodated and the ethical realist is reduced to the blunt assertion of majoritarianism as the sole criterion of democratic legitimacy in the face of rival claims from sub-state nationalisms.

As we see from the emergence of ‘plurinational states’ elsewhere, there is no reason why this should be so from the perspective of constitutional theory and law. Constitutional law in Sri Lanka remains in thrall to an anachronistic command theory positivism in which our imaginations are limited by narrow formalist categories. We continue to subscribe to nostrums about sovereignty (illimitable and indivisible), territorial integrity (unity equals unitary, federalism leads to secession) and epistemological approaches to constitutional classification (unitary v. federal), that have long since been superceded by developments in scholarship and praxis elsewhere. Dayan’s contribution is in this respect refreshing in that he has the more supple constitutional imagination of the political theorist rather than the lawyer. This is what enables him to re-historicise major historiographical legends such as that of Dutugemunu in ways that have contemporary relevance and to salvage the monopolisation of history from the chauvinists. However, it is unfortunate that he places more emphasis on the first limb of his articulation of the Dutugemunu doctrine than the second, whereas a more judicious balance of the two would enable us to easily fit a state that is federal in form within the geopolitical strategic space to which the doctrine is directed. Paradoxically, Dayan’s concern about a rival pole of power in the North in a federal arrangement is a strange undervaluation of the state (akin to that of his cosmopolitanist liberal detractors, albeit for different reasons), because in my view, for strategic and external purposes, internal federal autonomy does nothing to dilute uni-polarity with regard to the external power of the state. The situation might well be different of course in a confederal arrangement in which a Tamil North has powers similar to a sovereign state, but that is not what we are talking about here. I believe we can extend federal autonomy to even limited powers of ‘paradiplomacy’ and external competences over inward investment, trade and commerce, circumscribed by requirements of co-operation with and consent of the centre, without endangering the strategic interests of the state that Dayan is concerned with.

One of the related problems in Dayan’s approach to constitutional modelling is that there is, in my view, an excessive reliance on the conceptual categories of international law. International law has a traditional bias in its understandings of such concepts as sovereignty and self-determination towards a unitary paradigm, which is understandable because traditional public international law is not concerned with internal arrangements of states. However, when used as constitutional concepts, these are unnecessarily limiting and obstructive. The best example for this is the acrimony and hot air that the phrase ‘self-determination’ is capable of generating in Sri Lanka. Unitary statists and Sinhala nationalists regard self-determination either as a one off right that is exhausted after a successful process of de-colonisation, or as a continuing right, one that is a exclusively auxiliary to sovereign statehood. Tamil separatists use exactly the same understandings of self-determination to rationalise their claims to a separate state. Both ignore the conceptual development of ‘internal’ self-determination in ways that can be domestically serviceable in designing constitutional arrangements for regional autonomy within a united state. Indeed, aside from the unnoticed (and electorally irrelevant) liberal constitutionalists, no one has explored the possibilities of developing a theory of self-determination in and for Sri Lanka, as a concept of constitutional law or political morality that can be uniquely ours. That would truly be an example of the present vogue for a ‘home-grown solution’.

Dayan concludes his essay with an exhortation to a modernity of universal values and pluralism that is welcome for its historicist and non-linear understanding of the political and constitutional development of societies/nations/states, and its implied rejection of historical determinism. However, it is also in this sense that Dayan’s model is one of classical, not to say antiquated, modernism, because this hortatory conclusion reveals his real, and in every way laudable, concern. That is the construction of a modernist unitary state underpinned by a (singular) civic national society, comparable to the nation and state-building exercises that Western countries underwent in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, in contradistinction to the chauvinistic and supremacist ethno-nationalism he sees as forming the basis of the present statal national society in Sri Lanka. As we see now in any number of Western states, this modernising enterprise did not result, as hoped, in the withering away of sub-state national and other ‘pre-political’ identities, and these fully modern states are now dealing with ways of constitutionally accommodating sub-state national diversity in ways which reflect their plurinational character. In Sri Lanka, we simply do not need to reinvent the wheel.

  • niranjan

    Publius,

    An interesting article.

    However, Colin Irvin’s survey which states that 83% of the Sinhalese at least in the sample surveyed approve of power sharing beyond the 13 amendment in a unitary state is unbelievable.
    I for one does not believe Colin Irvin’s survey results.
    This is because even though I have not done a survey of my own the majority of the people whom I have spoken to do not want to go beyond the 13 amendment or are keen on scrapping it.

    Furthermore, there is rampant racism within the majority community. This was there pre-war, during the war and now that the war is over perhaps it has got worse because the Sinhalese have come out victorious.
    A few racists within the Government are now calling the shots along with a handful of newspaper columnists. They are able to get their message across precisely because a section of the Sinhala public is racist.

    I believe that devolution 13 amendment or beyond can only strengthen the state.
    We should be aiming for a modern multi cultural nation in at least another 50 years time. The time to start that process is now.
    But the problem is that the racists have won the day. It is not only the politicians but the public are also to blame.

  • Pearl Thevanayagam

    Dr Jayatilleka, despite his exposure to Marxism and communist ideologies, stubbornly refuses to let go of his convoluted theories vis-a-vis his misplaced nationalism which he may call Sinhala hegemony.

    There are some salient ideologies Dayan wants to preserve in that separatism could be conquered through blind nationalism.

    I do not for one moment believe Dayan envisages to have any economical gain through his ideologies.

    He has honourable intentions. But he fails to comprehend that the Tamils have grivenances and that the war which was won through sacrificing the bloods of minority Tamils did not come without a price.

    I could easily relegate him to those racists and not give him an opportunity to reason out why he claims Mahinda is the savioour of this isl and nation.

    If only his father Mervyn was alive; he would teach him what it is to learn to accept that Sri Lanka belongs to all; a multi-ethnic society where all ethnic societies have equal rights.

  • wijayapala

    Publius generally isn’t very good at answering questions, so I pose this to others here:

    The first is that I regard Tamil nationalism, not as some sort of illegitimate extremism propagated by a disaffected Tamil political class, but as a real, genuine, democratically demonstrable and phenomenologically consistent desire among Tamil people to be recognised as a distinct nation, with a common culture, language, history and territory.

    Can we say the same about Sinhala nationalism?

  • aminda

    “The first is that I regard Tamil nationalism, not as some sort of illegitimate extremism propagated by a disaffected Tamil political class, but as a real, genuine, democratically demonstrable and phenomenologically consistent desire among Tamil people to be recognised as a distinct nation, with a common culture, language, history and territory.” –

    so would you say that in 100 years from now (or even sooner) that the indian tamils from up country and eastern mulslims from batti ampara – have the same wish, they also can catch this desire? so whats the smallest plot size that we will try to allow such level of distincition?

    malay street or even down to a zip code? unifed states of Sri Lanka?

  • Professor Kumar David

    I have the same reaction as Niranjan to the survey results. This statistic seems to be an outlier that contridicts prevelant political gut feelings, hard facts like Wimal Weerawanga’s landslide, and lots more current empirical evidence.

    I agree with Asanga that DJ is doing a head-stand with the ‘ought’ and the ‘is’. But isn’t this a rather a long essay to say that leaders must find ways of correcting it when people get things back to front? This is what leadership consists of. Sometimes it means spending time in the wilderness; one chap got crucified for it, another spent 26 years in Robben Island, and thankfully that remarkable lady is still not doing it with the Burmese Gorillas!

  • rajivmw

    Wijeyapala,

    I think the point that publius is making here is that while Sinhala nationalism has been recognized and accommodated by the Sri Lankan state, Tamil nationalism has not. At least not to any meaningful degree.

    One can ask how the state is supposed to accommodate a force that seeks to dismember it. But separatism is not the be-all and end-all of Tamil nationalism. In fact, going my the comments of most of the Tamil contributors I read here, it is still considered something of a last resort.

    Having said that, I wonder if all this tribal nationalism is going to get us anywhere. It inevitably lead to this endless discussion of who arrived when, who occupied what, and which white man has spoken the truth. This would be fascinating stuff if it wasn’t being used, by one ‘nation’ or the other, to determine our future arrangements.

    Surely, all law-abiding Sri Lankan citizens should have the same rights and protections, regardless of how their ancestors got here. If that is the kind of society we aspire to, I’m not sure that the language and emotion of nationalism are the most effective tools to achieve it.

  • Mahesan Niranjan

    On doing surveys, there is a brilliant episode in Yes Minister, where Humphrey shows how to design the questions to get the result you want to demonstrate:
    http://imap.aims.ac.za/~mackay/probability/survey.html

  • Dr.Rajasingham Narendran

    Is there a real need for constitutional reform in a country like Sri Lanka, where historically the ‘rulers’ have not had the ‘Will’ to abide by constitutional norms. The written constitutions in Sri Lanka have been the fig leaf to cover our ‘Democratic’ nudity. We are yet a feudal monarchy, with the only difference that it is elected at regular intervals. We yet call ‘dishonourable’ persons as ‘Honourable’ so and so! Current trends indicate that it may even evolve into an ‘Inherited cum elected monarchy’.

    Let us not fool ourselves that constitutional reforms will solve our problems. From Soulbury’s version, through Sirimavo’s to JR’s, they have been meaningless pieces of paper and not a framework of principles to be guided by .
    Our constitutions have never been made to stand the test of time. They are documents prepared to meet the needs of ‘Small Men’.

    Unless the people begin to think , understand the principles of democracy and are ready to die to protect their sovereign rights, constitutions and constitutional norms will not mean anything. Let us not waste our time searching for palliatives, when the fundamental ailment remains undiagnosed.

  • Asanga Welikala

    Wijayapala,

    The short answer is: yes, absolutely. I am sorry about not answering a previous question you put in another thread – careless on my part – so I’ll try to respond to both here if I may. The problem we have with the two nationalisms, Sinhala and Tamil, is that they are articulated and practiced as ‘ethnic-communal’ models, also called ethno-nationalisms (or chauvinism to use Dayan’s and Marxists’ preferred terminology). This is what liberals have tended to dislike about nationalisms, but as I have argued elsewhere, there is no reason that nationalisms cannot be articulated in different ways – in ‘civic-societal’ models. That is the challenge in my view. More specifically, the problem with extreme Sinhala nationalism is that in laying claim to an exclusive ownership to the entire territory of the island and the exclusive control of the power of the state, it is not only Tamil nationalism they are trying to deny, but also any other kind of claim, not least of which are Sinhala people who don’t agree with them. That is not legitimate (and neither was it legitimate when the LTTE did it within the Tamil polity).

    Aminda,

    A very pertinent question. However, what I am concerned with are ‘national’ claims, so it’s unlikely that the residents of the street getting together make a claim of nationhood would succeed. In the kind of model I have supported, there are objective conditions (historiography, potential for self-government, territory etc) and subjective ones (a priori commitments to liberal democracy etc) that outline the manner in which a group may be held to make a genuine national claim. You seem to be concerned about a kind of domino effect, but these conditions imply that just because a group makes a claim, it does not follow that it has to be recognised. In Sri Lanka, the two groups making claims to distinctive nationhood are the Sinhalese and the Tamils. The Muslims have not made a claim to be a distinct nation (except in the Oluvil Declaration of 2003, the support for which is hazy at best), even when they have made territorial claims. The plurinational state is not some sort of anarchic process for the destruction of the state; on the contrary it is a theory aimed at the strengthening of the state via accommodation and the assurance of dignity and justice for all groups in Sri Lanka, and through seeking to secure loyalty by generosity and goodwill rather than by coercion.

    Kumar and Niranjan,

    My scepticisms about the Irwin findings are reflected in the two caveats I mention right at the outset. But where is at least one liberal, progressive, pro-devolution politician who has the same facility with the Sinhala language in campaign rhetoric and TV debates as Messrs. Weerawansa or Ranawaka? That is the important thing in the preferences game as far as these two politicians are concerned. More broadly, we have a general tendency of rewarding with the highest preferences, electoral candidates who misbehave the most.

  • niranjan

    Asanga,

    How about Kamal Nissanka for a Liberal progressive pro devolution person who can take on W Weerawansa or C Ranawaka. ha ,ha, ha
    It is always the last name of a person that matters as we were taught at STC and never the first.

  • aminda

    Asanga

    Well, dont you think if the self administration of tamils were set up – and then mulims in east start asking it – Sinhales will opposse; but it makes sense for tamils to support the mulims – this is why and break up from untiary level will be detrimental in the long run.

    i think if you forecast india to 50 years forward.. you may see that powerful states like Tamil Nadu breaking off – or violating central commands and then supporting even people like naxalites.

  • wijayapala

    Asanga,

    Thanks for the reply.

    there is no reason that nationalisms cannot be articulated in different ways – in ‘civic-societal’ models.

    Not sure what you mean by that. Sinhala and Tamil nationalism cannot both be accommodated because they are mutually exclusive. Tamil nationalism claims a “two-nation” theory where there are Sinhala and Tamil nations in Sri Lanka. You may be surprised to hear that Sinhala nationalism also is “plurinational,” but the difference is in location- the Sinhala nation is in Sri Lanka, while the Tamil nation is in Tamil Nadu. Sinhala nationalism in defining the Sinhala nation arbitrarily defines what the Tamil nation is without Tamil input, but you seem to miss the point that Tamil nationalism does the exact same thing with defining the Sinhala nation.

    That is why one cannot call himself a “pluralist” while simultaneously accepting the Tamil nationalist model, which necessarily will exclude Sinhala nationalism. You would not be a pluralist, you would be a Tamil nationalist (with a SInhala name).

  • SomewhatDisgusted

    Asanga,

    You raise some interesting points, but I would, in turn, raise a few issues.

    1. First, an observation, a pet peeve of mine, and one which I hope you take in a constructive light. I am led to believe that the rather heavy and specialized lingo you use in your article is a sine qua non for even getting published in certain social science journals, as Sokal and Brickmont gave a disheartening demonstration of, a while back. However, if you use the same difficult lingo on a forum like groundviews, you will not get your ideas across to folk like us who are not in your field, no matter how powerful they are – thus, I fear you will forever be doomed to a fruitless monologue in that liberal echo-chamber you seem desirous to escape. When writing for a mainstream audience such as this, I would suggest keeping that simple maxim in mind – “when something can be read without effort, great effort has gone into its writing”. It’s the only way to reach us masses.

    2. Secondly, a question along the same lines that Wijayapala raised on your statement “The first is that I regard Tamil nationalism, not as some sort of illegitimate extremism propagated by a disaffected Tamil political class, but as a real, genuine, democratically demonstrable and phenomenologically consistent desire among Tamil people to be recognised as a distinct nation, with a common culture, language, history and territory”

    I’m sorry, but from a purely idealistic perspective, this sounds like plain racialism in a fancy suit to me. I have the same thing to say about Sinhala nationalism. I fail to understand how any multi-cultural nation can be formed when any single race wants a “distinct” nation and territory, be it Sinhalese or Tamil. It flies flat in the face of a plural nation which needs to be essentially *devoid* of such racial claims and instead be one in which distinct races can co-exist with equal rights – race, religion, creed etc. etc. be damned! Can you explain how these concepts are compatible?

    3. Thirdly, I’m mainly playing the devil’s advocate here and I’m not too strongly biased to any side, but you say that Dayan’s “liberal statist” position lacks ethical realism, since it would allow the Sinhalese to maintain their hegemonic status quo unchallenged. Sounds reasonable. Later, you make a case for how Obama, Nehru etc. etc. managed to push radical reforms through with “timing, presentation and persuasion”. Ultimately, you state that pushing through federalism is the suitable solution for Sri Lanka.

    So far so good. The question is, why does it have lesser ethical realism to instill notions of pluralism and equal rights in a society (Dayan’s view) and has greater ethical realism to push through a notion of federalism (your view)? Especially given that

    a. We’ve spent the last 30 years blowing ourselves up to pieces over this very problem? Telling people now that all must be treated with equal rights and dignity seems to be an altogether more straightforward and realistic approach than telling people they need to “allay their suspicions and give former eelamists a federal state to guarantee equal rights to Tamils”.

    b. Given an end goal of a plural nation, how does demarcating racial boundaries help to eventually instill equal rights and pluralism in society at large, a must for a just and fair nation? Isn’t that equivalent to constitutionalizing racialism in the final analysis? Isn’t it equivalent to merely postponing the ultimate problem – inadequate attention to “justice and equal rights for all”?

    cheers,
    /SD

  • Nagalingam Ethirveerasingam

    Publius,
    “… no one has explored the possibilities of developing a theory of self-determination in and for Sri Lanka, as a concept of constitutional law or political morality that can be uniquely ours. That would truly be an example of the present vogue for a ‘home-grown solution’.

    I would like to see some of the professional political scientists, including yourself, take up your challenge and debate the issue and come up with “a theory of self-determination in and for Sri Lanka…” I hope Groundviews can arrange for a video series of such a debate that comes up with an applicable theory.

  • Burning_Issue

    To me Tamil the concepts of Self Determination and a Tamil Nation are interchangeable; this was why the LTTE placed much emphasis on it. This is also why the Sinhala detest it that if Self Determination is granted, it is as good as cessation!

    The need for the Tamil people of Sri Lanka to move towards their Self Determination directly correlates with the Sinhala Buddhists claiming ownership of the nation. If there is a Sinhala nation in Sri Lanka, there will be calls for Tamil Self Determination thus Tamil Nation. If a country is envisaged where the Sinhala are majority and Buddhism is the majority religion but all are accommodated under a secular constitution, then there is no need for separate nationhood! To me, this where the bug stops; if one were to claim that the Tamil nation is in Tamil Nadu and the Sinhala nation is in Sri Lanka, it amounts to another way of saying that the Sinhala own Sri Lanka. This is why; we cannot leave any ambiguity in the constitution!

  • Asanga Welikala

    Dear all,

    In the interests of time and efficiency, let me try to give a composite answer, which I hope you won’t mind and will adequately address the issues you raise severally. Incidentally, I am not a ‘professional political scientist’, I am a legal academic with an interest in constitutional theory. ‘Tamil nationalist with a Sinhala name’ is a familiar one, although not the worst of it. (I have also been called a Sabaragamuwa nationalist, whatever that means).

    The unitary state was established as a way of enforcing unity and what was thought to be a no-nonsense repudiation of Tamil nationalism and demands for autonomy. If that was a successful constitutional remedy, then we needn’t have had a thirty-year war for the state to establish its supremacy by military means. The defeat of the LTTE in no way extinguishes the Tamil desire for autonomy, for the reasons I have stated in the main article. Attempting to enforce unity through the unitary state once again will mean that we have learnt nothing from the past sixty years.

    There is also the notion of a ‘civic nation-state’ with a rights-based citizenship, that seems to be relied upon by most if not all the comments, which holds roughly that ethnic nationalism is the problem that got us into this in the first place, so why are we going on about this, rather than devoting our energies to thinking about how a modern Sri Lankan identity and a post-war state may be constructed. Firstly, that was exactly what was attempted by the Soulbury Constitution and we know what happened to that. Secondly, neither Sinhala nor Tamil nationalism can be wished away, and therefore I believe the challenge is to work with these building blocks, so to speak, in developing liberal ideas for constitutional reform in Sri Lanka.

    You are right to say that the two nationalisms, as they have been conceived and articulated so far in Sri Lanka so far, are mutually exclusive. That is the entry point for what I am saying also. When I use ‘national pluralism’ to describe what’s going on, I mean simply that there is more than one nation within the island. The concept of the ‘plurinational state’ (in distinction to the traditional ‘nation-state’) is a constitutional model in which more than one ‘nation’ can be accommodated within the framework of a united state.

    The plurinational state is also a liberal constitutionalist model, which means two things for the purpose of answering your observation: (a) it extends liberalism’s traditional value or principle of pluralism (defined, as you do implicitly, in terms of the individual) to groups asserting a claim to nationhood, which is what makes it different from the traditional nation-state which recognises only one nation; (b) while it is open to the accommodation of nationalism, it is certainly not an ‘anything goes’ model. Nationalisms within the plurinational state which enjoy the kind of autonomy (regional/internal self-determination) envisaged by the plurinational state, are also required, as I mention in the main article, to undertake certain obligations in return. What these obligations are in specific constitutional terms obviously depend on the context of each plurinational state, but generally, it means that autonomous nations commit to the unity of the plurinational state (so no separatism) and they commit to the full range of liberal democratic rights and freedoms for their individual members. This is what a ‘civil-societal’ (as opposed to an ‘ethnic-communal’) model of nationalism means: accepting that a group has a democratic wish for recognition as a nation, but conditioning that with the requirements that nationalism fully conforms to liberal democratic values (pluralism within the nation). These requirements make the concept of nation conditional upon democratic desire, rather than ethnicity, blood ties and similar socio-biological factors. And that is what makes my model (at least I hope) different from the exclusivist (you say racist) models that we see in Sri Lanka today.

    The point I am making about self-determination simply is that it is entirely possible to construct a liberal constitutional concept of autonomy that recognises ‘self-determination’ at multiple levels: individual, regional, and the state in its external relations. The debate so far between Sinhala and Tamil nationalists has drawn on international law concepts, not to solve problems, but as sticks to beat each other with – the Sinhalese using it to buttress state sovereignty, the Tamils to promote separatism. In doing so, they have largely ignored the development of internal self-determination as a concept in the past thirty years (which I have discussed in Rohan Edrisinha & Asanga Welikala (2008) Essays on Federalism in Sri Lanka (Colombo: CPA)).

    From the liberal viewpoint, one of the best things about the Oslo Communiqué was its reference to internal self-determination, and it was tragic that both the government and the LTTE never made any further progress in fleshing out the principles in that statement. Tamil nationalism in the hands of the LTTE, with a totally inflated sense of its own invincibility as subsequent experience has shown, missed a rare opportunity to articulate a sophisticated vision of self-determination. Instead, as Anton Balasingham’s last book shows, foolishly believing that there was all to play for a separate state, they tried to backtrack and dissociate themselves as far as possible from Oslo, and in doing so added grist to the mill of chauvinist opposition.

  • Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka

    Dear Pearl,

    My introduction to and intial support for Mahinda was precisely because of my father Mervyn! As Mahinda wrote to the Daily News when Mervyn died, he would as a youth, listen to the political dissussiions between his uncles George and Lakshman and my father. Later, Mervyn and he worked together in the cause of Palestine, in the Palestinian Solidarity Committee. The Rajapkses and Mervyn belonged to the same side in the Cold war, that of the progressive wing of the Non Aligned Movement, and shared the stand of Third Worldism. As I replied Mahinda almost on the day he was made Leader of the Opposition, my loyalty to Mervyn’s memory ( and his perceptive political judgement) gave me little moral room but to support the man he would have urged me to.

    As to why I consider Mahinda a historic leader who saved Sri Lanka, the reasons are self evident. He defeated a powerful secessionist enemy who waged a protracted terror campaign, reunified the national territory and ushered in a istuation of basic peace in which no bombs explode at bus stops and no Tamil kids are forcibly conscripted. He’s done what many Presidents failed to and succeeded where many leaders elsewhere have not.

    Now, has he followed this up with a just peace and statesmanship? No. Will he ? can he? Maybe, maybe not — and i think that will depend fundamentally and in the last instance, on the Indo-Lanka equation. But that is beside the point: not every leader can do everything. He’s perhaps fulfilled his historic task, and the rest may be left to someone else. Which brings me to Asanga’s query.

    Asanga, you write: “But where is at least one liberal, progressive, pro-devolution politician who has the same facility with the Sinhala language in campaign rhetoric and TV debates as Messrs. Weerawansa or Ranawaka? ” Perhaps one should be looking at the UNP under a new and different young leadership, which will certainly not be federalist, but will support devolution and multiculturalism?

    Surely Pearl, you cannot be oblivious to my view of ‘ Just war but not yet a Just peace’ and the other prong of my project which hopes to deal with this unfinhsed task– as represented by my writing on the UNP crisis?

  • Heshan

    Somewhat Disgusted:

    I fail to understand how any multi-cultural nation can be formed when any single race wants a “distinct” nation and territory, be it Sinhalese or Tamil. It flies flat in the face of a plural nation which needs to be essentially *devoid* of such racial claims and instead be one in which distinct races can co-exist with equal rights – race, religion, creed etc.

    I agree with you entirely that there is no need for devolution/federalism if the distinct races can co-exist with equal rights. On the other hand, can you honestly state that a remote possibility exists that a Sinhalese politician will come forward, within the next 100 years, and actually make that happen? Right now what is happening is that the constitutional mechanisms to prevent a dictatorship, are being removed one by one. MR will definitely be President for a third-term. Namal will eventually be President at some point in time. As long as Gothabaya is Defense Minister, militarization of the island will continue indefinitely. You can bet that the Rajapakse clan will not give up their hold on power without a fight… the Bandaranaikes ruined the country from 56-2000… I predict that it will actually be worse with the Rajapakses. So is it within this context that the Tamils and other minorities are expected to seek equal rights? Once again, are the equal rights you speak of even possible? If not, then is it not rational to seek alternative solutions, e.g. Eelam struggle/transnational government, etc?

  • Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka

    Dear Asanga,

    As the X Files so famously proclaimed, the Truth is Out Thee. Or in this case, on the Infolanka website. I just clicked on the YA TV interview in which young mediaman Narada grills Sajith Premadasa. If you are looking for a ‘progressive politician…who has the same facility with the Sinhala language in campaign rhetoric and TV debates as Messrs. Weerawansa or Ranawaka”, just tune in.

    Writing as one who is acknowledged as a not entirely ineffective public communicator and debater in two languages, I assure you that this young politician who explicitly uses the term “social democratic” in this interview, can wipe the floor with Wimal and Champika. But clearly he will not do so in defence of party policies of a decadent leadership or ‘line’ he sees as ‘unpatriotic’. He sets out his policy on economics, the war, international tribunals, human rights and the downside of the Rajapkse administration in this landmark interview.

    Dear Pearl,

    You write: “If only his father Mervyn was alive; he would teach him what it is to learn to accept that Sri Lanka belongs to all; a multi-ethnic society where all ethnic societies have equal rights”.

    What on earth do you think I was doing indicted in the Colombo High Courts on 13 charges under the PTA and Emergency, as the 1st accused of a multiethnic group of comrades including K Pathmanabha founder leader of the EPRLF? And immediately subsequently as Asst Secretary of the SLMP at a time the JVP was murdering our comrades for supporting devolution and the Accord?

    As for Mervyn, while you are spot on about his values, do try to figure out why he was associated mainly with the SLFP — specifically SWRD Bandaranaike and Sirimavo Bandaranaike– and never with the UNP, except for President Premadasa whom he sympathised and cooperated with. Put the two aspects togther — Mervyn’s liberal values, his tilt to the SLFP/opposition to the UNP — and you will get a picture which contains certain lessons for you.

  • wijayapala

    The unitary state was established as a way of enforcing unity and what was thought to be a no-nonsense repudiation of Tamil nationalism and demands for autonomy.

    Here we come to the crux of Asanga’s misguided thinking- it is based on a highly inadequate understanding of SL history. The unitary state was NOT established by the Sinhalese or any post-independence government. It was established by the BRITISH in 1833.

    If Asanga read his history a little closer, he would see that the Tamils as an electorate had no problem with the unitary state until 1956 Sinhala-Only. The Tamils did not support SWRD Bandaranaike’s original federalism proposal in the 1920s. Sure there were Tamil nationalists before 1956 like C. Suntheralingam, but nobody really supported them until 1956.

    It is strange that Asanga’s reasoning ties closely with the Sinhala racists who also claim that the Tamils had separatist designs that had nothing to do with Sinhala nationalism, and it contradicts the arguments of non-LTTE Tamils who claim that Tamil nationalism was a defensive response to Sinhala racism.

    If that was a successful constitutional remedy, then we needn’t have had a thirty-year war for the state to establish its supremacy by military means.

    Unfortunately, this argument is as specious and ahistoric as saying that if there had been no Tamils in SL, then we needn’t have had a thirty-year war for the state to establish its supremacy by military means.

    If the lack of “constitutional remedy” was the proximate cause of the war, then Tamil militancy would have begun in the late 1950s or mid-60s as the B-C and D-C pacts were shredded. As it was, Tamil militancy began in the early 1970s revolving around standardisation, which had little if anything to do with “constitutional remedy.” The student militants saw a solution not in terms of compromise or federalism, but rather separatism with the help of India a la Bangladesh (though Prabakaran and the LTTE did NOT hold the latter view).

  • Sie.Kathieravealu

    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
    A UNIQUE concept that moves towards a meaningful and just power-sharing arrangement (not devolution) 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.
    The best political solution or system of governance to address the problems faced by various sections of the Sri Lankan society – particularly the poor, the politically weak and the various categories of “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 “meaningful 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, corruption and oppression – 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 similar powers, rights, duties and responsibilities and most importantly everyone should be deemed “equal” and treated “equitably” 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.
    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. (Dilution is better than Devolution)
    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 only 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 elected and empowered by different groups of people to implement different ‘distinct and defined’ functions of one and the same parliament – “corruption” in any form and at any level cannot easily arise. If there is no “corruption” then the Rule of Law will prevail making way for 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 territorial integrity and sovereignty of the country and guarantee the due respect and dignity of the people – both collectively and individually, who are, under the present system, treated as their “subjects” by 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 group 1 above, 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 based on the needs of that village for confirmation (Groups functioning at Village level and elected on village basis).
    5. Groups elected and empowered or entrusted to implement approved project proposals formulated by Group 4 and confirmed by Group 6 with funds provided by Group 2 through Group 3. (Groups functioning at District level and elected on sub-divisional basis).
    6. Groups elected and empowered or entrusted to coordinate and confirm/priority of project proposals submitted by Group 4 (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 injustice, discrimination, corruption and oppression (Groups functioning at Divisional level and elected on village basis).
    All the above groups and individuals in the Groups enjoy parity of status as they are part and parcel of one and the same institution – the Parliament.
    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 Local Government (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, the Parliament – that do not overlap and all these groups enjoy parity of status since they are 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

  • Heshan

    The only long term sustainable solution is federalism. Not the 13th amendment, not a second chamber in Parliament – only federalism will work. Of course it is a dramatic step, but that is what is needed right now – a dramatic blow to the old status quo. Absolute power corrupts, and a Centrist-inclined government is no exception. Finally, it is futile to gloss over S.W.R.D’s aspirations in the 20’s, the ensuing Tamil response, and what not. Just because S.W.R.D had a certain idea in mind does not that that idea would come to bear fruit. S.W.R.D was also a fan of Sinhala-Only – we see what happened with that. S.W.R.D tried on numerous other occasions to find a political settlement agreeable to the Tamils – let us not forgot that the Venerable Thero who fatally shot SWRD was of quite the opposite disposition. Sri Lankans have to move away from the “one-man, one solution” ideology. One man cannot save a nation (maybe in the olden days, but not now). There are far too many dynamics at play, both on the domestic and on the foreign side. Groups of people have to work together to reach a compromise amenable to all parties. Federalism would not only aid this process, but is essential to it. If party A holds 99% of the power, party B has no useful bargaining power. Without bargaining power – what you bring to the negotiating table – negotiation is useless.

  • Belle

    Publius/Asanga,
    As someone who had not previously given serious thought to the federalism option, I found your piece highly persuasive. Congratulations are due to you in having found the theoretical language with which to talk about federalism in a positive manner. But simply because you have something so important to say, Somewhat Disgusted is right in suggesting that it bears repeating in language that is more accessible to lay readers.

    That “abject failure” of proponents of federalism such as yourself to persuade public opinion can be overcome. I would urge you to abandon theory for a while, and write instead a piece that imagines for everyone what everyday life in such a federal system would be like. What aspects of life would be possible in such a system that is not possible now? What do you see when you look into a crystal ball of Sri Lanka under such an utopian federalist system? How do you see one province as being unlike the other? How would life under such a system actually mitigate Tamil desire for secession? Would it encourage greater cultural tolerance in the nation for other cultures and ways of being–and how would it do that?

    To persuade people, you need to help them see possible futures, to inspire them, fire their imagination and desire. Everyone wants a better life for themselves. Show them how it would be possible in such a system. That’s what Slavoj Zizek referred to as finding the “mobilizing signifier”, i.e. finding the right words to transform people’s desires and their politics.

    Reading your piece, I could see that one of the positive aspects of such a federal system (as you speak of it), of a plural nation (and not a modernist nation-state), is that finally the Sinhalese in their own state/s, could celebrate their Buddhist culture and Sinhalese language without having to apologise for being dominating. As someone in the diaspora with relatives in Jaffna, I can also see that SL Tamils would be so grateful for the opportunity to live and develop their own culture everyday, that they would finally become capable of dropping their suspicion of Sinhalese, and also be able to see that the Sinhalese culture is in every way, as valuable and beautiful as their own. I’ve observed that when people are given full freedom to practise their culture, when their anxieties of threats to their cultural preservation are removed, they become more inclined to also cross cultural boundaries. Just as it has happened in Canada, where there is so much hybrid cross-pollination of Anglo-French and other immigrant cultures. (I don’t see such a thing happening in a modernist nation-state, which, in emphasizing shared values, winds up emptying the nation of all culture and rendering it sterile.)

  • ahamed

    the devolution of power work in places like US is mainly because its also not conforming to a racial identitiy ( i,e. one set of race or religion isnt holed up in a single area).

    but issue when a racial group wants devolution of power can be seen in french qubec , norther ireland , tamil nadu – which is why SL need not and should not go this path. if all races were in around 33% part – its wouldnt be a issue to devlove power.

  • Asanga Welikala

    Wijayapala,

    I wish you were not so quick to judgement, both as to the state of my awareness of Sri Lanka’s constitutional history, and my substantive opinion about two particular milestones in it, 1833 and 1972.

    My point about establishment of the unitary state in the first republican constitution in 1972 was that that was the first time that, (a) the constitution expressly provided a self-description of the state as a unitary state; (b) then structurally provided for the absolute centralisation of power (in the National State Assembly) without any effective counter-majoritarian constitutional safeguard; and (c) did so as a substantive and symbolic repudiation of the federal demand.

    In making this point, I am very aware that the constitutions that preceded it, in descending order, those of 1946-7, 1931, 1924, 1920, 1910, and 1831-3, (in addition to which were the ‘constitutions’ constituted by the Royal Commissions and Instructions of 1835, 1837, 1838, 1841, 1847, 1850, 1855, 1860, 1865 and 1872) were unitary in form. However, they did not have the characteristics of the first republican constitution identified in (a) and (c) above, which is what is material to the present discussion.

    I am also aware of two other things in this regard. Firstly, that there is a debate among constitutional historians about the exact date at which the constitutional form of the island became identifiable as ‘unitary’. 1833, although widely regarded as the inception of the unitary state because the legal instruments of 1831-3 were those that unified the territory, administration and judicature of the island under a single centralised authority, can be questioned on the basis of two earlier instruments taken together, viz., the Kandyan Convention of 1815 (effecting the territorial unification of the island consequent to the cession of the Kandyan Kingdom), and the ‘constitutional’ effect of Governor Brownrigg’s Proclamation issued after the quelling of the Kandyan Rebellion of 1818 (declaring the British monarch as the single source of sovereignty in the island). My own position in this debate, in agreement with the date mentioned in your comment, is that the date is 1833.

    Secondly, in addition to the obvious milestones of our political history and constitutional evolution between especially 1943 (the date at which the process towards independence begins in earnest) and 1972 that are pertinent to a discussion of inter-ethnic relations, I had specifically taken into account the Memorandum and Draft Constitution of the Federal Party presented to the Constituent Assembly on 16th March 1971, the speech of Mr. V. Dharmalingam on this occasion moving an amendment to Basic Resolution No. 2, and Mr. Sarath Muttetuwegama’s response on behalf of the United Front.

    For these reasons, I am unable to agree that I am ‘misguided’ or that my understanding of constitutional history is ‘inadequate.’

    Almost every other aspect of your comment is, at the very least, debatable (not to use your word, ‘specious’) – if only we had the time. Broadly, however, your idiosyncratic notion of what set off Tamil separatism flies in the face of not multiple historical accounts of very well known events of pre- and post-independence political history, but also the established scholarly consensus as to the interpretation of those events, from perspectives as disparate as Stanley Tambiah, A.J. Wilson, K.M. de Silva, C.R. de Silva, Kethesh Loganathan, Neelan Tiruchelvam, and Rohan Edrisinha, to name only a few. You are right to say that standardisation was a major cause of Tamil youth militancy, but you are wrong to isolate it as the only cause for the metamorphosis of the central Tamil nationalist constitutional claim from federal autonomy to a separate state, and deny in the process the complex multiplicity of causative factors that arose in ethnic politics in the course of the twentieth century up until 1972.

  • Burning_Issue

    Heshan,

    “The only long term sustainable solution is federalism. Not the 13th amendment, not a second chamber in Parliament – only federalism will work.”

    Please elaborate on your version of Federalism:
    1. is it North and East merged together as a single entity?
    2. Is it North & East joined together and the rest are federated into two regions?
    3. or, is it that Sri Lanka should have federation of provices; if so,
    4. why should the North and East should be merged?

    What do you say to those (Wijayapala etc) who say that, if the Tamil language provision is meaningfully implemented, and there is no need for devolving power as the Tamil community is dispersed significantly in other areas?

    We have seen three armed uprising in Sri Lanka, two from the Sinhala under privilege elements and one from the Tamils. Given that, my feeling is that, any solution envisaged must address all concerned. I do sympathise with the view that, no solution should be based on ethnicity. If this is seriously considered by the state it must act fast and deliver a suitable constitution that would deal with fundamental issues such as religions, languages, and governance. I was once a federalist but I now think that provincial based maximum power devolution with land and police powers would be ideal for Sri Lanka.

  • Susantha

    Publius
    Why don’t you do a proper survey of at least about 100000 Sinhalese from all backgrounds before coming to such conclusions.I started a facebook group to say “No” to power devolution in late 2009 and in one month I had 2000 members and during the next month I had about 1000 members more but the growth rate slowed down as the new Facebook settings make it difficult to promote groups.And most rural people have no idea what the 13th amendment is?Before taking their view you have to explain to them that it is something that gives un due powers to tamils in our Sinhalese country.

  • Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka

    I really don’t see how federalism can be described by Heshan or anyone else as ‘sustainable’ when it does not meet the criterion of being ‘ feasible’, meaning it’ll go down in flames at a referendum. It just won’t fly, baby.

  • Heshan

    Burning Issue:

    The North and East should be merged into a single entity. However, they can be administered separately. Federalism goes beyond mere ethnicity: there are economic implications. In fact, where “sustainably” is concerned, one can just as easily make a case for economic growth. Federalism will allow a particular region to grow at its own pace. The population of the said region can choose for itself which development projects are beneficial, and reject those that are spurious. Local labor can be utilized in the actual implementation phase, thereby creating job opportunities. In the early phases, capital may have to come from outside, but it can be repaid quickly, assuming the pace of investment picks up. The great thing about federalism is that it empowers local communities, right down to the smallest unit, which would be the village level. Right now in SL, the Center chooses the development projects. The people in the actual communities have no say. Economic growth is greatly hampered by militarization. You have hundreds of acres of prime agricultural land sitting underneath high security zones. Talk about inefficiency – is this is natural resources should be exploited?

    As far as politics goes, it is my opinion that the individuals in a particular region know what’s best for themselves and their communities, and communicate their views through adequate political representation. However, if the Center is calling all the shots, any amount of political representation will have only a marginal impact. In other words, if the Center (Colombo) decides who gets to invest in the North, if the Army is in charge of land and police powers, if the GA of say Mullaiththeevu/Kilinochi is an ex-Army commander, and if the NGO’s are forced to coordinate with the Army in order to get any rehabilitation work done, political representation is a farce. The agenda of the Center will always dominate.

    Another point of consideration. In a given country, the distribution of natural resources can vary greatly from region to region. What can also vary is the available labor pool. Cultural differences are also important. If you look at India, you will see what I mean. Bihar and Kerala are vastly different in virtually every respect. In general, the Indian economic miracle has benefited South India more than North India. In other words, South India has developed at a faster pace than its Northern counterpart. Now, let’s imagine a scenario where the Indian government did not devolve any power – where the Center alone dominated. The whole country would no doubt be one big mess. It would be a prime example of the inefficiency I spoke of earlier – of the failure to exploit resources (land/labor/capital) in the most efficient way possible. Luckily, India chose federalism from the very beginning – looking at the India of today, it is not difficult to gauge why that was a good choice.

  • Nimal Sandaruwan

    So the argument would be that by granting “asymmetrical federal autonomy” ( in other words by appending it to the rotting carcass (my assessment of it) of the “Sri Lankan nation state” “majoritarianted” by classless homogenous mass of populace who are and will be represented forever by a “Sinhala polity”) to “…………..” (we don’t know to whom yet).

    We are also assured by Welikala that this “……….” will represent the interests of the Tamil people who also blinkered and do not know any thing other than the Tamil nationalism (which according to Welikala – not a some sort of illegitimate extremism propagated by a disaffected Tamil political class, but as a real, genuine, democratically demonstrable and phenomenologically consistent desire among Tamil people (possibly again classless) to be recognised as a distinct nation, with a common culture, language, history and territory).

  • Burning_Issue

    Heshan,

    I am afraid, the political dynamics in Sri Lanka have changed considerably; we are in the year 2010; we are not in 1948, nor in 1977 for that matter. The current situation is that, the Sinhala constitute over 75%; they hold the power and at the same time they suffer from pathological inherent mindset such that, the world is conspiring to rid of them from this world. Sri Lanka is one unit, and any referendum envisaged should encompass the entire unit; with the current political dynamics, the country, the Sinhala in particular, cannot deal with a mammoth shift in political paradigm towards a federal concept. I am a realist; I think along the lines of what is practically possible given certain criteria.

    Since the independence, the academics of the Sinhala Buddhist Chauvinistic fraternity has been hard at work; through careful manipulation of the country’s history and with the state apparatuses has managed to create an impression with in the Sinhala masses such that, the Sinhala Buddhist own Sri Lanka and they are the true citizens of the land; all the others can be tolerated but not at the expense of the Sinhala Buddhists. The Tamils’ demand for political recognition is wedged in this context.

    The words such as Eelam is a taboo in the Sinhala psyche; at a lesser extent the words such as United Sri Lanka, Federalism, power sharing etc do mean one thing to the Sinhala psyche; it will lead to separation! The North and East merger issue is perceived as substantiating the Tamils’ claim of their traditional homeland and self-determination. Hence, I believe that it is practically cumbersome to endeavour a solution with North and East merged. Moreover, in the East, all three communities are equally distributed and this reality must be taken into consideration leaving aside the Pllaiyan and Karuna factor!

    If Sri Lanka were to be federated along provinces with North and East as separate provinces; the powers are decentralised with police and land management responsibilities, it will be perceived as a solution for the nation and not a solution for the Tamil problem; this is key to a successful transition with the blessing of the nation as a whole. If such a situation is endeavoured, the term “United” or “Unitary” state controversy will be diluted.

    I am not an academic in the discipline of political discourse along the likes of Dr. DJ and Asanga Welikala but I try to understand the issues as practically as possible in layman’s terms.

  • Heshan

    Burning_Issue,

    Perhaps it is not too far-fetched to state that federalism also provides an antidote to nationalism. There is an economic dimension to insurgency, whether one speaks of Hamas, the JVP, or the LTTE. Extreme poverty and lack of access to education/jobs coupled with militarization serve as an excellent recruiting tool. On the other, the rapid economic growth and development which comes with federalism would dissuade such a situation from arising in the first place. Once communities are sufficiently empowered to take charge of their own affairs, they have little incentive to rebel against the Center. I refer you, by way of example, to India, Scotland, and Quebec. In particular, consider the case of Tamil Nadu, a federated province (State) in India – one of the four richest States, in fact. With a population of 60 million, and given its sophisticated technology base, a large army could be formed in short order, to take on the task of separation. Yet, this has not occurred even once since Indian independence. Development takes many years. Bringing in investment is not easy. War undoes all of this hard work in mere days or weeks. Furthermore, the Center has conceded maximum ownership, short of separation – to the State government.

    Regarding your argument that federalism is not possible due to the pervasiveness of chauvinism in the majority community – once again, such chauvinism is largely confined to the poor rural sectors of the South. If the rural South was actually thriving and growing, would these people really care what happened in the North? Recall that when Ranil (whom we can safely assert would not have shied away from federalism) contested and lost his last election, he nevertheless won Colombo and Kandy – the two most progressive regions of the country. My argument is that there is a certain class of educated individuals, irrespective of ethnicity, that will always reject nationalism, save perhaps for a few exotic aspects. This educated class also rather high on the socio-economic ladder. Once again, it comes down to empowered individuals who can think for themselves.

  • wijayapala

    Dear Asanga,

    As much as I welcome your response, you did not really answer let alone refute my central point that Tamil nationalism was nothing more than a reflexive response to Sinhala nationalist policies, and hardly a “phenomenologically consistent” desire among Tamil people. I further argue that the basis for “political reconciliation” rests not in treating the symptom of Tamil nationalism (ie demand for federalism) but rather its causes, such as the systemic violence inflicted against Tamils after 1956 if not the misguided language policy that helped spawn it.

    It falls upon us to uncover the conditions that the Tamils found satisfactory under the pre-56 unitary state to see to what extent they can be applied today, or improved upon. Are you up to this challenge?

    In making this point, I am very aware that the constitutions that preceded it, in descending order, those of 1946-7, 1931, 1924, 1920, 1910, and 1831-3, (in addition to which were the ‘constitutions’ constituted by the Royal Commissions and Instructions of 1835, 1837, 1838, 1841, 1847, 1850, 1855, 1860, 1865 and 1872) were unitary in form.

    They were unitary in reality. There was no devolution of power at all under any of the above systems. Conversely, the explicitly “unitary” constitution of 1978 somehow allowed for the establishment of Provincial Councils! Whatever you’re reading into the language of these constitutions comes down to mere semantics, I’m afraid.

    You are right to say that standardisation was a major cause of Tamil youth militancy, but you are wrong to isolate it as the only cause for the metamorphosis of the central Tamil nationalist constitutional claim from federal autonomy to a separate state,

    I was debunking your sweeping and inaccurate statement, “If that was a successful constitutional remedy, then we needn’t have had a thirty-year war for the state to establish its supremacy by military means,” by separating Tamil militancy from the programme of democratic Tamil politics. Militant Tamil separatism predated its acceptance by TULF by as many as 6 years; your above “metamorphosis” was spurred most likely by TULF’s desire to cash in on the youth vote, and not simply by the unitary state.

    Your statement would be more historically accurate if it had been, “If not for the violently anti-Tamil policies of JR Jayawardene’s UNP regime, then we needn’t have had a thirty-year war for the state to establish its supremacy by military means.”

    My own position in this debate, in agreement with the date mentioned in your comment, is that the date is 1833.

    While I appreciate your concurrence, did you require an entire paragraph to deliver it?

    For these reasons, I am unable to agree that I am ‘misguided’ or that my understanding of constitutional history is ‘inadequate.’

    I didn’t say that you were misguided; I would never resort to such ad hominem attacks. I specified your thinking as such, implying that you are more than capable of correcting your views. Would you agree with that? ;-)

    your idiosyncratic notion of what set off Tamil separatism flies in the face of not multiple historical accounts of very well known events of pre- and post-independence political history, but also the established scholarly consensus as to the interpretation of those events, from perspectives as disparate as Stanley Tambiah, A.J. Wilson, K.M. de Silva, C.R. de Silva, Kethesh Loganathan, Neelan Tiruchelvam, and Rohan Edrisinha, to name only a few.

    Thanks Asanga, but I’m looking for arguments not name-dropping. To be fair, I’ve advised Dayan the same thing.

    I take your label “idiosyncratic” as a compliment, marking me as an original, out-of-the-box thinker rather than one of the countless recycler of ideas that plague Sri Lanka.

  • wijayapala

    Dear Burning_Issue,

    Since the independence, the academics of the Sinhala Buddhist Chauvinistic fraternity has been hard at work;

    Although I agree, you have neglected and sidelined an even more important fraternity that played a far greater role in discrediting federalism. I am talking about the Civil Society/Colombo NGO fraternity. They played the key role during the CFA by **directly linking federalism with accommodating the LTTE**. Nobody else, not Nalin de Silva, HLD Mahindapala, nor any other sundry Sinhala racist could have accomplished this feat on his own.

    One of the great tragedies/injustices of our time is that the Rajapakses, JHU, and NFF have never given even an ounce of credit to groups like CPA, Berghof Foundation, and National Peace Council for their tireless efforts in bringing them to power in 2005. That is how Mahinda was able to campaign and win on a platform of preserving the unitary state, reversing the precedent set by Chandrika in 1994-5 winning on a platform of devolution.

  • wijayapala

    One more thing Burning_Issue

    If Sri Lanka were to be federated along provinces with North and East as separate provinces; the powers are decentralised with police and land management responsibilities, it will be perceived as a solution for the nation and not a solution for the Tamil problem; this is key to a successful transition with the blessing of the nation as a whole.

    Along with devolution/federalism, I see the N-E merger issue as a plea from the Tamils to have their underlying concerns recognized, and although I disagree with both ideas I have absolutely no harsh feelings towards anyone who supports them. I think all Sinhalese should see these issues in their proper perspective and not as some sort of farfetched anti-Sinhala conspiracy. If the unitary Sri Lankan state is mistreating Tamils then I have no objection to the Tamils calling for their own “unitary” substate.

  • wijayapala

    Dear Prof Heshan

    Luckily, India chose federalism from the very beginning

    You need to learn both the economics of fiscal federalism and Indian history. India did not “choose” federalism; it inherited federalism from the preexisting colonial model just as SL inherited the unitary state. As there was no “choice” involved, one cannot assign a moral value to either system.

    In general, the Indian economic miracle has benefited South India more than North India. In other words, South India has developed at a faster pace than its Northern counterpart. Now, let’s imagine a scenario where the Indian government did not devolve any power – where the Center alone dominated. The whole country would no doubt be one big mess. It would be a prime example of the inefficiency I spoke of earlier – of the failure to exploit resources (land/labor/capital) in the most efficient way possible.

    Good argument. So you would be happy if the Sinhala areas develop faster than the war-devastated Tamil areas and leave the latter to become the “Bihar” of SL?

    Here are some articles to ponder on the beauty of Indian federalism:

    Who is in command in Naxal areas?
    http://www.thehindu.com/2010/05/20/stories/2010052063101400.htm

    Revolutionary Conflict in Federations: the Indian Case
    http://www.allacademic.com/meta/p_mla_apa_research_citation/4/1/3/1/3/p413139_index.html

    Enjoy!

  • Heshan

    [Edited out] Wijyapala:

    Thanks for demonstrating your ignorance about Indian history.

    The States Reorganization Act of 1956 was formed on an ethnic- linguistic basis. Besides states, India was further divided into 610 districts for basic governance and administration, which were further divided into villages. Ethnic tensions were resolved reorganizing the state into ethnic and linguistic lines by means of the Act46. Several new states have been created out of existing states since 1956. Bombay State was split into the linguistic Gujarat and
    Maharashtra states on May 1, 1960 by means of the Bombay Reorganization Act. The Punjab Reorganization Act of 1956 divided the Punjab into linguistic and religious lines that created a new Hindu and Hindi-speaking state of Haryana, converting the northern districts of Punjab into Himachal Pradesh.
    Nagaland was made a state in 1962, Meghalaya and Himachal Pradesh in 1971, Tripura and Manipur in 1972. Sikkim joined the Indian Union as a state in 1975. Similarly, Mizoram was made a state in 1986, and Goa and Arunachal Pradesh in 1987. However, Goa’s northern enclaves of Daman and Diu became separate union territories in 1987. Goa, which comprises one-third of the population, is primarily Christian, but it is not a Christian State47. Chhattisgarh was created on November 1, 2000 from eastern Madhya Pradesh; Uttaranchal was renamed Uttarakhand on November 9, 2000 which created the Hilly regions of northwest
    Uttar Pradesh; and Jharkhanda was created on November 15, 2000 out of the southern districts of Bihar. However, the demand for a separate state of Chhattisgarh arose in the 1920s48. Jharkhand is now advancing economically much faster than its northern neighbor, Bihar. Unlike some other Indian states, Jharkhand’s reduction in poverty was faster in the rural areas than in the urban ones. Uttarakhand is comprised of the Garhwal and Kumaon Divisions, which has become the 27th state in India. In August 2006, the Uttaranchal state
    assembly and leading movement members renamed Uttaranchal State, Uttarakhand.

    In 1956, eight-new federal states emerged based on ethnic- linguistic diversity, following the State Reorganization Act of that year. They are: Andra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Panjab, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu and Tripura.
    In between 1960 and 1966, five-new federal states such as Gujarat, Maharastha, West Bengal, Nagaland, and Haryana were established. Similarly, Maghalaya, Manipur, and Himanchal Pradesh were made states between 1971 and 1972. Sikkim, the ethnic Nepalese majority state by Lecha and Limbu, finally merged with India and became the 22nd Indian state on May 16th, 1975 when 59 percent of the Sikkimeli voted in favor of the merge through referendum.
    In 1987, three states were formed; Namely, Arunachal Pradesh, Goa, and Mizoram. Goa is India’s smallest state in terms of area, It is located on the west coast of India. The Portuguese first landed there as merchants in the early 16th century, and conquered it soon thereafter. The Portuguese overseas territory existed for about 450 years, until it was annexed by India in 1961. Consequently, it still exhibits the influence of Portuguese culture50. Uttarakhanda, Jharkhand, and the Chhattisgarh have become India’s 26th, 27th, and 28th states.

    Insurgency within Federalism
    India was colonized from powerful European powers such as Portugal, the Netherlands, France, and the UK, starting in the 16th century and continuing to 1947. On August 15, 1947, India attained independence from British rule, but ceded Muslim- majority areas to Pakistan soon after. The transitional phase was ended in January 1950 when India became a federal republic officially in its constitution.

    http://www.transnational-perspectives.org/transnational/articles/article429.pdf

    India did not inherit federalism from the British. Federalism came in 1950 and the formation of new states continued until 2000.

    Good argument. So you would be happy if the Sinhala areas develop faster than the war-devastated Tamil areas and leave the latter to become the “Bihar” of SL?

    As long as you and the other pea-brained peasants keep re-electing reincarnations of Dutugemunu, the only development which will emerge is the overflowing of Chinese coffers and the emergence second-rate infrastructure.


    Who is in command in Naxal areas?

    Ask Bill Gates why he chose to invest in Bangalore. Ask the Indian Government why India is producing more than 1 million engineers a year.

  • niranjan

    Heshan,

    “Regarding your argument that federalism is not possible due to the pervasiveness of chauvinism in the majority community – once again, such chauvinism is largely confined to the poor rural sectors of the South. If the rural South was actually thriving and growing, would these people really care what happened in the North? Recall that when Ranil (whom we can safely assert would not have shied away from federalism) contested and lost his last election, he nevertheless won Colombo and Kandy – the two most progressive regions of the country. My argument is that there is a certain class of educated individuals, irrespective of ethnicity, that will always reject nationalism, save perhaps for a few exotic aspects. This educated class also rather high on the socio-economic ladder. Once again, it comes down to empowered individuals who can think for themselves.”-
    I agree with you that federalism is not possible due to chauvinism in the South. But it is not only sections of the rural sector in the south which is chauvinist. There are people in Colombo (so called educated) who speak English and the like who are also chauvinist. Actually I have come across many of them.
    Ranil W and a handful of people may think differently but by and large even Colombo with its so called English educated class has a substancial chauvinist following. Some chauvinist columnists in our daily newspapers are catering to that class of English educated people with a chauvinist bent.

  • Susantha

    Niranjan
    you are so right?who votes for JHU is it rural people?JHU was unable to win a single seat in rural areas.Its the elite class that support the JHU and are more concerned about the country than rural people.

    Heshan
    what do you think about the election results in colombo and kandy in 2009-2010 does it seem that the Sinhalese in these areas are not Nationalist.The truth is even Ranil Wickremasinghe does not care what happens to tamils he is just a politician trying to ride off the tamils to power if he came to power with the support of the Sinhalese he too will act like mahinda and crush the tamil terrorists and federalism and prevent any power from being given to the hands of illegal immigrants.If not for Ranil Wickremasinghe’s CFA we will never be able to destroy the tamil terrorists completely in this manner.In 2001 the country’s economy had reached a (-) economic growth rate SLA lost Kilinochi,Mulathivu,Elephant pass the east and even Jaffna was under siege and the life of 40000 sinhala soldiers was at risk and the morale of the SL soldier was very low and victory over the tamil invasion was not in sight.When ranil came to power he signed the CFA and was able to bring an economic boom.Its because of the economic revival that SL could afford a US$1.5 billion defence budget which ensured the total annihilation of the tamil terrorists.

  • wijayapala

    Dear Prof. Heshan

    No need to get so spastic. Breathe slowly and deeply; if this sounds too heathen to you then sing a hymn to Our Lord Jesus Christ and you’ll be able to calm down.

    Now once you’re settled, take a look at this:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Government_of_India_Act_1935

    The Government of India Act 1935 was passed during the “Interwar Period” and was the last pre-independent constitution of India.
    The most significant aspects of the Act were:
    * the grant of a large measure of autonomy to the provinces of British India (ending the system of dyarchy introduced by the Government of India Act 1919)
    * provision for the establishment of a “Federation of India”, to be made up of both British India and some or all of the “princely states”
    * the introduction of direct elections, thus increasing the franchise from seven million to thirty-five million people
    * a partial reorganization of the provinces:
    o Sind was separated from Bombay
    o Bihar and Orissa was split into the separate provinces of Bihar and Orissa
    o Burma was completely separated from India
    o Aden was also detached from India, and established as a separate colony
    * membership of the provincial assemblies was altered so as to include more elected Indian representatives, who were now able to form majorities and be appointed to form governments
    * the establishment of a Federal Court

    The article goes on to say that the name “Federation” could not be made official, but nevertheless the structure of government established by Act 1935 lay the foundation for the 1950 Constitution. The above linguistic reorganization in 1956 was nothing more than continuing the trend established well before independence, as proved by the creation of Bihar and Orissa by Act 1935.

    Act 1935 in itself was nothing revolutionary, as it built upon the previously devolved nature of Indian government. India at no time was a unitary state.

    As long as you and the other pea-brained peasants

    You see Heshan, it is exactly this elitist attitude that led to the Naxal uprising in India. You should try to be more humble, following Lord Jesus Christ’s example.

  • Heshan

    niranjan:

    I agree with you that federalism is not possible due to chauvinism in the South. But it is not only sections of the rural sector in the south which is chauvinist. There are people in Colombo (so called educated) who speak English and the like who are also chauvinist. Actually I have come across many of them.
    Ranil W and a handful of people may think differently but by and large even Colombo with its so called English educated class has a substancial chauvinist following. Some chauvinist columnists in our daily newspapers are catering to that class of English educated people with a chauvinist bent.

    You are correct. It is not enough to just be able to speak English today. To get rid of the chauvinist mindset, one must begin at the earliest levels of education and move upwards. I have seen the quality of the textbooks and other teaching materials employed – they do not promote liberal thinking or liberal values. Look at the history books, for example, which claim that a particular ethnic group came to the island first. Whether or not this is true is unverifiable – which of course the history book does not mention this. What should be considered an assumption then becomes a fact in the minds of many individuals. There is a lack of access to university-level education – only 4% of the population attends a university. A university (ideally) provides excellent opportunity to refine one’s thinking – to think out of the box, to see beyond black and white, and analyze complex questions. If the country cannot afford universities, it should let the private sector enter the market, similar to what India has done. In addition to education, one must consider the media. Censorship only promotes the *official* point of view. I used to think the internet would overcome this, but I misjudged the local media. Apparently the local media still has a very strong influence on people’s attitudes and choices. If the local media makes a false report, most people are not going to examine the facts by viewing multiple sources available only on the Internet.

    While many of the English-educated suffer from the pitfalls listed above, it is much worse for those from rural areas – I am sure you can see why.

  • Heshan

    Susantha:

    what do you think about the election results in colombo and kandy in 2009-2010 does it seem that the Sinhalese in these areas are not Nationalist.

    If Ranil had run, the election results would have been vastly different for those two areas. SF is a nationalist; the reason is he got such a high % of votes is because of his endorsement from Ranil. It is not a mere coincidence that a candidate with no prior political experience could poll such high numbers:

    Kandy
    Mahinda Rajapaksha 406,636 54.16%
    Sarath Fonseka 329,492 43.89%

    Colombo
    Mahinda Rajapaksha 614,740 52.93%
    Sarath Fonseka 533,022 45.90%

    http://www.slelections.gov.lk/presidential2010/09Z.html

    If you look at Galle/Matara/Hambantota, you can see a much wider margin of difference.

    The truth is even Ranil Wickremasinghe does not care what happens to tamils he is just a politician trying to ride off the tamils to power if he came to power with the support of the Sinhalese he too will act like mahinda and crush the tamil terrorists and federalism and prevent any power from being given to the hands of illegal immigrants.If not for Ranil Wickremasinghe’s CFA we will never be able to destroy the tamil terrorists completely in this manner.In 2001 the country’s economy had reached a (-) economic growth rate SLA lost Kilinochi,Mulathivu,Elephant pass the east and even Jaffna was under siege and the life of 40000 sinhala soldiers was at risk and the morale of the SL soldier was very low and victory over the tamil invasion was not in sight.When ranil came to power he signed the CFA and was able to bring an economic boom.Its because of the economic revival that SL could afford a US$1.5 billion defence budget which ensured the total annihilation of the tamil terrorists.

    I don’t think that having a strong military is necessarily a pre-requisite to moving a society forward. Look at the USSR. During the Cold War, it had missiles pointed at the USA… can you imagine any country which will think of doing that these days? Of course the USA could not simply crush the USSR, as it would have been extremely costly, given the strength of the Russian army, its weapons arsenal, and the sheer volume of territory over which such a war would have taken place. What finally brought the USSR down is itself: the failed economic policies, the uprisings of citizenry in countries which it had “conquered”, and the repression of civil liberties. Of course the USSR created a class of highly capable scientists and others, but most of these people today are working in foreign countries. Once the USSR collapsed, everything vanished. Today Germany is the leader of Europe.

  • Susantha

    Heshan aka DInesh Goppalapilai
    you should not forget my friend that the southern province is more than 95% sinhalese the colombo district is only about 75% Sinhalese and Colombo city is less than 50% Sinhalese.Kandy district is also 75% sinhalese.and also remember the votes for sarath fonseka were also from the JVP(who are against devolution of power)

    there is not a single electorate even in colombo that UPFA didnt win which has a sinhalese population of over 80%..if u look at the election results its very clear the at it is the sinhalese that support mahinda rajapakse there is no difference between urban and rural electorate.by the way do you know that the JHU gets the most votes from Colombo and kandy as well..in2004 the JHU got all their seats from the western province and Kandy

    2009 provincial council election colombo district results-UPFA 57%,UNP-39%-JVp-3%

    2010 parlimentry-UPFA 52%-UNp-36%-DNA 11%

    Russia example
    we need not follow russia we can follow countries like Israel,China and US..the Mahinda Rajapakse government support an open economy and FDI and will not fail like Russia.Powerful military will keep the eelamists and jihadists from getting any funny ideas

  • niranjan

    Publius,

    The SL politicians along with much of the Sinhala public have not learnt any lessons over the past 60 years of our independance including 30 years of war. Tamil grievances will never be addressed. The war is over for the time being but there is no guarantee that it will not start again. That is why a huge amount of money has been allocated for the defense budget for 2010/2011.
    This may well be Sri Lankans hundred years war.