Photo courtesy JDS

The New Year brought a valuable gift in my email. It was a dossier entitled ‘Seeking Space for State Reform’ and carried an even more beguiling subtitle, ‘Consensus and Contradictions in Public Perceptions’.  A publication of the ICES (the International Centre for Ethnic Studies, from and of which I hadn’t heard for quite a while), it was a product of the Politics of State Reform Project. What made it compelling reading was that it was nothing less than a ‘National Survey of Grassroots Perceptions of State Reform’, which, translated, meant that it was a recent survey of public opinion across all communities, about the ethnic conflict and the  various reform proposals to address or resolve it.

Once you’ve dispensed with the layers of very proper titles, you realize what the report contains. It tells you what Sinhalese, Tamils and Muslims think, today, over two years after the war, about the most contentious issues that have divided us over the post-independence decades. As if that weren’t important enough, it thereby tells you what the firm (possibly solid) contours of communitarian consciousness are, what the problem is, what the possible options are and which ones are impossible. Thus, the ICES survey gets to the crux of the matter.

The statistics of the survey conducted from June to mid August 2010 reveal the problem, but also indicate the solution.  At its starkest the problem is that a shade over half of Sri Lankan Tamils polled, appear to think that the solution to Sri Lanka’s travails is an independent Tamil state. Simply put, 54% of Sri Lanka’s Tamils (who comprise 14% of the sample) support a separate state, i.e. a Tamil Eelam. Set that against 95% of Sri Lankan Sinhalese (who comprise 72% of the sample) who stand for a unitary – that’s right, unitary, not merely united—form of state, with a stratospheric 96% of the view that the unitary state is “necessary to prevent the disintegration of the country”. This is also the view of the third largest community, which is the second largest minority, namely the Sri Lankan Moors, 90% of whom agree that a unitary state is “necessary to maintain a sense of national unity”. So, the Sri Lankan problem is the probably unbridgeable chasm between a plurality of the minority Tamils who are for a separate state and a near-totality of the Sinhalese majority and the Muslim minority, who are for a unitary state.

The second chasm is between 90% of Sinhala opinion which holds terrorism responsible for the conflict and the much lower 42% of SL Tamil opinion that holds the same view. In political terms, the refusal of the TNA to denounce Tiger terrorism is unlikely to render that party more acceptable to the Sinhala majority which it has to convince or at least ensure the benign neutrality of, if it is to obtain the reforms it seeks.

Is federalism a simple and obvious solution perhaps? No, because here too the gap is as wide as to be unbridgeable, with almost 90% of SL Tamils for it and nearly 80% of Sinhalese opposed. Sinhala opinion may have been more malleable had the Tamil preference for federalism accompanied a Tamil majority option for a single, united Sri Lanka; in other words if a majority of Tamil opinion were for a federal solution and simultaneously against an independent state for the Tamils. Matters are perceived far less sympathetically when the option for federalism lies alongside the option for a separate state. This understandably reinforces Sinhala misgivings that federalism will not be an alternative but an enabler for secession and is therefore far too risky an experiment.

Perhaps this situation in the Tamil consciousness was influenced by the war, but perhaps not. Perhaps it always was the case, and therefore Prabhakaran was not solely mould but also mirror of secessionist Tamil opinion. The contours of Tamil consciousness, which the doyenne of Delhi’s Lankanologists, Prof Urmila Phadnis termed ‘an autonomist-secessionist continuum’– and the gut instinct of the Sinhalese which understands this reality—has put paid to federalism as a possible solution.

Coupled with the low degree of acceptance among the Sinhalese of the Indo-Lanka agreement, regional autonomy and the Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga ‘packages’ of 1995-2000, it would seem at first glance that there is no intermediate solution. Interestingly the CBK proposals are the single most unpopular of all reform proposals among the Sinhalese (with a 67% disapproval rating, higher than that of the Indo-Lanka accord, with 63%).

Happily, there is an intermediate solution; a saddle-point. Going by the ICES figures, the Sinhala people are not dogmatically in favor of an unreformed unitary state. Theirs is not an ironclad conservative or neoconservative mindset. Strikingly, the data reveals that the Sinhalese are sensitive to minority grievances, do not support/are opposed to an unreformed state and are acutely conscious of the dangers of lack of reform.

Significantly, a majority of the Sinhalese (61.8%) also agree that the legitimate grievances of minority communities and lack of equal treatment for all citizens (61.4%) were causes for the conflict.” (p 8 )

 “However, all the communities…including a majority of the Sinhalese (58.9%) disagreed with the statement that there was no need to reform the state.” (p16)

“A majority of the Sinhalese agree along with the minorities that without state reform the minorities would continue to have grievances (80%), continue to be discriminated against (68.7%), development and economic progress would be hampered (76.5%), the international community would not help the country (62.8%) and significantly that even a return to armed conflict was possible (72.2%). These findings indicate a greater awareness among the majority community about the legitimacy of minority demands and the need to provide a constitutional or political settlement to the ethnic conflict despite the decisive defeat of the LTTE by the Sri Lankan state.” (p18)

The reforms that the Sinhalese support are also not of hyper-centralization, but of measured, re-calibrated opening. The Sinhala consensus is best described as that of moderate, centrist nationalism. This study of public opinion on state reforms shows that the majority of the majority is opposed to reforms that go beyond a unitary framework but are for those reforms that stay within a broadly unitary state. The Sinhalese are not against the reform of the unitary state, and instead are for the reform of that state. Senior Minister  and veteran leftist Prof Tissa Vitharana comes across as an unsung hero in that the APRC proposals issuing from the process he chaired “are the only state reform proposals which the Sinhalese seem to find acceptable with a significant majority of people in the ‘agreed to some extent’ and ‘agree’ categories over the ‘disagree’ categories.” (p 15)

Even if one were to consider the APRC as bypassed by the flow of events, the situation remains hopeful because the Sinhalese, though against “regional autonomy” (North-East merger), are fairly solidly in favor of provincial level devolution and a strengthened, not a weakened, system of provincial councils.

84% of Sinhalese think that Provincial Councils give “fair access to resources”, while 85% think that PCs “give all communities a voice at the provincial level” and 76% believe that “PCs will resolve the problems faced by the minority community”.

When the crucial question “can enhanced devolution of powers to the Provincial Councils solve the ethnic conflict?” is posed the study tells us that “In general, when the Agree and Agree to some extent categories are taken together, the findings indicate more support for, than against for Provincial Councils as a solution to the ethnic conflict among all the communities in the country. (p26)

This conclusion is sharpened in the next segment entitled ‘The most necessary state reform initiatives to solve the ethnic conflict’, the findings of which tell us that:

The full implementation of the Provincial Council Act was approved by all the communities. This was also the level of devolution of power which a majority of Sinhalese (60%) and Sri Lankan Moors (92.3%) found the most acceptable…All the communities support the establishment of a second chamber in parliament and greater power sharing at the centre.” (p27)

The Conclusions of the ICES study clearly re-state the only possible answer to the problem:

The statistics provided above indicate that…Among all the communities, enhanced devolution of power to the provinces is seen as a possible solution to the ethnic conflict. Provincial Councils were the level of devolution of power most acceptable to the Sinhalese and the Sri Lankan Moors. The Sri Lankan and Upcountry Tamils favour greater devolution or a system of federalism like that found in India. What is significant however, is that there is more space for devolution than ever before, because of the Sinhalese support for Provincial Councils, which a significant number of Sri Lankan and Up Country Tamils find acceptable.” (p30)

Every decent opinion survey contains surprises. A big one in the ICES data set is the congruence of opinion among the Sinhalese and Tamils with regard to the West, and more specifically, “a conspiracy by the West to undermine Sri Lanka” as a causative factor of the conflict. Roughly 63% of Sinhalese and 70% of SL Tamils polled – yes, a higher percentage of Tamils than Sinhalese—holds that this is a factor.

To return to our main problem, a solution exists, but it requires a shift in our thinking.  The problem of Tamil political alienation can neither be eradicated by repression nor totally resolved by reform, not least because the slim majority or a sizeable segment of Tamils seem to hold onto a solution that is not a reform but lies outside a united, indivisible state. The problem of the identity claims of the Tamil collectivity can be solved only to a degree. Beyond that, it will have to be managed.

The results of elections after the Arab Spring show that citizens in that region are increasingly opting for a moderate nationalism (and a modern, liberal Islam). The results of the ICES survey show that the great majority of Sri Lanka’s citizens are also moderate nationalists. The country’s tragedy however, has been that the nationalists are not moderate or are insufficiently so, while the moderates are not nationalist or are inadequately so.

According to sophisticated soothsayers interpreting the ancient Mayan prophecy, the year 2012 is not one in which the world will end, but the one in which there is an ending of an old era and a transition to a new age, marked by the  shift to a new paradigm.   In Sri Lanka’s case it may have to entail a move away from two contending paradigms– one of a brittle, unreformed unitary state and another of reconciliation through an unfeasible federalism– to a centrist Realism which combines moderate reform with the ‘containment’ (a la George Kennan) of the ideological and political fundamentalism that is the Tamil separatist sensibility.

  • Iqbal

    You have covered the contents in another article under a defferent title. Are you trying to prevent any Sri Lanka Spring by blocking/flooding the space with matter antithetical to it.

    • Dr Dayan Jayatilleka

      Iqbal, you have written the following: “You have covered the contents in another article under a defferents(sic) title.”

      Now, please prove what you are saying or accept that you are either an illiterate, a fool or a liar. This is the very first article I have written on the subject of the ICES survey, which is not merely recently released, but was sent to me by an ICES staffer just days ago.

      • Senaratne

        ”Please prove what you are saying” would have been the only words that would have come from a gentleman.

      • G.Herath

        University degrees don’t necessarily mean good manners, politeness or humility.

      • G.Herath

        PARAMETERS OF POSSIBILITY = wishes of the majority

      • G.Herath

        PARAMETERS OF POSSIBILITY: SWRD Bandaranaike gave up his original stand on federalism and converted to Buddhism and embraced ”Sinhala Only”

      • G.Herath

        ICES, National Peace Council, keep producing surveys, press rleases,
        Poloticians elected by voters have talks, pacts, reports, hidden or not,
        PTA keep suspects for years and years in jails without charges
        Armed forces of occupation keep people under subjugation
        UN and Commonwealth proceedings for six decades keep people under internal colonialism
        People surveyed and voters, Sri Lankan Spring is decades overdue.

      • LSomapala

        PARAMETERS OF POSSIBILITY: Prime Minister Kotalawela announced in early 1954 at a public function in Jaffna to make Sinhala and Tamil official languages; later he withdrew his statement at his Kelaniya (UNP) convention yielding to Sinhala extremism.

      • Iqbal

        Dr Dayan Jayatilleka, I would never challenge your literacy.

      • Nelum Perera

        Parameters of Possibility:
        ”The statistics provided above indicate that despite mixed opinions about the causes for ethnic conflict, there is acceptance on the part of the majority community that lack of equal treatment for all and legitimate grievances held by the minorities were causes of the conflict.
        …. What is significant however, is that there is more space for devolution than ever before, because of the Sinhalese support for Provincial Councils, which a significant number of Sri Lankan and Up Country Tamils find acceptable.”

      • Nelum Perera

        Parameters of possibility:
        ”These findings indicate a greater awareness among the majority community about the legitimacy of minority demands and the need to provide a constitutional or political settlement to the ethnic conflict despite the decisive defeat of the LTTE by the Sri Lankan state.”

      • kusum

        Austin Fernando, Former Secretary of Defence, 18 August 2010:
        ‘’When I look at the responsibilities, some of those government senior politicians were very silent. On the other hand the Opposition politicians were sabotaging the thing(peace talks)”

      • kusum

        Parameters of possibility:
        ”What is significant is the very low percentage of people who said they know all or know something about these state reform initiatives.”
        (page 13 of the ICES report)

  • Ward


    Please ask the President to look at the following seriously:

    ”The Tigers have a document that the entire world knows about, containing the minimum it is purportedly willing to accept. True enough, it is qualitatively beyond the bounds of the acceptable by any state: but it exists. By stark contrast, not a single Southern party, SLFP, UNP or JVP, has come up with a similar or comparable document, setting out the minimum it is willing to grant, not necessarily to the Tigers – and if to the Tigers under what conditions- but to the Tamil people, or the North and East, or just the North, or even the anti-Tiger Tamils such as the EPDP! And we wonder why the world entertains the Tigers!” – Dayan Jayatilleke, 24.09.2004

    The President has been doing a lot of juggling about the political solution:

    APRC(the three years would make a very goof film), Second Chamber, Indian-style Panchayat, APCDR, ”Talks with TNA”, PSC, …….

    In between these ideas, he has been floating others too:

    ”maximum devolution”, ”onlt economic development is what they ask”,”13+”, ”if I give devolution it’d be curtains on me”,,,,,

    But any reasonable human being expect a leader to put on the table for talks what he would like to offer for the good of the country.

    All these surveys are done in the absence of such a position by their ruler, his intolerance of dissent, impunity for armed forces, politicised judiciary, use of thuggish ”supporters”, embargo of news from the Northeast (particularly at crucial times not only in the last 6 years but also in the last 5/6 decades), self-censoring of reportson LLRC proceedings in the Northeast by many Sinhala and English mainstream dailies, hatred-mongering textbooks of the last six decades AND the flooding of Groundviews and Transcurrent with pro-President articles by this author.

    Fortunately LLRC did listen to what mane eminent Sinhalese told it enough to make the minimum of recommendations that have been submitted to the successive governments in the last five decades by national, regional and international organisations and conscientious Sinhalese(at some risk to their physical and professional well-being).

    Minimumreading for participants of future surveys:

    Dear President
    Your New Year resolution could be to put forward your own proposal for the good of the country for consideration by TNA, PSC, or any future peace-finding entity.

  • D.Panabokke

    ”Beyond that, it will have to be managed.”

    Intolerance of dissent(attacking journalists, burning down media offices, preventing journalists from accessing certain areas, preventing UN Special Rapportuers from entering the country, shifting Tamils from coastal areas inwards and even into jungles, preventing IDPs from getting help from national and international NGOs, not holding elcetions, not giving the power in the constitution to elected bodies, removing parts of the constitution that stay in the way of management, introducing new parts that help more management, …..

    Intelligence can be used to devise ways to have peace with less management also in this world submerging in not only information but also knowledge:

    Paradise Poisoned: Learning about Conflict, Terrorism and Development from Sri Lanka ‘s Civil Wars(2005), John Richardson, Professor of International development, American University:
    ‘’Paradise Poisoned is the principal product of a seventeen year project, devoted to understanding linkages between deadly conflict, terrorism and development, by viewing them through the lens of Sri Lanka’s post-independence history, from 1948 through 1988. .….My vision is of a day when no citizens in today’s developing nations will have to ask ‘how did we come to this?’ Paradise Poisoned will have achieved its purpose when that day comes.”

  • Anpu

    I thought readers would be interested in this – Who Is Dayan Jayatilleke Advising? 24 July 2006

  • mary

    Surveys in the Northeast in the last 31 months ???

    It’s another country: autocratic democracy in the South and
    military rule in the Northeast.

  • Wickremaratene


    You are the most loyal citizen and your advise is the most useful:

    “The Sri Lankan armed forces must be swiftly strengthened. President Rajapakse’s impending visit to China must be used for the purpose, sealing a weapons agreement and/or securing an outright grant which will enable us to buy the weapons on the open market. The president should follow this up with a visit to Russia, which must also focus on security and struggle against ethnic separatist terrorism. Both Russia and China (especially Russia) manufacture excellent ship-to-ship missiles, which can give an edge to the badly battered Sri Lankan navy.” Dayan Jayatilleka – “Death Of A Thousand Cuts” in Lanka Academic – April 23, 2006

    “President Rajapakse should appoint the TULF leader Mr Anandasangaree as special representative, assisted by SCOPP’s Kethesh Loganathan, to hammer out a devolution deal in consultation with the non-Tiger Tamil parties, the politicians of Tamil Nadu (known to Mr Sangaree), and New Delhi(where he will be welcome), as well as the Sri Lankan parties in Parliament.
    Mr Anandasangaree belongs to the old Federal Party tradition, and therefore has longstanding Tamil nationalist credentials. He is also a veteran parliamentarian, and is untainted by association with any kind of violence, unlike the other non-Tiger Tamil groups. He has good relations with JVP and JHU, who would shoot down his devolution proposals at the cost of exposing themselves as extremists.” Dayan Jayatilleka – “War Clowds, Silver Lining” in Asian Tribune – May 5, 2006

    “We need devolution of such magnitude, delivered through the legislature with such speed, as to (a) neutralise/pre-empt Tamil Nadu (b) shift India off the fence to a posture of active support for Sri Lanka (interdiction of sea Tiger supply ships) and (c) motivate the US into giving us satellite intelligence, dedicated ground attack aircraft and attack helicopters.” Dayan Jayatilleka – “Getting The Message” in Lanka Academic – June 7, 2006

    • Wickremaratene

      When you realise your mistakes you change – that’s the hallmark of a truly great person – a truly patriotic diplomat sent out to the world to stand for the country and to stand for the President who is Dutugemunu reborne:

      ”…. He was part of an underground group called “Vikalpa Kandayama” and Jayatilleke and his comrades got armed and trained. According to Jayatilleke, the idea was that the non-LTTE groups among the Tamils and the non-JVP groups among the Singhalese could link up and prevent what they thought of as the terrible polarisation of fundamentalism on both sides. Unfortunately, as the dynamics of ethnic conflict were too entrenched for this utopian idea to allow the two groups to work together, this idea did not work. Some of them got killed at the hands of either the JVP or the State armed forces.

      Others had to go underground. Last year Jayatilleke confessed to Philip Gourevitch of “The New Yorker” magazine that he received arms training from the EPDP leader – and a Cabinet Minister in the present government – Mr. Douglas Devananda. Jayatilleke spent a good part of his underground period as an exile in India with the help of the non-LTTE Tamil militant groups he was associated with and, during this time, he made friends in the Indian Intelligence Agency that was using these Tamil militant groups to keep the Sri Lankan government under their control. In 1987 he was indicted, in absentia, in the Colombo High Court as the first accused on 14 counts, including conspiracy to overthrow the State through violence. The then EPRLF leader Late Mr. Pathmanaba was also indicted with him.

      When Jayatilleke was living underground he must have seen a political future in the Sri Lanka Mahajana Party (SLMP) that was founded in 1984 by the former President Chandrika Bandaranayake Kumarathunga (CBK) and her husband Vijaya Kumarathunga (VK), a charismatic movie star. The Kumarathungas left the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), the party of the Bandaranayakes, to form the SLMP and Vijaya entered politics to promote a multi-ethnic, federalist policy for Sri Lanka. Jayatilleke later became a Central Committee member of the SLMP. Vijaya was murdered by the JVP in early 1988 and with that the future of the SLMP was sealed.

      Under the Indo-Lanka Accord of 1987 Jayatilleke received an amnesty and, when his allies in the EPRLF was installed by the Indians as the governors of the then newly-created North-East Provincial Council (NEPC) in late 1988 to give more political autonomy for the Tamils, Jayatilleke was nominated as one of the 5 Cabinet Minsters of the Council to represent the Singhalese, as a Central Committee Member of the SLMP. Thus he became the Minister of Planning in this regional government. Jayatilleke’s title as Cabinet Minister was very short lived. He had to resign this position 6 months after he assumed office, due to a conflict in policy with the rest of the Cabinet. ….”

      • silva


        I don’t know if you have seen the interview our Ambassador recently gave La Lettre Diplomatoque:

        I don’t know what you’d say about the Ambassador’s answer he gave to the question:
        ”Could you share your thoughts with our readers on the Tamil demand for greater autonomy?”

      • Dr Dayan Jayatilleka

        Dear Wickremaratme, all of that which you’ve quoted is true, but what IS your point? If you think I’ve changed my position, you must understand why that earlier project failed, and the best way to do this would be to read Dayapala Tiranagama’s replies to Aacharya, on GV.

  • Tony

    I’m saddened by the Ambassador’s answer. He starts with LTTE and doesn’t even mention that the demand for self- determination began in the 50s, 60s, early 70s before the LTTE came to the scene. Leave alone abrogated pacts, protest marches by the then-parliamentary
    Oppositions, pogroms, assassination of a Prime Minister, accidental and intentional shootings ……..

    But then every other sentance is a half-truth and unspoken truth in between lines.

    Ambassador, we’re in a critical state. You spoke about Philosophy at UNESCO – I saw your speech. How can you then make false statements to the interviewer please?

    Your ountry needs you NOW.

    • Nelum Perera

      Silva and Tony

      Thanks for the link. Oh… did the Ambassador keep making up as he went along: I can comment on every other statement if Groundviews permits:

      ”… Sri Lanka has been very open to a common space to facilitate exchanges at every level: students, journalists and artists. …”

      • kusum

        If Ambassadors keep lying in the international arena, what can these surveys do to solve the problem?

  • peace

    In the context of the last 31 months of brutalisation of the Northeast things could be different, ie if the South is allowed to know what has been happening there.

  • kaush

    In practical terms it is quite obvious that a federal type solution will not solve so called exclusive problems faced by the tamils, given the fact that majority of tamil living out side their mythical ghetto.
    In that seance it is quite obvious the demand of the tamil nationalist is some thing not inline with resolving their so called exclusive tamil problems.
    If the problem is the current system, and if it is dominated by the majority, not accommodating or inclusive enough, then the solution is to make it more accommodating and inclusive enough and not to create a exclusive ghetto with a similar faulty system for tamils so that they can act like a majority.

    • G.Herath

      ”mythical ghetto” is from where rice and fish were exported to the rest of the country in 50s’, 60s’, 70s by shear hard work – not much government investment in the ”ghetto” and hence some migration into the South
      ”mythical ghetto” is where Tamils were sent in 1958 in boats by the government for safety.
      internet and citizen journalism will let us keep commenting, while some learned professors and others can keep speaking and writing to make the maximum out of the oppressive regime, while the oppressed keep suffering.
      The ”mythical ghetto” has become a real ghetto in six decades of oppression:
      Living on a dollar a day in a “middle income nation’’: ”Food security is becoming a growing concern in Sri Lanka´s war ravaged north where a majority of the inhabitants live on less than a dollar a day. At the same time only a quarter of a UN-Sri Lanka post-conflict reconstruction programme has been financed partly because the World Bank has classified Sri Lanka a middle income nation. Only 23% of the joint UN-Government of Sri Lanka-NGO reconstruction programme for the war ravaged northern provinces in Sri Lanka has been financed, says Subinay Nandy, the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Sri Lanka. This means the fund is facing a US$200 million shortfall. Paradoxically, the World Bank reclassified Sri Lanka in late 2010 as a middle-income country and some analysts blame this for the funding shortfall.”

  • kaush

    It is quite clear that the problem is not relate to minorities rather it is some exclusive thing to tamils!

    • kusum

      You mean anti-Tamil pogroms?

      Elmore Perera(Founder, Citizens’ Movement for Good Governance(CIMOGG) to LLRC, 10 November 2010: ”Beginning with the “Sinhala Only” policy of 1956, which disregarded the multi-cultural and pluralistic nature of society, the removal of the constitutional provision guaranteeing minority rights … The 1983 racial riots were a disaster. Tamils were treated as being sub-human. Many of those who could leave the country by lawful or even unlawful means did so. Those who remained were subjected to arbitrary, humiliating treatment. Rounding up of 30 to 40 Tamil youth on Friday evenings, producing them before Magistrates to be remanded, and later releasing them on bail, after they had paid lawyers Rs1,000/- each for this purpose, was a regular occurrence in many parts of the city. ….”

      K.Godage(former Sri Lankan diplomat) addresses LLRC, 15 September 2010:
      ‘’…. Now I must tell you of a very, very sad, bad and dangerous situation. We have in our prisons over 2000 young Tamil men. Some of them have been taken on suspicion. Just picked up and taken. In detention without charges for years, Sir, for years ….’’

  • sr

    Keep talking for 63 years and more:

    ”In Sri Lanka’s case it may have to entail a move away from two contending paradigms– one of a brittle, unreformed unitary state and another of reconciliation through an unfeasible federalism– to a centrist Realism which combines moderate reform with the ‘containment’”:

    63-yr Internal colonialism goes unabated:
    Tamil problem is not ‘Instant Noodles’ nor ‘Kothu Rotti’, 7 January 2012:

    ”….Only people who have benefited are those that have declared their support to the government recently, in exchange for favours. They are talking of development. Right along the main A9 road, nice buildings are coming up. Who wants a stadium? Who wants a mansion for the government agent to live in? Tell me. Palaces, they are building palaces! The army is spending lavishly on guest houses and things like that for their own use. Houses are built for army alone, not for civilians.

    ….Yesterday, I was in Vavuniya. People complained that 10 to 15 people are appointed as attendants in hospitals and all are of the majority community from the south. I’m not complaining about the community but they don’t know the language. An attendant must know what a patient is saying. This has happened in almost all hospitals in the north.

    The government interferes even in cooperative elections. During the local elections, the army threatened one of our polling agents in a booth. People are starving. There is no employment locally. Most agricultural activity is mechanised, including harvesting. There is road building. Opposite my house, at least 20 machines are deployed day and night for the last three months for a distance of one or two kilometres. At least 40-50 people are working. All are employed from the south. ….”

  • nathan


    I hope your creed flourishes. Everytime I feel apprehensive whenever I see liberal Paikiasothy and co., or the grand old men of the TNA, writing a grand article about reconciliation, or federalism, or pluralism, or making a statement on ‘internal self-determination’ (whatever that is), I always find succour in your articles that completely rubbishes them. You demolish the arguments of our enemies so well that we are spared of the efforts.

    Even if the ‘Sri Lankan Tamil’ renegades attempt to diffuse the Eelam Tamil masses sentiments for biscuits, crumbs and other such political concessions, your Sri Lankan patriotic approach – which I am sure many of your fellow Sinhala nationals share – will definately give the Eelam Tamil people the ammunition they need for the next phase of struggle. Both of us do know that it is impossible for the unitary state to exist without keeping the Tamil people in a permanent state of terror. Atleast you are honest enough to admit that the Sinhalese will be unhappy if the Tamils are even given pathetic concessions.

    I hope you live a hundred years to see the results that your arguments will lead to.

    An Eelam Tamil Patriot

    • Vino Gamage
    • Dr Dayan Jayatilleka

      It really says something that none of those who have commented on this GV discussion thread, have done so about the contents of the ICES report which is what I have written about. Some of the comments are on my interview to La Lettre Diplomatique! This is really lunatic…the correct forum for that would be the newspapers and websites on which that interview appeared!

      Dear Nathan…(or should I call you ‘Eelam patriot’?)you have kindly wished that I live a hundred years. well, since I just turned 55, that would mean 45 years more. Given the utter failure in reality and on the ground, of Tamil nationalist formulae, slogans, demands and strategies from 1947 to date, and most conspicuously of Tamil Eelamist ones from 1976 to date, what makes you think that things will be any different? If anything the trend line is downward.

      I also urge you to carefully read the exchange on GV between Aacharya and Dayapala Tiranagama on Tamil nationalism and Eelamist slogans and strategies.

      If guys like you keep pushing the line you are, we shall all wind up with an option even more hardline than the one in place. If you doubt that, read the latest keynote speech to the OPA. I may dislike such an outcome and find it quite discomfiting, but believe me, you guys will like it even less! And do not think it will isolate SL and trigger Tamil Eelam through external intervention because that’s what your dear Mr Prabhakaran thought when he re-started the war in Dec 2005, and see where that got him!

      So, don’t push too hard. the Sinhalese have taken everything you can throw at them and not blinked or budged on the fundamentals. Try to persuade the moderate, democratic minded Sinhalese, through reason, and appeals to fairplay and natural justice…

      • Anpu

        Dear Dr

        I would very much appreciate if you would enlighten me on this …demands and strategies from 1947 .

        Please stick to year 1947.

        Many thanks

      • nathan


        I actually prefer your straight-forward patriotism to the charlatanism of Dayapala and acharya – their arguments, of course, throws no clear light whatsoever on really existing sri lanka while your diatribes against Tamil nationalism, when studied, offer much better insights into the Sinhala psyche and the nature of Sri Lankan patriotism.

        Of course, your reading of history is selective – it cant be otherwise. But I am compelled to point out what happened even before the LTTE, 1956, 1958, the 60’s the 70’s. Why did the riots happen then? Push too hard did you say? Who pushed first? Well, this is a childish argument actually. Push or no push, the Sinhalese will keep stepping over the Tamils. It is, as they say, structural.

        Your ‘fairplay’ was seen in Mullivaikaal – the casualties of which you would dismiss as LTTE propaganda. Your ‘reason’ was seen in the bodies of Tamil women from Krishanti, Koneswary, to those shown in the C4 video – again will be dismissed by you as western consipracies. Your ‘natural justice’ was seen in how the organizers and perpetrators of massacres right from the fifties to black july, and bombings right from sencholai, vaharai, nandhikadal, or the kilinochi hospital have been treated – this you will dismiss by your usual arguments that the US did this there, the UK did that elsewhere or France did so and so with x and y, as if the atrocities of imperialist powers in other places justifies that of your own government (again forgetting conveniently the alignment of forces that were assisting SL govt at the end of the war). And I fully agree that you have been most magnanimous in your fundamentals and we have been at its receiving end for quite some time now.

        Finally, the point comes down to not to a contestation over ‘truth’- each of us will be locked in an endless claim to the same – but about power and violence. You, the Sinhalese, control both and by that virtue, you have the ability to enforce your opinion as the Truth on us. So yes, every atrocity that plagues the Tamil memory can be dismissed with the wave of your pen/keystroke as chauvinistic lies and what not. And your govt needs to erase this memory if at all it needs to ‘contain’ and ‘manage’ Tamil nationalism. Thought police? Yes please!

        You know more than anyone that the Tamils NEED to be under the jack-boots of the SL military. We are now realizing that for this jack-boot to be removed permanently, only a cycle of violence that rivals your ‘humanitarian operations’ in 2009 will be effective.

        The point is rather simple – you CAN NOT give concessions because you WILL NOT and vice-versa. And since this is the case, the Eelam Tamils will be left with only two options – to accept the political superiority of the Sinhalese, to agree to live together as ‘junior partners’, and of course, tolerate the ‘little occassional excesses’ that the armymen stationed in Trinco, Jaffna or Kilinochi may commit.

        And the other thing would be to go beyond the LTTE, to do things they wouldnt have imagined of doing, which you wouldnt imagine the Tamils of doing. I do think, along with you, but for different reasons of course, that the school boy romanticism of the LTTE needs to be discarded for the Tamils own good.

        May 2009, indeed, was an epistemological break.

      • wijayapala

        Dear nathan “Eelam Patriot”

        The point is rather simple – you CAN NOT give concessions because you WILL NOT and vice-versa.

        It depends- what “concessions” are you seeking?

        And the other thing would be to go beyond the LTTE, to do things they wouldnt have imagined of doing, which you wouldnt imagine the Tamils of doing.

        Such as…?

      • “And the other thing would be to go beyond the LTTE, to do things they wouldnt have imagined of doing, which you wouldnt imagine the Tamils of doing.”

        I certainly hope the Tamils will do the unimaginable; mostly, what is unimaginable to the Tamils themselves. Since independence, the Tamils have tried everything imaginable, and failed. It’s time to think out of the box, and do the unimaginable.

  • As far as reconciliation and finding a durable political solution are concerned, the “Research” conducted by the ICES (the International Centre for Ethnic Studies)is unscientific for the reason that it has not asked a very important question from the Sinhalese, Tamils and the Muslim samples.

    The ICES should have asked from the Sinhalese, Tamil and the Muslim samples:

    Do you think that the Sinhala – Buddhist nationalism based on the doctrine: Aryan – Sinhal – Sinhalese – Theravada Buddhism – Lanka with one to one correspondence only caused the political problems in the country?

    If NO, what do you think the root cause of the problem?”

    Answer to these question along with other questions only would have enable the ICES to come to correct conclusions and right & complete recommendation and above all to decide on the future of the country and its societies.

    It is important for us to note here that the paragraph 28 of the UN Panel Report says:
    “After independence, political elites tended to prioritize short-term political gains, appealing to communal and ethnic sentiments, over long-term policies, which could have built an inclusive state that adequately represented the multicultural nature of the citizenry. Because of these dynamics and divisions, the formation of a unifying national identity has been greatly hampered. Meanwhile, SINHALA-BUDDHIST NATIONALISM GAINED TRACTION, ASSERTING A PRIVILEGED PLACE FOR THE SINHALESE AS THE PROTECTORS OF SRI LANKA,AS THE SACRED HOME OF BUDDHISM. THESE FACTORS RESULTED IN DEVASTATING AND ENDURING CONSEQUENCES FOR THE NATURE OF THE STATE, GOVERNANCE AND INTER-ETHNIC RELATIONS IN SRI LANKA.”

    • Wickremaratene


      ‘containment’ = 18th amendment ?

    • mansab

      ”The statistics of the survey conducted from June to mid August 2010 reveal the problem, but also indicate the solution. At its starkest the problem is that a shade over half of Sri Lankan Tamils polled, appear to think that the solution to Sri Lanka’s travails is an independent Tamil state” ??????? According to the author?

      Go googling:

      ”… All the minority groups with very high percentages in agreement attribute the ethnic conflict to lack of equal treatment for all citizens (Sri Lankan Tamil 95.5%, Up-country Tamil 97.8% and Sri Lankan Moors 79.1%), legitimate grievance of minorities, the Sinhala Only Act, and lack of space for diverse ethnic/cultural identities. Significantly, a majority of the Sinhalese (61.8%) also agree that the legitimate grievances of minority communities and lack of equal treatment for all citizens (61.4%) were causes for the conflict.
      All the communities (Sinhalese 74.5%, Sri Lankan Tamils 92.4%, Up-country Tamils 86.8% and Sri Lankan Moors 73.5%) agree that politicians are responsible for creating the ethnic conflict.
      … A majority of the Sinhalese agree along with the minorities that without state reform the minorities would continue to have grievances (80%), continue to be discriminated against (68.7%), development and economic progress would be hampered (76.5%), the international community would not help the country (62.8%) and significantly that even a return to armed conflict was possible (72.2%). These findings indicate a greater awareness among the majority community about the legitimacy of minority demands and the need to provide a constitutional or political settlement to the ethnic conflict despite the decisive defeat of the LTTE by the Sri Lankan state. ……”

  • kusum

    ”Even if one were to consider the APRC as bypassed by the flow of events” tells all about this author.


    The way the President interfered in the APRC during its course of sittings would make a good film.

    Refusing to publish the APRC report after so many requests by the public is not ”bypassing the flow of events” At nearly the same time PCoI(=Udalagama Commission) report was also given to the President and not yet published. Those two bodies were wound up as soon as the war was over though Udalagama offered to finish the unfinished cases. After all a chosen 16 of the hundreds of killings were going to be investigated by PCoI. What would happen to the all the hundreds of killings? Disappear into the tens of thousands of cases of backlog as reportes a week ago?
    Was there a question in the survey about it?

    I is simply not a matter of not publishingthe APRC report.

    It is a series of attempts by the President to buy time to carry out his plan for the country(not in the Chintanya):

    Is tis the ”flow of events”:

    Second Chamber/Indian Panchayat
    All Party Committee on Development and Reconciliation(APCDR) formed on 2 July 2009
    ”Talks with TNA”(after a great deal of pressyre from others), January 2011 onwards*
    PSC ….

    V.Anandasagaree’s comment on the way the ”talks are held”

  • Vino Gamage

    Unless all the questions are not known, readers cannot make a meaningful assessment of the survey. If there are only ”leading questions” there’s no value. That should then remind us of the other article in this website:
    ”The current ‘development’ madness that affects agriculture also prevails over agricultural research and does not bode well for this nation. It begins with the fact that, young agricultural scientists have to find support for the projects that will ensure their career from the only available source, the ‘chemical agriculture’ companies.”

    Were there questions
    i.the manifesto
    ii.on what the politicians say and do in and out of the parliament
    iii.on what is going on in the whole of the country
    iv.on any of the atrocities going on in the Northeast in the last 31 months:

    Submission before Lessons Learnt & Reconciliation Committee (LLRC) by Chandra Jayaratne, 23 September 2010:

    ….Challenging the right to title of the properties traditionally owned and /or occupied persons living in conflict affected areas

    Large tracts of previously occupied lands being demarcated as high security zones

    Unjustified land acquisitions on security considerations but allocated for non security related purposes

    The publicly announced resettlement benefits to internally displaced persons not being distributed equitably and in line with the announced scheme

    Lack of basic amenities like water, sanitation, power and proper housing for the newly resettled families

    Resource allocation not determined on community priorities and allocated without consultation and outside the need base and at times missing the most vulnerable and in need, possibly due to identity based biases

    Some areas like Jaffna receiving more than necessary resource allocations and peripheral areas lacking in even basic allocations

    Preventing willing and capable NGO’s/INGO’s, international community and Diaspora from helping people in need at their most vulnerable moment of need

    Building of new permanent military cantonments with residential facilities for military personnel and their families

    Plans to settle majority community families in order to change the traditional area demography otherwise than by natural development oriented migration

    Arbitrary arrests and detention in the post war period as well

    Continuing active engagement of unauthorized armed groups

    Continuing disappearances of civilians

    List of persons in custody, camps and detention centres not being made public

    Failure to assist families in tracing missing persons

    Negative impact on civilians during the conflict due military excesses

    Unease of single women headed families fearing for their safety in the presence of large number of armed personnel of the forces

    Removal of burial sites of persons affected by the conflict

    Some important cultural, religious and remembrance sites being damaged and destroyed

    Disrespect shown by visitors to holy sites and sites held in high esteem by resident communities

    Free availability of liquor, cigarettes and narcotics

    Emerging consumerism promoted by business houses who fail to participate in adding value to the civilian communities

    Savings of the region being channelled to other areas whilst unmet needs of area community remain

    Decision making in the hands of the military or officials from the Central Government. .…’’

  • Vino Gamage

    Sorry, I should have added

    v. what went on in the period o 61 years before May 2009

  • LSomapala
  • LSomapala

    The answers in the survey wouldn’t be valid given the fact that the Northeast has been out of bounds for journalists for years, there have been attacks on journalists so much so that media in the South have become so self-censored that recently an inter-faith body has been reporting some of the atrocities in the Northeast, what happens to the ethnic minorities outside the Northeast are also not fully covered, eg LLRC hearings either not reported or partially reported(Centre for Policy Alternatives made a press release on this) , …… unless the participants were given the correct information and then asked to respond to questions. The confusion is made worse by the lies and unspoken truth of ambassadors, representatives to the UN and even the President himself , eg his speeches to the UN General Assemply contrary to what’s actually happening in the country.

  • kusum

    Dear Ambassador

    There is an urgent need for highly literate people like you to help the President to find the best possible way to implement the recomendations – a plan would be a reason for celebrating our next Independence Day meaningfully:

    LLRC report, an inconvenient truth?, 5 January 2012:
    ”……….. On the whole, the LLRC final report presents the government with inconvenient truths that lay bare the factual inaccuracies and inadequacies of its own post war policy trajectory and narrative. This coming from not from the UN’s Darrusman report but from our own CR (Bulla) De Silva report, comprising by no means government opponents, but clearly government insiders. When President Mahinda’s own senior and respected people, tell him in no uncertain, (but very polite) terms to change tracks, he should take note.”

    Let this be the last ”commission” on the resolution of the conflict created for simply gaining political power and for staying in power.

  • kusum
  • Wickremaratne

    Dear ambassador

    Hope your next article is on LLRC report so that illiterate persons also can understand.

    • Dr Dayan Jayatilleka

      Dear Wickremaratne, you should read more diligently: I have written on the LLRC report, on this very website! 🙂

      Dear Eelam Patriot,

      You seem to have a problem of comprehension. As my article emphasises, the ICES statiscs reveal that the Sinhala people are more than willing to support reforms which grant real devolution of power to provincial councils.

      • Rohan

        But, the only problem is that Gothabaya is against it and Mahinda cannot do anything against his brother’s wish!!

  • mansab
    Seeking Space for State Reform – Consensus and Contradictions in Public Perceptions
    The statistics provided above indicate that despite mixed opinions about the causes for ethnic conflict, there is acceptance on the part of the majority community that lack of equal treatment for all and legitimate grievances held by the minorities were causes of the conflict.
    The general levels of knowledge about specific state reform initiatives among all the ethnic communities is low with the lowest being among the Sinhalese community and the highest among the Sri Lankan Tamils. The state reform initiative that more people were informed about was the reform that was the most controversial at the time and also the only implemented reform – the Indo-Lanka Agreement. The only state reform proposal that has more support than lack of support from the majority community is the APRC proposal.
    All the communities in Sri Lanka believe that state reform is necessary to solve the ethnic conflic,t with a high percentage of even the Sinhalese community believing that a return to armed conflict was possible if there is no state reform.
    With the exception of the Up-country Tamil community, all the minority communities are opposed to the Executive Presidency which has been identified as a structural impediment to state reform. The Sri Lankan Tamils and Moors would like to see more power being vested in Parliament.
    The greatest support for a unitary state is among the Sinhalese and the Sri Lankan Moors. While the minority communities agree with the need for a unitary state on certain issues, they believe that it cannot meet the needs of minorities.
    With the exception of the Up-country Tamil community, all the other communities have positive views about Provincial Councils and consider them as capable of resolving the problems faced by minorities. Among all the communities, enhanced devolution of power to the provinces is seen as a possible solution to the ethnic conflict.
    Provincial Councils were the level of devolution of power most acceptable to the Sinhalese and the Sri Lankan Moors. The Sri Lankan and Upcountry Tamils favour greater devolution or a system of federalism like that found in India. What is significant however, is that there is more space for devolution than ever before, because of the Sinhalese support for Provincial Councils, which a significant number of Sri Lankan and Up Country Tamils find acceptable.

  • kadphises

    OK, So Tamils want a Federal State at least, and the Sinhalese fear to give it fearing it is just a stepping stone to full secession.

    So what are the options we have?

    One option is to water down the powers of the “federal state” so that it will be unable to eventually secede. But this denies the minimal demands of the Tamils w.r.t. devolution i.e. fiscal, police and land powers within their state.

    The other more reasonable compromise is to grant fiscal, police and land powers to a redefined Tamil state in which the landmass is proportionate to its population. This should reassure the Sinhalese that they wont forfeit 1/3 of the country should the Tamils eventually decide to secede.

  • Iqbal

    Hurray ! PSC Recommendations to be implemented !!

    Sri Lanka ready to implement PSC recommendations – Govt. Spokesman, 10 January 2012,

    APRC is joined by LLRC in the Temple Trees cupboard !!!

  • Iqbal

    Hope Groundviews or similar will translate ICES survey quickly into Sinhala and Tamil before ICES is ordered to bin the precious report.

    • Nelum Perera

      Groundviews is irresponsible in posting this article that is misinterpreting the survey and sowing more discord and hatred among the people, blocking resolution of the conflict. The author is throwing sand in the eyes of the people at a crucial time like this. This article indirectly supports the President for not implementing LLRC reports.
      All the citizens should know the positives found out by the survey by all those interested in reconciliation.
      Literacy is not enough. A good heart is needed to carry the truth to connect the people.

      • Respectfully, we think not. The beauty of a forum such as this is that those such as yourself are free to read the source material used by authors and contest them on their (selective) interpretation. We believe this adds to the debates on key issues, promotes multiple truths and perspectives, and exposes blatant lies and partial truths for what they are.

      • Dr Dayan Jayatilleka

        Nelum, lemme guess: your academic grades were never very good, were they? 🙂

        Dear Anpu, 1947, you ask. 50:50 ring any bells?

        Nathan, Nathan, Nathan, yup, May 2009 WAS indeed the epistemological break (actually the term is ‘rupture’). You know why? Because henceforth there will be zero tolerance of terrorism and public opinion will ensure that any future SL leadership will not wait 30 years to put down any sign of armed secessionism, but will commence with the decisiveness and determination of the last, successful war. As for your sarcasm about concessions, when India intervened, extracted concessions and sought to enforce them with a peacekeeping force, which included the withdrawal of SL troops into barracks, it was the LTTE that waged war against the peacekeepers and the ‘concessions’. Those concessions included the granting in Sept 1987, of an Interim Council for the merged North east, with seven out of eleven posts , including that of the chairman, allocated to the LTTE…and it was the LTTE that rejected it! So, the only concession that is feasible now is enhanced devolution to PCs, i.e. that which was on the table in 1987. Take it or leave it; use it or lose it. Your move, your choice.

      • nathan

        Dayan, dayan, dayan,

        It is better for you to ignore the uncomfortable parts of my earlier post.

        But yes, since you have put down with ‘terrorism’ and ‘armed secessionism’ with an iron fist, and dealt your version of justice to all the blah blah blah that the LTTE has been accused of committing, a simple q – why dont you give atleast token justice to the victims of, for example, the Kumarapuram massacre that happened over a decade ago(assuming that you recognize that it happened)?

        Point is, you cant. Even if you want you, you cannot. Now when you ignore all the grievances we have as a community and impose your victor’s justice on us, tell me honestly, how long will it last?

        Alignment of forces helped you today, but they wont stay the same forever. As and when things change, the Tamils who were at you mercy will… well, remember.

        So unless you successfully cripple the Eelam Tamils culturally, socially and psychologically to prevent them from any possible action in the future, that is unless you keep the pace of what you are already doing now, you will have something on your hands soon.

        Again, since you continue to cripple us, there will be something on your hands soon.

        Its a vicious circle. Either Tamils get power through force. Or they die powerless through force.

        As for the ‘break’ I took it from Althusser. Bachelard’s ‘rupture’ does not seem apt for the context. You should know.

  • Nelum Perera

    Thanks, Groundviews.
    Best wishes for 2012.

  • Gamini Perera

    Parameters of Possibility:

    ”In 1944, J.R. Jayawardena moved a resolution in Parliament to declare “Sinhalese as the Official Language of Ceylon within a reasonable number of years”. An amendment was proposed by V. Nallaiah, a Tamil state councilor, for providing both Sinhala and Tamil the status as Official Languages, which was seconded by R.S.S. Gunawardena, a Sinhala state councilor. The resolution in this form was approved by 27 to 2 in the Sinhala-dominated legislature, another sign of the lack of ethnic overtones in language politics at this stage. The resolution specified that Sinhala and Tamil would become the languages of instruction in schools, examinations for public services and legislative proceedings.

    In 1946, a committee under the chairmanship of J.R. Jayawardena strongly recommended the establishment of local languages as Official Languages replacing English while recommending that the transition take place over a period of ten years. But there was no serious movement in the language front despite these official conversations. S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike left the UNP in 1951 citing the government’s inaction in implementing the new Official Language Policies, and launched a concerted attack on the UNP claiming to see “no difficulty in the way of the early adoption of our languages.” Soon after his resignation, Bandaranaike organized the SLFP and began mobilizing forces supporting the swabasha movement within Sinhala society to form a broad-based coalition to wrest political power from the UNP in the upcoming general election. However, the language issue had not become a divisive ethnic issue even at this stage as exemplified by the SLFP manifesto which claimed that “it is most essential that Sinhalese and Tamil be adopted as Official Languages immediately so that the people of this country may cease to be aliens in their own land….”.

    By the late 1950s however, this cross-cutting interest in empowering local languages diminished in the context of emerging and divisive ethnic politics. It is in this context that S.W.R.D Bandaranaike was elected as Prime Minister in 1956. His main election promise to establish Sinhala as the Official Language of the country replacing English was fulfilled soon after the election, giving no status of parity to Tamil”

  • Dr Dayan Jayatilleka

    Nathan, the “Eelam” who? The what Tamils?

    • nathan

      I presume that his highness is having a good laugh over a good round of scotch at my rather impotent words. But yes, just like the pre-76 era, there will be more of such words, appeals, peace demos and the likes for some time.

      Some time only.

      But then, we do have a good memory of the extents that you have gone to. A virtue of the ‘postmodern war’ is the possbility of its virtual representation. Our children and theirs have seen the images and the videos. And when the time comes, we believe they will be the same humanitarians that the Sinhalese were at the time of May 2009.

      Till then, keep denying that we exist and bask in the glory of your pyrrhic victory.


      • wijayapala

        Dear nathan

        It is better for you to ignore the uncomfortable parts of my earlier post.

        But is it better for you to ignore the uncomfortable parts of my earlier post?

        Now when you ignore all the grievances we have as a community and impose your victor’s justice on us, tell me honestly, how long will it last?

        Good question. I don’t honestly know, maybe as long as when you impose your victor’s justice on us?

        Either Tamils get power through force. Or they die powerless through force.

        Does the same apply for Sinhalese, or is this a Tamil-only rule?

        And when the time comes, we believe they will be the same humanitarians that the Sinhalese were at the time of May 2009.

        That begs the question, what sort of humanitarian were you between 2002 and 2005?

  • Gamini Perera

    I can see why many are not even bothering to argue with you: you are too illogical:

    Sinhala chauvinism is the deological and political fundamentalism(starting from disenfranchisement, ‘Sinhala Only’ 1956, etc) and Tamil Eelam is the response after decades of being denigrated by various ways for decades). Even those Tamils who haven’t thought about it for the last 63yrs and 11 months, would(rhetorically) want to go for it now (current world situation is not favourable for secession):

    LLRC recommendations discarded, 1 January 2012:

    Sri Lanka ready to implement PSC recommendations – Govt. Spokesman, 10 January 2012:
    ”Government Spokesman and Minister of Media & Information Keheliya Rambukwella said that though the government has concerns with regard to giving absolute police and land power to the North East Provinces, it is ready to implement the recommendations of the intended
    (intended ?? intended !!)Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) on National Issues. ….”

    LLRC recommendations to be implemented, 11 January 2012:

  • Dr Dayan Jayatilleka

    Nathan, yep, the changing alignment of forces is seen even today….in the demographic trends.

    • nathan

      Dayan… ‘demographic trends’. Surely, you are referring to the settlements for Sinhalese being created in the North and the East? As you might have understood from my earlier posts, I am not requesting a stop to these. You cant. You wont. But please dont presume (I dont think you do) that the war is over.

  • Kuththuvilakku

    Observations on the research methodology presented in the ICES survey on perceptions…

    1. ICES report mention that, “The Questionnaire for the National Survey was designed not as a poll on public perceptions but as a tool to collect data suitable for regression analysis…The survey also generated rich descriptive statistical data a section of which is
    included in this paper.” Until such time that the promised research paper is published the descriptive statistics presented need to be treated as a public opinion survey during June – Mid-August, 2010, of the people living in the GN divisions selected and in the case of Mullaitivu and Kilinochchi districts, of those who were not living there but of a portion of those who lived there before the end of the war and now in camps, with relatives or friends in Vavuniya and Jaffna. The question arises as to the validity of the opinions given in mid 2010 and the conclusions drawn from it that is presented now in Jan 2012.

    The report does not give the date of its publication, but the state that, “The ICES Politics of State Reform research project funded by the World Bank’s Post Conflict Fund commenced on the 1st of June 2009 and was successfully completed on the 23rd of February 2011.” (Can one assume from the statement that the publication date is 23rd Feb 2011. However this publication is listed in the ICES website under “Current research”.) Public opinion polls may have some validity, within a 3% error (the margin of error is not given in the ICES report) if they are conducted and published within a week or so for immediate decision-making. Such speed is of course not possible for grassroots surveys in SL. The question the reader has to ask is whether the situation relevant to the questions posed to the sample, a year ago, is still the same and that the response now would also be about the same.

    2. In a Report of such a study it is customary to provide, a) Assumptions, and b) Limitations, of the study. Such information would caution the readers or decision makers who may want to use the results and make their own conclusions and recommendations or even to buttress their own opinions. I hope such observations will be made in the full research report that is to be ‘published shortly’. If more details of the methodology and analytical details are provided then the reader can decide whether the findings are reliable and valid and that the results can be extrapolated to the current situation or whether it should be considered as opinions that existed in mid 2010. ICES could also provide in their final report a Timeline of events from the time the survey started to the time the report is finalised/published. Those events, if relevant to the questions asked, the reader could assess whether those events may have affected the response of the Samples. ICES need to ensure the validity and reliability of the survey results when it translate and present it to the grassroots population. If not, ICES study would only help politicians and their advisers, including elites and the Diaspora, to manufacture a consensus that is not there.

    3. The ‘alternative strategy’ of using the IDPs still living in camps, with relatives or friends in Vavuniya and Jaffna as a sample of those living in the GN Divisions in Mullaitivu and Kilinochchi, at the time of the survey, may statistically ‘conform to the technique used in the rest of the survey and thus ensured that the results would provide reliable estimates.” But what need to be considered is whether such a sample could reasonably have responded similarly as those who had returned to their original places of residence in M & K districts or were still living in temporary camps in M and K districts away from their original place of residence. The two situations had and still have different living conditions such as housing, degrees of freedom of movement, access to services, militarization, serious safety concerns. These different conditions may have affected how each category of persons would have responded. The report does not address this problem.

    Access was not granted to ICES to conduct a survey of M & K residents, presumably by PTF and or the MOD for whatever reasons. Did the ICES have access to the Sinhala armed forces and the Tamils and Muslims in North Vavuniya and North Mannar? The ICES report should have given such information and the reasons for declining access so that the reader can ascertain whether the prevention of access and the reasons given were related to the response that that population would have given which may or may not be different from the one now attributed to them via the ‘alternate strategy’. I hope the report soon to be published will include the reasons and also whether those who refused access reviewed the survey questions.

    This leads to another issue in which the Report is silent. That is, were Sinhalese (including the armed forces, 100,000 or more living, temporarily or otherwise, in GN divisions in Jaffna, M and K, Vavuniya and Mannar districts, the Eastern and other districts in SL) were included in the sampling populations in their original place of residence or were they included in the GN divisions where they were posted? Did ICES have access to them? Was an ‘alternate strategy’ used for them or were they just left out? Were Muslims and Tamils in the Government services living in M, K, North Vavuniya, North Mannar districts considered as part of the population of those Districts or if they originated from other districts, were they included in the population of their original GN divisions? If they were not included in their original population and there were no access to them what “Alternate Strategy” accounted for this population of Tamils and Muslims. The current ICES report is silent on this problem. Hopefully it will be explained in the soon to be published full research report.

    There is still another issue that the ICES report does not address. That is, did the population of Muslims displaced from the Northern and Trinco districts who have still not returned to their original GN divisions fit in the sampling process. The ‘alternate strategy’ would have required that a sample be taken from those living outside their place of origin. The report is silent on this issue. May be the research paper to be ‘published shortly’ will address these issues that are more to do with the substance of the research than statistical and sampling techniques.

    5. Questions on whether the respondents consider Tamils in Sri Lanka constitute a Nation, the territories they live in the North and East is their Homeland, and whether they have a right to Self-Determination was not included in the questionnaire. If it was, it would show how the Ethnic, Gender, Religious, and age groups in various GN divisions perceive these contentious issues. One would have expected ICES to include these well-published and divisive issues, on which the 30-year war was fought, to ascertain the opinion of the grassroots populations in all the GN divisions and compare it to the opinion of the politicians and the elites.

    6. The exact questions asked, including the translated versions, probably will be included in the research report to be published. What I would like to see in the soon to be published report is how the response to each of the questions, or at least the question on the perception of the ‘Reform Initiatives to Solve the Problem,’ will translate into votes at the time of the survey (Mid 2010) by each of the ethnic groups of voters in the population. This would mean not just presenting the percent response by categories of the samples but what percent of Sinhalese, Tamils and Muslims in the population would vote for each of the ‘Reform Initiatives’.

    I would also like to see statistics on the response to each question by, Ethnicity, Gender, Religion, Age and major categories of occupation in each of the GN Divisions and as a whole. Such reliable and valid information would give an opportunity to those who are inclined to and able to identify the entangled strands of the complex problem, perceive a conscientious consensus of a solution and devise a strategy for a cooperative and peaceful implementation of such a solution.

    7. Notwithstanding my observations, I congratulate ICES on its survey. It is easy to critique a study than to formulate and conduct one. It is better to have attempted to give the grassroots population including the women a voice on their problem than to listen to the speculation of the elite.

    • Nelum Perera

      Thank you, Kuthuvilakku.

      Many don’t have time or patience or enough literacy to go through such reports/surveys. We need Kuthuvilakkus to illuminate such reports to the masses. Thanks a lot.

  • Anpu

    This article appeared on 8th January 2012 with title “PROBLEM & SOLUTION: PARAMETERS OF POSSIBILITY”
    Three days later on 11th January 2012 same article appears with very few changes (differnt photo and minus few paragraphs – I must admit that I have made thorough check) with the title “Conflict, reform & reconciliation” . What do we make of this ????

    • sr

      After Mansab exposed the original artice on the 10th here, the author posted a slightly different article on SriLankaGuardian on the 11th ????

  • Kuththuvilakku

    David Blacker.
    “I certainly hope the Tamils will do the unimaginable; mostly, what is unimaginable to the Tamils themselves. Since independence, the Tamils have tried everything imaginable, and failed. It’s time to think out of the box, and do the unimaginable.”
    Well expressed.

    It is common when a difficult problem is given to adults to solve, many of them, like many children, would keep repeating the same strategy to solve the problem even though they understand that that strategy had failed many times. They, knowing the irrationality of trying the failed strategy, like gamblers, still try it hoping that it will work the next time. This is a universal problem.

    To think outside the box, a person or group need to step out of the problem to a neutral space, examine the problem objectively and devise new strategies. Tamils who were involved as individuals or as a community and suffered for long are not yet in a position to think outside the box as most of them are too close to the problem and its continuous impact.

    The GSL is keeping up the post-war pressure on the Tamils in and out of Sri Lanka to ensure that space is not given for the Tamils to innovate an approach to gain an upper hand or to find a solution that GSL does not want. GSL and its leaders, like most Tamils, are caught in their own web. They had also suffered losses and is too close to the problem. GSL considers its strategy as successful in achieving its goals at this time. GSL does not have the incentive or disincentive to give up its strategy. India is in their 13th Box. Democracy is caught up in its ‘Territorial Imperative’ box – representation based on territories (electorates) – adorned with sovereignty and in some cases religions. We are unable to think of democracy outside its idea of primitive territorial representation.

    If we are to solve our problem, it is important for all communities in SL to think outside the Box, not just Tamils.
    The Science of Chaos – Fractals – has two basic principles. 1) Initial conditions determine final outcome. 2) Stable systems are composed of parts that are whole in itself, which in turn have parts ad infinitum. Can all the communities in SL cooperate to create a political system that conforms to these two principles? Are we there yet?

    • wijayapala


      Can all the communities in SL cooperate to create a political system that conforms to these two principles? Are we there yet?

      I think you’re casting the net a bit wide with regard to your two principles. Could you please be more specific about this envisioned political system?

  • Nagalingam Ethirveerasingam. Ph.D.

    I am not casting any net. I am assuming you agree with the two principles. If you do, can you step out of your box and have a go at it? Be creative.

    • kadphises

      While we wait for Wijeyapala’s “out of the box” solution which I suspect might take a while, let me propose mine. It would also be good to have your own perspectives viz an ideal solution to the ethnic issue.

      I believe the reason for the current impasse is because each side believes the position of the other side is patently unfair.

      The Tamils cannot understand why they cannot run their own affairs in the areas that they have historically been a mojority. Further, they think this area should be the combined extent of the current Northern and Eastern provinces.

      The Sinhalese dispute the history of the Tamil occupation of these areas, and by virtue of Sinhalese and its own brand of Buddhism being the only truly indegenous culture and religion within Sri Lanka, lay claim to the entire extent of Sri Lanka where they are happy for the Tamils to enjoy equal rights, but only as long as it does not include self rule. Or to be more precise Police and Land powers within the Northern and Eastern provinces.

      There is some rationale in both positions. The Sinhalese cannot validly object to self rule if Tamils are the overwhelming majority in the areas they wish to control as allowing them to do so will not materially affect the rights or entitlements of the Sinhalese.

      However the Sinhalese fears for granting land and policing rights to Tamils should be understood when considering the large extent of the land the Tamils wish to control. Roughly 35% of the land for their 12% share of the population. If they wish to secede completely at some later stage, or with their Police and land powers decide to make life difficult for the Sinhalese living or travelling to those areas, the Sinhalese would be truly sha*ted. They would be left with a landmass roughly 4 times as overcrowded as the landmass the Tamils stand to inherit. This reality has always been and will be an attraction to the secessionist Tamil. So I believe future secession is a given if the North and East are ever merged and handed over to the Tamils as it would be too attractive a prospect with hardly any negatives for the Tamils.

      The half way mark I believe which also guarantees a measure of unitaryness, and the only solution where fairness and equality are guaranteed is a redemarcation of the Northern and Eastern provinces around Jaffna and Batticaloa so the land within the new borders is proportionate with the Tamil populations that live in those two provinces. The dense forrests of the Vanni and the interior of the Eastern Province contained only a tiny fraction of the population just 100 years ago. So neither community can justifiably claim these large forrest clad areas as exclusively their own. The only solution therefore is to share it.

      Due to the considerably smaller area and the non contiguous nature of the new Tamil states, cessation will become a lot less attractive. However the ligitimate and fair demands for police, fiscal and land powers could then be granted without fear of devastating consequences for the Sinhalese.

  • Kuththuvilakku


    Non-Contiguous concept you suggest seem a new path that need to be explored by political pundits, that I am not. Criteria, ie a set of compatible criterion, need to be stipulated for defining the boarders of such states or units of governance that are not contiguous, but they, as parts that are a whole in themselves, can work together to form a higher order whole. Will Greater Colombo and Trinco – Sinhala, Tamil, Muslim – be non-contiguous states? Then there is the Hill Country, Puttalam and Amparai. Also there are districts such as Jaffna, Mullaitivu, Kilinochchi, Mannar with Tamil and significant Tamil population. May be there are others depending on the criteria used.

    Within such non-contiguous but whole states, electorates may be defined based on the various sectors of employment (May be based on the Dictionary of Occupational Titles (DOT)) rather than the current boundaries of electoral territories. After all ,each of the Ministries is an employment sector – Health, Education, Tourism, Inndustry, Agriculture, Fisheries etc.

    If the above arrangements are the Initial Conditions, and the parts are whole in itself, what are the principles that governs, and modalities that will operate for these higher order wholes to form together and function as the next higher order whole that recognises and maintains the characteristics of the parts as wholes?

    It is necessary for specialists from professional and administrative sectors, and constitutional specialists to work together to examine whether such possibilities are practicable and such a structure can function in harmony.

    • kadphises


      I think only those who demand devolution through a referrandum need to get it. None apart from the Tamils in the North and East have demanded it so there is no reason to fragment the country any further as too much fragmentation will inevitably lead to reduced efficiency.. having to support multiple education ministries, health ministries and lavish politicians will soon drain the treasuries of these tiny enclaves.

      Also to our advantage is the fact that Jaffna and Batticaloa are fairly mono ethnic and lie at the etremeties of the island. There arnt very many Sinhalese there to oppose the devolution. We also may need to accomodate the views of the Moslems in the East and carve out a Moslem enclave for them from a predominantly moslem area in the East.

      Trincomalee and the Upcountry are going to be contentious due to their mixed populations and also the fact that these areas are important to those who live all over the country. The Tamils of Indian Origin understand this. Hence the reason why they have not demanded to secede. They will have to be empowered and accomodated within the centre with powers to administer schools, health services, transport within the Nuwara Eliya – Hatton areas.

      For it to work at all devolution to the North and East should appear fair to anyone with a rational mind. Which is why I believe the land extent of the enclave should be directly proportionate to the number of people who live in it. The Northern enclave could be made proportionate to the number of Tamils who lived in the NP at the 1981 census (before the exodus). Likewise with the Eastern Province. The Moslem enclave in the East could be made proportionate to the number of moslems living in the EP.

      Once the entities are demarcated they should be allowed to corporate as they see fit to achieve administrative efficiencies without any interference from the centre.

  • Kuththuvilakku

    Your para.1: Forming non-contiguous states, I would think, refers to the boundaries of the Units. But governance can be contiguous. It need not mean ‘fragmentation.” For example education and other sectors have provincial ministries for each and then there is the National ministries. Within each of the Districts there are smaller units of each. In Education each of the Districts have a Unit and then further divided into Zonal Directorate of Education. These are all administrative units. All these small units need to be rationalized and grouped for efficiency. The groupings can take place within the non-contiguous states. The medium of instruction will need only two non-contiguous units for the Tamil medium, and Sinhala medium. As English is going to be the medium of instruction in 6 years time, the education system will be only one for all contiguous states unles they decide to continue the present system. Education as a sector may be devolved so that non-contiguous states can make their own decisions, for example, on hiring and firing, in finance etc. In fact the expenditure will not increase for the services similar to the present. Details need to be worked out and simulated to see whether it will work. In health for example the communicable disease prevention and cure need to be centralized in the highest whole state.

    Your para 3: Everything will be contentious and the objections need to be examined and answers found. The non-contiguous devolved system will give the opportunities to empower the Up country Tamils in critical sectors.

    Your para 3 & 4: One could start with the North and East first and then let the system evolve to other provinces, if they choose, with mutual consent and resolving fears of all communities with appropriate reconciliation program. 1981 Census as criteria is a logical choice.

    It will be good if Groundviews can put a team together and come up with a non-contiguous system with consideration to what is expressed so far. Or may be the CPA can come up with an alternate policy that would resolve the problem now.
    I fear that all stakeholders are consolidating their positions inside their own boxes which are drifting apart by the day. We all have to choose one of the boxes soon,

  • Janieve S

    Will ICES make available their data set? Maybe useful for others to run their own statistical tests?

  • Kuththuvilakku

    I have asked for the full report with the data and stat analysis a week back. May be I will ask the World Bank who funded it in June 2009 to get it and publish it in their website. They are supposed to do that for all projects they fund.