No 13 “Plus”? APRC Proposals are better!

For the sixth time over, President Rajapaksa snubbed the Indian Big brother, on devolution and 13th Amendment with a “Plus”. He wasn’t an extra smart lawyer in his Attorney’s life. But he still finds logical space between what he says and what he wouldn’t say, to leave the Indian government on their wrong foot. When Indian External Affairs Minister Krishna says, President Rajapaksa in official conversation with him, promised to offer 13 “Plus” as a solution, President Rajapaksa says, he was only discussing the issue. He has “not” promised. The implied message is, the Indian Minister has got him wrong. Not his fault, hence. Or is it ?

Its no fault of the Indians also, if the Sri Lankan President can not present his own case clear and straight, for the sixth time, in almost three years. Yet its the fault of the Indian authorities, if they can not elicit even on the sixth meeting, what they want from the Head of the SL government or what he wants to give or offer. Why the lines are so blurred, is due to what each wants to avoid offering or avoid asking. President Rajapaksa keeps using his key phrase “home grown solution” for both “13 Plus and Minus” to avoid the issue of devolution. The Delhi leaders pamper “13 Plus” without clearly saying, what they would want as the minimum devolution package, in seeing an end to the Sri Lankan political conflict they have been dragged into, for reasons both geopolitical and South Indian.

So is the dilemma the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) is faced with. They remain the only Northern grounded, democratic political party with a responsibility in finding a truly democratic, sustainable answer to the ethnic conflict that has robbed thousands of innocent lives over many decades and through many generations. They also remain a political party that has to represent a people who have been displaced many times over, have no decent social life yet in their own areas and is controlled by a military that eliminated their only bargaining power, there was. In short, the TNA has no organised social force behind them to agitate and demand, except the Diaspora that can not impact on or influence the Colombo government, direct.

There still remains to the advantage of Rajapaksa, the emptiness in political Opposition, both North and South. Tamil politics is divided. Its awfully divided here as well as in the Diaspora. Its divided to the extent that one extreme would not want to leave the sectarian and wasteful politics of the LTTE and the other to make deals with the most corrupt of all Sinhala regimes since independence. There is no alternative, a pragmatic alternative that would back the TNA in pushing this regime to find a decent and a viable democratic answer to the legitimate political aspirations of the Tamil people, within a “Single” Country, on a single Constitution.

Its the international pressure that Rajapaksa has to mind himself about, over the ethnic issue. His advantage also is that, the international community, those who command authority over the UN and its agencies and Western forums, do not take him to be a Milosevic, or Sri Lanka, a Sudan. The US has been funding this regime all through the war and they continue to fund it, despite accusations on war crimes and crimes against humanity. So has the EU, though GSP “Plus” was deliberated upon for over two years, before it was suspended. Not for the Tamil Diaspora to claim success, but Trade Unions in the EU to demand workplace decency and “rights”. GSP “Plus” campaign was a trade union campaign in the EU and it remains so, in the US to date. Despite demands for accountability, the major international players continue to sustain this Rajapaksa regime, politically and financially.

This needs a turn around in taking stock of who pushed whom for what and achieved what. This shows that Rajapaksa is still capitalising on the absence of social protest and pressure mobilised in our own society. In the absence of  political leadership that can not be substituted by the elite NGO sector, especially in the Sinhala society, there is a serious absence of people driven demands asking for socio political answers. Its a Sinhala society that Rajapaksa keeps saying is not easy to bring to terms with power devolution, simply because no political leadership has worked in creating an alternate social purpose, a discourse, in leading social thinking. An unfortunate lack of intellectual political leadership, to be clear and plain.

Within this scenario, India is a reluctant traveller in search of an answer, as proxy for the SL Tamil polity. Proxies don’t play politics with the same desire, aspiration and on the same agenda, as the affected people who are compelled to find an answer for their own purpose of living. Rajapaksa therefore can afford to keep India waiting, projecting Sinhala opposition and his government’s need to keep “all communities satisfied”, another that wouldn’t happen, unless done . Thus his exit always with the promise of a “home grown answer satisfying all communities”.

What the TNA keep missing out on, is this “exit slogan” of Rajapaksa in a situation where the international community can not also be expected to bring results and can not be pushed for results. Yet there can not be a political problem that has no answer. There are no political answers possible, without a social demand. Often the answer needs a strong social demand, in the face of reluctant “rulers”. This is reason why the All Party Representative Committee (APRC) Report doesn’t see the light of day. But that is also the most recent effort in finding a reasonably justifiable answer to the protracted political conflict.

The APRC is one that the President brought together in search of his desired “home grown solution” to  the “national question” way back in July 2006. The APRC was supported by an “Experts Committee”, also appointed by the President. The whole process took in 128 sittings for the APRC to finalise its proposal as a durable solution, as noted in this “column” a fortnight ago. What is more important with the APRC is that, after much deliberation it presented in August, 2007, a basis for a new Constitution that had 21 Chapters, upon which a new Constitution could be drafted. Mind you, this political consensus was achieved, despite the war was being fought with a very narrow, Sinhala Buddhist social mindset.

Based on its draft proposal, in June 2010, and that was over 01 year after the war was concluded, the APRC came out with a political consensus through deliberations between the extreme Sinhala, the moderate Sinhala, the “Left of Centre” and Right wing politics, in offering a format for a new Constitution with a reformed State structure that accommodates devolved power. Again, their Final Report handed over to the President, goes beyond the 13th  Amendment, though it does not discuss the issues of devolution, in restricting itself to the 13th Amendment. They also propose a fairly well argued Second Chamber, one that is definitely better than what the President now hints as the “Plus” in his “13 Plus” idea. His idea of a “Senate”.

Here is political consensus that represents all the communities, including President Rajapaksa’s Sinhala Buddhist sentiments that now only needs the signature of the UNP and the TNA. The UNP that played safe and cautious by avoiding the APRC will not be able to go against such broad political consensus. What with the JHU, the MEP and the SLFP also consenting, with the EPDP, the SLMC and the CWC endorsing it.

The APRC Final Report thus stands as the best and the only consensual political draft that can oppose and negate the Rajapaksa ploy in wanting a “Parliamentary Select Committee” (PSC) to discuss the same issues, these political parties debated and discussed for 04 full years. Why should not the APRC Final Report be presented in parliament, instead ? It is as important as the LLRC, being a presidential committee. This is where the TNA is not forceful in its politics against the Rajapaksa regime. There is no purpose in the TNA also resorting to technical and legal arguments in opposing the PSC, which of course is a waste of time and energy. Yet the importance is in countering the Rajapaksa move with a political move that offers and option, by demanding that President Rajapaksa present the Final Report of his own APRC, instead. The TNA should lobby support here among other political parties and trade unions, in Delhi, among the international community and in the Diaspora demanding that Rajapaksa presents the APRC Final Report in parliament, for final consensus instead of a time wasting PSC.

The APRC Final Report carries almost all what the Rajapaksa says, he wants included in a durable solution. A home grown solution, all round acceptance and also his “Senate” as a second chamber. Why the same Rajapaksa who appointed the APRC is now troubled over that can be politically understood. But why is the TNA hesitating over that ?

They need not react to Rajapaksa and they need to get out of their dependency on Delhi and international players. Instead have those external players dependent on them as the only unarmed, independent, democratic Tamil political party on the ground. They’ve got to be seen and politically felt in the North and in the East, and speaking to the Sinhala South. To date they have allowed for a singular Northern lobby, taking the East for granted, allowing the Rajapaksas to capitalise the East. The TNA too have to have both feet on the ground here and play politics in Sri Lanka, first. That is what awaits an opening for a solution, in providing the Tamil people the dignity of life, as equals in a decent society.

  • joker

    You know as well as anyone Mr Perera, that as in genuine as the president is about devolution, the TNA is less genuine. Their aim is not maximum devolution, but devolution leading to separatism.

    That’s why they won’t come to the PSC, that’s why they wont push harder on the APRC report. As much as you hate this president, don’t be deluded as to the truth, don’t ignore it either. The TNA agenda, though they may seem the underdog here is not a noble one.

    I also don’t understand why you see the PSC as a waste of time and dismiss it so lightly. For someone who advocates democracy and democratic institutions, why such animosity towards one of the oldest and mos practical institutions in a parliamentary system.

    As a man who knows politics, you should know better than I do that MR is no going to make a decision on devolution and he is not going to be the one pushing for it and advocating it to the masses. No matter what the proposal is, he will not be going to kade for any political solution. But I think he realises that a negotiated solution is needed and has given an opportunity for a solution to be shoved down his throat by parliament. which he will accept. he needs the political freedom/excuse to say “its not my idea, but since all of you decided, I will accept’

    Also Mr Perera, under our constitution, the president has no legislative power. He does not have the authority to veto a bill like in USA. so parliament can bypass the president (technically) and pass legislation.

    I’m disappointed you don’t realise that the PSC is in fact the only avenue to finding a political solution to the national question

    • Velu Balendran

      So, the Dutugemunu of today wants to hide behind a PSC shield (composed of chauvinists, thugs and hooligans – judging by their behaviour in the parliament – with little compulsion to solve the national question) and let the TNA get rubbished, only to tell the world after a few years down the line “it is not I, but them” who won’t grant devolution. Masterplan!

    • Against Fraud

      Joker:
      You certainly live up to the pseudonym you’ve adopted, Joker! Why don’t you face the simple FACT that what the President is seeking is to drag his feet ad infinitum until the issue (and the Indian Government) goes away? In all fairness, this is a tactic that has worked very well upto now, particularly with the success that the Sri Lanka government has had with its frog-in-the-well supporters in this country, accusing anyone critical of his government of being “jealous of The Miracle of Asia and determined to destroy us.” The “success” will be the Rajapaksas’, the tragedy will be Sri Lanka’s, thanks to the blatant racism being practiced in this country in the name of “nationalism” and supported by such as you, Joker.

      • joker

        Against Fraud:

        My point is exactly, if the president is trying to drag it along, buy time, what other option does the TNA or anyone else for that matter have. The PSC at least gives an avenue.

        If the TNA was genuine about their intentions, they will come out with their demands publicly, take it to the people of Sri Lanka and ask for their support. if they are genuine that is. they want to deal with just the govt. The govt doesn’t want to deal with them. So the circle goes on.

        I give you that the president is not genuine about devolution. But You must admit that the TNA is not genuine about it either. They want a separate state, or a path to one. So don’t be half blinded. You can’t just blame MR, you have to blame both sides.

        PS: Wouldn’t it be nice if you could debate my idea, critique it, attack it, without getting personal. for example calling me a Sinhala Chauvinist, racist does not make my idea any better or worse. It suggests that I may have a bias. but My ideas alone may still be valid.
        You don’t even know who I am, for all you know I might be Muslim, and my mother tongue Tamil

  • Piranha

    The APRC final report was never allowed to see the light of day because obviously Rajapakse did not agree with it. The PSC, if the TNA agrees, will drag on for a few years and the report will neither be published nor its recommendations implemented. Another tamil insurrection will be ensue, and, since the indians are going to be pissed off with Rajapakse’s repeated about-turns, will have their full support.Sad but inevitable.

  • http://none Sriankan

    India is helping GOSL to prolong the settlement of the Tamil issue till the TNA and the tamils in SL are anhiliated/demolished by both of them.
    In my opinion MR still finds logical space between what he says and what he wouldn’t say, to leave the Indian government on their wrong foot with the connivance and support of India. If they issue a Joint statement then there will a stop to this different interpretation. If they do this the Indian Govt will antaganize Tamil Nadu. To satisfy both sides they issue individual ambiguious statements and interpret it to their advantage.

  • nathan

    “Its the international pressure that Rajapaksa has to mind himself about, over the ethnic issue. His advantage also is that, the international community, those who command authority over the UN and its agencies and Western forums, do not take him to be a Milosevic, or Sri Lanka, a Sudan. The US has been funding this regime all through the war and they continue to fund it, despite accusations on war crimes and crimes against humanity.”

    Oh! and Dayan was telling us that this was an anti-imperialist country all this while? Did you ever talk to the honorable Sri Lankan patriot before you wrote this article?

  • Iqbal

    13A is part of the constitution with all that TNA asked. In 13A Plus, no one knows what ‘Plus’ means. Even after implementing 13A the president can make the Provincial Council immobilised by withholding funds necessary to run the development projects unworkable.

    Why does the president insist that TNA names its representatives to PSC? Because no other opposition party likes it or will name their representatives until TNA does. So president wants TNA to help him to cheat all. The cunning president has already nominated the racist party, JHU and his tele-drama hero (fasting ‘unto death’ in front of the UN Office) Wimal Weerawamsa to block any land or police power being given to Provincial Councils. So PSC is another ploy as any other 100 odd committees the president has already appointed and wasted time and money only to find their reports were either binned or shelved.

    If the president is genuine he can start negotiation on the basis of the majority report of APRC as the author Kusal Perera says or else make 13A null and void as he superseded 17A with 18A with his 2/3 majority. Only way out of the stalemate is to pass a resolution in the UN HRC calling for an impartial probe of allegations of war crimes and violations of international laws by both parties to the war with government representation and achieve multi-goals of reconciliation, de-militarisation, resolution of the ethnic conflict with equality of all communities and a lasting peace in the country.

  • Patriot

    The 13th amendment is so 80’s. It is as out of place today as Duran Duran, Knight Rider and the A-Team.

    What is the 13th amendment really? It was an instrument conceived by the dominant hard power in the Indian ocean at the time (India), and forced on SL in order to exert it’s influence over the island by taking advantage of the post July 83 political turmoil.

    We are now in 2012. Things have changed. The undisputed heavyweight champion of the Indian ocean is the United States. Since the end of the cold war they have invested billions of dollars in the British sovereign territory of Diego Garcia, turning it into one of their premier naval and logistics centers. They also have massive hard power bases in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Today, we are situated not only in the backyard of India, but also the United States. In fact, the distance from Colombo to Diego Garcia is shorter than the distance from Colombo to New Delhi.

    What remains to unfold is the nature of the political instrument that the US will shove down SL’s throat during this decade. That’s what we should be speculating on. That would be a serious, contemporary discussion, not talking about the 13th amendment or Duran Duran.

  • http://- Justin

    Colonialism and empire building were done by countries to; a) create settlements and penal colonies in other peoples’ land, b) spread colonial language and culture, c) exploit natural resources and c) establish trade and economic policies that will not empower but subjugate the indigenous and local inhabitants.

    Britain captured the island of Ceylon from different kings, separately in battles or as transfers, many years ago. But Britain did not show sufficient interest to de-colonise or liquidate the Dominion of Ceylon from 1948 to 1972, as stipulated in the UN resolution for decolonisation.

    Therefore, the Sinhalese from the southern kingdoms of Ceylon attached Tamil Eelam(TE) as a colony in 1972 and declared the Dominion of Ceylon as “Republic of Sri Lanka”, unilaterally and illegally, similar to the declaration of Southern Rhodfesia as a rebel republic by Ian Smith in 1965.

    There was neither de-colonisation or re-colonisation of TE. TE was forcibly grabbed by SL from Britain.

    And now the position of SL-TE fits perfectly within the parameters of colonialism. a) SL made settlements and penal colnies of Sinhalese such as Ampara, Kantale, Padaviya and Weli Oya in TE, b) The colony of TE was forcibly made to use Sinhalese as the official language from English and statues of Buddha are planted in TE c) SL continues to exploit resources such as deep sea fish and exotic timber. It is now trying to exploit oil and gas deposits in Mannar basin of TE. and d) trade and manufacturing licences are not granted to the people of TE but given to the pawns of SL.

    Repression war crimes and geenocide were done with colonial attitude.

    TE should be immediately decolonised.

    • joker

      Funny thing though, High Caste Northern Tamils Never minded being colonized by the Portuguese, Dutch or the British. I guess they felt inferior to the white man but since we they are superior to the Sinhalaya of the south, its degrading to be colonized by them…

    • kadphises

      The question is how did the pre-colonial Tamil kingdom of Arya Chakravarti which didnt extend far beyond the Jaffna peninsula suddenly expand to include all the lands in the British defined Northern and Eastern provinces? The Eelamist seems to have decided to help himself to all the sparsely populated land in the country leaving the Sinhalese and Moslems with hardly anything. Now how did Tamils come to lay claim to a land with a continous archaelogical record that is Sinhala in heritage and not Tamil? Perhaps that can be called colonialism too.. or even land grabbing.

      There were barely any Tamils in Ampara, Padaviya, Weli Oya and Kantale when the new wave of Sinhalese colonists arrived. Instead there was an older Sinhalese population – the Sinhala purana gam (remnant villages) that dotted these areas. The Tamils however felt these areas should belong exclusively to the Tamils as the British included these areas within their Northern and Eastern provinces. So the Eelamist has his own form of colonialism in mind for these areas. He wishes to colonise Sri Lanka in such a way that the Tamil stands to gain 4 times as much land per capit as what he are prepared to yield to the Sinhalese. He also wishes to usurp the birthright of the Sri Lankan Moslems. Classing them as Tamil Speaking and therefore inevitably part of Tamil Eelam (even though all the Moslems stand to benefit from is another expulsion with their possesions in a single shopping bag.)

      • joker

        I was never around when Arya charkrawarthi was around. I assume that none of us were. But I know is that the last Sinhala King was in fact an Indian Tamil. My point being, We have to give this one to MR who said “all parts of the country belongs to all Sri Lankans. there are no regions belonging to a particular race”.

        I don’t think arguing about who came first, who was where, when is helpful at all. It’s like arguing whether the chicken or the egg came first? it goes round and round in circles, there is never an end. No one will budge, give or compromise.

  • sabbe laban

    Justin

    What you say here:”Therefore, the Sinhalese from the southern kingdoms of Ceylon attached Tamil Eelam(TE) as a colony in 1972 and declared the Dominion of Ceylon as “Republic of Sri Lanka”, unilaterally and illegally, similar to the declaration of Southern Rhodfesia as a rebel republic by Ian Smith in 1965.”

    Is classic!

    So, the Tamil Eelam was there under the British before the Sinhalese annexed it? You should have told the British about it!

    • yapa

      This is the most moderate and sensible article of all by Mr. Kusal Perera, I have come across.

      A very good analysis, I should say.

      Thanks!