Image courtesy ITV

The ubiquity of the Tiger flags was the most dramatic aspect of the demonstrations in London during the President’s visit for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. The Diaspora Tigers were not a result of a vacuum in Sri Lanka’s post-war policies. Several times the recent number demonstrated in 2009, blocking access to the Mother of Parliaments in the last weeks of the war. A slightly stylised version of the Tiger flag, hardly distinguishable from the original and replete with Tiger, bayonets and 32 bullets, is now waved — and waved away– as ‘the Tamil national flag’. If a soi-disant ‘nation’ chooses the ‘brand’ of a terrorist- secessionist movement for its flag and generates no criticism within the communitarian political spectrum, that surely tells us a great deal about the collective consciousness of that ‘nation’.  Why isn’t there a ‘Not in Our Name’ petition doing the rounds in the Tamil community?

Back home, there is a deadlock but it can be overcome. The TNA refuses to participate in the Parliamentary Select Committee unless there is progress in its dialogue with the government. The main opposition party the UNP echoes the TNA and says that it does not intend to participate in the PSC unless there is progress towards an understanding between the TNA and the Government. Why the ‘alternative government’ would make its participation in the PSC through which it could arrive at a consensus with the incumbent administration on the parameters of a solution to the ethnic question, contingent upon the position of the TNA, is a bit of a mystery. One might have thought that the UNP would be pleased to play a bridging role rather than that of a fellow traveller, but that does not seem to be the case at the moment.

In the meanwhile, while well-intentioned and influential foreign friends urge the early holding of an election to the Northern Provincial Council, some strident local voices call for the repeal of the legislation which makes for that devolved body. More prudent centrists, such as this writer, caution that it is as dangerous to dissolve the Council as it is to devolve power in a strategically sensitive border zone to a party which has yet to criticise the Tigers for its terrorism, and whose acceptance of the existing Constitutional provision for devolution (the 13th amendment) as the framework of negotiations, respect of the unitary character of the Constitution and the state and rejection of secessionism, are to say the least, questionable.

A further complicating factor in the current situation is the absence of an unofficial honest broker. A backstage role of this nature was being played but has since been forfeited by a negative vote cast at the UNHRC in Geneva this March, when a pragmatic abstention would have done the trick of sending a signal. Post-March 2012, in the collective psyche of the majority of Sri Lankans, the profile of a neighbouring honest broker has been replaced by memories of a patron and partisan of one side of the ethnic equation, heavily influenced by sub-regional ethnic lobbies and electoral compulsions as in the ‘MGR’ years.

In this context, the cordial and positive dialogue between the President Rajapaksa of Sri Lanka and His Holiness Pope Benedict holds out some promise, given that the Church is the only institution on the island that has a constituency which cuts across the ethno-regional fault lines. A cautionary note: Sri Lankan conservative opinion must not react negatively to the use of the term ‘global’ in the communiqué, because in the French language and European discourse, ‘global’ does not mean worldwide or international, but simply ‘total’ and ‘comprehensive’ ( the term for global as in worldwide or international is ‘mondial’).

There is a conspicuous irony in the stances that the TNA and UNP have taken, and their accusation that it is the government that is solely responsible for the delay in a negotiated settlement. When there was a clear chance of reconfiguring the Sri Lankan state in a more liberal direction and resolving the ethno-national question, during the presentation by President Kumaratunga of a draft Constitution in August 2000, Mr Sampanthan reneged on a promise he had made to Hon Lakshman Kadirgamar and refused to support the legislation while Mr Wickremesinghe and his UNP burnt copies of the draft in the precincts of the House itself.

At least one of Mr Sampanthan’s militant Tamil critics is still more responsible for derailing a possible solution. When in the early 1990s, President Premadasa presided over the all-parties conference (APC), he strove to overcome the deadlock on the merger by urging the EPRLF’s Suresh Premachandran and the SLMC’s MHM Ashraff to agree upon a mechanism that could resolve the dispute between the Tamils and Muslims over the Eastern Province. He reiterated this to them both, while seated together at the ceremonial opening of the parliamentary sessions. “Leave the Sinhalese to me, I can and will convince them” said Premadasa. Premachandran and Ashraff finally agreed upon a formula, but (as I witnessed with dismay) literally minutes before it was to be announced at the All Parties Conference, Premachandran pulled out of the deal. That was two decades ago, and whatever their transgressions, Mahinda and Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, the JVP, JHU, Wimal Weerawansa and Gunadasa Amarasekara had nothing to do with it.

It is that which caused the APC to fail, and be re-routed by President Premadasa into the Parliamentary Select Committee headed by Mangala Moonesinghe, who miraculously pulled off an agreement for devolution/autonomy to which Madam Sirimavo Bandaranaike and Mr Dinesh Gunawardene affixed their signatures. In constant touch with Mr Moonesinghe, I had been tasked by the President with backstage negotiations, some of which took place at the ICES. The Mangala Moonesinghe formula was rejected (with a solitary exception) by the Tamil leaders who are grouped today in the TNA and complain that Mahinda Rajapaksa is wholly and solely responsible for the stagnation in the search for a negotiated settlement of the ethnic question.

Suresh Premachandran was being true to form. When Ministers P Chidambaram and Natwar Singh came up with the December 19th proposals in 1986, it was not the Sri Lankan government that shot them down. It was the Tamil parties based in India which spurned the proposals when presented by Chief Minister MG Ramachandran. Two years later, in late 1988, the EPRLF declared that the powers devolved were inadequate, even before it had assumed office in the North East Provincial Council and tested out that proposition. After- and despite- a decade of comradeship and shared risk-taking, Premachandran had denounced me with no little menace as a ‘Sinhala chauvinist’ simply because I had called for either a referendum on the merger or a re-demarcation of the merged North-east province, in a full-page interview given to Kendall Hopman of the Sunday Times in November 1988 and followed it up at a press conference at the GCSU.

In 1990 that Council which had been set-up under the 13th amendment, made a Unilateral Declaration of Independence, with tens of thousands of foreign troops on the soil of the area. Who is to say that a future Council which is similarly committed to going beyond the 13th amendment will not do likewise, only this time with foreign troops being invited in by the rebellious Council? Why would any responsible state take that risk?

How then to resolve this complex conundrum? Fortunately there exists a legal and constitutional pathway: that of an interim administration. An interim administration comprising of all parliamentary parties currently representing the relevant (Northern) area, appointed in proportion to their parliamentary strengths relevant to that area, may be a provisional solution; a stop-gap measure. Any secessionist temptation would be blunted by the presence of the constituent members of more mainstream national blocs/coalitions. The entire arrangement would be reminiscent of the executive Committee system under the Donoughmore Constitution, which made for cross-ethnic consensus and constructive politics.

What is the alternative? There is of course the option of permanent polemics and accusations, a cycle of demands and rejections.  Each side may think that time is on its side and that the risk of delay is affordable but they may both be wrong. A downslide to a dead-end would be distressing but it could get worse, fast.

  • nathan

    Its 33 bullets. Dayan, flawed as always.

    • Dr Dayan Jayatilleka

      Hey Nathan, was that less or more than the number which entered Surya Deivan aka Sarvadesha Thalaivar aka Purachchi Thalaivar?

      • nathan

        I wouldnt know that. I can say that the number roughly equals the number of whacks a poor gentleman recieved from his fellow countrymen at a cemetary in Kanaththa some years ago. Ah, those days! 🙂

    • wijayapala

      Do you have anything more insightful to add, nathan?

  • The TNA is the pre-eminent political representative of the NE Tamil people. Therefore, it is imperative for the government to enter into a constructive dialogue with them to arrive at a solution which guarantees autonomy for the Tamil people within a United Sri Lanka. Much water has passed under the bridge since the 13A came into being and successive governments, beginning with President Premadasa, have either sabotaged or undermined its implementation. It is a well-known fact that the 13A is not been acceptable to the TNA as a solution and in that context it is pointless to harp on it except as a framework to be improved upon at negotiations. The TNA has played its part and submitted their proposals to the government. Now the ball is in the government’s court. The government should play ball with the TNA instead of trying to hide it under their ‘sarongs’.

  • Velu Balendran

    Educated people talking like ‘gamayas’ is sad indeed. Should they be told that the Brits unfairly handed over power in the hands of Sinhalese overlooking the Tamils when they left Ceylon? Decent people would have redressed that imbalance in the interest of harmony, development and democracy by sharing power – but not in Ceylon. Should they be reminded that changing the name of Ceylon unilaterally to Sri Lanka never had Tamil consent? And why should Tamils who en-bloc oppose the Sihlala constitution worry about undemocratic chauvinistic rants?

    The only answer to arrogant ‘take it or leave it’ approach is of course secession.

    VP said Tamil Eelam. Didn’t he get crushed (with the overt and covert support of many – over 21 – countries)? What is this new UDI ‘goani billa’ this writer is trying to peddle to scare the Sinhala people with? It may happen, but not if SL makes the right moves in keeping with democratic ideals.

    • wijayapala

      Dear Velu Balendran

      Should they be told that the Brits unfairly handed over power in the hands of Sinhalese overlooking the Tamils when they left Ceylon? Decent people would have redressed that imbalance in the interest of harmony, development and democracy by sharing power – but not in Ceylon.

      What exactly should the British have implemented instead of the Soulbury Constitution (and please be specific and avoid vague terms such as “harmony” and “development”)? Would the Sinhalese have accepted this alternative you have in mind?

      Should they be reminded that changing the name of Ceylon unilaterally to Sri Lanka never had Tamil consent?

      What do the Tamils believe is a better name for the island than Ceylon?

      • Keynes!

        During the proceedings of the Donoughmore Commission, the Sinhalese requested the British to create three self-governing areas comprising of the north-east, the Kandyan province and the low-country south-west.

        It is the Sinhalese who proposed the alternative that Velu Balendran has in mind.

  • Naga

    Suresh Premachandran or for that matter a majority of TNA MPs are not interested in finding a resoloution of the Tamil problem. If the Tamil problem is resolved, TNA and its constituent parties will be robbed of their only election winning platform and you will not see Suresh Premachandran sitting as MP from Jaffna district. Tamil race card is the bread and butter of these self-serving Tamil leaders. Dayan mentioned how Suresh Premachandran wrecked the talks initiated by President Premadasa. President Chandrika Kumaratunga’s proposals drafted by Neelan Tiruchelvam faced the same fate.Sampanthan and TNA withdrew their Parliamengtary support at the last moment sending to dust bin the best ever proposals that came from a Sri Lankan leader. These so-called Tamil leaders have moved their families to foreign lands and they have no family ties in Sri Lanka. Suresh Premachandran’s family is believed to be living in Canada. When the LTTE turned the children of poor Tamil families into child soldiers, Suresh Premachandran sent his daughters to medical college in India. My thanks to Dayan for exposing the dupliciy of Suresh Premachandran and co.

  • Don Quixote

    PRUDENT CENTERIST ?? my sainted aunt ! DJ has ability and a certain amount of intellect but he took a short cut (via Rajapaksa’s coat tails) and now is having second thoughts.

    How can someone who has openly shown his hatred of and bias against Ranil Wickaramasinghe be a centerist ?

    Just another man in a hurry who has realised that this is not the way to peak of his ambitions, trying to do damage control !

    Believe this and you may be interested in some beach front property I have in Arizona…..

    • Dr Dayan Jayatilleka

      Don Quixote,

      ‘Damage control’? Hah.

      Man, I pushed the idea of an interim administration months ago on this website, and on and off for a decade before that (in the Weekend Express and the Sunday Island)albeit with changing compositions due to the diffferent situations that prevailed at the time of writing.

      The GV volume of two years back on the war which contains my essay would demonstrate that the failure to appoint an interim administration after the liberation of Jaffna was one of the things I criticised President Kumaratunga for.

      ‘Hatred for Ranil Wickremesinghe’? Naah, just the same sentiments that the electorate– and his party’s Deputy Leader–shares.

  • Dr.Rajasingham Narendran

    Dear Dayan,

    Thanks for reminding us of a history in which you played a part. You have also listed many instances of likely solutions being prematurely aborted by the malfeasance of various parties, both Sinhala and Tamil.

    There are a whole list of good and not-so-good solutions that have been explored over the years. Everyone knows that any solution should involve assuring the minorities equal rights, equal opportunities, security to person and property, their right to their identity and involvement in governance at the center and the periphery-power sharing. The defeat of the LTTE has not negated these.

    However, the war, the defeat of the LTTE and the devastation that befell the Tamils and the lands in the north and east, needed a rearrangement of priorities. The Tamils in the N & E had to be restored their basic right to be humans in terms of their need for food, clothing, shelter, livelihood, healthcare, education, social structures and rehabilitation. The lands in the N & E had to be cleared of mines and the infra-structure restored ground up to meet the needs of this century. These were a priority in the past three years and remain so today. The government did right on this score, despite the difficulties and many brick bats.

    However, the government rushed to hold elections in the north and east soon after the war, to prove that it had restored democracy and to satisfy/ hoodwink the world at large. This has opened a can of worms and made the ‘basic rights’ of a war-affected people to survive become secondary to their so-called political rights. The democratic drama of the government has permitted quislings, Eelamites, opportunists, political vultures and the LTTE rump to assert themselves amongst a devastated and stunned people who are yet not clear as to what they want or need in political terms, in their new circumstances.

    There was no time nor place for a new leadership, attuned to the times and the needs of the future to emerge among the Tamils. The votes of a hapless people-many of whom had no will to vote- is being today interpreted as the endorsement of ‘Old time’ politics and a mandate for politicians to peddle their ‘Old ware’. The needs of the war-affected and much-abused people are being currently defined by the very elements who brought them to their present state. The current situation is potent with dangers for the Tamils to an extent greater than during the long period of LTTE-TNA nexus, because events are being orchestrated in a much more sophisticated manner, using resources and capabilities beyond that of the GOSL.

    The people in the N & E voted for known faces and known political formations, but not for any political program or direction. They could not do better in an election that was irrelevant to them. This exercise in elections has exposed the downside of democracy, where ‘Voting’ per-se, even if not informed and in an absolutely wrong environment, is considered an expression of a peoples will or endorsement of a particular agenda. The government, as is the usual habit, acted in an opportunistic manner, without foresight and is today paying a price for this sin.

    Nevertheless, the political issues have come to the fore now and have to be addressed. Do the GOSL and the Sinhala polity need discussions with the TNA and other Tamil political formations, to propose solutions? Why cannot they propose solutions based on past experiences and past studies and recommendations, to the country at large. They can work backwards from the Tissa Vitharana APRC report. If the GOSL has alternative solutions in mind it should present it to the minorities and the Sinhala polity, boldly and in a statesman-like manner. Should we continue to play a cat and mouse game, even after the lessons of the past three decades. Unfortunately, the circumstances are such today, one does not know which is the cat and which is the mouse!

    The president has to at least now spell out in detail his vision for a Sri Lanka as a political and social entity. We know he is a very good politician and a decisive man, when he needs to. Hence he has nothing more to prove on this score. However, it is time he proves he is the leader and the statesman the country needs at this hour. Can he do this? I am sure the Sinhalese, Tamils, Muslims and others will support him overwhelmingly if he comes up with the ‘Right’ solution for the country and her peoples. There is no better weapon to overcome the ‘Current crisis’ that has been engineered both on the local and international fronts in a very clever manner.

    Dr.Rajasingham Narendran

    Dr.Rajasingham Narendran

  • N. Ethirveerasingam

    Amb DJ,
    “How then to resolve this complex conundrum? Fortunately there exists a legal and constitutional pathway: that of an interim administration. An interim administration comprising of all parliamentary parties currently representing the relevant (Northern) area, appointed in proportion to their parliamentary strengths relevant to that area, may be a provisional solution; a stop-gap measure.”

    My assessment is that substantial majority of Tamils living in the North will support you. If the Rajapaksa administration accepts your recommendation, it can be taken to the Northern MPs in Parliament and to the Civil Society in the North to discus the conditions, responsibilities and modalities of implementation. Then of course I would like it to be put to the voters in the North at a Referendum.

  • niranjan

    Dr. Dayan Jayathilleke,

    “The Church is the only institution on the island that has a constituency which cuts across the ethno-regional fault lines.”
    Agreed. This applies not only to the Catholics, but to the other christian denominations as well such as Anglicans, Methodists etc. However, the majority of christians in Sri Lanka would prefer to vote for the United National Party in an election. There are historical and other reasons for this. To put it simply many christians view the SLFP as a Sinhala Buddhist political Party(this may have changed somewhat during Chandrika K’s time in power). However, things have reverted back to square one with the present SLFP regime. The SLFP needs to project itself as a contemporary multicultural political party which sadly it does not want or seem to do.
    What are your views on this?

    • Ravana

      SLFP will always have a racist core. No minority member should ever waste their vote on them. There are only two secular mainstream parties in Sri Lanka worth voting for. These are the UNP and JVP. Minorities should not listen to DJ’s propaganda about JVP being communal.
      OTOH to vote for communal parties is a very foolish habit developed by Sri Lankan minorities. Perhaps, the Christians have generally avoided this to their credit (exception, perhaps in the north).

      If the minorities decided to vote as a block for either UNP or JVP, the SLFP will never come to power and will remain in oblivion. I strongly suggest that the poor Tamils (none of whom will be reading this site) vote for the JVP.

      The only cautionary tale in this is that you would almost certainly put the UNP in power. Remember the 1980’s!! The SLFP may be racists but the UNP has the singular honour of being the only party which used governing power to wreak terror throughout the country. For them to be acceptable to the minorities, surely there has to be a public acknowledgement, apology and restructuring of the party by forcing out any remaining members with a past related to the terror of the 1980’s and those with a clear communalist attitude. UNP can afford to lose the Sinhala communalist vote. They have lost them any way.

      So, is there potential for Sarath Fonseka’s new party to enter the fray? Is he able to convince the minorities of his credentials?

      It is time for minority leaders to emerge with non-communal ideology who would be acceptable to the majority of Sri Lankans. It is doubtful that a good enough leader is available from the “Sinhala Buddhist” community (with a potential exception of SF; I doubt that he is interested in political office any more). Potential minority leaders really need to consider taking up the baton with a national perspective.

      • kadphises


        “…The SLFP may be racists but the UNP has the singular honour of being the only party which used governing power to wreak terror throughout the country….”

        So the JVP was not responsible for terrorising the country then? Hands up any one who does not know someone killed in cold blood by the JVP..!

        The JVP seems to be the one party that has embraced every kind of politics at the same time. Racist politics, marxist politics, anti-imperialist politcs and capitalist politics (judgind by the 5000 sq.ft. houses built by some of them). But their speciality seems to be opportunist politics, picking whatever slogan that will make them look “patriotic” on that day.

        How can the progressives in the majority support them (leave alone the minorities) when they are yet to propose a mechanism for power sharing with the Tamils? They are usually the first to find fault with any proposal but dont seem to have any ideas themselves of what should be done. Right now, there is nothing to indicate that they will be any different to the Rajapakses.

      • Ravana

        Just listening to anti-JVP slogans no longer convinces me of the credibility of the speaker. Because I have believed such nonsense in the past I am particularly sceptical when I hear them now.

        I’ve heard all those accusations thrown at the JVP. I think that they would agree that they have a Marxist background (Have you read Das Capital- I think Marx was in fact one of the greatest humanitarians of the 19th century).
        But I am yet to see clear evidence of racism in JVP manifesto (to interpret their opposition to giving power over the Northern and Eastern poor to a handful of Northern elite is not racist).

        WRT terror, I have not seen evidence that the JVP leadership sanctioned the terror carried out by some of its membership, but they certainly need to acknowledge responsibility for it (I suspect they have partially done so but clearly await an opportunity to expose the whole story- I have seen the 4th floor interview of Amarasinghe in which he says so).

        However, anything that the JVP is responsible for pales in comparison to the UNP atrocities. I once believed that this was propaganda against the then Government by the LTTE. However, I have seen an article by a former clerk to the 1990’s Presidential commission in the past three years who has clearly stated the culpability of the security forces in mass killings and torture. Neither the UNP nor the security forces are yet to acknowledge or apologise for this. I believe former President Kumaranathunge at least apologised to the Tamil population (I am not sure if she apologised to the Sinhalas).

        I have not seen any evidence of a public apology by a UNP member (except in diverting blame to the JVP).

        One thing I have personally confirmed is that the JVP (the real ones that is!) does not believe that Sarath Fonseka is responsible for any crimes against humanity in the 1987-89 period. There is (I suspect) a history between Kumara and Fonseka that the former is fearful of. Fonseka has had the self restraint not reveal many things he knows (In advance I ask you to not raise the bullshit augur of the “White Flag” case; Fonseka will speak when ready).

        I wonder if Fonseka would have the courage to apologise to Sri Lankan people for any crimes which may have commissioned against them by the security forces over the past 40 years. What we can be sure of is, that he was well on the way to demonstrating in deed that he aimed to bring discipline into the armed forces and the Police, before things fell apart.

        Dr. Jayatilleke’s attitude towards both the JVP and Fonseka is very curious. Thinking “Global” is the only way to interpret his attitude.

      • kadphises


        “(to interpret their opposition to giving power over the Northern and Eastern poor to a handful of Northern elite is not racist).”

        In a democracy, who gains power over the Northern and Eastern people will be decided by the people of the North and East through an election.

        Why does the JVP believe that this power will automatically go to the elite. Is this not simply a poorly veiled way of saying that the JVP will decide who gets power over the North and East rather than the people through an election? Well, if that is the case it is no different to the set up we have with Douglas Devananda, Pillayan and Karuna (who incidentaly are not from the elite themselves).

        If the JVP was not racist or at least pandered to racism how could someone with Wimal Weerawanse’s outlook have joined the party and even held a senior position within it?

      • Ravana

        Dear Kadphises

        “In a democracy, who gains power over the Northern and Eastern people will be decided by the people of the North and East through an election.”

        That’s a better counter to the JVP position. So is the argument about Weerawanse. However, please note that the party was in the process of bringing disciplinary action (democratically and according to the constitution of the party) when he fled with a bunch of conspirators. The same goes for Kumara’s bunch. The difference being that the Weerawanse bunch is probably racist and the Kumara bunch are a foolish and naive group of students/academics with no idea that Kumara is probably an agent of another force. I suspect that similar problems were faced by JVP in the 1980’s when factions with private motives joined them. This party demonstrates its maturity now by successfully dealing with two attempts at decimating it in recent times. They are no longer going to taken by surprise like in the 1980’s

        No that the Katuwana incident has happened, I suspect the current Government is attempting to provoke a response similar to JVP’s response to persecution by the UNP in 1980’s. I doubt that they would take the bait.

        WRT their position on the 13th amendment, perhaps I should have elaborated more. From my brief discussions with members of the JVP, the issue of the Jaffna elite suppressing the people of the north (and attempting to suppress those of the east) is just one of their concerns- This is not just JVP imagination but historical fact- e.g. Temple Entry incident of 1968, ITAK opposition vis a vis the Social Disabilities Act etc. Thus they are against the idea of a merger of the North and the East- I think that the people of the East will clearly reject a “Northern Hegemony”. However, it should also be acknowledged that Pilliyan faction has displayed no better tactics than the Devananda faction except that Pilliyan is in power. Neither I nor JVP (I suspect ) would have difficulty with TNA being elected by the people of the north (although the folly of this would be equivalent to the people of the south electing the Medamulana clan). A party like the JVP needs more freedom to operate in these areas.
        The other most important reason for the JVP opposition is that they see it as an Indian imposition.

        To accuse them of being racist on these count is very immature (or cunning). A much more mature stance would be to step back and see what their Global allegiances are. Whilst the JVP are quite resistant to establishment to Indian or US influence in SL, they are “mum” over the Rajapakse’s invitation of China into the island.

        In strategic terms it serves SL well to balance the powers of India, US and China but in the longer term Lanka’s destiny lies in the Indian fold. It was a huge mistake by India to pander to Tamil racists politics as a counter to the “independence” of GSL in the early decades. If India had not done that and Tamils had been more clever by “being Sri Lankan”, by now Sri Lanka would be sending delegations to New Delhi asking to join the Union. In fact I suspect that Sri Lanka would already be in close economic cooperation with the other economically developed states of Kerala and Tamilnadu. The racist policies of the elitist leaders of the North sadly has led Sri Lanka to this point, when they could have been smarter. Had they played their cards right, Tamils would have shifted from administrative control of the island to its economic control. A clear example is the Chinese community of Malaysia. It is sad that our people are so intoxicated with this “us-them” syndrome to the point be extreme parochialists. As a result we fight among ourselves and block opportunities for the progress of each other.

        JVP should be criticised squarely on their current political stance and not on emotional reactions invoked by their enemies. I think it is time that the “racist” and “terrorist” labels against the JVP is removed as they are simply neither. They are secular party with a political ideology which stands for the liberation of the poorer 20% of the country. Even then I would doubt that they have more than 10% support in SL.

        But here’s the crux. That 10% is fiercely loyal and smart! Guys like Jayatilleke is afraid of exactly that. He knows what those (10%) who are awake to the nature of the system, can do to it. My fear is that the JVP will betray the very people they fight for now, if they ever come to power. Why? Because, if you hold power then you are part of the system. Even if they might be more benign and socially conscious than the corrupt Capitalist system in place now, they will be compelled to act as a “State” and impose controls and tell us what to do and not to do.

        That just would not suit me. Maximum Freedom for all human beings is through “anarchy”. Even though 80% of the population will always seek leadership from the 10% of predators who will only be glad to provide for that need, “anarchist” will forever be outside this system; and free. Whilst I would like to think that Sri Lanka has an “anarchist” movement, it is unlikely that either the JVP or Fonseka faction (the closest candidates) have developed to that extent. But they are the best that SL can offer. The rest is quite disgusting.

      • kadphises

        I asked a friend in the Gunaratnam faction if the Dambulla incident was not a good opportunity to put out the message that the PSF stood for equality between the communities and condemn the actions by the Dambulla priest. However there was no condemnation. They instead released a statement asking the people “not to be deceived by the Government’s attempt to cause divsions between the communties.”

        It merely confirmed my suspicions. They may have split from the JVP, but the old JVP habits have not died.

        They, like the JVP are unable or unwilling to take Sinhala nationalism head on and deal with it.

        Instead of voicing outrage against the priest and the mob led by him they skirted the whole issue and released a cop out statement that avoided mentioning either the Priest or Sinhala Nationalism.

        This is so much like the JVP’s treatment of every other issue..

        They will not address the Tamil’s desire for self determination. But they will talk endlessly about the Tamil elite controlling the Tamil underclass, Indian conspiracies, Western conspiracies and Imperialist conspiracies. They see conspiracies everywhere. Every problem that besets the country has no solution, only an explanation i.e. its a conspiracy by the usual suspects. A paranoid state of mind shared by Stalinists, Maoists and also the Khmer Rouge!

        When these types then come to power the first thing they do is try to eliminate the “conspirators” i.e. all their critics. This generally takes precedence over addressing more pressing issues like feeding the population. What follows then are the Gulags, cultural revolutions and Cambodian style genocides while the people are reduced to mere slaves in the collective farms.

        If they want to be seen differently to the PA or UNP as a “principled” political movement they should publicise their specific solutions to the country’s problems.

        How will they look after the poor? How will they find the money for it?
        What is their solution to the ethnic issue? What is their environmental policy? These are the tough questions and we need to know their answers before voting for them.

  • georgethebushpig

    Dear Dr. Jayatilleke,

    After reading Kalana Senaratne’s brilliant 9 June article it was with interest that I read the following excerpt from your (1995) “Sri Lanka: The Travails of a Democracy, Unfinished War, Protracted Crisis” quoted there:

    “The Tamil people of the north and east constitute a distinct nation, equal to the Sinhalese. As such they have the intrinsic and inalienable right of self-determination, which includes the right to set up their own independent and sovereign state…”

    I was a little disoriented not sure whether your present article was written in solidarity with the protesters waving snarling tiger flags and Sampanthan’s recent ITAK speech or some other nebulous “centrist” perspective.

    Gee man, you got more contorted position changes than the Kama Sutra!

    If the quote from your 1995 piece is out of context you must realize that intellectual laxness and deliberate obfuscation can be contagious.

    Best regards

    • World View

      So basically what you’re saying is that if someone believed that the earth was flat, and was then presented with evidence to the contrary, and as a result changed their mind about the issue, they have no integrity and that they have contorted positions? That it is intellectual laxness? What an interesting theory! I never knew that people were prohibited from changing their views. Silly me. God forbid people voting for a certain political party at one election and then giving their vote to another political party at another election. Oh the intellectual laxness of democracy and free thought! Woe!

      • georgethebushpig

        Dear World View,

        There’s a whole line of discussion that precedes this comment; if you have the time or inclination in understanding the irony in my comment read through the following:

        ITAK’S PLAN OF ATTACK: THE BREAKOUT STRATEGY – Dayan Jayatilleke, 29 May 2012

        On the (Non)sense of Being ‘United’ and/nor/or ‘Unitary’ – P. Vijaya, 31 May 2012


        ITAK and the New Chapter in Post-War Politics of Sri Lanka – Kalana Senaratne, 9 June 2012

        Just as an aside, what if you believed that the earth was round and contrary to all the evidence in support of that belief you incongruously begin to argue that the earth is flat? You have all the freedom to change your views but it don’t necessarily make them right!

      • Burning_Issue

        The flat earth argument and the DJ’s 1995 statement regarding a Tamil statehood is a world apart; compare apples with apples for goodness sake!

        I am afraid; DJ is as confusing as Mr. Sampanthan; it is in the interest of DJ to obfuscate and holding on to powerful position is far more important than one’ principle!

    • Ravana

      Heh Heh Heh,
      Glad you get your sense of humour back George.

  • Dr.Rajasingham Narendran

    Dear Dayan,

    The time for an ‘Interim Administration’ is long past. It should have been established soon after the war and been constituted of skilled, dedicated and honest administrators and technocrats. To bring in vision-less, corrupt, shortsighted and sloganeering politicians into an ‘Interim Administration’ now would only aggravate the current problems further.

    There is no alternative now to finding appropriate political solutions, while continuing the current efforts on the war-affected people and land front. Political solutions for the minorities, should also be accompanied by constitutional reforms to ensure better governance, rule of law and a better quality of politicians.

    Dr.Rajasingham Narendran

  • while the current lot are in power there will be no solution.

  • DJ’s ‘interim-administration’ proposal which incorporate Sinhala-majoritarian parties rejected by the Tamil electorate is a ruse designed to undermine the political authority of the TNA, ‘the pre-eminent political entity in the North-East. In the context of the Sinhala Nationalist project launched in the North-East under politico-military leadership of the Rajapaksa Bros in the form of setting up Buddha statues, military cantonments and Sinhala colonies it is stepping-stone to put the idea of devolution of power to the Tamil people into cold storage until the demographic and socio-cultural make-up of the Tamil habitats is bulldozed. Is DJ shifting to a populist Sinhala Nationalist position for self-interest?

    • Ravana

      To understand Dr. Jayatilleke, you have to think “Global”. 🙂

    • Dr Dayan Jayatilleka

      Dear Cyril and Ravana, never mind the speculation about why i am saying what I am saying. Engage with the points made. In the meanwtime, here’s the view of someone who manfestly cannot be accused of shifting to a ‘sinhala populiast-nationalist position for self interest, Senior Prof Laksiri Fernando, a respected internationalist anti-sinhala racist and Trotskyist, in the Colombo Telegraph:

      Extremist Diaspora And Sampanthan’s Speech Complicate ‘Reconciliation’
      June 15, 2012 | Filed under: Colombo Telegraph,MORE OPINION,Opinion | Posted by: COLOMBO_TELEGRAPH
      By Laksiri Fernando –

      It is difficult to believe that President Rajapaksa or his advisors did not anticipate protests in London or possible cancellation of his address to the Commonwealth Economic Forum in connection with his participation in the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations. It was a repetition of what happened in December 2010 when he was supposed to address the Oxford Union Debating Society. The only difference was that the cancelation of his speech, of course under pressure, this time was decided by an inter-national organization, the Commonwealth Business Council, created by none other than the Commonwealth Heads of Government in 1997, unlike the first one being a mere university student organization, however prestigious that one might be.

      On both occasions, the right to speak was a casualty. There is no question that some diaspora groups in the United Kingdom, whether with direct links to the proscribed LTTE or not, and the human rights organizations concerned with war crimes and human rights violations have every right to peacefully protest against the President. However, it is at least not acceptable if the Global Tamil Forum (GTF) or its British counterpart, the British Tamil Forum or other organizers brought threats or pressure on the Commonwealth Business Council to cancel the event. It is more abominable if any ‘human rights’ organization was involved in this effort. A balanced and an objective approach to ‘war crimes’ requires highlighting both the government and the LTTE atrocities rather equally.

      It is possible that the President went to the event to show his point; that some of the active diaspora groups are intransigent or even ‘terrorists.’ Now the government is utilizing the debacle for its advantage as reported in The Island (14 June) claiming that it posed a threat to President’s life. It is true that he or his armed forces are accused of war crimes and more and more evidence is unleashed by different sources completely credible or not. But there should be a due process and that due process cannot be taken over by the extremist activists in London.

      Unlike the Oxford event, the Commonwealth Heads and Governments are involved in this instance. At least some of them might not take the rebuff that one of their counterparts had to undergo without sympathy. After all he was invited by the Commonwealth Business Council and business of the Commonwealth cannot be conducted under the siege of the extremist agitation. The next Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHGOM) is scheduled to be held in Sri Lanka in 2013 and the President is going to be the host of this event.


      There are indications that some of the diaspora groups are over-reading the results of the March UNHRC resolution. They are possibly going to the other extreme of the Rajapaksa government on the issues of reconciliation. The first indication of this overreaction came when the Global Tamil Forum and the Transnational Government of the Tamil Eelam (TGTE) issued a joint statement on 19 May 2012 as the “Mullivaaaikkaal Remembrance Message.” As it states, “The absolute power and the arrogant ways of the present Sri Lankan regime are earning the disgust of the international community. This in turn creating conditions favourable to our cause.”

      What it says as “our cause” is explicitly the separate Tamil Eelam or even the methods that the LTTE used in achieving that objective which were roundly rejected by the international community by proscribing the LTTE in 32 countries as a terrorist organization and tacitly supporting or being largely indifferent to the crushing of the LTTE by the government forces in 2009. The concerns of the international community at present, in my opinion, are mainly the issues of ‘war crimes’ or ‘accountability’ and ‘reconciliation’ with justice to the Tamil community among others and that means a viable political solution. ‘Absolute power or the arrogance’ of the government may be of some concern, but there are other ways of dealing with them without supporting a separate state in Sri Lanka. The other ways may include a regime change, but even that will be different to what they have been encouraging in Arab countries.

      Some of the relevant sections of the GTF and TGTE joint statement are the following.

      “In addition, there are noticeable and encouraging changes in the mind set and approach of the international community following the disaster at Mullivaaikkaal. It is up to our ingenuity and political intelligence how we take advantage of these turn of events in the way we act. We should strengthen our ability to collaborate across differences with a shared understanding and collective action.”

      “With this in mind, representatives of the Transnational Government of Tamil Eelam and the Global Tamil Forum got together in San Francisco on the 13th and 14th of this month. We are pleased to announce that following discussions on several areas of joint action, agreements were reached on some of these areas. This is indeed an important milestone as we move through the third phase of our struggle for freedom coinciding with the remembrance of Mullivaaikkaal.”

      “The Global Tamil Forum intends to liaise with other Diaspora Tamil organisations and representatives of Tamil speaking people in Sri Lanka in its efforts to build similar forms of shared understanding. The Transnational Government of Tamil Eelam, for its part, is engaged in building a power base among the world Tamil community, particularly in Tamil Nadu, and with sections of the international civil society.”

      “On this occasion, while we remember the mass atrocities in Mullivaaikkaal, it is incumbent upon us to jointly and solemnly declare that the pursuit of freedom by our people shall remain incessant.”

      Nowhere in the statement is the possibility of ‘reconciliation’ ever mentioned as if it is not in their vocabulary. It is beyond comprehension that (or if) the GTF and the TGTE wanted to restart the ‘conflict or the war’ again which brought misery for all and particularly to the Tamil community living in Sri Lanka.

      It is an insult to the ‘intelligence,’ ‘rationality’ and ‘humanness’ of both and all communities if reconciliation cannot be achieved whatever the political obstacles for that achievement particularly from the present government as it is revealed by the past events and actions including the way the war was apparently conducted at the last stages. Sri Lanka and its resources have been shared by the Sinhalese, the Tamils and the Muslims for centuries both separately and jointly and their future destiny or destinies will be more purposeful if the differences are resolved sooner than later.

      Sampanthan’s Speech

      In recent weeks, Sampanthan’s speech at the ITAK or the Federal Party national convention in Batticaloa has taken much attention than the GTF and TGTE statement perhaps for the reasons of proximity. Sampanthan apparently wanted to assert his party position opposed to, as he later said, “certain groups of Tamils living abroad,” “as the single most recognized political organization both here and abroad which embodies the political aspirations of the Tamil people.” That is how he began. Sampanthan otherwise, in my opinion and experience, is not an extremist.

      However, he exaggerated the past and claimed “hundred thousand of our people” were killed “merely for demanding the fundamental rights that belonged to them, and for the legitimate rights of self-determination and governance.” It was a misinterpretation of the conflict or the war. There was an implicit defence of the LTTE struggle saying that “We remember the Tamil youth who sacrificed their lives in armed struggle, which they resorted to on the failure of their peaceful struggle for the political rights and freedoms of their people.” There was no previous peaceful struggle launched by the LTTE.

      There is no question that Sampanthan was expressing the traditional ideology of his party which claimed a ‘unique nature’ to the Tamil nation and ‘exclusivity’ for its self-determination almost from the beginning of its formation in 1949. An independent academic who recognized this aspect of ITAK politics was the reputed British historian Eric Hobsbawm (a Marxist) who quoted the party declaration in 1952 at length to stress this point when he wrote his seminal work “Nations and Nationalism Since 1870: Programme, Myth, Reality” in 1992. In this context there is nothing wrong in saying, without exaggeration, that his speech is a manifestation of some ‘autonomist-secessionist continuum’ in ITAK politics, if not Tamil politics, and even Sampanthan himself might agree.

      There is no need to quote extensively what he said in this respect as others have quoted and misquoted him for various interpretations and political purposes. There are other rather sober and encouraging pronouncements which many of the others have overlooked. After saying, “We are now the legitimate representative of the Tamil people” along and within the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), he reiterated very clearly that the ITAK “does not have any history of armed struggle, which has always rejected such struggle, which has a long time democratic tradition, which has always put forward realistic proposals, that the international community has given the most recognition.”

      However, he contradicted himself first saying that “Our expectation for a solution to the ethnic problem of the sovereignty of the Tamil people is based on a political structure outside that of a unitary government, in a united Sri Lanka in which Tamil people have all the powers of government needed to live with self-respect and self-sufficiency” and then saying in a subsequent paragraph that “Our priority now is to expose the Sri Lankan government that for so many years in the past attempted to describe the ethnic problem as a ‘terrorist problem.’ He further added, “We must clearly prove to the international community that the Sri Lankan government, which has delayed for so long in giving the Tamil people their rights, has never made any genuine effort to do so. In other words – we must prove to the international community that we will never be able to realize our rights within a united Sri Lanka.”

      It is also not possible to disregard the statements like the following as mere rhetoric which says, after referring to the ostensible change of the international situation that “Although the issue at hand is the same, the prevailing conditions are different. The struggle is the same, but the approaches we employ are different. Our aim is the same, but our strategies are different. The players are the same, but the alliances are different. That is the nature of the Tamil people. Although we still have the same aim, the methods we use are now different.”

      The impression undoubtedly given is the intransigent politics without taking into consideration the miseries that all communities and particularly the Tamils have undergone as a result of the same kind of politics and rhetoric from all sides during nearly the last three decades. More alarming is the following which might consider as a ‘security threat’ by the Rajapaksa administration and also easy justification for withholding of the provincial council elections in the North and the withdrawal of the armed forces from that region. It is extremely difficult to understand why he said so particularly at this juncture.

      “Our patience however, will not be everlasting. Our patience too, has its limits. Once we have reached that limit, we will move onto the stage of our effort. We will not hesitate to gather our people together and with the support of progressive forces in our country, and the international community, even engage in a non-violent struggle. We will decide on specific deadlines and when the time comes for such action, we will act.”


      There are two main conclusions to make, rather briefly, by observing the two statements, first jointly by the GTF and the TGTE, and second by R Sampanthan at the ITAK national convention in Batticaloa in May. The sabotage of President’s speech in London is only an added evidence for these observations.

      First is that there is a complete misreading and exaggeration, in my opinion, of the UNHRC resolution in March believing that perhaps a new situation has arisen that the international community and particularly the US and India might support a ‘new struggle for independence’ beginning with internal self-determination and then moving on to the external self-determination, if that struggle is launched ‘peacefully’ and under a different leadership.

      This exaggeration was conspicuous when Sampanthan initially said in his speech that “We gather here following our victory in the passage of the recent Resolution at the UN Human Rights Council, a condemnation against the Sri Lankan government by the international community, which has recognized that the Sri Lankan government has committed the crime of extermination against our people, and that it continues to deny them their political rights.”

      Second is that given the past experiences and the conditions prevailing at the ground level in Sri Lanka that the struggle for rights of the Tamils (national question) and all other minorities are interwoven with the democratic struggle of the general masses in the country against authoritarianism, corruption and political violence unleashed by the state. There may be a pressing need in addition to re-conceptualize the Tamil national question in terms of broader human rights and democracy rather than confining purely on ethno-nationalist discourses.

      • Ravana

        Dear DJ,
        I am whole heartedly in agreement with Dr. Laksiri Fernando.
        My comment to Cyril was because he appears to not understand you. I have been watching and reading you for some time now and have genuinely tried to understand you (the intriguing fellow that you are). Let’s just say, that you certainly don’t do things out of “self-interest”.
        Guys like us …. just don’t need that do we? 🙂

        Let us just say that we may be at opposite ends of a spectrum, but we are a lot closer than we appear.

  • alex fernando

    Yes another stirring argument for Sri Lanka to maintain its oversized military deployed in the North East – tigers here, tigers there and everywhere … hmmm. Not sure anyone really cares what the Tamils do in free liberal countries whilst Sri Lanka remains under the lawless control of its security forces (yes an oxymoron I know). Time to advise the rajapakses to do what the ‘imperialist’ international community is politely asking, other wise they may be less polite in the future.

    • justitia

      Dear alex fernando,
      You are quite correct. There is a “military administration” in place in the north & east,which was not agreed to by the people of the areas of the nothern and eastern provincial councils.
      The elected representatives of the two councils must be allowed to run the affairs of both councils,JUST LIKE WHAT IS HAPPENUNG IN ALL OTHER PROVINCIAL COUNCILS.
      The military governers who are effectively running the affairs of both councils by force, aided by the armed forces, armed paramilitaries and police,should be replaced by civilians.
      The armed forces need to be reduced to levels elsewhere,the paramilitaries disbanded & disarmed, and public servants fluent in tamil appointed so that they can interact with civilians.
      Then there will be peace. Problems of resettlement and land can be dealt with by concensus.
      Police should maintain law & order.

  • Dr.Rajasingham Narendran

    The TNA wants to move into eelam from the maze. Please read the recent inteview of S. Sri Tharan- MP for Kilinochchi.

  • georgethebushpig

    Dear Dr. Jayatilleke,

    I think you meant to refer to your buddy Prof. Laksiri as anti-racist Sinhala rather than “anti-Sinhala racist”…. the latter term you usually reserve for Prabhakaran.

    You may at some point want to respond to P. Vijaya’s critique of the misuse by you of the term “autonomous-secessionist continuum” as it seems to be gaining currency among those with impeccable political credentials such as your buddy Prof. Laksiri (a Trotskyiet nonetheless…ooh we’re duly humbled).


  • SomeOne

    Dear Wijayapala/Velu,

    “…Would the Sinhalese have accepted this alternative you have in mind?…”

    Although it is a hypothetical situation, it is worth considering this case.

    Do you think that this “acceptance” matter if British had decided to have two separate governing systems to this island?

    “..What exactly should the British have implemented instead of the Soulbury Constitution..”

    Therein lays the problem. Some one else is deciding our destiny. That is what exactly majority people wanted and they grabbed it with both hands.

    Sad reality is that we don’t know how to take advantage of the unitary system and move on with our lives. Thank you

    • wijayapala

      Dear SomeOne

      Do you think that this “acceptance” matter if British had decided to have two separate governing systems to this island?

      Of course it would’ve mattered, the Sinhalese would not have accepted a bifurcated island.

      Some one else is deciding our destiny. That is what exactly majority people wanted and they grabbed it with both hands.

      I don’t understand your point. If someone else comes up with an idea that the majority agrees with, then what is the problem?

      The only issue is if the minority has a better idea that is ignored. As far as I can tell, the Tamil leadership never presented a superior alternative to the Soulbury Constitution.

      • SomeOne

        Dear Wijayapala,

        Now, let me put my question differently.

        “Do you think that the “rejection” of Sinhalese matter if British had decided to have two separate governing systems to this island?”

        The point is, if British had established two independent Sovereign state in this island, sinhaleese has no chance of over powering the other state. Let it be Jaffna (peninsula), Wanni, eastern province, Uda rata,or pahatha rata.

        You said “Tamil leadership never presented a superior alternative to the Soulbury Constitution.”. Fair enough, you are entitled to your opinion. The reality is that we are NOT going any where.

        Don’t say Tamil leadership. Tamils themselves are divided. In other words, unity between Sinhalese and Tamils are stronger than the unity between Tamils themselves.

        Rajadurai showed middle finger gesture to Amirthalingam and Karuna did the same to Pirapakaran. This is history.

        Talk to you later. Thank you

      • wijayapala

        Dear SomeOne

        The point is, if British had established two independent Sovereign state in this island, sinhaleese has no chance of over powering the other state. Let it be Jaffna (peninsula), Wanni, eastern province, Uda rata,or pahatha rata.

        Why not?

        You said “Tamil leadership never presented a superior alternative to the Soulbury Constitution.”. Fair enough, you are entitled to your opinion. The reality is that we are NOT going any where.

        We are not going anywhere with what?

        Don’t say Tamil leadership. Tamils themselves are divided.

        They have been divided for about the past 20 years, but they weren’t very divided politically around the time of independence. At that time, the Tamil vote was split between the UNP and the Tamil Congress.

  • SomeOne

    Dear Wijayapala,

    Sorry for belated response.

    “Why not??…”. Well, this is my prediction and it is not worth discussing the reasons why I arrived at this conclusion.

    We had a significant chance of getting two or more separate independent governing systems to this country. It was just after India and Pakistan (East and west) became independent states and our politicians at the time of (so called) independence were aware of this situation. The “Sovereignty” which (some)people enjoy to day were on shaky ground at the time of independence. Whether the “Sovereignty” was on shaky ground or not, certainly this country was politically unstable. We need to understand our recent past history in order to move out of the maze/mess which we are in.

    “We are not going anywhere with what?.. “. I don’t want to answer this question. This is what we are talking about. Then again, this became part and partial of our life.

    “but they weren’t very divided politically around the time of independence…”. trust and betrayal dominate our political history, I guess. Thank you.

    • wijayapala

      Dear SomeOne

      Well, this is my prediction and it is not worth discussing the reasons why I arrived at this conclusion.

      Is it because you believe that the Sinhalese are racially inferior to the Tamils, and are too embarrassed to say so?

      We had a significant chance of getting two or more separate independent governing systems to this country. It was just after India and Pakistan (East and west) became independent states and our politicians at the time of (so called) independence were aware of this situation.

      There is one important detail you are missing regarding India and Pakistan- the Indian National Congress under Nehru agreed to Partition and the creation of Pakistan. Pakistan was not artificially created by the British.

      “We are not going anywhere with what?.. “. I don’t want to answer this question.

      Why not?

  • SomeOne

    Dear Wijayapala,

    “Is it because you believe that the Sinhalese are racially inferior to the Tamils..”. C’Mon, you need to fix this kind of mentality, in my view.

    “..Nehru agreed to Partition and the creation of Pakistan..” Do you think that Nehru’s disagreement would have prevented the separation of Pakistan and India?. I don’t want to comment on this. Because, this is highly hypothetical. One “IF” one too many.

    One day, I was watching Dalialama’s press club presentation on TV. He (Dalailama) said that Mahatma Gandhi had gone to an extent to offer the position of prime minister ship to Jinna in order to prevent the separation of Pakistan. I believe what Dalailama said was true. Every one would have worked had to keep the two nations together, I guess.

    In my view, Indians and Pakistanees are brothers. The same thing goes with Tamils and Sinhalese. Thank you.

    • wijayapala

      Dear SomeOne

      C’Mon, you need to fix this kind of mentality, in my view.

      How can I “fix” my mentality when you refuse to clarify your position?

      Do you think that Nehru’s disagreement would have prevented the separation of Pakistan and India?. I don’t want to comment on this.

      If you do not want to comment on this, then why should I? You have yet to show how the British could have created two states in Sri Lanka that would have been sustainable.

      • SomeOne

        Dear Wijayapala,

        “….how the British could have created two states in Sri Lanka….”

        How?…It is exactly how they (Brits) concurred this island. Brits were too good not only to this Island people but also to Indians.

        Then again, I already told that it is a hypothetical event which didn’t happen. How could I explain an event which didn’t happen? Thank you.