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Tamil Poem in Purananuru, circa 500 B.C 

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Home > Struggle for Tamil Eelam > Conflict Resolution: Tamil Eelam - Sri Lanka > Broken Pacts & Evasive Proposals > Chandrika's 'Devolution' Proposals:1995/2001 > Sinhala devolution no solution to Thamizh revolution - R. Shanmugalingam

Chandrika's 'Devolution Proposals'

  Sinhala devolution no solution to Thamizh revolution
R. Shanmugalingam

12 September 1995

Once more, we have been offered proposals purporting to satisfy the political demands of our people, the demands for which tens of thousands of us have sacrificed our lives and limbs, and many times more have been made to flee into exile.

Judging from the behaviour of past Sri Lankan governments, including that of the late father of the current President and that of her mother, we have excellent reasons not only to be sceptical but also distrustful of the genuineness of offers emanating from the other side. Our past experience of the negotiating process has demonstrated well certain invariables regarding those who wield power on the side of the government. These are:-

  1. Undependability of the good faith at the negotiating table or the good faith of any agreement entered into.
  2. The perverse insistence by the Sinhalas that the whole island is theirs by some divine right and we the Thamizhar are squatters and therefore should behave ourselves towards them.
  3. They, the Sinhalas, are the repository of all rights and power, and that the others in the island have any privileges only at the indulgence of the Sinhala leaders and the Buddhist bonzes.
  4. "Thushta" Gemunu is a hero for rising against a Thamizh ruler who was considered the justest ever in Sri Lanka for the mere reason he was a Thamizhan. But Thamizh Eezham leader Pirabaharan is a terrorist for his insurrection against evil and unjust governments of the Sinhalas.
  5. They, the Sinhalas, are a superior race of invader Aryan descendants, who have therefore as their reasoning goes more rights than the "inferior" Thamizhar, even though arguably, Thamizhar are the autochthons of Lanka.

The offer made by the President in consultation with the Buddhist clergy should be viewed in the light of the foregoing observed facts about their fundamental beliefs. It should be clear to anyone but the most wishful that there was never before nor now any intention on the part of the Sinhala leadership to share power with Thamizhar in a democratic and equitable manner as the history of our struggle shows abundantly.

So why does the President make this offer? It is as a result of the armed struggle by Thamizhar, that the government cannot contain. It is to neutralise, to extinguish, to emasculate the armed power of the Tigers and not primarily with a view to make Thamizhar equal partners.

It is not the purpose to benefit Thamizhar, but to benefit the Sinhalas, who are also put to some inconvenience by the Tigers. This is not a cynical view but one based on the above premises and observed past behaviours of the Sinhalas.

They are the master race who came to possess the island by divine right whose rulers over the centuries were not particularly well known for negotiated settlements of disputes, nor were the leaders of the past fifty years known for good faith dealings with Thamizhar. They have now got to deal with the revolt of the oppressed, and why would they want to suffer any diminution in their aggrandisement if it can be avoided?

Even when such die-hards as South Africa and Israel relinquished their hold and the indissoluble 'Soviet Union' split apart, Czecho-Slovakia fissions into Check and Slovak republics the overlords of Sri Lanka hold out the fond hope of starving and blockading our people into attrition and death if not outright defeat earlier.

Are these the same leaders who want to live with Thamizhar as equals and friends? It took all the devastation, displacement, deaths, and dispersion of our people for leaders in the South to put up for consideration a proposal only marginally better than the previous packages reneged on by the Sinhala leaders.

The blatant fact about the polity in Sri Lanka is that it is primarily a conflict between two ethnic groups, in which one group has held all the power and used it to the detriment of the other and reneged on pacts it made with the other on more than one occasion. Now suddenly the leader of the ruling group professes to have been afflicted with a change of heart, sends in the army to the North East, blasts the population out of their lives and homes and offers a "Pax Romana".

In the absence of goodwill and a history of bad faith and hostility, one has to look at the package with extreme circumspection and assume the worst scenario. It is now about time to look at the provisions of the package. It will be in order to look at the "subject and function" reserved for the "centre" very carefully, for that will tell us what we do not have. In a conflict of seven Sinhala regions ranged against one non-Sinhala region, it is a foregone conclusion, that in a constitutional confrontation, whose interpretation will prevail.

The strange aspect of the schedule is that it does not say that what is NOT reserved for the centre belongs to the region (as in the US constitution). The schedule in the Appendix enumerates the regions' functions and subjects in order to circumscribe them. As pointed out in an earlier paragraph, I have taken the worst case scenario in the light of past experience and I have maintained from the time Chandrika ascended the Sinhala throne (Father, mother and now daughter), any Thamizh hope of a political solution is a "Malignant illusion".

This devolution package is another characteristic Sinhala ploy to again douse our revolutionary and separatist fervour. We can be fooled, they think, one more time. What we can get by negotiation should not be less than what we have - a de facto Thamizh Eezham government.

What has been devolved in the lists, in other countries, is not much more than the powers given to local bodies such as Municipalities and Counties. What is proposed is more like decentralisation, rather than genuine regional government. The state governments in the U.S.A. have truly devolved powers. If U.S.A. can function so well with such a political structure, why does the Sinhala government not learn something from it?

One of the most serious problems with the proposed structure is that the Thamizh region is going to be a perennial loser in every constitutional confrontation. For, it is only one of eight regions, the other seven being Sinhala. Unless Thamizhar have one to one representation vis a vis the Sinhalas collectively, our independence limited as it is, is not tenable.

A looser relationship such as between the members of the European Community where each member is Sovereign, but has interlocking relationship and dependency with the other members will be eminently suitable for us. But the Sinhalas won't even look at it.

In the meantime some short-sighted Thamizh opportunists are waxing eloquent about the proposals for, to them, any temporary, (or are they aiming at political hand outs at the expense of true independence of the people.) relief is better than the current situation. A situation made worse by "Quasi -Tamils."

The redeeming feature of the whole package is that the proposals will be rejected by the Sinhalas if not in the parliament then in the referendum....

The proposals if implemented, will forever take away Thamizh areas and annex them to Sinhala regions, appropriate Trincomalee harbour and Palaly air port for the Centre (Sinhala government), liquidate the Tigers, police force and judiciary will continue to be controlled by the Sinhala Constitutional Council, Governor planted by the President, and Attorney General appointed by the Governor, Stock Exchange and Corporations, Banking and Insurance controlled by the Centre bureaucrats, so on and so forth, making sure that nothing of importance is left to the Thamizhh region.

Even this sorry document does not pass muster with the mad monks and the so called 'Sinhala Buddhist Absolutists.' Deny me freedom deny me life.

"Thamizh Eezham Nation Thamizhar Mission."


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