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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 > Bi-Partisanship - the Second Big Lie,1999

Chandrika's 'Devolution Proposals'
Bi-Partisanship - the Second Big Lie

Statement by the Action Group of Tamils (TAGOT)
Dr S Sathananthan, Secretary
Tel: [94 1] 877220, 869257
Email: [email protected]  [email protected]
20 February 1999

Numerous human rights and conflict resolution organisations and most Tamil political parties and associations have repeatedly called for the two major Sinhalese parties, Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) and the United National Party (UNP), to reach a consensus. The purpose of such consensus is allegedly to facilitate constitutional reform to resolve the armed conflict raging in the North-Eastern Province (NEP) between the Government and the Tamil National Movement, led by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). Organisations in the private sector have also pleaded for the bi-partisan approach to the armed conflict. Earlier, the British Under Secretary Mr Liam Fox too had encouraged the same.

The rationale cited for demanding bi-partisanship is the accusation levelled by the SLFP that it cannot put through a constitutional reform proposal because the UNP would not support it in Parliament. The famous lament by the SLFP - "all we need are sixteen votes" - to ensure the requisite two-thirds majority vote is well known. The claim is backed up with references to previous instances where a ruling party could not effect constitutional changes supposedly because of obstruction by the then opposition party.

The Action Group Of Tamils (TAGOT) is not so gullible. We categorically state that the proclaimed need for bi-partisan support is, firstly, the SLFP's grotesque game of passing-the-buck, grotesque because people - mostly Tamils - are paying with their lives. We unhesitatingly reject the Big Lie, that a bi-partisan approach must be formulated before the SLFP can negotiate with the LTTE.

TAGOT holds that the onus is squarely on the ruling SLFP-led Peoples Alliance (PA) Coalition Government to negotiate directly and immediately with the LTTE.

This brings us to the previous Big Lie.

The SLFP asserted, and the assertion is assiduously upheld by most Tamil political parties and underwritten by human rights and conflict resolution organisations, that the Government has put forward its OFFICIAL proposal for constitutional reform. Has the Government done so?

An official proposal was alleged to have been released on three occasions. In August 1995, the President announced the "President Kumaratunga's Devolution Proposals". However, within three days Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs GL Peiris glibly pigeon-holed them as her personal views, as her own "Basic Ideas", which therefore cannot constitute the official position of either the SLFP or the PA.

In January 1996, Minister Peiris released the "Draft Provisions of the Constitution Containing the Proposals of the Government of Sri Lanka Relating to Devolution of Power". But the document was a blatant farce: the all-important provisions on devolution of power were missing. When question about it, he cynically dismissed the queries with a curt "later". Moreover, most of the Ministers and SLFP members and the constituent parties of the PA knew nothing of the contents of the document before its release; and neither the SLFP nor the PA endorsed it as their official proposal for constitutional reform.

Both documents were superseded by the October 1997 "Report of the Parliamentary Select Committee on Constitutional Reform". Again Minister Peiris kept most of his Cabinet colleagues, SLFP members and the member-parties of the PA in the dark regarding the nature and scope of the alleged constitutional reform. Not surprisingly, when he dumped the document on the Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) in his capacity as its Chairman, the representatives of political parties in the Committee rejected the Report. They refused to sign the covering note, the PSC Statement, and so withheld their endorsement.

In short, the PSC Report has not been endorsed by either the SLFP or the PA. Indeed, powerful factions within the SLFP and PA stridently opposed it immediately after Minister Peiris brazenly tabled the unauthorised and illegitimate PSC Report in Parliament.

But in all three instances the President, Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar and a few senior SLFP politicians have at different times dishonestly flaunted each document allegedly as the Government's official position on constitutional reform. The breathtaking scale of the Goebbelsian lie is starkly clear.

Belligerent Face of Sinhala Buddhist FundamentalismA strategic aim of ruling Sinhalese politicians has been to purvey the alleged reforms as political responses in order to legitimise the military campaign in the NEP and to buy time to conclude it "victoriously".

Given that the PA Government has dodged, we repeat, has dodged putting forward an official proposal for more than four years, there is no basis for a constitutional reform process. Therefore, the emphasis placed on bi-partisanship is also a political red herring to detract from this duplicitous refusal.

The irrelevance of the bi-partisan approach is underscored by the PA Government's moves to neutralise the effectiveness of Mr Nelson Mandela as a mediator. Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar waged a cynical campaign to paint African National Congress (ANC) as an ally of the LTTE and so undermined Mr Mandela's standing as an impartial mediator.

In short, the SLFP has no intention whatsoever to negotiate with the LTTE. TAGOT finds the third reason for the proclaimed need for a Sinhalese bi-partisanship to be insidious. The alleged existence or imminent birth of a SLFP-UNP consensus is a counter-revolutionary ploy. It is a charade fabricated to hoodwink the Tamil people into believing that a credible political solution is within sight because of a supposedly emerging Sinhalese political consensus.

An objective of the moribund subterfuge is to bait the war-ravaged Tamil people and drive a wedge between the Tamils and the LTTE, to divide the LTTE-led Tamil National Movement, and thereby undercut the organisation's mass support among the Tamil people and emasculate the Movement..

Tamil parties and associations as well as human rights and conflict resolution organisations in Colombo that have enthusiastically acquiesced in the charade either are abysmally na´ve about the nature of power politics or, what is more likely, have treacherously colluded in the counter-revolutionary ploy.

At Wayamba, the SLFP shot its own feet. The unbridled State terror exposed and destroyed the counter-revolutionary ploy.

 

 

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