Tamils - a Trans State Nation..

"To us all towns are one, all men our kin.
Life's good comes not from others' gift, nor ill
Man's pains and pains' relief are from within.
Thus have we seen in visions of the wise !."
Tamil Poem in Purananuru, circa 500 B.C 

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Selected Writings - Dr. Adrian Wijemanne

The Core Issue

21 May 2002

Here is the core issue - how can there be a single state with two contending armies and navies within it ? The quintessential attribute of every state is the sole and exclusive possession of armed military might within its borders. That is the bedrock of a state; its constitutional form is secondary and could be changed from time to time. The first and quintessential attribute is not susceptible to such change. It is a fixed and immutable condition - a veritable sine qua non.

On the island of Sri Lanka there are now two contending armies and navies within its borders. The army of the Sri Lankan state holds unchallenged sway within the seven Sinhala majority provinces and within parts of the Tamil majority northeast province.

The army of the LTTE holds unchallenged sway within the two-thirds or so of the northeast province which is under its control. The navies of the two parties operate in the seas abutting the littorals of these two land masses. This situation is the outcome of 18 years of war between the LTTE on the one side and the Sri Lankan government and for a brief period the Indian government on the other. The Memorandum of Understanding on which the current ceasefire is based recognises and defines the respective areas of control of the two sides. That is the present position.

The immediate question that arises from this situation is whether the Sri Lankan state in its original form encompassing the entire land mass of the island of Sri Lanka is still in existence. The answer must be in the negative for a substantial, recognisable and defined area of the island is now under the control and occupation of another power, namely, the LTTE. The present Sri Lankan state exists and functions only within its area of control on the island - it has shrunk in size and reach and jurisdiction. Within this reduced area it is still unquestionably a state possessing the first and quintessential condition of a state , namely, the exclusive and unchallenged possession of military might within its new borders.

The LTTE which controls the balance of the island, namely, two-thirds of the northeast province, has not set up a state therein but it possesses the power and resources necessary for its governance. The core issue is how this situation can be changed in order to produce a single, all-island state. The matter of constitutional form is one that must await the resolution of that question. If a single all-island state cannot be formed and two new states emerge then each of them will have its own constitutional form decided on by the representatives of the population of each state.

For a single all-island state to be restored it is imperative that there should be on the island only one army and one navy. That is possible only if one or other of the existing armies and navies is disbanded or absorbed within the other or if the two are amalgamated into one. The present context is unpropitious for any one of these three possibilities for the LTTE has won many battles between the two sides during the past five years. History provides no precedent of a victorious army either disbanding leaving its adversary in power or of absorption into its defeated foe or of amalgamation with its far more numerous defeated opponent. So the prospect of reducing two to one is beyond the bounds of rational comprehension. Consequently the two will co-exist side by side as they have done for many years now both at war and at peace with each other. The de facto reality of the two state island will continue indefinitely and mutate gradually into de jure reality.

The existence of two entirely independent states on the island does not, and should not, militate against their evolving cooperative relationships with each other expressed eventually in common institutions similar to those of the European Union. That is the example that points the way to a peaceful and civilized future enshrining the primacy of human rights over state rights. It needs new thinking, fearless innovation and experimentation and a willingness to change releasing oneself from the "dead hand of the past". Everywhere this challenge has been opposed by impotent extremists who hark back to the past and equally universally the forces of pragmatism have prevailed . In the long run it will be no different in the island of Sri Lanka.



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