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Selected Writings by Dr.S.Sathananthan
The Politics of Divide and Rule
9 June 2001
The hoopla over the Norwegian initiative to resolve the ongoing armed conflict between the Sinhalese-controlled Government and the Tamil National Liberation Movement is all but dead. The so-called �peace process� has run into the mud. Accusations are flying thick and fast � �pre-conditions�, �intransigence�, �deception�, and so on. And political astrologers are straining every nerve to exorcise the �peace process�. But The Action Group of Tamils (TAGOT) prefers instead to look back and take stock. For we must understand where we came from to know where we are going.
We wish to do this especially because of an apparent paradox.
Two major provisions in the draft constitution formulated by President Chandrika Kumaratunga (ethnically Sinhalese) in August 2000 block the devolution of power and make it unconstitutional. Article 91 (1) categorically states that �Parliament has exclusive power to make laws, for the whole or any part of the territory of the Republic�; while Article 92(1) explicitly precludes the devolution of legislative power: �Parliament shall not abdicate or in any manner alienate its legislative power and shall not set up any authority with any such legislative power.�
But the President and key members of her Peoples Alliance (PA) Coalition Government have repeatedly alleged that the draft constitution provides for �federalism in everything but name�.
The collaborationist Tamil political parties have mouthed guarded criticism of �shortcomings� in the draft constitution. But they have NOT demanded that Articles 91(1) and 92(1) must be removed as the first, indispensable requirement for conflict resolution. Instead they are keen to negotiate with the Sinhalese-controlled PA Government on grounds that the draft is a �positive step�.
Sinhalese-controlled �peace lobbies� in Colombo have enthusiastically vouched for the �sincerity� of President Kumaratunga and exhorted the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) to enter the �democratic mainstream�. They too are silent regarding the two provisions in the draft constitution.
The Norway-fronted foreign governments have similarly maintained a pregnant silence over the two provisions. On the other hand, the same foreign governments have cried themselves hoarse demanding the LTTE should sit at the negotiating table with the PA Government.
The hidden agenda
The apparent paradox is explained by the dishonest intention of all the forces � particularly the collaborationist Tamil parties � ranged against the LTTE-led Tamil National Liberation Movement. They intend to conjure up the illusion that the Sinhalese-controlled Government would devolve power.The aim is obvious: to supposedly �wean� the Tamil people from the LTTE, to drive political wedge between the two, by making the LTTE-led armed struggle appear irrelevant and unwise.
However, the very fact that this divide and rule strategy has gained currency among these forces confirms beyond doubt the extremely widespread support for the LTTE among the Tamil people.
The way forward
TAGOT reiterates the pre-requisites for conflict resolution.
First, the 1978 Constitution must be amended to repeal Article 76(1), which states: �Parliament shall not abdicate or in any manner alienate its legislative power and shall not set up any authority with any such legislative power.� When the then United National Party (UNP) introduced Article 76(1), its Prime Minister Mr JR Jayawardene arrogantly declared: �the door is all but closed on Federalism�.
Second, if negotiations are to take place on the basis of the 2000 draft constitution, then President Kumaratunga MUST eliminate Articles 91(1) and 92(1) BEFORE sitting at the negotiating table. Because negotiations are not about whether there should be devolution of power. Rather it should be about the degree and extent of devolution.
If these pre-requisites are not met, the so-called �peace process� is nothing more than a �counter-insurgency operation�, almost universally hated among the Tamil people.