[lg policy] Sri Lanka: TNA is led by leaders of yesterday who do not see a future for the Tamils

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at GMAIL.COM
Tue Mar 16 13:09:26 UTC 2010

TNA is led by leaders of yesterday who do not see a future for the Tamils
Tue, 2010-03-16 05:29 — editor
ArticleBy Raj Gonsalkorale

The latest policy declaration of the TNA that they will opt for a
Federal solution instead of a separate State for Tamils in Sri Lanka
was muddied when its leader went on to state that they still retain
their right to self determination. Whether self determination meant a
separate State has been left vague allowing any interpretation of it
by anyone as deemed fit by them to suit their agenda. This latest
policy declaration is contained in the TNA manifesto released for the
general election scheduled for the 8th of April. Those who vote for
the TNA will be voting in favour of this policy. If a majority of
Tamils vote for the TNA, it will be a signal to the Sinhalese that
despite the defeat of the LTTE, the political battle to create a
separate State is not over and Tamils are not willing at this stage to
accept a unitary State, the main plank of the government and very
likely the Opposition UNP.

It is important therefore for the government and the main Opposition
party the UNP, to propose an alternative to what the TNA is offering
at this election so that Tamils can consider what is being offered and
vote accordingly. It is unfortunate that the TNA is led by leaders of
yesterday who do not see a future for the people they claim to
represent. The leadership probably is happy to keep on muttering the
same Mantra, and continue to fool their constituents into believing
that they can achieve what they have failed to achieve for the last so
many decades by campaigning for an unattainable and unjustified goal.
Age normally does not dim the flame of visionary leadership, but the
TNA has shown that it has in their case.

Their goal is unattainable because it will not be acceptable to the
Sinhala community and any proposal that is not acceptable to the
Sinhala community will be unattainable. That was the case from a
historical perspective, it is the case at present, and it will
continue to be the case in the future.

It is unjustified as Sri Lanka or any part of it is not the property
of just the Sinhalese or the Tamils or Muslims, but all of these and
other ethnic groups living in the country, and therefore carving any
part of it for self rule is not realistic or justified. Sri Lanka has
to be ruled by all its ethnic communities. Shortcomings in this regard
have to be addressed and this can be done if there is tolerance and
reasonableness, and readiness to compromise on the part of all ethnic
groups. Continuing to demand self rule or self determination leading
to a separate State does not show reasonableness, or tolerance or
readiness to compromise, as there is no indication that the TNA is
agreeable to consider the oneness of Sri Lanka, the one plank that is
not negotiable for the Sinhala community.

The TNA has failed yet again to present a new approach. They have
opted to sit on their constituency like a ton of bricks preventing
them from thinking of news ways to achieve their objectives. It will
suit the TNA leadership well because they can continue to enjoy the
fruits of office being members of Parliament while their constituency
will continue to languish as they have done over the last many
decades. It is well worth for the Tamils in Sri Lanka to think
carefully whether they wish to be in this in situation for fifty more
years or more.

The TNA has opted for an unimaginative, well worn antiquity as policy.
A policy that has failed so far; both politically and militarily. A
policy that has only given hardship, death and destruction to the
Tamils as well as the rest of Sri Lankans.

What is contained in the Mahinda Chintana Idiri Dekma is an
alternative approach, but the challenge will be whether it is specific
enough for an informed decision by the Tamils. A clearer and more
forceful presentation may be needed if Tamils are to deliberate on the
two approaches.

The government in particular, considering President Rajapaksa’s re
election, needs to be much more imaginative than what they have been
so far with their approach to a political solution to the conflict.
Concepts alone are not sufficient as there is still mistrust and
misgivings amongst Tamils about the ability of any Sri Lankan
President or government to deliver on promises. Something more
tangible than a concept is needed to convince them that they can hold
the President and the government to deliver on a promise.

Of course the government need not propose specifics but only a concept
and yet may get re elected, and even with a two third majority, and
proceed with what they think is the right solution. However, if a
substantial number of Tamils vote for the TNA, it will be a clear
signal that the solution so implemented will be one that has not
received the support of a majority of Tamils. The goal of
reconciliation will be that much harder if this divide is to continue
on to the future.

Hopefully, the main Opposition, the UNP will try to upstage the
government with a more imaginative proposal, and enliven the debate on
how the conflict maybe solved. It might even encourage the government
to be more imaginative. However, it would be counter productive
towards achieving the goal of a solution if the government and the
Opposition comes up with proposals that are diametrically or wide
apart, as the TNA may see a fissure within the ranks of the South, and
try to profit from the fissure.

President Rajapaksa’s contention that a wider discussion of the
subject of a political solution is needed before a final settlement
and that it needs to be done by the elected representatives of the
people is correct. Many previous agreements between Presidents and
Prime Ministers have failed for one key reason; the absence of any
public discussion.

On the strength of his belief, he may opt to offer a concept with only
some broad outlines of details, and commence a public discussion after
the general election. He cannot be faulted for taking such an
approach. However, such a strategy will carry its own risk in that the
chance of de polarization of views amongst the Sinhala and Tamil
populace will take more time, or may not happen, as a consequence of
developments arising from public discussions particularly depending on
who or which group influences the direction of the public discussion.

Post independent Sri Lanka has seen an ongoing series of promises
being made and promises being broken. It looks as if it was right to
make promises in order for a particular political party to win an
election, and then it was right to break promises because the promises
were not right! A tragic irony.

The Mahinda Chintana Idiri Dekma promises a solution based on a non
negotiable Unitary concept, power sharing at the centre with the
introduction of a second chamber, abolishing or amending the Executive
Presidency and restoration of some powers to the Parliament, limited
power devolution to provinces and to units beyond the provincial
administrations. The government argues that they need a two thirds
majority to change the Constitution to make these possible.

If this is the governments approach to finding a solution, they need
to do a better job marketing this amongst all Sri Lankans, Tamils in
particular, so that they may be able to make an informed decision as
to how they would vote on the 8th of April. As stated earlier, the
government needs to demonstrate their differentiation visa a vis the
dour, old hat TNA approach.

While economic development is an essential criterion to address some
of the issues surrounding the ethnic conflict, there are several
administrative matters that could be addressed within the existing law
of the land and within available resources. Some of these have already
been addressed. The language policy is being implemented in schools,
but one is not aware whether it is being implemented in government
offices, the police, and the judiciary. Perhaps the government can
explain what they are doing and announce a definitive target date for
achieving its policy intent in full so that a Sinhala or Tamil
speaking person will be able to transact in Sinhalese or Tamil in any
government office, police station or any court of law by a given date.

A Presidential decree can establish that land management would be a
joint national and provincial responsibility except in the case of
national security.

Foreign or local investment for projects within defined limits could
be made a provincial responsibility with some control measures
supervised by the Central Bank of the country.

The ethnic diversity of the country can be better reflected in the
Police force and moves already made by the government could be fast
tracked to provide a greater degree of confidence to people of
different ethnic origins.

None of these measures need constitutional changes and they could all
be done within the current law of the land. Maybe the current
government could include their plans in a separate document relating
to the ethnic issue, and produce a publication that provides
information on what they are already doing and what they propose doing
in terms of administrative matters within the existing law of the
land, and what they propose doing in terms of areas that need
constitutional changes.

Such a document will address volumes of misinformation that is being
spread by those wishing to show that the government is not serious
about any of these lingering issues, and it will also provide
information to those who are genuinely are in the dark about what is
currently being done and the plans for the future.

If the current government can be faulted for anything, it is their
inability to market what they are doing more effectively and
efficiently and demonstrating to all Sri Lankans that they have done a
lot in a short time and are engaged in doing much more, perhaps even
more than many previous administrations. It is not too late to do so
and demonstrate to the Tamil community that they can have hope and an
opportunity to realize their aspirations within what the Sinhala
community is agreeable to consider in the new Sri Lanka that has been
freed from the terrorist manacles of LTTE.

- Asian Tribune


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