13TH AMENDMENT IS THE GOVERNMENT’S BASE DOCUMENT

1 February 2012 06:30 pm - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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Although I have engaged in dialogues with the TNA leaders including Mr. Sumanthiran at various fora, the audience was very much limited in comparison to the readership of the Daily Mirror. I carefully read Mr. Sumanthiran’s article twice. Thereafter I read my article again. I had raised four issues in my article. Let me mentioned those again. All agreements between the government and Tamil leaders became unsuccessful because of the resistance of Sinhala nationalists. Tamil leaders never justified the demands with arguments or facts and figures. Instead, they always attempted to win their demands by mounting pressure on the government. Nobody can force the Sinhalese to accept something because they never succumb to pressures due to Buddhist influence. If Tamil leaders convince the Sinhalese about the reasonability of their demands, they will accept anything including Tamil Eelam. Unfortunately, Mr. Sumanthiran has not replied to any of those issues. Mr. Sumanthiran’s first allegation was that my letter was a candid admission of culpability by Sinhala nationalists to abrogating successive agreements between the government and Tamil leaders. I not only admitted the responsibility but also explained the reason to do so. Tamil leaders attempted to win their demands by mounting pressure on the government instead of justifying their demands. I further said the Sinhalese never succumb to pressure and therefore if Tamil leaders continue with their pressure tactics, the Sinhalese will resist as they did in the past. Therefore, past agreements became futile as a result of Tamil leaders’ failure in justification. Hence, my statement was not admission of culpability by Sinhala nationalists but that of Tamil leaders. The demands of Tamil leaders are based on four principles which are known as Thimpu principles. Those principles are the recognition of Sri Lankan Tamils as a nation, existence of identified homeland for Tamils in the north and east of Sri Lanka, right of selfdetermination of the said Tamil Nation and right to citizenship for all Tamils in Sri Lanka. These principles were originally formulated in a form of seven resolutions at the first convention of Mr. Sumanthiran’s party (ITAK) at Trincomalee in 1951 and then reaffirmed through the resolution at Vaddukodai convention of the TULF in 1976. When I stated that Tamil leaders never attempted to justify their demands during entire post-independent history, his response should have been either they have or they have not. However, Mr. Sumanthiran’s response was their demand for a pluralistic society goes back to the British colonial period. I restricted my letter to post-independent history because Sinhala nationalists were able to influence the decision making process of the government only during that period. Not only is it true that Tamil leaders submitted their demands during the colonial period but also true that the colonial rulers never accommodated those. Tamil leaders’ submissions at Doughnamore (1931) and Soulbury (1947) commissions were not accepted by the respective commissions although the same British rulers went to the extent of partitioning British India into two countries to accommodate the demands of Muslim League of India. In this backdrop, it is clearly reflects that Tamil leaders failed to show merits in their arguments to Sri Lankan governments not only in the post-independent period but also in the period beforehand. Mr. Sumanthiran’s cribticism about the PSC was that it would be useless to participate in it because neither the government nor Sinhala nationalists have expressed their stands in respect of power devolution under the label of “state reforms”. We have dutifully publicized our stand on every devolution proposal from the B-C Pact in 1958 to the Interim Self Governing Authority proposal of the LTTE in 2003. At present, there is no such proposal to express our stand. We never demanded devolution of power. We are not convinced at all about the merit of demand for devolution. Therefore, we have no obligation to submit a proposal for devolution. On the other hand, the TNA not only makes such demands but also lobbies external forces to pressurise the government to devolve powers. The TNA insists that the government should trigger the PSC process by submitting a set of proposals. The government already has a set of proposals for the discussion. That is the 13th Amendment to the Constitution. The President has mentioned in Mahinda Chinthana Idiri Dekma, his manifesto for the Presidential election held in 2010 that he will discuss about the 13th Amendment with political parties and religious leaders. According to the manifesto, there are people who support and oppose the 13th Amendment. There are proposals to further amend the 13th Amendment by way of additions and deletions. Further, he has proposed to establish a Senate with a view to represent the Provincial councils at the centre. Another objective of the Senate is to get the participation of the experts in the governance who are reluctant to involve in the political process. Those proposals will be discussed at a forum consisting of political parties. Because of the above mentioned statement, the President has a mandate given by the people to initiate a discussion on the 13th Amendment. Further, all of his coalition partners have agreed to this approach. In this backdrop, the request for a fresh set of proposal by the TNA is unfair by the President. If he submits a fresh set of proposals, it will be ultra vires to his mandate. Mr. Sumanthiran has stated the implicit argument put forward by me was that minority communities have no problems or issues. Frankly, not only I have not stated so but also I have never thought so. Who am I to decide whether the minorities have problems or not? Only minorities know whether they have problems. That is why I clearly stated that we are unconditionally ready to listen to Tamil leaders at the PSC and also to accept even Tamil Eelam provided that they justify the demand with facts and figures. Mr Sumanthiran’s defence for their dialogue with the government is that democratically elected government of Sri Lanka is a legitimate interlocutor for engagement by minority political leaders. It posed a question whether the successive governments who had been failing to implement agreements reached with Tamil leaders since 1958 were not democratically elected. We never had dictators or military rulers. Hence, all governments were democratically elected. However, none was able to deliver what it promised. Therefore, the TNA should have explored the reason for the previous failures before initiating a fresh round of talks. I explained the reason for failure in my previous letter as summarised above. Let me conclude this reply quoting Albert Einstein in this regard. “Repeating something under the same circumstances expecting different results is insanity”.
By Udaya Gammanpila
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