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Federal recipes supported by SLPP leaders

18 January 2019 12:01 am - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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G.L. Peiris and Neelan Thiruchelvam wrote the Package which described Sri Lanka as a Union of Regions

 

ne group of politicians in the North keep on telling their voters that the Sinhalese leaders were depriving them of all their rights, to grab their lands, to sideline them in education and employment and what not.  
They see ulterior motives even in the Army rescuing their compatriots who had been marooned by the recent floods.
They have their ideal counterparts in the South, who also always demonise the former by telling the Sinhalese that the Tamils were hell bent in conspiring to divide the country.  
These southern politicians always prefer to see or show a devil in the main Tamil political group in the North. Also, they always allege that their rivals in the south were hand in glove with the Tamils to divide the country.  


Both the main southern political parties seem to deem alternately that this is what politics is all about. Now, it is the turn of the loyalists of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa to play this game.  
Usually, it has been the Constitutional changes, especially those concerning the ethnic problem that becomes the football to play.
The process to enact a new Constitution, which was initiated in January 2016, had been eclipsed by last year’s political upheavals and it all of a sudden was rejuvenated by the Government this month by convening the Constitutional Assembly and presenting four relevant reports in it.  
However, the debate over the new Constitution had been revived a little earlier by Tamil National Alliance (TNA) Parliamentarian M.A. Sumanthiran with a statement that a Draft Constitution would be presented before February 4.


With this, Rajapaksa loyalists have dusted off the decade-old political invective, the Federal bogey or the secessionist bogey.  
This time too it is a conspiracy by the TNA, the main Tamil group, and the UNP, the southern adversary of the accuser.  
No substantiation is needed here and nobody from your audience would demand any.  
The only criterion needed to expose this conspiracy is you must be a Sinhalese and you want to grab power by defaming and demonizing the current group in power.  
As if they are unaware that 13th Amendment to the Constitution has provided thirty-two years ago for the institution of Two Police forces, national and provincial, they scare the Sinhalese by saying that Ranil Wickremesinghe is conspiring with TNA spokesman M.A. Sumanthiran to create a provincial police force.  
Some of the loyalists of Rajapaksa, who once promised India to go beyond the 13th Amendment, have dusted off another decade-old corroded argument and say that Sinhalese would have to get a visa to travel to the North by April.  


What is a Sinhalese dominated political party going to gain by conspiring with Tamils or Muslims to divide the country?
Can that party face any election after doing so? When politics has become a large-scale money-making business, no party would risk its very survival by carrying out such a manoeuvre.  
The irony is that the same allegation had been levelled by the leaders of the United National Party (UNP) as well against the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) and the coalitions it had formed in which, Mahinda Rajapaksa and the majority of his loyalists had been members or leaders.

 
In short, this has been an allegation levelled by the UNP and the SLFP against each other since Independence. If there has been an iota of validity in this allegation the natural question that arises is as to why these two parties have been alternately conspiring to divide the country.  What is really happening is that the SLFP or its coalitions cry foul and create a Federal or Secessionist Bogey when the UNP comes to power and attempts to address the issues pertaining to Tamils. And at the next time when the SLFP takes over the government both parties swap roles and the UNP becomes the guardians of the Sinhalese.
An even ironic matter is that the supporters of the two parties, the ordinary people also change their hearts alternately in sympathy of and against the Tamil demands, from time to time.  


Now that the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) led by Mahinda Rajapaksa is on the offensive against Federalism and Secessionism, it is worth reminding the public as to how the leaders of the party contributed to Federalism and even secessionism in the country.  The SLPP is the majority group of SLFP that has been supporting Mahinda Rajapaksa since the SLFP practically divided as Mahinda -Maithri groups.  
Hence the history of the SLPP is nothing but that of the SLFP. Though the SLFP had almost always been in coalition with very small parties, those small parties never had a say in decision making.


Therefore the responsibility of the decisions made by the SLFP-led coalitions in the past solely lies with the SLFP.  
It was the SLFP that first embarked on a scheme of power devolution in Sri Lanka, in 1957, through the Bandaranaike- Chelvanayakam Pact.
The pact proposed regional councils (Rata Sabha). Later, the PA Government led by President Chandrika Kumaratunga signed a Cease Fire Agreement (CFA) with the LTTE in 1994, under which the Government for the first time recognized the LTTE held areas within the territory of Sri Lanka.  
The SLFP, as the leading constituent party of the Peoples’ Alliance (PA), introduced the famous Package, a set of proposals for a new formula of power devolution in 1995.  


The package had been important in several aspects.  
Despite the SLPP leaders now screaming hoarse in favour of the Unitary State of the country, the Package proposed to rid the word Unitary from the Constitution and Sri Lanka was to be called a Union of Regions.  
Now, the SLPP leaders are accusing Ranil Wickremesinghe of joining hands with Sumanthiran, a Tamil to draft the proposed new Constitution, whereas it was in collaboration with Neelan Thiruchchelvam, a TULF leader that Professor G.L. Peiris, presently the Chairman of the SLPP drafted that Package.  
Both Rajapaksa and Peiris were leading ministers of that PA government.


The PA Government on the basis of the same package submitted its proposals in October 1997 to a Parliamentary select committee and the solution to the ethnic problem in President Chandrika Kumaratunga’s draft new Constitution presented in Parliament in August 2000 was also based on that package.  
It must be remembered that the draft Constitution of 2000 also provided for the merger of the Northern and Eastern Provinces for a further period of 10 years and that no ministers or MPs of the PA Government opposed it.  
When the Wickremesinghe Government agreed to explore a solution to the ethnic problem under a Federal framework during the third round of peace talks with the LTTE in December 2002 in Oslo, nobody agitated against it.  


But President Kumaratunga in response boasted that she was the first to propose a Federal Constitution in the country.  
The LTTE proposed in 2005 a joint mechanism to help the 2004 tsunami victims in the North and the East. The proposal named Post-Tsunami Operational Mechanism Structure (P-TOMS) was almost a blueprint for a Separate State.  
Yet, the then UPFA Government under President Kumaratunga signed the agreement for it and the signed document was presented in Parliament by none other than the then Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa.


Needless to say, the current Constitution-making process is very vague. And some of the proposals in the Experts’ Committee report such as the one to call Sri Lanka an Aekeeya Ragyaya in Sinhala and Orumiththa Nadu in Tamil is misleading and gives rise to various misconceptions or varied interpretations.  
Also, the timing of the resumption of the process after long oblivion seems to have given rise to suspicions on the UNP Government’s real motives among other political parties.  
However, rousing suspicions among various communities cannot be accepted as a prudent
response to it.    


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