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RENOUNCE THE UNITARY STATE, PREACHES TNA

6 August 2012 06:30 pm - 15     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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By Dr Dayan Jayatilleka

When a leading English-language Sunday newspaper in Colombo, hardly supportive of the incumbent administration and known instead for its pro-western and pro-Opposition orientation, calls in an editorial marking the 25th anniversary of the Indo-Lanka accord, for the holding of an island-wide referendum on the 13th amendment and the Provincial Councils, it means it is hardly the time for the TNA to stridently sermonise on the need to abandon the unitary state and convert to federalism and Tamil self-determination.

However, the affable TNA parliamentarian Mr MA Sumanthiran has recently authored a pair of essays saying just that, definitively entitled ‘Self Determination: Myth and Reality’ (Ceylon Today July 29, 2012, p 9) and Federalism: Fact & Fiction (Ceylon Today Aug 5th 2012, p.9). In the latter essay, Mr Sumanthiran proclaims: “By insisting on a unitary state devoid of a federal structure, the government of Sri Lanka has deprived the Tamil people of sovereignty, and self-determination...There is no substitute for self –determination”.  

In the first half of his earlier essay Mr Sumanthiran defines ‘internal self-determination’: “It is important to note that a people can, in the exercise of their right to self-determination decide to remain within a pre-existing state but choose the degree of autonomous self-government within the framework of a sovereign state. This is known as internal self- determination.”

So, in Tamil nationalism’s definition the ‘internal’ character of self-determination is purely volitional and utterly elastic: “the people can, in the exercise of their right to self-determination decide to remain within a pre-existing state”. Note: ‘can’, not ‘shall’. They can, but are not obliged to and may not. Or they can today, but may choose not to, tomorrow. What’s ‘internal’ about that?  

Furthermore, the definition of internal is the decision of the relevant collective and has no larger or less subjective constitutional or legal constraint, because “the people can...choose the degree of autonomous self-government within the framework of a sovereign state”. Going by this definition, the ‘people’ that does the choosing is by no means the entire citizenry of a state, a country. It is that ‘people’ which perceives itself as a people or a nation bearing the right of self-determination. It is entirely self-referential. Thus, quite irrespective of the basic law or the adjudication of the highest courts or the democratically ascertained wishes of the country’s citizenry as a whole, any segment of a country’s citizenry which perceives and declares itself as a ‘people’ have the right to “choose the degree of autonomous self-government within the framework of a sovereign state”. Most dangerously, the need for legitimacy based upon the consent of the majority of the citizenry is peremptorily obviated.    
Here is the concluding paragraph of Mr Sumanthiran’s exposition: “...the Tamil people in Sri Lanka have been subjected to discrimination within the model of a unitary state where they have been denied the right to express their right to self-determination within an internal arrangement, such as a federal government. In such a situation the continued denial of the existence of the right to self-determination itself may give rise to the right to unilateral cessation as an expression of that right. Therefore, it is the recognition of the right to self-determination of the Tamil people and not its denial that will help to preserve the territorial integrity of Sri Lanka from claims to the right of cessation. Thus it is a sine qua non that the right to self-determination is recognized and the nature of the state is restructured to enable meaningful exercise of internal self-determination if the right to external self-determination is to be avoided.” (Ceylon Today July 29, 2012, p 9)
The argument is that the right of internal self-determination is denied within-- and by virtue of being within-- a unitary state, i.e. a strong central state. It is sufficiently ensured only within and by some form of federal state, and if the right of self-determination is not recognised by such a federal arrangement in place of a unitary one, it is justifiable and likely that the right of external self-determination--the right to unilateral secession--will be activated.

In other words, either Sri Lanka stops refusing to recognise the right of the Tamil people to self-determination, proceeds to recognise that right and restructure the state accordingly or the assertion by the Tamil people of external self-determination as the right to unilateral secession may be triggered.  More: it is no less than “a sine qua non”, i.e. an essential, indispensable precondition for the non-assertion of the right to external self-determination in the form of unilateral secession, that Sri Lanka must accept and recognise the right of the Tamil people to internal self-determination and restructure the state accordingly, moving outside of the unitary model to a some sort of federal model.

Where Tamil nationalism in the form of the TNA or any other party may go with federalism, is clearly discernible in yet another statement in Mr Sumanthiran’s essay: “The claim of the Tamils to self-determination is also based on the fact that prior to colonization they were a nation, exercising sovereignty over a defined and separate territory. Consequently, they claim that the right to independence from colonial rule was a separate right that was vested with the Tamil People.”

Tamil nationalism is not fighting for reforms (13 A or 13 Plus) which would make for the full implementation of the Constitution or enhanced devolution within the unitary frame. Even if Sri Lanka were to adopt the unitary French Constitution with its secularism and equal republican citizenship, the Tamil nationalists would regard it as denying internal self-determination because it remained unitary, and would find it justifiable to exercise external self-determination i.e. unilateral secession, at a time of their choosing.
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  Comments - 15

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  • Mr. B Wijeyasingha Tuesday, 07 August 2012 05:16 PM

    AJ,
    I agree. You see the Sri Lanka as a "failed state" without ever mentioning the Tamil created civil war. If Sri Lanka is so repugnant to Tamils like you then please leave. Sri Lanka is the only homeland of the Singhalese and by the way the standard of living of Sri Lanka is the highest in the Sub continent. Please take your Tamil brothers and sisters and leave.

    Silva de Mervin Tuesday, 07 August 2012 06:37 PM

    This guy DJ is barking mad at the word 'Self Determination',.

    Struggling to explain the meaning in a simple way. Between Sarath and Mahinda in the last presidential election the people themselves determined Mahinda would be best suited to lead the country against terror.

    Similarly TNA says the people of the North and East should be given the opportunity to decide the best suited arrangement to rule themselves.

    What wrong in that.

    This guy was with the terrorist previously and barking little more like Karuna Amman to be heard.

    Jayantha Wednesday, 08 August 2012 01:25 AM

    Contrary to the first 3 comments, I as a Sri Lankan feel that all Sri Lankans are equal and the majority 74% should learn to safe guard the Rights of the minority 26% instead of being greedy to grab the whole (100%) of the country.
    This greed is not prescribed in Buddhism or in any other faith.
    Tamils should have asked for federalism in 1948. Now it's too late. Only the Sinhalese majority can have pitty on them and give them parity.

    Silva de Mervin Wednesday, 08 August 2012 08:03 AM

    If you think Daily Mirror has some professional readers and you are one among them then don't rubbish yourself here mate.

    All are discussing the headache of our country but you are trying to talk about it as an India's issue.

    Are you alight?

    Thanga Wednesday, 08 August 2012 01:55 AM

    As I have repeatedly emphasised the Sinhalese should thank not their stars but the British Empire for having given a united Ceylon to the majority Sinhalese. The Thamil leaders trust on such cunning and vile politician like D.S. Senanayake who tongue in cheek proclaimed "Do you want to be governed by Whitehall or from Colombo?  I ask the Tamils and other minorities to accept the Soulbury Constitution granting independence to Ceylon. I promise that the Tamils and other minorities that the need not fear at the hands of the majority Sinhalese in an independent Ceylon. No harm would befall the Tamils by their joining the Sinhalese in working the constitution. "" Just a year later he introduced the Citizenship Act to deprive the Tamils of Indian origin their citizenship rights. And a year later their voting rights. The less said about the treachery practised by him is better!

    Thanga Wednesday, 08 August 2012 02:04 AM

    In 1963, the architect of the 1948 Constitution, Lord Soulbury was moved to comment:
    "While the Commission was in Ceylon (in 1946), the speeches of certain Sinhalese politicians calling for the solidarity of the Sinhalese and threatening the suppression of the Tamils emphasised the need for constitutional safeguards on behalf of that and other minorities.. As Sir Charles Jeffries has put it... 'the Soulbury Constitution... had entrenched in it all the protective provisions for minorities that the wit of man could devise'..
    Nevertheless, in the light of later happenings, I now think it is a pity the Commission did not also recommend the entrenchment in the Constitution of guarantees of fundamental rights... (However)... the reconciliation of Tamils and Sinhalese will depend not on constitutional guarantees but on the goodwill, common sense and humanity of the Government in power and the people who elect it."

    Mr. B Wijeyasingha Monday, 06 August 2012 07:50 PM

    If the Sri Lankan Tamils want "self determination" they can carve it out of Tamil Nadu or face another civil war, more diluting of Tamil dominated areas with Singhalese moving in and the possibility of removing Tamil as an official language. Federalism will basically remove the Buddhist Sanga from the traditional role they have played in Sri Lankan politics for eons. Sri Lanka is a majority Singhalese Buddhist state. The Tamils are occupiers and need to go back to their land of Tamil Nadu.

    Ananda Welagedara Monday, 06 August 2012 11:36 PM

    Right of self determantion is Not relevent at all to Sri lankan people's sovereignty and terrorial sovereignty and indepandence is concern.TNA has to coose path and system of Capitalism.We cannot take back go to backwrad FEDUL -MEDIVIAL system of becasuse of Tamil natinoal miniroity issue in Island.Myth of homeland has unaccpected and denied by Majority of Tamils Myth of homeland is TNA political classes demand.

    mahajana Tuesday, 07 August 2012 09:45 AM

    Misusing election systems/referendums or not calling it when necessary is the miracle. Referendum was misused to extend the term of the parliament . It was to misuse in creating executive premiership securing lifetime power in the guise of devolution,the thoughts flushed after the Tsunami.Why not use a referendum to get the view of the people on critical issues such as power devolution or should the clergy represent the parliament? Only a well designed and established pro-international policy will prevent internal-self- determination gradually deviate into an external-self-determination which will not trigger at once. Should a newspaper be more incumbent supportive like a diplomatic Govt. servant?

    sampath Tuesday, 07 August 2012 09:52 AM

    a job less diplomat churning out racist theories of haterd

    P.L.J.B.Palipana Tuesday, 07 August 2012 02:09 AM

    Dr.Dayan Jayathilleke we cant understand what is the Internal Self Determination concept of the TNA within a 250KM x 150KM territorial area of a tiny island. Is the the MALAYANADU?

    jacoob Tuesday, 07 August 2012 10:31 AM

    well said Sampath. I used to call him educated idiot.

    Aj Tuesday, 07 August 2012 02:26 AM

    As a tamil not a sri lankan i think the best thing TNA can do is to find ways for tamils to get out of Sri Lanka or find ways to bring other nationalities from overseas into Sri Lanka. The fact of the matter is Sri lanka is a failed state!!. Majority of people who make up this failed state are singhalese that shows their level of governance capability.

    My question to tamils is do you want to cling onto hope in a majority race that lives in the stone age in a failed state or find ways to make a better life for the next generation ?. The country where you were born is not what matters. A country where you make your life and contribute to humanity is what matters the most.

    Fusion Wednesday, 08 August 2012 10:10 AM

    Only place in SL where Tamils are in the vast majority would be the NP. Demographics change heavily in the EP. The largest group in the EP would be the Muslims and the combination of Muslims & Sinhalese is well over 60% in the EP (65+). TNA wants NP combined with EP because they would never win the EP on their own. If there is devolution it should be to all nine provinces and not to appease the TNA. Therefore large minorities in other provinces would have fair say even in Sinhala dominated SP & NCP..

    saman Tuesday, 07 August 2012 02:19 PM

    Dr DJ is certainly not an idiot. He is a clever man struggling to reconcile his conscience and the need to please his mater MR. Some of his somewhat honest statements about the direction this government is taking has annoyed his less educated Master. So these days he is bashing TNA fulltime to make up for that. Good Luck Dr!


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