Colvin R. de Silva, a former Minister and prominent member of parliament was one of the founder of the Lanka Sama Samaja Party (LSSP). Remember his warning call 33 years ago in 1984, the purpose of which was to halt and reverse the country sliding to national disaster for which (UNP) Government was then principally responsible; it rings true and is relevant even today. Colvin saw the drawing apart politically of the Tamil speaking communities from the majority Sinhala community and organizing themselves as a separate entity politically in the parliamentary arena.
Failure of successive governments in the past to prevent the legislators of the two ethnic groups politically drawing apart due to the attitude of the rulers who always gave prominace to Buddhisum and wanted Sinhala Only, considered more than what is reasonable on one hand and yet gave the impressions to the world that the country belongs to all communities and that all are equal and that the State provided to meet the genuine grievances of the minority communities; but in reality successive governments have worked against equality for all.
The situation has not got any better under the New Coalition Government and the trend continues with each doing their own without proper dialogue and in many cases each pulling in opposing directions that was negating all reconciliation efforts and delaying development plans of the government is not helping the people at large to lead life with peace in the little island nation.
During the negative peace years after war ending in 2009, the people in North and East continued to receive step motherly treatment from the state that resulted in lawlessness in the provinces. A region that was controlled by gun power, after the guns were silenced in May 2009 was made into a jungle with many illegal activities including smuggling and drugs paddling that impacted heavily on the youths. All the time authorities were blind to it and today life of the ordinary people is disturbed by violent activities of youths turned criminals.
Naturally the blame is on the past government that was busy with its own programme to change the demography of the region utilising the security forces retained in the region following the end of civil war, on the pretext of providing security. Intentions of the state was clear when North and East provinces that were merged for decades were cleverly demerged. Sadly this state of affairs continued for six years, till the defeat of that government at the 2015 General Election.
The new government that came to power is attempting to get normalcy back in the country, more so in the said two provinces with limited success, while the people are hoping things will get better sooner than later. Limited success because there are many issues brought about by the past regime, that are delaying the process and impacting heavily on the people. These includes reducing the number of legislators from North-East, the delimitation process that was carried out based on the wishes of the former government legilators, who proposed to strengthen the power of the then government and in certain areas in the country the minority communities were denied the opportunity to elect their representatives due to the wrong delimitation of electorates.
Since 1987 Tamil language was made an official language, but to date was not implemented properly. As the result Tamil speaking communities are not accommodated into the mainstream of development; intentionally held back by the state, resulting in bulk of these communities sinking to fill the bottom of the economic pyramid.
It is very visible when looking at the state employment, where it is said that all citizens have equal access to services and opportunities, but in reality the numbers of Tamil speaking persons in the ministries, tri-forces or the police have been very low for decades.
On law and order state claims that justice is administrated to all citizens equally and that all are equal in law; but there have been many violations of this and a clear case was the crime of enforced disappearance that still remains a misery to the concerned families.
There are many situation where lack of initiative by the state is driving communities to poverty, in a state that has presented it to the world as a nation determined to rid of poverty. The armed conflict ended in 2009 and yet there has been thousands of women in the North and the East who have been widowed and are now the bread winners of their families who need livelihood support, but government resources are not adequately allocated to alleviate the hard ship of these people. It is the same story with many persons in the North and East provinces who have been disabled and in need of support from the state to alleviate their hardship.
Although the process has began after the New Government came to power, the state has not properly returned to the rightful owners all the land and properties taken over for military and other purpose in spite of war ending in 2009. On providing housing for the needy, who lost their homes due to the war, it could be said the government has made an attempt, but the projects have been very haphazardly executed. Mainly due to poor administration, workmanship, selection of landfill areas, selection of materials for these housing projects.
In respect of those persons held in detention under Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) for many years, no action has been taken resolving the cases in court and the New Government is said to but has not made any progress to remove the Act from the statuary books.
The 13th Amendment to the constitution that was passed in 1987 was never fully implemented by the state, but has been pruned many times to dilute the devolution process, including the demerger of North and East provinces.Now there is promise of 13+, that could result in reinstating some of the removed items back for implimentation. There would still be many loose ends, such as remerger not likely with reluctance to give powers related to land and policing resulting in another incomplete devolution package.
On development there has been no major irrigation schemes to develope the agriculture sector in the Northern Province. In the eastern province such schemes have been largely with a view to aiding colonization by persons from outside the province rather than looking to the interests of the farmers of the province. Similarly there has been no development of the fisheries sector in comparison with the rest of the country, it could be said the present government has made some progress, but it is again a top down plans that are biased against the minority communities, that will not see the daylight to converge the two main communities.
Most impacted on the Tamil speaking people was retaining the tri-forces at war time strength without de-listing them to bring down the number to peace time levels.
On the other side of the coin, Tamil ledership has failed to take these matters direct with the government; instead has allowed their legislators do the talking out on the street feeding the extreme elements in society. Allowing descent to brew thus increasing the gap between the Sinhala rulers and the ruled Tamil, that is not helping the cause and the grievances of the war fatigued Tamil speaking people left unresolved. In short lot more needs to be done to converge the two communities towards peace and march towards development. At grass root level throughout the land there is a need to put the country in order for the mega projects to be fully beneficial to the people; for there are many basic needs of the people not met yet and left unresolved is causing more resistance from the people.
On eating and having the cake, the rulers must delist the security personnal to bring it down to peace time levels and ensure future intake reflects the ethnic composition; provide all facilities throughout the country to make Tamil Language as official language; implement the original 13th Amendment in full and the Tamils must accept the reality that merger is feasible only if the people in the Eastern province want it. Last but not least give Tamil children the opportunity to get working knowledge of Sinhalese Language to ensure when they seek employment later in life are not placed at a disadvantage by it.
The fact that “Sinhala Only” Official Language Act caused the emergence of the separatist demand, confirmed that Tamils cannot be held within a single Sri Lanka without this trend in Sri Lankan politics being arrested and reversed. Colvin understood it well and did warn the rulers in the days the Sinhala Only Act was introduced and said “we could have one language and two nations, or two languages and one nation”, implying to the Sinhala rulers that “you can’t have your cake and eat it”, a popular English figure of speech, literally means “you cannot simultaneously retain your cake and eat it”. Once the cake is eaten, it is gone, a saying that describes the dilemma faced when you want one thing very much, but you are not willing to give up other things in order to have it. For the one country concept to be successful the Sinhala legislators before eating the one language cake must formulate the new constitution implement it fully and properly to remain united as one country with two languages, as predicted by Dr.Colvin R. de Silva, an illustrious and respected past politician of our time.