Deepavali again, but promised devolution still eludes to all Lankans….

unnamedSri Lankan rulers’ insistence to maintain the unitary status undermining fundamental rights of the minorities caused the civil-war to break out in late eighties and of those worst affected were the Tamil Hindus, the only community to register a negative growth over the war years. Now with diminished population this distressed community without normal life confined themselves with prayers only starting with the war years into the negative peace years and beyond without celebrating Deepavali in the traditional way of buying new clothes for the family members and sweets gifts to exchange with friends and relatives; as thousands were denied of livelihood in their own historical habitat, still remember painfully their family members and friends killed in the war, many went missing and many hundreds lingering in jails as political prisoners.

After the Unity Government was formed in 2015, the President and Prime Minister on realizing that the Tamil issue needs to be resolved first for the country is to go forward, had turned the parliament into a constitution assembly. Together the legislators have produced an interim report to rewrite the constitution, in spite of the divisive mindset of the representatives of all communities painfully slowing the down the progress with many issues such as the unitary state, giving prominence to Buddhism, demand for the removal of executive presidency with powers returned to the parliament all have come under review. As expected many civil war related problems of the people are yet left unattended by the state and all devolution related matters getting heavy scrutiny, the light at the end of the tunnel seems far away, with lot of time taken to put right numerous corrupt practices that crippled the economy.

True the New Unity Government has removed fears that existed in the negative years and have made life easy for all in particular the Tamil speaking communities in the war affected regions, whose war inflicted wounds are yet to heal, made worse with divisive mindset persisting in the state. This was made clear to the President himself by the protesters, as he walked into Jaffna Protest to meet them in person last Saturday, where fasting political prisoners are given step motherly treatment by the authorities that may cost their life. Bitter Truth is the ethnic issue has made all communities fragmented into smaller groups and some of them are without representation in the legislature and there are yet others who are in through the backdoor utilising the misused national list system. They are all collectively and individually causing enough problems to destabilise the government and that is not helping matters. Then at a time when the President and Prime Minister are taking the pain to bring their respective legislators to look beyond the interest of their political parties and take the golden opportunity presented to resolve the ethnic issue; the leaders are having to resolve many issues caused by a corrupt system of administration they inherited from the previous regime. Sadly, have managed to drag in some current ministers too into their activities, this has prevented the leaders to win the total support of their respective political parties to bring them in as one force to conclude the devolution process with a New Constitution.

The North and East provinces were always considered the bastion of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) and after 2015 they were expected to meet its obligations to the Tamil speaking people on constitution matters and other war related issues. To this end TNA leader began in earnest working with the government to arrive at a lasting solution to the ethnic crisis to bridge the North-South divide. But the extremist opponents of the government in the South and that of TNA in the North are openly attacking these efforts that are made very transparently in House of Parliament turned Constitution Assembly to come up with an all-inclusive New Constitution to replace the present one sided constitution that favour the majority community, discriminating all the minorities in the country. On war related matters on finding snail phase progress which understandably is difficult to bear by the affected families, TNA has been stressing to the government to resolve them. But as expected with limited success, because of the North-South divide that existed for many generations in the mind of the people in power of the last regime during war years to 2009 and prolonged during the negative peace to 2015. Now the President, Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition are making a sincere effort to change this mind set. However, the situation is exploited again by the same opponents both in the North and in the South for their own political gains. This was well illustrated when TNA contacted the Attorney-General (AG) on the issue of three Tamil political prisoners (TPP) held under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA), whose case that was to be herd in the Northern Province, was moved out using his discretionary powers to another province are now detained at Anuradhapura prison and the AG has said the cases cannot be moved back as witnesses would face security threats in Vavuniya. The reason given citing concerns about witness protection was a biased political decision due to the existing North-South divide mind set of people in positions and the denial is a case for concern to moderates in the country. Once again it only confirms that the laws of the land are not yet applied equally to all citizens; sadly the TNA’s intrusion is considered by many opposing them as an overdue action as they should have got the prisoners released by now in the two years of the yahapalana rule. Earlier TNA leadership making promises to the relatives of TPP at the time of the general election in 2015 was a mistake, with all their experience of seeing how the state had dealt with TPP during the negative peace years. TNA should have first taken this issue and got an undertaking from the President before the 2015 general election to get the TPP released on amnesty and having missed the opportunity are being criticised by their opponents.

Almost after seventy years of independence, the island nation Sri Lanka is still struggling in the dark to devolve powers for all its citizens for which over the years paid with more than million lives, heavy loss of assets and the nation development pushed back by several decades; all due to the failure of past Sinhala leaders to unite the country made-up of multi-ethnic and multi-religious communities into one nation. This could happen if people on either side of the divide accept the basic fact that the legislators are preparing a new constitution to repair the damages done by the North-South divide and help them to arrive at a home grown solution. Once this is done and the ethnic issue goes into history books, the country will be ready for development to benefit the people living in all corners of this tiny island.

Failure to get the new constitution in place would only create an opportunity for yet another foreign intervention as seen in 1987, 2009 and 2015 each time the alien plans were successfully accomplished to the benefit of the foreign governments, much to the displeasure of the ordinary people, as it failed miserably to bring the communities together. Earlier the ill prepared devolution package that was forced on the people in 1987, with the involvement of Indian Government by then Executive President was rejected by all communities. Though it was made into an Act of Parliament as the 13th Amendment to the present constitution, was never implemented fully and with the North-South divide led the country to a bloody long drawn civil war that lasted three decades, costing millions of lives and untold miseries to the civilians and unaccounted loss of wealth of this little island nation.

Today, more than ever it is important for both sides in dispute in this “cold war”; on one side the majority community ruling the country and on the other side all the minority communities come down to meet mid-way to bring the communities together to work as a nation. That is exactly what the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition are doing helping the President to come up with a New Constitution for the country, nothing more nothing less. Therefore, all Sri Lankan should help constructively these three leaders to achieve the said objectives sooner than later; until then most affected Tamil Hindus will light the Deepavali lights in prayer to remove the darkness from the minds of all the extreme political players of all shades and colour in all corners of the country to think different to enable the Sinhalese Majority to accommodate the Tamil speaking minorities in the country as partners to enable them to enjoy their due rights as per the proposed New Constitution. For only restoration of rights of all communities under a new constitution, with the promised devolution implemented in full will salvage the country and perhaps thereafter will put the Tamil Hindu community in the right frame of mind to celebrate Deepavali the traditional way.