Sri Lankan deaf-dumb-blind lawmakers wake up after 70 years!

Deadly Embarass of Ignorance

With Sri Lankan legislature being deaf, dumb and blind for seven decades, that helped to retain the North-South division that led to the civil war are now pussy footing on many weighty issues that impacts those directly affected by the war, in particular the rural poor population. The unity government acts cautiously or timidly, as if afraid to commit itself on these issues, while the extremist lawmakers are back paddling to thwart any progress, while enjoying more than their share of the country’s wealth concentrated in the city of Colombo. Made possible only because Sri Lankans as a society by choice choose to be in silence, languish in ignorance, it speaks volumes as there were many examples in abundant in the recent decades, where communities lost control of their own lives because they allowed successive governments to make a lot of important decisions that thwarts ethical practice: it blocked them from fully appreciating the consequences of their actions they choose and exposed them to manipulation, that divided the communities into many segments and eventually the country lost its pride of place of the region as a paradise.

In Sri Lanka, the present debate on redrafting the constitution in the legislature turned constitution assembly continues with the southern political mindset that has been dominating for decades portraying unitary character of the state as the only legitimate and legal module that could be accepted for the country. Yet federalism is one form of devolution that is not for separatism; therefore not unconstitutional and is a universally accepted right to self-determination of the Tamils as a nation, that was itemised in the Vadukkodai Conference in 1972 as well as at Thimpu talks and therefore the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) is within their legal right to promote it as a legitimate alternative in constitution making. Bitter Truth is the unparalleled finding of the Supreme Court declaration that Federalism is a legitimate mode of governance is not the same as separatism was considered by many moderates as a ground-breaking judgement. Yet it received a unenthusiastic reception from the local media, that failed to receive the public attention it deserved; it marked a shift in terms of interpretation that was always made tantamount with a separate state or secession and the extremists on both sides have reaped ample dividends in the past and gained lot of political mileage from this mystification, so much so few extremists of the past regime are still pursuing with it in parliament and in all corners of this tiny nation to the damage it further.

The irony of it all is following the unitary rule of the British that lasted over century, when a federal form of government was suggested by the upcountry Sinhala leaders for negotiation with the British prior to gaining independence, it was the Tamil leaders, who rejected it with the low country Sinhala leaders as they were well placed in the prevailing unitary system of rule.  The Tamils lived to regret this fatal mistake of their leaders, for after independence actions of headstrong, narrow minded and hegemonic mindset Sinhala leaders, pushed the Tamil leadership to call for Federal system of government. Now it was the turn of the ruling Sinhala leadership to reject it considering it as equivalent to secessionism that was beginning of the north-south divide. Later the Sinhala leadership engaging in self-deceptive, suicidal and infantile worship of sacred Unitarism, led the Tamil leadership to demand for a separate state; the government by legislation forced them to take an oath against separation; the Tamil leaders refused it as undemocratic and illegal; preferred instead to lose their representation in the legislature. It only helped to fuel the myth that propagating federalism was separatism; instead the Tamil leadership should have taken the oath and engaged in Federalist politics that would have saved the country of the bloody civil war calling for a separate state; at least supported the devolution package in the 1987 Indo-Lanka Accord.

Better late than never, on realising their folly the TNA leadership is now willing to work with the 1987 devolution package without the concurrent list and with necessary modifications, much to the dislike of its opponents, both in and outside the parliament and with majority of the population being ignorant to the unimaginable bloodshed and destruction a thirty year old war did to all communities. The positive factor is it that same 1987 devolution package that TNA has now accepted, was already accepted by all after the interpretation by the Supreme Court that the Thirteenth Amendment to the present constitution, which dealt with the Provincial Councils, did not dilute the unitary character of the state. As to the demerger of North-East, again it was the failure on the part of the TNA to force the government to regularise it by conducting a referendum as per the law. Sadly, this loophole in the law was picked up by those opposing the merger and got a court ruling to demerge it. Therefore, all in all anyone opposing TNA or for that matter the present government are only displaying their ignorance by labelling it as Federal and erroneously calling it as a secessionist demand, particularly those previous regime members in the constitution assembly, just to oppose any move by the government to settle the ethnic issue not that they hate the Tamils, just that they love to regain their lost power and ethnic issue is a pawn in their game. This also applies to those who failed to get elected to power in 2015 elections and now are opposing TNA. All at the expense of the rural people in the North-East who are yet to see the emergence of their life lost by three decades of bloody and cruel civil war forced on to them due to the absence of good governance.

It is stupid and shocking that a society governed by parliamentary democracy for so long without accepting the reality of Federalism as an alternative to Unitary state, bar a few extremists on either side of the north-south divide, has taken almost 70 years after independence for to come to terms with the viability of Federalism or for that matter, a high degree of devolution as a direction leading to power sharing aimed at finding a solution to the ethnic issue. As there are lot more to be done to get the much needed engine of growth back on track and nothing will happen without resolving the ethnic issue to give life back to the nation, sooner people realise this the better, without fighting on trivial matters like finding a new word acceptable in all three languages for a union of Sinhala and Tamil nations in a united Sri Lanka, hope Buddha Dharma will enlighten them and guide the legislators to reach that goal.