In Sri Lanka, yet another violation of the constitution occurred in October this year by the President to remove the Prime Minister to appoint a new Prime Minister did not command majority support in Parliament, was referred to courts by the law makers to seek redress and the judiciary ruled that the removal was unconstitutional and the President reappointed the Prime Minister back. This whole episode serves as an eye opener to the people about all minority political parties; in particular the leadership of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) rose above party politics to protect the constitution, democracy, and the rights of the people that contributed to bring the political crisis to an end. Though TNA leadership was criticized by critics within its alliance and outside for being more concerned about the prime minister than about the Tamil people, its contribution to the preservation of democracy, to respect for the constitution and to the rule of law went beyond seeking solutions to the problems of their people, who had suffered pain and the damages caused to their life by the same rulers. For in the seven decades of Sri Lankans ruling themselves the country was at crisis point on several occasions with people left to face dark periods as the close minded rulers with their exclusive policies violated the constitution several times, only to deny these people their basic rights instigating many uprisings against the state that finally developed into a bloody cruel civil war that lasted three decades to produce untold miseries in particular to the economic and ethnic minorities.
With the change of wind in 2015, the people elected the unity government with hopes of instilling true democracy, with a promise of drafting a new constitution to enable the multi-racial and multi-religious society to live peacefully. The ever greedy and power hungry representatives of the majority ethnic group introduced the 19th amendment to the draconian republican constitution; three years passed by dashing all hopes the minority communities had of the country getting a new democratic constitution to rid of executive presidency and to reinstate their lost rights. Then the events that took place in October this year made people to wonder what these elected representative of the major ethnic group are up to, as the scuffle in parliament was mainly between the two traditional rulers at a heavy cost to the country. In fact it was the United National Party (UNP) known as the grand old party, as the first traditional ruling party that should take the blame for introducing the draconian constitution. The people never asked for and yet it led the country to many uprisings against the state that eventually turned into a bloody cruel civil war lasting over three decades to push back by five decades the development of the country. Sharing the blame was the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) itself a product of power struggle, as the second traditional ruling party ventured with every political situation to deprive basic rights of the ethnic and economic minorities countrywide.
Prior to that Sri Lanka was the paradise of the Indian Ocean, unfortunately from 1948 the first government of UNP made many wrong moves with its sloppy leadership getting politically tangled up with exclusive policies forcing them to work outside the first truly democratic constitution that had checks and balances fit for the multi-ethnic society. This trend continued under SLFP governments as they too followed the same route and in the process the little island nation got destroyed. Sadly, the representatives of the minorities know well of these practices for the country faced two uprisings from the economic minorities in south and the courageous declaration of self-governance by the ethnic minorities in northeast that caused a disastrous civil war. Earlier as years rolled on to further their own interests, power and resources, both UNP and SLFP as the major ethnic group rulers created the first republican constitution; then proceeded with the present draconian republican constitution that gave all executive powers to the president that was previously with the parliament. Thereafter, at regular interval the rulers amended the constitution nineteen times to wore out any faith the representatives of the underprivileged ethnic and the poor working class economic minorities had on true democracy. Yet any resistance to these excusive policies from political parties representing the minorities were rejected by the governments of the day as unpatriotic acts and used brutal state force to supress them to cause many uprisings and finally led the country to civil war. Sadly the country’s new generations have grown without knowing who actually caused the civil war, as they were made to believe that these are acts of extremists; but these younger generations must realise that there cannot be smoke without fire and must seek the truth of the cause of civil war that is hidden from the public by the rulers, yet in private many senior members of both ruling parties concede the truth.
Even though the people struggles were crushed, under the pretext of getting rid of terrorism, the causes were never rectified and protests for privileges from the economic and ethnic minorities still continues countrywide; while unending relentless fracas for power by the rulers continue in parliament and on the media, that led to the dissolution of the unity government and a new Prime Minister with a new cabinet of ministers appointed by the President. As it affected the rulers the matter was challenged in court by them and received the ruling that the President had acted unconstitutionally and UNP thus regained back the prime minister ship. Such power struggles had the potential to destroy not just these two political parties, but the whole nation and should serve as an eye opener to all minor political parties in parliament, who have been blindly supporting the larger parties in power for few gains and comforts with little or zero benefit to the ethnic and economic minorities they represent in parliament. People are encouraged to note that the UNP has plans to form the Democratic National Front (NDF) in alliance with like-minded parties such as the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC), All Ceylon Makkal Congress (ACMC), the Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU) and the Tamil Progressive Alliance (TPA) and with a group of the SLFP MPs and that the new cabinet will be limited to 30 ministers. Under these circumstances the TNA must place as condition to collaborate with NDF and resolve issues related to the ethnic conflict and together with other Tamil speaking representatives need to work a plan of action in parliament to push the national ethnic problem once and for all into history books.
The fear of any development or economic progress without addressing the root causes is well illustrated by the miserable life of the Tamil speaking minorities, as the incremental progress since 2015 remains vastly inadequate for these people in the island, who suffered most due to the ethnic conflict and the estates labour over exploitation of several decades. As successive rulers with exclusive policies have failed to grant the minorities their sovereignty by ignoring the protective clauses in the first constitution; even worse their sovereignty was not defined in the second (or the first republican) constitution. It was this that caused the struggle, forcing amendments to be made to the present (or the second republican) constitution as a remedy; but as they were never fully implemented the struggle continues to date.
The Tamil National Alliance (TNA) having expressed its willingness for a political solution within a united country, having played an active role in resolving the recent crisis in parliament have to work harder to keep its alliance alive and get an open commitment from the new government that they would implement of the 13th Amendment in full, along with land and Police powers; hold referendum only in the Eastern Province on re-merger with North for it is a matter only for the people living in eastern province to decide; release of military held land, accepting that any army stationed in north and east provinces needs land shall get allocated with the respective provincial council’s consent; repeal the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA), accepting the reality that a new act would replace it in line with that available in other countries may; and get all Tamil political prisoners released for many have served time for crimes not committed and the many who have already served excess years in prisons than they deserve for any crimes committed needs to be compensated. TNA must make it known in no uncertain terms to their opponents both within its alliance and outside countrywide that there are no mysteries about these conditions to support the government. It should put an end to the extremists on either side of the ethnic divide, who have the habit of woofing on TNA and say they will not allow the present government to bring a new constitution or amendments to the existing constitution at the directive of the TNA or any other political party. Thus TNA are duty bound to make it known to the total population in the country that these shall be their official conditions to support any alliance mandated by the people to form a future government after the 2020 General Elections and the Tamil speaking people, who have been wise in supporting TNA should continue to do so. Both UNP and SLFP as the majority political parties to yield a new composition in parliament are bound to seek the minority political parties to forge alliances to face the next general election due in August 2020. Thus the leaders of political parties representing minorities have an important role to keep the balance between the two main political parties to ensure there is good governance at all times. Otherwise these minorities already deprived of their basic rights will feel the heat most to drive them to a near-death situation.
TNA having made it clear during the recent crisis that providing a political solution to the national question is essential to achieve political stability in the country and it is now up to these legislators to prioritise their efforts with the new NDF government encouraging them to enshrine the lost rights of the minorities in constitutional law before the period runs out in 2020. To be supportive to the TNA, all political parties must conduct their businesses deliberately to ensure such preservation of the sovereignty rights of Tamil speaking minorities into the constitution does not in any way deny or conflict the interests of the communities they represent that will no doubt assure the rebirth of the Paradise; lost by the past sloppy leadership getting tangled up with exclusive policies forcing them to work outside the first truly democratic constitution that had checks and balances fit for the multi-ethnic society.