Our Sinhalese brethren are not against peace and prosperity. Many a Sinhalese at the grass roots level are aware of the individuality of the Tamils, and their long time exclusive continued residency in the North and East from pre historic times. In fact they are annoyed with Politicians who paint a different picture. They are not opposed to power sharing nor maintenance of maximum human rights’ ambience. They know that the resolving of the so called ethnic conflict is the surest way to usher in a peaceful and prosperous society. Therefore His Excellency’s party at the next election should promise peace and prosperity in Sri Lanka consequent to the grant of maximum devolution. In 1994 it worked. 62 percent (62%) voted for the Presidential winner.
Former Chief Minister of Northern Province and Secretary General Tamizh Makkal Kootanii Justice C.V.Wigneswaran has said.
He said so in a written question asked by a journalist.
Here’s the question and his full reply:
Question: – The new President has said that he rejects devolution of power in Sri Lanka. He has also said economic development alone will help the people. He has reiterated that security is of paramount importance. How do you look at his statements?
Response: – I do not know what he said. But it seems he has said so according to the Press. I have so far supported the right things stated and done by His Excellency the President. I have never met him. I was fascinated to hear that he too is vegetarian like us. But the statements made by him if they have been stated by him sounds naïve and puerile to me with no malice intended. Let me explain.
- Devolution of Power
What is devolution of power? Power accumulates in one central place. Thereby the periphery suffers. Therefore there is the theory of subsidiarity. It means the concept of a central governing body permitting its member states, units, regions, branches etc to take decisions on issues best dealt with at local or subsidiary level. In the case of such member states, units, regions, branches etc if there are characteristics which buttress their individuality and separate and distinct existence savouring of a distinctive character, then the most acceptable device that has been formulated in the sphere of constitution making, to allow separate existence for those with such distinct characteristics to exist side by side with the rest of the body politic constituting the State, is the recognition of the right of internal self-determination for these units within the Country. The most acceptable constitutional device to ensure the right of internal self-determination within a Country is federalism. Thus the French speaking Quebec having characteristics distinct and different from the rest of English speaking Canada were allowed federalism. Federalism means regions within a Country while independent in their respective home affairs combine together other regions for national and general purposes. In the United States during the American Civil War “federal” was the name applied to the States of the North which defended the Union against the separatists of the South. Later all of them together became United States of America. The ideal constitutional device formulated for disparate States, interests, units to live together on a “live and let live” basis is federalism. The idea is for birds of the same feather to get together while maintaining relationship, friendship and connection with birds of different feathers. The white leghorns, RIRs and the village fowls are given different cages by the farmer. They stay the night in their cages and come out in the morning to mingle together. They all constitute the farm of their Boss. A federal farm!
In Sri Lanka there has been a wrong perception which had grown both among the Sinhalese and the Tamils when the Tamil Arasu Katchi was formed in 1949. I don’t know who coined the translation for federalism. Thamil Arasu was a misnomer for federalism. It should have been Kootarasu (joint government). The ordinary Tamils thought that they were in for an independent Tamil Government separate from the Centre. That their Ilangai Tamil Arasu Katchi (ITAK) would give them a separate state. The Sinhalese also thought the federal party was contemplating secession. Hence the word “federal” crystalized in the hearts of Sri Lankans, specially the Sinhalese, as separation and secession. The truth was that federalism was the best innovation found and available to retain togetherness and camaraderie among disparate groups. Unity in diversity could be obtained by federalism.
Otherwise there would be dictatorship of the majority.
His Excellency with his military background seems to favour centralization and dictatorship of the majority. But he forgets the majority in the North and East even now are the Tamil speaking people. On his own argument if devolution is to be rejected by him he favours separation for the Tamil speaking North and East since they are in the majority there dictatorship of the minority (the Sinhalese) in the North and East. The Sinhalese are the minority in the North and East. In fact the Sinhalese were brought into the exclusive Tamil speaking territories of the North and East only during British times. Before 1833 there were Tamil kingdoms in the North and East. In the East there may have been petty Tamil chiefs (Vanniyars) paying tithes to the Kandyan king (who was a Tamil speaking Telugu) but the East was entirely Tamil speaking. In my youth I remember travelling in the East extensively. There were Muslims in certain areas. But predominantly it was the vibuthi (Holy Ash) wearing Saivite Tamils whom I saw. There were hardly any Sinhalese except those few who came seasonally for fishing. So the rejection of devolution to the North and East would entail dictatorship of the Sinhalese over them.
The Tamils need to be free and independent to look after their matters. They are not slaves brought from Timbuctoo! True to his military background the new President of Sri Lanka favours hegemonic dictatorship by the Sinhalese over the Tamil speaking North and East. On what basis does His Excellency wish to instal Sinhala hegemony over the North and East?
- It is a historical fact that North and East were never the homelands of the Sinhalese though valiant efforts are being made to prove the contrary. The fact that Educational publications do not speak of the North and East or Tourist organizations ignore North and East does not take away the individuality and the continued existence of the Tamil speaking people in the North and East from pre Buddhistic times.
- When the North and the East were Buddhist in the distant past, the votaries were Tamils (Demala Baudayo) not Sinhalese. The Sinhalese terms for Tamil villages were coined within the last 100 years. They are artificially made recent names.
- By virtue of the British bringing about unification of administration in the whole Island in 1833 there was influx of Tamil speaking into Sinhala speaking areas and vice versa. When I was residing in Anuradhapura prior to Independence a Tamil was the Chairman, UC, Anuradhapura for 18 years. Then the old Town of Anuradhapura existed.
Therefore on what basis or right is His Excellency thinking of hegemony over the North and East? Surely the Sinhalese cannot decide what is best for us Tamils! Just because the Sinhalese Politicians paint us all Terrorists in the North and East we do not become Terrorists nor are we any lesser citizens of this Country.
His Excellency has said elsewhere that he cannot grant devolution of powers since the Sinhala majority rejects such devolution. What does that mean? The Sinhalese do not want him to give devolution to the Tamils, the Sinhalese having taken over Tamil speaking areas forcibly or surreptitiously from their custody. Therefore His Excellency probably feels that the Tamils must get used to the dictatorship of the Sinhalese in the North and East forever. I am sure His Excellency needs to be better advised.
I am also in touch with my Sinhalese brethren both at the highest and lowest social level. The Sinhalese did not vote for His Excellency because they wanted him not to devolve powers to the Tamils. Security concerns after April 21st, large scale corruption at all levels, increase in cost of living and internal squabbles within the government in power, all contributed to their annoyance with the then Government. Of course fear was engendered among some constituents in the South that Hon’ Sajith Premadasa was trying to act contrary to the interests of the Sinhalese. But that was election propaganda calculated to create frenzy among the people. But our Sinhalese brethren are not against peace and prosperity. Many a Sinhalese at the grass roots level are aware of the individuality of the Tamils, and their long time exclusive continued residency in the North and East from pre historic times. In fact they are annoyed with Politicians who paint a different picture. They are not opposed to power sharing nor maintenance of maximum human rights’ ambience. They know that the resolving of the so called ethnic conflict is the surest way to usher in a peaceful and prosperous society. Therefore His Excellency’s party at the next election should promise peace and prosperity in Sri Lanka consequent to the grant of maximum devolution. In 1994 it worked. 62 percent (62%) voted for the Presidential winner.
One more matter before I go to His Excellency’s next statement.
I have evidence that Sinhalese officials controlling the Colombo Museum, the National Archives and other institutions dealing with History, Anthropology, Archaeology and Paleontology have been very chauvinistic in allowing Tamil Researchers to have access to our antiques, artifacts and other artistic remains from the past including inscriptions and coins. The normal ruse had been to ask the Researcher to make an application in writing giving his or her Telephone number. But access is not given immediately. The officer promises to call the Researcher. But no call comes and the Researcher’s innumerable calls to the officer are not answered. Finally Sri Lankan Research suffers on account of the foolishness of these officers who fear that the antiquity of the Tamils may be disclosed unless they prevent Researchers from doing their researches. One of our very distinguished Historians had been trying for over two years to have access to a piece of historical evidence but of no avail.
- Economic development only is needed.
Economic development is no doubt a crying need for the war affected people of the North and East. But such development is not foreseen to be implemented by the People of the Provinces, specially the Northern and Eastern Provinces. The idea is to direct the so called Economic development from the Centre without devolution. The purpose seems to be to deprive the Tamil provinces of their resources and to enrich the Centre or the other Provinces. Furthermore while the so-called Economic development takes place demographic alterations and variations are to be effected surreptitiously by the Centre. The idea is to expropriate the traditional homelands of the Tamils for the benefit of the Sinhalese in their ultimate quest to make this Country a Sinhala Buddhist Country.
Why do I say the Centre wants to control development at the peripheral areas specially Tamil speaking areas? While Chief Minister I arranged for a Middle Eastern Company to undertake cultivation of Fruit and Vegetables in the Wanni for export. Land was found and the International Company that came to see the land were highly satisfied with the soil, water, environment, transport to the land etc. We had obtained all necessary Reports and there was only one hurdle to cross. An “ok” from the Commissioner General of Lands, Colombo was needed. After we made the application to him and after considerable delay in responding we were told by his Department that part of the land earmarked for the project was Forest Land. This was preposterous. The Land did not fall under Forest Land Reserves and in any case this was a land earlier cultivated. On inquiry we were told Forest Reserves were demarcated in 2007 or so when the war was going on by identifying them through Google Maps! By such unfair means a lucrative project which would have brought much foreign exchange to the Country was lost. We presumed that the Central Government was not interested in the Provinces undertaking economic regeneration programmes by themselves. That is why we feel the Centre wants to take over economic projects to its hands and direct implementation themselves. So economic regeneration programmes by the Centre would transform our Tamil speaking areas into Colonies of the Sinhalese and in due course there would be Sinhalisation and Buddhistisation and genocide of the Tamils in their own traditional homelands.
It must not be forgotten that the North and East have been recognized successively by Sri Lankan governments to be the traditional homelands of the Tamils. Their economic development alone without a political settlement first would mean the ultimate annihilation of the Tamil Community in the North and East.
- Security is of paramount importance
We do agree that security is of paramount importance specially after April 21st this year. But why does the President think only the Centre could protect us? Surely if power is devolved to us we could protect ourselves? Our youngsters kept the government of Sri Lanka and its Tri forces at bay for nearly 30 years. Only the help given by almost a score of Countries dismantled them. Surely we could protect ourselves if adequate powers are devolved to us? To me the talk of security seems to be a ruse to control the North and East and to expropriate our areas. The recent withdrawal of transport permits regarding sand, gravel and other resources has only helped outsiders from the Northern and Eastern Provinces to benefit. Our people are aware as to who are involved in illegal mining of sand etc.
So all in all the President wants to control the North and East, control the Tamils, keep the armed forces forever in the Tamil speaking areas, expropriate the North and East of their natural resources, colonise the North and East with Sinhalese and Buddhists and change the demography to make North and East a Sinhala Buddhist unit in time to come. His reluctance to grant devolution of powers presupposes the above said goals in the minds of His Excellency the President and others.