The unfinished task of securing territorial integrity
Posted on July 14th, 2015

By Neville Ladduwahetty  Courtesy Island

The conclusion of the conflict in Sri Lanka also presented opportunities for parties with geo-strategic interests to engage with Sri Lanka not only for a foot print in the Indian Ocean, but also to curb the growing involvement of China in Sri Lankan affairs. The opportunities in Sri Lanka merged with the US policy of “pivot to Asia” in order to curb China from regaining its past position of influence as the supreme power in the Asia Pacific Region; a position it enjoyed a few centuries ago. The pursuit of these global interests required the replacement of the Rajapaksa administration with one that was pliable enough to further their interests. The strategy initiated by seasoned strategists well versed in the art of regime change was to start a campaign to deceitfully discredit the Rajapaksa administration on charges of abuse of power and corruption in readiness for a future election.

The forthcoming election is between supporters of former President Rajapaksa and those who are upset with the very prospect of his return to politics.

The motivations of the two camps are driven by contrasting values.

The values of the first group are such that they are prepared to overlook whatever commissions and omissions that were committed during the Rajapaksa administration for the single most significant contribution made by him – the political will to restore the territorial integrity of Sri Lanka. For them the wholeness of the State and personal security are inseparable. For this, their gratitude is timeless and boundless.

On the other hand, the values of the second group are such that they do not see the conclusion of the conflict in terms of restoring the territorial integrity of the State, but in narrow personal terms of eliminating terrorism and making them safe. The safety provided was taken for granted and utilized to discredit and remove from office the very Government that had made them safe. The forthcoming election would essentially determine which value system would prevail.

The conclusion of the conflict in Sri Lanka also presented opportunities for parties with geo-strategic interests to engage with Sri Lanka not only for a foot print in the Indian Ocean, but also to curb the growing involvement of China in Sri Lankan affairs. The opportunities in Sri Lanka merged with the US policy of “pivot to Asia” in order to curb China from regaining its past position of influence as the supreme power in the Asia Pacific Region; a position it enjoyed a few centuries ago. The pursuit of these global interests required the replacement of the Rajapaksa administration with one that was pliable enough to further their interests. The strategy initiated by seasoned strategists well versed in the art of regime change was to start a campaign to deceitfully discredit the Rajapaksa administration on charges of abuse of power and corruption.

The campaign to vilify the Rajapaksa administration was run concurrently with the search for a candidate and an administration that would be sufficiently pliable to further their interests. With the election of Maithripala Sirisena as President and the appointment of Ranil Wickremasinghe as the Prime Minister in violation of the Constitution and tenets of femocracy, Stage I of Project Sri Lanka to dismantle the Rajapaksa administration through a campaign of deceit was completed.

CAMPAIGN of DECEIT

To establish the authenticity of the charges of alleged corruption several family members, relatives and loyalists associated with the former administration were investigated. The net result has been to humiliate and harass some, while others have been subjected to grueling investigations followed by incarceration. But, to date, absolutely no actionable evidence has been presented against anyone and not one person has been formally charged for corruption. Even claims by the President himself and other Cabinet Ministers that bribes running into billions were offered to them have failed to mention the sources leave along initiating appropriate action. Against such a background the public has come to question the credibility of the charges as to whether the Rajapaksa administration was in fact corrupt to the extent alleged, or were the alleged charges only a deceitful pre-election strategy to discredit the administration in the eyes of the voter.

A similar deceitful strategy was that Sri Lanka’s war was ‘unwinnable’. Even the Rajapaksa and sections of the top brass of the military believed this lie at first. These beliefs led successive governments to engage in peace negotiations. Fortunately for Sri Lanka the ambitions of the LTTE leadership were not for compromise. They were deluded by their own invincibility and went for broke to create a separate State. Had they been prepared to settle for less, Sri Lanka would be a divided country today because the country was made to believe that the war was unwinnable and therefore there was no option other than to settle for a divided country.

Despite the mirage of the Sirisena/Wickremasinghe government being squeaky clean it is a matter of extreme irony that the biggest fraud in the history of Sri Lanka was committed under its watch during its 100-day programme. The Central Bank bond scam actually took place and attempts to cover it up were pedestrian. Notwithstanding all of the above, no attempt has even been initiated by this administration against perpetrators of the crime. What is even more hypocritical is that all of this happened under the watch of an administration that was voted in to replace an administration that was alleged to be corrupt. And what is more, there is no outcry from those who vigorously campaigned for good governance and rule of law calling for the resignation of those in charge on grounds of command responsibility.

STAGE 2 OF PROJECT SRI LANKA

Stage I of Project Sri Lanka was to replace the Rajapaksa administration on grounds of abuse of power and corruption. This has been accomplished. What is yet to be accomplished is Stage 2 of Project Sri Lanka. This is a two-step process. The first step is to weaken the centre and the second to restructure the territory in a manner that it could be dismantled. The first step was accomplished partially by the 19th Amendment. The second and final step is to replace the existing Executive Presidential system with a parliamentary system.

The campaign for a parliamentary system was initiated on the presumed premise of some that vesting executive power in an individual leads to abuse of power. Others consider the vesting of executive powers in a Prime Minister and a Cabinet of Ministers as being less conducive to abuse of power. Whether there is merit in these presumptions or not, historically, both Presidents and Prime Ministers have abused power.

The second step is territorial. The 1978 Constitution was based on the district as the operating peripheral unit. However, the 13th Amendment that was introduced in 1987 replaced the district with the province as the operating peripheral unit. The change from the district to a province was to facilitate the Tamil leaderships’ demand to merge the Northern and Eastern Provinces on grounds of a mythical ‘Tamil homeland’ proof of which does not exist. The change from district to province also paved the way to merge two provinces encompassing 1/3 the land mass and 2/3 of the coast line of Sri Lanka. Devolving power bordering on expanded autonomy/federalism to such a formidable unit would be the beginning of the process to dismantle the Sri Lankan state. The inevitability of such possibilities was conveyed by Nordlinger. According to him “…the combination of territorially distinctive segments of federalism’s grant of partial autonomy sometimes provides additional impetus to demands for greater autonomy, when the centrally-situated or centrally-oriented conflict group refuses these demands, secession and civil war may follow” (Nordlinger, Conflict Regulation in Divided Societies, 1972). Since the size of the territorial unit has a direct bearing on the impetus for incremental demand and eventual secession, downsizing the unit of devolution would deter such tendencies. The downsized unit suitable for devolution in the case of Sri Lanka would be the district.

The forthcoming election presents an ideal opportunity to seek a mandate from the people to revert to the district as the operating peripheral unit.

FORTHCOMING ELECTION

The upcoming election is crucial because it would determine the future trajectory of the Sri Lankan State as to whether it would be stay unitary or not. The Tamil leadership has stated unequivocally that Sri Lanka’s national question cannot be solved within a unitary framework. US spokespersons have stated that a federal arrangement could be an answer to resolve Sri Lanka’s national question. India’s Prime Minister has also stated the need to go beyond the powers devolved under the 13thAmendment. In short, forces are gathering to dismantle the Sri Lankan State.

Thus, Stage II of Project Sri Lanka is to dismantle the unitary character of Sri Lanka.

The success or failure of Stage II of Project Sri Lanka would depend on whether a SLFP/UNP coalition or another coalition would be returned to power. Both would campaign to replace the existing presidential system with a parliamentary system and introduce electoral reform by way of the 20thAmendment. If the SLFP/UNP coalition is elected to power at the forthcoming election there is a strong possibility that the powers devolved would border on federalism without calling it so. On the other hand, if another coalition is returned to power chances are that the status quo as to the unitary character would remain. However, neither would be fulfilling the unfinished task of ensuring the territorial integrity since both coalitions hope to retain the Province as the devolved unit thereby leaving the integrity of the State open ended to unintended possibilities.

CONCLUSION

The strategy of deceit was deployed to achieve ‘regime change’ on charges of abuse of power and allegations of corruption. Abuse of power was used to convince the public of the need to abolish the executive presidential system and replace it with a Parliamentary system notwithstanding historical evidence that power has been abused under both systems.

Despite the energy and resources deployed to establish corruption amounting to billions during the Rajapaksa administration, no actionable evidence has emerged nor has anyone been formally prosecuted on charges of corruption. On the other hand, the image of the current administration as being incorruptible has been severely tarnished by the biggest fraud in Sri Lanka’s history committed under its watch – the Central Bank Bond scam – for which no prosecutorial action has been taken to date.

The other national demand is for electoral reform. Therefore, since the electoral platform of most parties/coalitions would be similar, the contest would primarily be on image and personality. However, if any coalition has the imagination and the boldness to introduce a fresh dimension that would bring closure to the unfinished task of guaranteeing the political integrity of the state that was militarily secured by the security forces, through a replacement of the Province by the District as the peripheral unit, the electorate is bound to back it.

The campaign of such a party/coalition would then be to seek a mandate from the People for the following:

1. To replace the current executive presidential system with a parliamentary system

2. To replace the province with the district as the devolved unit.

3. To implement electoral reform.

If the people grant the mandate sought the pledge should be to appoint a committee within one month of being elected to develop the necessary instruments to fulfil all undertakings within one year.

Any coalition that contests the forthcoming election on such a platform would be displaying the same boldness and courage that was evident in the decision to prosecute the war to a conclusion notwithstanding external pressures. Several decades earlier a former administration also was bold and courageous enough to sign a rubber/rice deal with China despite warnings of dire consequences. While in the above instances the decision to defy internal and external pressures was undertaken by elected representatives the difference this time is that the mandate sought would be based on the will of the people – the ultimate authority in a democracy. That authority should be sufficient to bring closure to Sri Lanka’s unfinished task.

 

One Response to “The unfinished task of securing territorial integrity”

  1. Fran Diaz Says:

    Yes, the territorial integrity of Sri Lanka IS at risk. All concerned people MUST get together and act as one and once more save the country from division. As pointed out in this article, Lankans have together acted boldly before to save the country and can do so again.

    Our thanks to Mr Ladduwahetty for pointing out clearly the stark and dangerous realities facing Lanka.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

 

 


Copyright © 2018 LankaWeb.com. All Rights Reserved. Powered by Wordpress