‘Self-determination’ or ‘mutual-interdependence’? TNA Victory in North and UNF Victory in South:
Posted on August 20th, 2015

Chandre Dharmawardana,  Canada.

The people of Sri Lanka have spoken, both on Jan. 08, and now on August 17. The North has backed the TNA while the South has supported the UNF and the UPFA with a simple  majority to the UNF. The country has apparently returned to the politics of the 1960s, with the Ilankai Tamil Arasu Kadchi (ITAK) holding the balance of power.

However, if the TNA lends a constructive hand, there is now a prospect of a governing party and a strong Opposition unlike during the previous decade. Furthermore, given the TNA leadership’s ‘war crimes’ campaign against the leaders of the previous government, a better understanding should exist between the new UNF and the TNA. In fact, if the UPFA had come back to power, Jaffna and Colombo would have been on a collision course.

Although Chelvanayagam and his colleagues embraced the idea of ‘Arasu’ and ‘self-determination for the Tamils’ as early as the Maradana meeting in 1949, they became a force only after 1956. Yet, Chelvanayagam seriously attempted to find a ratio imperandi as seen from the Banda-Chelva pact and the Dudly-Chelva accords. However, the rank and file and the leaders could not overcome their own mistrust of each other. The B-C pact was rejected by the fire-brand nationalists in the North like Mr. V Navaratnam and his colleagues who organized hartals. Chelva’s attempt to appease Navaratnam and others by claiming that he is following a “bit-by-bit” approach backfired. The Nationalists in the South, like KMP Rajaratna, and political monks mounted strong  opposition to the B-C pact and the pact was abrogated.

A golden opportunity presented itself when C. P. de Silva led the SLFP in 1960, when there was a hung Parliament. Silva had agreed to implement the B-C pact days before he was to meet Sir Oliver, in trying to form a coalition government with the support of the FP. Dudley had declined to accept the FP offer as he anticipated the same opposition that SWRD had to face. Sir Oliver, wanting a stable government for at least two years, asked Chelvanayagam if the Federal party (FP or ITAK) would back CP de Silva at least for two years. If the latter had agreed to do so, a remarkable political alliance between the SLFP and the FP leaders could have resulted. Two years of co-habitation under an utterly honest and competent leader like C. P. de Silva, a mathematician and civil servant turned politician would have been a rare treat for Ceylon. However, it was not to be. Chelva refused to back Silva for two years.

Oliver had to call a new election, and Mrs. Banadaranaike came to power with a very strong “sympathy” vote. The previous accommodations with Chelvanayagam had become irrelevant with its large majority, and with Chelva declining to back the SLFP for two years. The story is now embellished to claim that Oliver did not appoint C. P. de Silva because of his caste”. However, in fairness to Oliver, it should be recorded that Oliver did offer to appoint C. P. de Silva as the PM, if the FP would back him for long enough.

Today, Maithripala Sirisena and Ranil Wickremasinghe echo the political configuration of the C. P. de Silva-Dudley-Chelva era. They are unavoidably confronted with the so-called national question. One major difficulty is the great mistrust of many Sri Lankans regarding the attitude of the present leaders during the hey day of the LTTE. That of course in cludes the UNP leards, as well as the TNA leaders who were even dubbed the “Tiger Appointed Agents”. Whenever  the war-crimis issue is raised, there is a feeling in the South that  the TNA is also indirectly “guilty” of the crimes of the LTTE.

The other difficulty is the TNA’s continued call for ‘self determination for the Tamils’, based on the concept of ‘exclusive Tamil homeland’. The concept of ‘self-determination’ is actually alien to South Asian cultures. It is a part of political ideology forged in the West, idolizing the individualism of the Pilgrim Fathers and the American West. Marxist writers have also added their bit by twisting Lenin into this mould though the Indian Marxists and Sri Lanka’s Karalasingham did not.

The Thesavalami law found in Jaffna is instructive from the point of view of the ‘self-determination’ doctrine. Thesavalami and its variants are found in the Malabar coast and in many Asian cultures. This requires that a land owner cannot determine the ‘fate’ of his own piece of land without consulting and obtaining the consensus of his neighbours. The principle here is not ‘self-determination’ but ‘mutual inter-dependence’. While this is partly a rule to keep the land within a ‘caste’ or an ‘elite’ group, the principle behind it was that individual rights had to accommodate group rights. In fact, even today, Asian societies replaces individual rights’ by the concept of ‘duty’ to the family, clan, community and culture and even self-sacrifice. The latter was used by the Tigers in their ‘suicide-thyagyam’ doctrine. This strikingly contrasts with modern western interpretations of ‘human rights’ that ignore ‘duty’ and emphasise the ‘individual’.

The Northern peninsula cannot in effect demand self-determination without the accord of those North of them (i. e. India) and those south of them (the Sinhala majority). The sensitivities of other neighbours, viz the Western powers, and the East, represented by China are also vital to the equation. This concept was already embodied in the power of the four ‘Guardian deities’ of Sri Lanka. These were God Saman representing the Sinhala hinterland, God Vishnu (Upulvan) representing India, Skandha (Iskander, i. e., Alexander) representing the power of the Hellenic West and the Persian empire, while Vibheeshana represented all the other powers linked to the legends of Ravana. Thus the “guardian deities” reflected the international power structure as visualized by the writers of the early chronicles.

Leaving aside the cultural antecedents, a more populous North will have to get its water from the Southern hills. The taxes levied in the South and the economies of the Western, Southern and hill provinces have always sustained the North. This was true even under the LTTE where the ‘government servants’ were paid salaries by the state which also provided food to that part of the country during three decades of hostilities. There is strong dependance rather than “independence’ on each other.

Clearly, the TNA and the UNF have to re-think their politics within the concept of ‘mutual inter-dependance’ instead of ‘self-determination’ for ‘exclusive’ Tamil homelands. Sri Lanka is the homeland of everyone, with no exclusive living apart (apartheid) possible. Can our new leaders rise to the occasion and exploit a rare juncture in history for the common good?

Chandre Dharmawardana,  Canada.

9 Responses to “‘Self-determination’ or ‘mutual-interdependence’? TNA Victory in North and UNF Victory in South:”

  1. Independent Says:

    There will not be any “homelands” but cemeteries for Tamils whether it under UNP or under SLFP ot JVP. They can have dreamlands.

  2. Ancient Sinhalaya Says:

    What’s this national question? This is a ploy to get bigger and bigger share of the cake by the foreigners.
    Sinhalese in their own country not supposed to live in the north and the east. It is for the foreigners. Also they want whole of Colombo and got most of it. Most of these foreigners live outside north and east. Universities full of them (good faculities only, medicine, engineering etc.). Still national question, national question. Sinhalese fall for it all the time.

    Dutch and British brought them to work in tea plantations and tobacco plantations. The rest are kallathonis who came
    in the 60s to save their lives when there was a famine in tn. Now they want a separate state.

    In the meantime say national question, national question when actually native Sinhalese losing out all the time. We didn’t ask you to come to our country. We are doing more than enough for you and you are getting more than the native Sinhalese. If you are not happy living here, there is only one thing do. Leave. Nobody asking you to stay. Nobody going to miss you. Only thing they done to Sri Lanka is being Ungrateful, murder and mayhem! Sinhalese still write, do things to please them. There is no point. They will be never be Sri Lankan. Their heart and soul is in tn. Still these ungratefuls want their pound of flesh!

  3. Fran Diaz Says:

    I am sad to state some hard facts here.

    There is NO National Question. There is a Caste War in Tamil Nadu. Also, the Tamil Separatist Movement in Tamil Nadu had to be put aside after PM Nehru’s Anti-Secessionist Laws were put forward in 1963. Then the whole Tamil Separatism movement of Tamil leaders, in TN & Lanka, shifted to Lanka even more.

    Tamil leaders supported the British colonists in India even during the colonised times. They did the same in Lanka and continue to do so, or it certainly appears to be so.

    QUESTION: Are Sri Lankans expected to solve the Tamil Caste Wars and desire for Tamil Separate State ? If so, why ?

  4. SA Kumar Says:

    There will not be any “homelands” but cemeteries for Tamils – as long as it in TE We do not mind !!!
    Indian flag is flying in Japanaya not our kodiiya or you lion flag my sinhala sakodaraya , please walk up .

  5. SA Kumar Says:

    Tamil Caste Wars? not in both TE ( NPC & EPC).

  6. SA Kumar Says:

    n the 60s to save their lives when there was a famine in tn. Now they want a separate state.- wrong your Ancient started since 1956 to 1983 our game stared since 1983 to 2009 .

    hope & pray you do not start your game again because we want Velu to rest in peace ( after killing pikkus , pregnant women , children in cold blood ( Karma) how he rest in peace that is different matter ) at Nanthi Kaddal for ever .

  7. Fran Diaz Says:

    Kumar,
    That is why Tamil Leaders want a separate State – apparently to STOP TAMIL WARS. But, mark my words, if Tamil Eelam is ever formed, Tamil Leaders will make sure that Caste is RE-IMPOSED in such an area.

    Search your memory, Kumar. Tamil LEADERS have asked for a Separate state since the Maradana meeting in 1949, and even before that when the British were in power in then Ceylon. The 1983 RIOTS were ORCHESTRATED to enable Tamil LEADERS to justify the demand and Tamil Refugees to go west (Canada in particular) to fund Tamil Eelam and get effective with politicos there with funds & votes. We have been through all this before, many times. No more wool over our eyes, please.

    I am glad you believe in Karma. I wish all Tamil folk would do so. There are genuinely fine Tamil people too. Make THEM your leaders. Then we can have some hope.

  8. SA Kumar Says:

    Fran Diaz
    Caste is RE-IMPOSED – Hindhu( Saiva) reliegon in base on caste system ( Bhiramin high, karayar, Parayr, Nalavar etc..) caste do not need to imposed it with us as long as Our Hindhu reliegen with us.

    1983 you know our Hon JRJ who open Kaddunayakka airport gate to us !!!

    Karma -another example What happend to our war Hero MR family now ???

  9. SA Kumar Says:

    Milli vaikkal Karma !

    MR could not get hand sack from our current Woman-man Prim minister –

    Also I strongly believer Mother Lanka is Holy land of Lord Bhudda !
    who thought
    VP& co disappear over night ???
    MR family sent back to Home (Hamandoda) over night ???

    live & let’s live !!!

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