Looming danger of federalism before complete separation
Posted on February 13th, 2017

By Rohana R. Wasala

Because of the Indian-imposed 13th amendment to the Sri Lankan constitution, Sri Lanka already has a quasi-federal system of government. What the diaspora Tamils, the TNA, and Tamil Nadu politicians are currently striving for is fully fledged federalism. The nature of the various proposals these activists are making and their cynically communalist take on the Tamil problem strongly suggest that they are pursuing the objective of federalism as the penultimate step to separation (i.e., a federal state later transforming itself into a separate sovereign state). But many domestic and regional factors make a separate state for Tamils, comprising the north and east provinces, an unrealistic goal that Sri Lanka cannot, and India will not, allow to materialize. From a Sri Lankan point of view, federalism is synonymous with separation. It was for this reason that the late H.L. de Silva, PC, was critical of even significant devolution of power.

The late Lakshman Kadirgamar, undoubtedly the most enlightened national statesman we have had in our recent history, totally rejected the idea of a separatist state. As quoted in his biography written by his daughter Ajita Kadirgamar THE CAKE THAT WAS BAKED AT HOME” (Vijitha Yapa, Colombo, Aug. 2015),  Justice C.G. Weeramantry, former Judge of the International Court of Justice, and emeritus professor of law at Monash University, Australia, LK’s former colleague and friend, wrote in a tribute to LK: He (LK) pointed out, with  impeccable logic, that the Tamils are not arranged tidily, but are intermingled with Sinhalese, Muslims and others on the map of Sri Lanka – so the attempt to set up a separatist state by force is a threat to them as much as to other communities. …” (p.277).

After nearly three decades of fighting despite such warnings, the armed terrorist struggle for creating a separate state in Sri Lanka suffered total defeat in 2009 at the hands of government security forces. But the separatist ideology is still very much alive. According to the US State Department the LTTE fronts active in that country continued their collection of funds for their activities through 2015, though the outfit still remains on its list of banned foreign terrorist organizations. It was banned in America on August 10, 1997. Yet the Americans have supported the demand by expatriate Tamils, the TNA, and Tamil Nadu politicians that the government ‘demilitarize’ the north. (Under the non-interventionist foreign policy of the new US president Donald Trump, the American attitude might significantly change.) Despite this, the Sri Lankan government lifted its ban on a few of these fronts in September 2015. Before her death on Dedcember 5, 2016, the late chief minister Jayalalitha of Tamil Nadu pledged to make one of her priorities the creation of Eelam in Sri Lanka that the terror leader Prabhakaran had envisioned. She also had declared that she wanted to pressurize the central government to get the island of Kachchativu returned to India; actually, India recognized Sri Lanka’s ownership of the uninhabited  island in 1974. One of her demands was that Kachchativu be returned to India because she thought that the problem of Tamil Nadu fishermen having to poach in Sri Lankan waters would end with the possession of Kachchativu. But the truth is that those Indian fishermen penetrate much deeper into Sri Lankan maritime territory to steal the fish resources that rightfully belong to Sri Lankan fishermen, who are mainly the Tamils in that area. Northern provincial council chief minister TNA’s insanely ungrateful Vigneshwaran falsely charges that all governments in Sri Lanka since 1948 have committed genocide against Tamils. A set of some 15 proposals made by the NPC has no direct reference to the majority community, but seems to imply that it is impossible for minorities to live with them without special arrangements to look after themselves (hence probably the proposal for separate zonal councils for Tamils and Muslims). One proposal is that Sri Lanka be renamed The Federal Republic of Sri Lanka”; another is that the president be elected as per clauses 54-55 of the Indian constitution!  and Vigneshwaran proposes that Sri Lanka’s history be rewritten! A suggestion he is reported to have made in Jaffna some months ago in the presence of Swiss ambassador in Sri Lanka Heinz Walker-Nederkoorn is that the Swiss system of government be adopted by Sri Lanka (another of the 15 proposals referred to above), in spite of the fact that there is no rational basis for such a novelty to be introduced. Switzerland is a small landlocked country in Europe about two thirds the size of Sri Lanka. There are hardly any similarities between these two countries in terms of their geography, demography, history, economy, or culture, or in terms of the respective problems they face. Visiting dignitaries from the West go to Jaffna, no doubt, to inquire into the current situation there after their rescue from terrorism and the restoration of democracy to them, and we should thank them for their concern with the welfare of our people. But if they accept, without rational investigation, the myths that the racist politicians there entertain them with as if these narratives were gospel truth, then those visitors,  be they diplomats or something else, are doing a great disservice to the ordinary people of this country. Septuagenarian Vigneshwaran (78) himself grew up, studied, worked in the legal field  and finally retired as a supreme court judge, having lived in Colombo for most of his life among the allegedly ‘genocidal’ Sinhalese.

Of course, none of such racist Tamil politicians are talking too openly or too explicitly about separation at this stage. That will come later, as we may be sure, going by what we know about their traditional strategy of ‘a little now, more later’. They are only asking for a federal state at present, but the truth is that under the 13th amendment to the constitution (inflicted on Sri Lanka by India in 1987), Sri Lanka already has a federal system of government. The northern and eastern provinces were temporarily merged in September 1988 and demerged from 1st January 2007 by the supreme court, which declared the merger on the earlier occasion was illegal. But the Tamil racist politicians’ goal of a separate Tamil speaking sovereign state in the north and east of Sri Lanka is unmistakable. And this is what the reasonable majority of the multiethnic Sri Lankan population fear.

Probably, the PM and the President think that Vigneshwaran’s claims and proposals are too unreasonable to be taken seriously. President Sirisena assured an increasingly sceptical public of his determination to put a final end to the Tamil separatist ideology. The vital question is: How? It is the general belief among common people that Mahinda Rajapaksa came very close to achieving this aim through equitable development across the country that would create an environment of economic growth and political stability, in which the demand for separation would die a natural death, but Mahinda Rajapaksa was effectively checkmated by anti-nationalist forces working  according to a different agenda  that has nothing to do with Sri Lanka’s welfare. Though Mahinda had a well thought out plan of action to achieve what they call reconciliation through economic development and restoration of democratic governance which the LTTE had denied to the north for so many years, he was not allowed enough time and the peace of mind to realize his aims.

Clearly, the Ranil-Chandrika-Maithri triumvirate wants to fulfill the pledges it made to foreign sponsored anti-Sri Lanka forces for coming to power. One of the charges against Rajapaksa was that he antagonized West and India. What did he do to antagonize them? He did what was good for his country; he refused to follow their dictates which were actually inimical to our country’s interests. Our relationship with India, especially since independence, has always been of the blow hot and cold kind; there hasn’t been any steady friendship nor any unrelenting enmity. That is mainly because of the Tamil Nadu factor. It is thanks to the fact that there wasn’t what is known as India today before the British created it in the 19th century that the Sinhalese survived as a proud independent nation for over two thousand five hundred years.

It is argued by commentators that the Ranil Chandrika Maithri trio want to accommodate the foreign meddlers’ demands by dismantling Sri Lanka as it is. To do this they need to forge a new constitution that will break up the country on ethnic lines while preserving the unitary character of the nation state, pretending that it will be acceptable to all the communities. Maithripala is criticized as having allowed himself to be used by local and foreign forces inimical to Sri Lanka which wanted to reverse the forward march of the country that was going apace under Mahinda’s leadership. The new constitution making/reforming plan seems aimed at accommodating the federalist agenda that is being followed as the modus operandi for achieving the separatist goal.

(The original version of this article was written about eight months ago, but somehow it didn’t get published. Parts of it were used in one or two of the author’s later articles, which were published. What you have just read is a slightly updated version of complete original.)

16 Responses to “Looming danger of federalism before complete separation”

  1. Sooriarachi Says:

    With the change in US Government and its promise of a non-interventionist policy in foreign affairs, Sri Lanka has got another chance to counter the fabricated allegations the Tamil separatists have successfully carried to the previous US administration, with heavy donations to given to influence the blind acceptance of these bogus allegations. Unfortunately today we have a new regime in Sri Lanka, the leaders of which seem more loyal to the mainly migrant Tamil separatists, than to the indegenous Sinhala masses descending from a great civilisation and fought hard to protect the nation’s sovereignity. The rights they lost over centuries of Colonial rule, such as being evicted from their lands without compensation, are yet to be rectified.
    To make matters worse, today we have a Foreign Minister suffering from an inferiority complex and dead scared to disobey powerful western nations and the separatist diaspora. He seem to have allowed himself to be used as a tool to disintegrate the ancient nation now known as Sri Lanka.

    I do not think Sri Lanka could move forward as a unitary developed state, with equal rights to all including the sidelined sinhalese, unless Mahinda Rajapakse or someone like him takes over the nation to continue with his plans to develop the economy of the nation, which was brought to an abrupt halt by the new regime.

  2. Ananda-USA Says:

    The problem is not in handling the Racist Tamil EELAMISTS trying to create an Apartheid State for Tamils only.

    The problem is in handling our own idiotic Sinhala Buddhist TRAITORS who undermine our strength and force us to commit hara-kiri!

  3. Dilrook Says:

    Sri Lanka is already a fully-fledged federal country.

    In fact, Sri Lanka is more federal than India since 1987.

    A unitary country cannot have provinces with constitutionally guaranteed powers that cannot be revoked by parliament and the president (even combined). The maximum the president can do is to dissolve a provincial council. But it has no use in the northern provincial council. TNA will win it again. Parliament’s powerlessness was seen many times. Most recently in Divi Neguma Bill and Super Ministry Bill. Both failed as they compromise provincial powers.

    The unitary label is retained to deceive a section of the society. Even the proposed TNA constitution will retain the unitary word.

    Tamils can file a writ of mandamus to get land and police powers (granted to the province by the present constitution). But why don’t they do it? If the Northern Province gets them, the Eastern Province and others also get them. That may be detrimental to Tamil interests.

    It is ridiculous those who support 13A opposing the TNA constitution. 13A is the brainchild of India (while financing and arming the LTTE) and the LTTE. 13A must be removed to turn the country back to unitary in substance. Sadly, this has become a political issue. Those who supported 13A (LTTE constitution) oppose TNA constitution. It is a battle between LTTE preference (before 1987 August) and TNA. Both must be rejected.

    True separatists support or don’t oppose 13A and 13A Plus.

  4. Dilrook Says:

    @Ananda

    It is not their fault. They have no party to support as all MPs (and their relatives) support federal 13A (Tamil Eelam enabler). They say 13A is not federal just to fool the gullible.

    Those who spread the wrong view that 13A is not federal are real Tamil Eelamists. They protect and hide Tamil Eelam enabler (13A) under their protection by calling it “unitary” so that Tamil separatists will have a safe journey towards Eelam.

    If you remember, SLFP and JVP vehemently opposed 13A from 1987 to 1993 and 1999 respectively. Many sacrificed their lives for it. Only UNP and Chandrika’s party supported it. Why? Because it turned unitary Sri Lanka into federal. SLFP and JVP slowly changed their stance (for PC money) but 13A didn’t change.

    This is the third attempt to change the constitution building upon 13A. Was there any attempt to change the constitution to appease Tamil Eelamists before 13A? No. So the mother of all Tamil Eelamist constitutions is 13A. If the third attempt fails, there will be a fourth as long as 13A remains.

    Unless Mahinda is going to abrogate 13A, he is of no use for nationalists, patriots and unitarists. If he upholds 13A, he is a threat to unitary Sri Lanka just as others supporting 13A.

  5. Christie Says:

    We have been a full pledged colony of the Indian Empire since 1956. What is happening now is the Genocide of the Sinhalese.

  6. Charles Says:

    There is no reconciliation possible with the Tamil politicians in Sri Lanka. It is foolish to continue to give into all their demands hoping that they would eventually be satisfied with what they have got and settle down to work with the Government. The Yahapalanaya has already given in too much to them and they believe they could get more from these foolish Yahapalanaya leaders.Sumandiran not even a Hindu like other Tamils in Sri Lanka, but a Christian asks in open TV debates to remove the clause to protect Buddhism in the Constitution,

    The Tamil Politicians and their goons cannot be satisfied nor do they want to be satisfied until they get their separatist objective of an Eelam. Wignesvaran wants to be a modern Tamil hero who achieved what Prabhakaran could not achieve after thirty years of terrorism.

    Sirisena is trying to take revenge from Mahinda Rajapakse undoing what Rajapakse had been doing to unite the communities by providing peace and security to the Tamil people in the north as well as the other communities in the South, by creating a people friendly Armed Force which would be the Nations assurance of safety and peace. That has been completely destroyed by closing Military Camps in the North and giving back land acquired by the armed forces. The Government should have settled down the families of the Armed Forces in the North and East. Settling down Sinhala after removing the Armed Forces would be a danger to the Sinhala villagers as they will be harassed by the Tamils politicians.

    It is the English Speaking Sinhala that criticise Mahinda Rajapakse, but the ordinary Sinhala Buddhists understand Mahinda Rajapakse as a great leader who did what many other political leaders before him could not do. They also understand that Mahinda Rajapakse or a party coming back to power to implement Mahinda Chintanaya could assure their peace and safety and develop Sri Lanka further.

  7. Ananda-USA Says:

    Dilrook,

    Irrespective of the FAILURE of the MR/UPFA GOSL to repeal the 13A when they could have done so, those idiotic Sinhala Buddhists of whatever vintage, who joined hands with the minorities and the UNPatriotic party to OUST the MR/UPFA GOSL are the PRIMARY CAUSE of our current disaster.

    In doing so, these idiots not only committed hara-kiri themselves but they slit the bellies of the larger Sinhala Buddhist community wide open for our guts to spill out!

    Our struggle in the immediate future is to educate these Sinhala Buddhist idiots on the damage they have done to themselves in swallowing the Yamapalanaya propaganda, and bring them back home where they belong!

  8. Fran Diaz Says:

    INDIA started the mess with Sri Lanka by ILLEGALLY imposing the 13-A on the JRJ govt in 1987.
    This was during the Cold War times (1946-1991) when the JRJ govt went ultra west.
    Now the Cold War is over.

    The 13-A is the great divider of Lanka. It is used by some foreign countries and their Agents for their own gains and a large number of Tamils (Tamil Nadu & Lanka) who think they would be free of Caste in Tamil Eelam, to carve out a separate state for Tamils only.
    What would happen if Tamil Eelam is actually formed ?
    Tamil Nadu Caste society norms will be imposed again on Lanka Tamils in Eelam. The Caste System of INDIA will be re-imposed on the Tamils of Eelam too. It will be put into their birth certificates as done in Tamil Nadu. The Census will be done on a Caste base.
    By the way, all others such as Budhists, Christians, Muslims etc will be lumped into a category called Scheduled Castes as done in INDIA.

    THROW OUT THE 13-A !!

    Also in the news today (see Daily Mirror, 13 Feb), is that almost the entire Jayalalitha camp (Sashikala, Paneerselvam etc. has been removed from power in Tamil Nadu. Is that a cue to pick up and remove the 13-A ? !!

  9. Fran Diaz Says:

    Latest from the internet on TN politics :

    Sasikala out, Paneerselvam in.

  10. Randeniyage Says:

    Primary cause of current dissater is the INDIAN FUNDED crime of manipulating our leaders since 1987 to 2006 and then 2010 to todate.
    It will NEVER END until we stop the INDIAN FUNDING. We cannot control the funding but we can contorl the recieving.

  11. Dilrook Says:

    13A is the mother of all separatist constitutions (and attempts). There wasn’t a single attempt to twist the constitution to appease separatists before 13A. But since 13A, all governments have proposed constitutional amendments to appease separatists.

    Interim northern administration (1994), Regional councils (1995), Package (2000), Interim Internal Self Determination (2002), P-TOMS (2005), Majority-Minority Report (2006), APRC proposals (2007), 13 Plus (2009), LLRC (2012) and LLRC second report (2014).

    If TNA fails to pass its constitution, it will tweak 13A to achieve most demands. 13A didn’t require a referendum so tweaking it certainly won’t need a referendum. For instance, 13A deprived the president some executive powers and vested them in the provincial governor. Now those powers will be transferred to the PC. Governor is not a government pillar (executive, judiciary and legislature) so depriving its power will not require a referendum.

    Similarly, in 1987 the parliament was robbed of its powers. Some were vested in PCs and others in concurrent list. And it required no referendum. Now they try to vest concurrent list powers in PCs. Compared to the shift in 1987, this is just a fraction. Therefore, that too needs no referendum.

    This is why 13A should have been abrogated in 2009 as Gomin says. 13A is based on a bilateral commitment Sri Lankan entered into with India (Indo-Lanka Peace Accord of 1987). 13A could not be removed during the validity of the Accord. But the Accord ended its validity on May 19, 2009 due to frustration. The Accord required Lanka to implement 13A and India to finish off the LTTE. On that day, LTTE ceased to exist and the contract ended due to frustration. That was the perfect opportunity to abrogate 13A.

    India drafter 13A in consultation with the LTTE. Although LTTE “rejected” it (to prolong their business), LTTE inputs are all over 13A. This is why 13A is worse than the Indian federal model.

    However, the LTTE Rump moved quickly to get the UN Chief to get Mahinda to re-commit to 13A. On May 23, 2009 Mahinda and Ban-Ki Moon made a Joint Statement for the implementation of 13A. A new international (UN) commitment was made in place of the old one that ended 4 days ago. After another 4 days, Dayan made a second commitment to the UNHRC for the full implementation of 13A and resettlement of displaced Tamil people (only).

    Immediately thereafter, the LTTE Rump reaffirmed their commitment to the end product of 13A via reaffirming Vaddukoddai resolution in referendums held in major cities.

    Now 13A is protected by 2 international commitments made in May 2009. LTTE had the last laugh in May 2009. LTTE sacrificed its leaders and protected its (mythical) nation whereas Sri Lanka sacrificed its nation and protected its leaders.

  12. Lorenzo Says:

    TAMIL MADU is a mess.

    Sasikala POISONED Jaya to COVER UP the fraud.

    IF SL had strategists we should HELP SEPARATISTS in TN to make use of TROUBLE to declare INDEPENDENCE from ENDIA. Then ENDIA will support SL against COMMON ENEMY – TN.

    Endian troops will storm TN and crush ALL separatists.

    SL can drop the new TE CONSTITUTION and blame it on TN SEPARATISTS. Endia will also support us.

  13. vichara2 Says:

    I believe that there is no restriction in 13A on a re demarcation of Provincial boundaries. To resist separatist inclinations we should join the Trinco District with NCP and to compensate for the loss of territory attach Polonnarwa District to the EP.
    At one time Polonnaruwa (Tamankaduwa was part of the EP. (Colebrook Recommendation)

  14. Fran Diaz Says:

    Tamil Nadu news :

    Sasikala & Paneerselvam both out. Palanisamy in as Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu.
    We hope it is not more of the same from Tamil Nadu, and that Progressive politics will happen from now on. We hope that Tamil Nadu will indeed look after their own people, and not off load the poorest/low caste folk into Lanka every time droughts or floods happen there, as done in the past. We also hope that all so called Refugees in TN camps will be given Indian citizenship so that they can stay on in TN and get on with their lives. This is the least that INDIA can do for Lanka, given the gory past deeds against Lanka.

  15. Randeniyage Says:

    Golden statement from Dilrook.

    “LTTE had the last laugh in May 2009. LTTE sacrificed its leaders and protected its (mythical) nation whereas Sri Lanka sacrificed its nation and protected its leaders.”

    I would like to change slightly if Dilrook permits.

    “LTTE had the last laugh in May 2009. LTTE sacrificed its leaders and protected its (mythical) nation whereas Sri Lanka sacrificed its nation and protected its (mythical) leaders.

  16. Dilrook Says:

    @Randeniyage

    That is absolutely true.

    I used the word leaders without much thought. You are right. We have only politicians and no leaders.

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