Sri Lanka’s Parliament accused of perpetuating majority rule
Posted on October 6th, 2017

By KRISHAN FRANCIS, ASSOCIATED PRESS Courtesy abc News

As lawmakers in Sri Lanka celebrate the 70th anniversary of one of the oldest parliamentary democracies in Asia, minorities including Tamils, Christians and Muslims remain on the fringes of society.

They have some representation in Parliament but say they are sidelined by Buddhist Sinhalese, who are the majority in the country and control the legislature. It has done little to heal the wounds from a quarter-century civil war that ended in 2009 and still refuses to acknowledge or investigate allegations of wartime atrocities.

The legislature has been accused of perpetuating rule by the Sinhalese, who are 70 percent of the population, instead of unifying the multicultural nation.

With tensions growing, some, including the prime minister, have questioned whether Sri Lanka has been successful in building a nation.

“We started 1947 as a united people, but over the past years we had an ethnic conflict … to the point of a civil war,” Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe told a special session of Parliament on Tuesday to celebrate its 70th anniversary.

“We safeguarded democracy through all that, but we are yet to provide a political solution and unify the country,” he said.

Others say that, while democracy has helped Sri Lanka on many fronts, it has also harmed. Jehan Perera of the National Peace Council, a research and activist group, argues the political system has increased divisions.

“In a country of ethnic divisions, majority rule can be a dictatorship by a permanent majority over a permanent minority,” he said.

The divisions surfaced quickly after the tropical island nation then known as Ceylon won independence from British rule in 1948.

Within two years, the first post-independence Parliament stripped hundreds of thousands of mostly Tamil tea plantation workers of Indian origin of their citizenship and right to vote. That prompted fears among indigenous Tamil leaders, who demanded a federal form of self-rule in the country’s north and east where they form a majority.

In 1956 a new government came to power on a wave of Sinhalese Buddhist nationalism and quickly abolished English as the language of government, instituting Sinhala as the only national language. That marked the starting point of an ethnic conflict that later flared into a vicious civil war that killed at least 100,000 people, according to U.N. estimates.

Non-violent campaigns by Tamil leaders demanding equal status for minority Tamils were attacked, and anti-Tamil riots killed hundreds of people. Thousands of other Tamils fled the country.

A cry for an independent Tamil state soon strengthened, and from the early 1970s Tamil youths in the north and east began taking up arms and launching sporadic attacks on police and government installations. Tamil politicians, meanwhile, boycotted discussions on crafting the first constitution because they said their concerns were not considered by the Parliament at the time.

It wasn’t until state-backed Sinhalese mobs launched countrywide riots and attacks against Tamils in 1983 that civil war erupted in earnest. The riots left Tamil villages burned and hundreds dead. Hundreds of thousands fled the country, while many of those who remained joined Tamil militant groups.

Faced with a bloody conflict, Parliament attempted several constitutional changes to share some power with the Tamil minority and nullify the call for separatism. It introduced provincial councils through an India-brokered peace accord in 1987.

But the councils fell short of Tamil demands for autonomy, and Sinhalese opposed them for giving too much power to the minority group.

Parliament had also changed its stand on the language issue and included Tamil as an official language, but statelessness and voting rights of plantation workers of Indian origin weren’t fully settled until the early 2000s.

“There is no reason to be proud of our parliamentary democracy, it has been a failure,” said senior Tamil journalist Veeragathy Thanabalasingham.

“As early as 1948 the government started enacting laws to suppress minorities. As a result, a war erupted. Even after such destruction, the Sinhala polity has not had a change of mind in order to prevent more conflicts in the future,” he said.

The war ended in 2009 after Sri Lankan soldiers killed the leader of the Tamil Tiger rebels, and many hoped that would lead to a period of post-war reconciliation and a resolution of widespread war crimes allegedly perpetrated by both sides.

But no independent investigations have been allowed. Meanwhile, the military remains powerful, occupying barracks lined with barbed wire and private lands across the former conflict zone. Efforts to reform Sri Lanka’s police, judiciary and other institutions to reflect the country’s ethnic composition have crawled, exacerbating minority fears.

Last year, Parliament passed a proposal by Wickremesinghe to begin writing a new constitution to provide more minority rights and power sharing. However, the drafting has been delayed by political divisions and opposition from influential Buddhist monks.

Any proposed new constitution would have to be passed by a two-thirds majority in the Sinhalese-controlled Parliament and then be approved in a public referendum.

Meanwhile, Parliament remains far from achieving a consensus on how to deal with the allegations of wartime atrocities and human rights abuses — both efforts that draw strong protests from Sinhalese nationalists.

There are also divisions between the two main parliamentary parties that have formed a unity government, with Wickremesinghe’s group pushing reforms while President Maithripala Sirisena’s party has been more circumspect.

The patience of Tamil leaders has been dwindling.

“We have all learned many lessons from the most harmful situations that have prevailed in our country,” said Rajavarothayam Sampanthan, an opposition leader in Parliament and the main Tamil leader.

“It would be a tragedy if in the name of patriotism, more exactly pseudo patriotism, anyone seeks to prolong these harmful situations.”

 

 

3 Responses to “Sri Lanka’s Parliament accused of perpetuating majority rule”

  1. Ananda-USA Says:

    This article is an UNDILUTED LOAD of HORSE MANURE!

    That DESHA-DROHI NGO gadfly Jehan Perera says ““In a country of ethnic divisions, majority rule can be a dictatorship by a permanent majority over a permanent minority” ignoring that majority rule is the BASIC FOUNDATION of democracy!

    What does he want? MINORITY RULE, as in the former COLONIAL Sri Lanka?

    More than most South Asian countries, Sri Lanka has given EQUAL RIGHTS to all of its minority communities. But, it cannot and will not give MINORITIES a sub-national territory in which they have sovereign authority to exclude the majority community and secede if they wish!

    This MODERATE ATTITUDE has ONLY ENCOURAGED MORE AGGRESSION and DEMANDS from Minority Communities that are demanding that the Sinhala-Buddhist Community kindly commit suicide for their benefit!

    Did the United States allow the Confederate States to SECEDE from the union? No!
    Did the United Kingdom allow Wales and Scotland to SECEDE from the union? No!
    Did Nigeria allow Biafra to SECEDE from the union? No!

    The VAST MAJORITY of countries in the world are ruled by their MAJORITIES, and FURTHERMORE have ADOPTED the religion of the MAJORITY as the National Religion!

    Only a FEW of them EVEN ACCORD EQUAL rights to ALL of their citizens, as Sri Lanka does.

    NONE of them are FOOLISH ENGOUGH TO EQUATE those EQUAL RIGHTS with the right to create COMMUNAL MINORITY BANTUSTANS that exclude citizens of the majority community within the country.

    NEITHER should Sri Lanka, as long as the Sinhaala Buddhist Community of Sri Lanka remains the PREPONDERANT MAJORITY of people in the country.

    It is the BOUNDEN DUTY of the Sinhala-Buddhist MAJORITY COMMUNITY to DO EVERYTHING POSSIBLE to MAINTAIN that DEMOGRAPHIC MAJORITY STATUS.

    This should include the BANNING of ANY & ALL IMMIGRATION of non-Sinhala Buddhists into the country, implementing and enforcing marraige laws that are the SAAME for every community, and ENCOURAGING through GOVERNMENT ECONOMIC & WELFARE POLICIES that affect the BIRTH RATES the FURTHER INCREASE of the majority Sinhalaa-Buddhist population toward 100%.

    FORGET the SUICIDAL PRESCRIPTIONS ADVOCATED by DESHAD-DROHIS like Jehan Perera!

  2. Ananda-USA Says:

    Is our ILLUSTRIOUS President a COMMITTED Buddhist, or is he a DEVOUT Hindu?

    Why are ALL of our ADDLE-PATED Leaders trooping to WORSHIP Hindu Gods?

    Don’t they have any FAITH in the Noble Triple Gem of the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Sangha, or CONFIDENCE in the teachings of the Lord Buddha ?

    Do these HALF-BAKED ACHCHARU Buddhists DESERVE to LEAD our Sinhala Buddhist Nation?
    …………………………………..

    Sri Lankan President on a pilgrimage to Tirumala Temple in India
    Sat, Oct 7, 2017, 06:53 pm SL Time, ColomboPage News Desk, Sri Lanka.

    Oct 07, Tirupati: Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena accompanied by his wife Jayanthi Sirisena has arrived at Tirupati in India’s Andhra Pradesh on Saturday on a two-day pilgrimage to the famous Tirumala Hindu Temple in the sacred temple town of Lord Venkateswara.

    This is President’s third visit to the famous Hindu temple as head of the state. He previously visited in February 2015 and last year in August.

    The President and his entourage have reached Tirupati from Bengaluru by road, PTI reported.

    After an overnight stay, The President and his family were expected to participate in ‘Suprabhatha’ recitation ritual inside the temple early tomorrow, temple sources told PTI. He would leave soon after offering prayers to Lord Venkateswara, the sources said.

    Meanwhile, the district police administration had made tight security arrangements for the high-profile dignitary’s visit.

  3. Ananda-USA Says:

    Manekshaw, BOLD STEP you say? In ONE WORD, that is UN-ADULTERATED HORSE MANURE!

    ALL the “RECONCILIATION” and “EMPOWERMENT” of Tamils in the North and East has done to date is to EMBED & STRENGTHEN SEPARATISTS CLAMOURING for EVEN MORE POWER & EVENTUAL DISINTEGRATION of Sri Lanka!

    MAHINDA made the same MISTAKE when he PROMOTED the IDEA OF RECONCILIATION with UNREPENTANT TERRRORISTS and SEPARATISTS! He FREED them from the clutches of LTTE TERROR, but these INGRATES paid him back with UNREMITTING ENMITY, and even now are WORKING HARD to resurrect that SAME Tamil Tiger GULAG!

    IT IS TIME to STOP this RECONCILIATION CRAP NOW that has not WORKED to change the COMMUNAL RACIST MINDSET of Tamil people in the North and East.

    IT IS TIME to IGNORE their DEMANDS for DEVOLUTION OF POWER, and to just ACCORD them EQUAL RIGHTS and DEMAND EQUAL RESPONSIBILITY from them, just as we do from OTHER Sri Lankans.

    IT IS DOWNRIGHT DANGEROUS to EMPOWER UNREPENTANT SEPARATISTS; they WILL NEVER CHANGE as long as Tamil Nadu & India EXISTS to help NURSE their SEPARATIST DREAMS!

    IT IS TIME for Sri Lanka to look to its DEFENSES and INSTALL a PATRIOTIC NO-NONSENSE Government that will IMPLEMENT & ENFORCE Laws that will PROTECT Sri Lanka as a UNITARY SINHALA-BUDDHIST Nation in PERPETUITY.

    EQUAL RIGHTS …. YES! SEPARATE RIGHTS …. NEVER!

    If BASIL is PANDERING to Tamil and other MINORITY COMMUNALISTS, he should be STOPPED in his TRACKS!

    Gothabhaya is RIGHT! Sri Lanka CANNOT BE PROTECTED and MAINTAINED as a SINGLE UNITARY Nation by PANDERING to OVERT & COVERT SEPARATIST AGENDAS!

    If you are a Sinhala-Buddhist Leader, DONT GO AROUND WORSHIPPING other religious DIETIES!

    HONOR & RESPECT other religious BELIEFS in a spirit of TOLERANCE, but DON’T go around participating in their RELIGIOUS RITUALS we ourselves DON’T BELIEVE, like an ACHCHARU Buddhist! Phew …. what a bunch of ADDLE-PATED GOOF-BALLS!

    DITCH RECONCILIATION and SECURE the Nation!
    ……………………………….
    Basil takes a bold step
    CeylonToday.lk

    By Manekshaw

    The famous slogan put forward by former President Mahinda Rajapaksa during his Presidential campaign trail in the North was “known devil is better than unknown angel”. However, the Northerners and the Easterners preferred the ‘unknown angel’ for the ‘known devil’ by helping to overthrow the Rajapaksa regime with their verdict ‘whatever devil is a devil’ at the Presidential poll in 2015.

    A few days after the landmark verdict given on school girl Vithya Sivaloganathan gruesome murder case with death sentences passed on seven of the accused, the former Economic Development Minister Basil Rajapaksa was in Jaffna to launch the political activities of his newly formed party Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna.

    Having been a prominent Minister and being a member of the Rajapaksa family, Basil’s visit to Jaffna last week was very significant in many ways as it was after the Presidential Poll defeat in 2015, Basil who was one of the main strategists of Mahinda Rajapaksa’s Presidential election campaign visited Jaffna for the first time.

    After the discussions he had in Jaffna with his party men Basil met the prominent Hindu and Catholic religious dignitaries and spoke to them on the present situation in the North.

    Basil would have got the opportunity to read the pulse of the people in the North with the comment made by Rev. Gnanasampantha Paramachariyar, Chief Priest of the Nallur Gnanasampanthar Atheenam which is a foremost Hindu institution in Jaffna.

    More than a spiritual leader the Reverend Gnanasampantha Paramachariyar is a person who remained in Jaffna and witnessed the terrifying conditions in the Peninsula when the turbulent conditions engulfed the region.

    It is not only this Hindu dignitary even the Catholic Bishop of Jaffna is also an observer of the pre-and post war developments and their views as neutral persons were considered noteworthy by the local as well as the foreign dignitaries who pay courtesy calls on them.

    Basil Rajapaksa was briefed on the present mind frame of the people of Jaffna by Rev. Gnanasampantha Paramachariyar. The Hindu dignitary said: “First of all the Buddhist fanatics in the South should be enlightened on strengthening peace and reconciliation in the country. Extremism in politics or religion shouldn’t be allowed to derail the good efforts to strengthen the peace and reconciliation.”

    As Sri Lanka is blessed with all major religions in the world, except for Buddhist clergy there were hardly any clergymen of other religions who flexed their muscles in the politics of the country.

    So, the comment made by the Hindu dignitary from Jaffna to former Minister Basil Rajapaksa has clearly indicated that the efforts to strengthen peace and reconciliation should be carried out by getting rid of the involvement of Buddhist monks in politics.

    Constructive move

    Rev. Gnanasampantha Paramachariyar also mentioned categorically that the people in the North were not against any constructive move to bring about a political solution to the ethnic question.

    Later, addressing the press at the Jaffna Press Club, Basil Rajapaksa spoke positively on several issues on the peace building process in the North.

    Basil as Minister of Economic Development played a key role in rebuilding the post-war infrastructure facilities in the North and the East.

    So as a former Minister focused on the Economic Development Basil speaking to the press in Jaffna emphasized on the need of releasing the lands still in the possession of the Security Forces in the North.

    Basil though he didn’t meet the families of the involuntarily disappeared persons during his stay in Jaffna had pointed out the need of expediting the process to find a solution to the issue.

    In the meantime Cabinet Spokesman and Minister of Health Dr. Rajitha Senaratne commenting on the visit of Basil Rajapaksa to Jaffna last week said that if former President Mahinda Rajapaksa had listened to Basil he wouldn’t have lost the Presidential Poll in 2015.

    Dr. Senaratne’s comment is interesting as former President Mahinda Rajapaksa depended heavily on his brother Gotabaya Rajapaksa to bring an end to the separatist war militarily in the North.

    However, even after ending the separatist war the former President depended more on Gotabaya instead of focusing on the economic oriented humanitarian activities and dealing effectively on the political front to build up the credibility of the North and East people.

    So, Minister Dr. Rajitha Senaratne being a member of the Rajapaksa government was absolutely correct that former President Mahinda Rajapaksa depending on Gotabaya even in the post-war period had led to the neglect of several humanitarian issues shattering the hopes of the people in the North and the East who expected that early solutions would be reached in releasing the LTTE suspects as well as in meting out justice for the alleged atrocities committed during the three decades of separatist war.

    Therefore, Basil Rajapaksa’s visit to Jaffna last week was an ‘eye opener’ for the previous regime to understand where they went wrong in getting the support of the Northerners and the Easterners as also a wakeup call to the present regime not to repeat the same errors his brother had committed in dealing with the North and the East.

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