Sajith lacks a proper plan
Posted on September 16th, 2019

By Shivanthi Ranasinghe Courtesy Ceylon Today

At the time of writing, it is not clear if Sajith Premadasa’s wish to be the UNP’s presidential candidate would come true. It is clear however that he will not easily back down from the challenge he had posed to the UNP leadership. The UNP camp is currently divided over the issue, but the odds seem to be favouring Premadasa especially with Malik Samarawickrema and Mangala Samaraweera, who were key members of Ranil Wickremasinghe’s inner team, also shifting their loyalties to Premadasa.

However, Premadasa’s fight for presidency is very much akin to a couple planning their wedding without a care for the days after. It is the sad trend for most young adults to spend what they cannot afford on their weddings. They invest lavishly on this one function and wake up to a wedded life mired in debt. Essential components to a happy wedded life such as a place of their own, children and savings are pushed back until these financial commitments made are met.

It is likewise with Premadasa as well. His one goal is to become the President of Sri Lanka. However, as exposed by the promises he made at the recent talks with the TNA, it is clear that he does not have a proper plan beyond getting elected to lead the country. To the TNA, he promised to ‘prioritise the process to solve the Tamil question within six months, from the time I assume duties. However, a solution to the Tamil question should be acceptable to the people in the South.’

It is interesting that he said that the solution he gives to the ‘Tamil question’ must be acceptable to the ‘people in the South’. He did not say that the solution must be acceptable to the Sinhala people, nor did he specify as non-Tamil citizens of the country. Instead, he mentioned a particular geography of the country – the South.

However, the demography of the South is not devoid of Tamils. According to the 2012 census, 43.5 per cent and 26.8 per cent of Sri Lankan Tamils live in the Northern and the Eastern provinces respectively. Sri Lankan Tamils constitute 29.7 per cent of the population in the other parts of the Island that Premadasa collectively called the ‘South’. These figures discount the presence of Indian origin Tamils, who are now known as the ‘Upcountry Tamils’. If this component is also added to this group to calculate the Tamil ethnicity in its entirety, then 49 per cent of Tamils live outside the Northern and Eastern provinces.

Interesting

Therefore, it is interesting that Premadasa’s solution to the ‘Tamil Question’ excludes 49 per cent of the Tamils in the Island. Instead, only their acceptance of this solution that is not catered to their need is sought by Premadasa. Premadasa was thus promising to solve the ‘Tamil Question’ to a group of politicians who only represent the North and the East of the Island. The Tamil politician, Digambaran, who does not represent this constituency, despite openly pledging his alliance to Premadasa was clearly excluded from this assurance.

This thus brings forth the question, what is the ‘Tamil Question’ that obviously afflicts only the Sri Lankan origin Tamils living in the Northern and Eastern provinces. It is indeed a strange dilemma because the minute one leaves the Northern or Eastern Province to reside in any part of the south, he is freed from this so-called “Tamil Question”.

A few weeks ago, TNA Spokesman M.A. Sumanthiran declared that out of the three presidential aspirants, Wickremesinghe would make a better president for Tamils than Gotabaya Rajapaksa or Premadasa. Wickremesinghe, clarified Sumanthiran, at least came up with a Draft Constitution that met the aspirates of the Tamils. Sumanthiran too worked very hard to bring this draft to light for the past four years.

Had this Draft Constitution became a reality, then Sri Lanka would effectively have nine separate semi-autonomous governments. The Central Government would have been rendered a beggar of the provincial councils for power. If Premadasa manages to implement this solution, then instead of contesting for the second presidential term, it would be better for Premadasa to seek to be a Chief Minister of a Province.

Interestingly, the solution that the TNA proposes will unite the North and the East as one unit while the rest of the country will remain fragmented. Therefore, this draft constitution was advocating the rest of the country that is obviously not affected by the ‘Tamil Question’ to move out of the present unitary status to a united system whilst seeking to retain a unitary characteristic for the North and the East.

Canard

However, the promise to merge the North and the East is a canard. According to the Draft Constitution, two or three provinces may be merged but only after the people in the regions through a referendum would agree to it. Though in the Northern Province 93.3 per cent are Tamils, in the Eastern Province Tamils make only 39.3 per cent of the population. The balance 60.7 per cent of non-Tamils in the East would never agree to live under the hegemony of Tamils ruled by the most xenophobic sector in Sri Lanka.

Hence, had the Draft Constitution become a reality, what would have effectively taken place would be a country trapped into nine enclaves. The Tamils in the East would be forced to live under the Muslim authority. The Police powers would also be handed over to the individual provincial councils. In the event of tragedies such as Easter Sunday massacres, the National Police would have to seek the permission of the Eastern Province Chief Minister to enter the province to investigate extremist elements like Zahran. This means that the entire investigation would be in the hands of the Provincial Council politicians.

The TNA and those promoting federalism had always stressed on a political solution. They had however, never tied that political solution to the economy, which is the most important component for one to live with dignity. If this solution as specified by the draft constitution and advocated by the TNA becomes a reality, the North that has the least fertile soil and limited water would be severely affected. The area does not have any other natural resources. Though the people in the North are hard working agriculturalists, the earning are not adequate to finance important sectors like health and education in the North. Thus North is heavily dependent on the earnings from enterprises such as tea, rubber, garments, gems, agrarian products that are now in the export market and also the remittances sent from those who are working abroad. All these incomes are mainly generated from the South.

Isolating the North from the country’s collective earnings will not help them recover from the wounds of a 30-year war. The cries of the war widows struggling to make the ends meet are drowned by the howls of the mothers of the disappeared. It is not that the latter group is larger. On the contrary. It is only that the vested interest groups are only focusing on the grief of the mothers of the disappeared for their own vile agendas. Yet the real struggle is with the war widows who are fighting for their families’ survival. It is indeed a shame that they are hardly in the radar.

Premadasa is a relatively-young politician. As a product of the London School of Economics, a greater vision could be expected from him. Yet, all we hear is the same old empty election promises that has been the bane of this country. As voters we have an option. We can continue with this archaic flow where the one who lies and slanders the most is elected as our leader. The other option is, pave the way for a man with a true vision for the country to be our leader.

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2 Responses to “Sajith lacks a proper plan”

  1. Dilrook Says:

    Wrong logic on two counts.

    1. Other Tamils (and even a significant percentage of Muslims too ) are sensitive to the plight of northern and eastern Tamils.

    2. If a Rajapaksa contests, 90% of minorities will en masse vote for the rival. In fact, Sajith or any other UNP candidate need not promise anything to win minority hearts, minds and votes. They have already won them. Their total dislike of Rajapaksa ensures they vote and vote against Rajapaksas. Both UNP and TNA know this. You don’t need TNA to tell Tamils how to vote. They vote against Rajapaksas, period.

    The political solution canard is just a justification of what inevitably happens in order to push the SLPP to offer a political solution. Surely, they will fall into this trap (they always did)! However, the average SLPP voter has a problem with it and a sizable number of SLPP voters will move away from their candidate if he/she offers political solutions.

    SL is already a federal country and any political solution pushes it beyond federalism.

    No one contesting the election has a vision. We had so many nonsensical visions but they became duds because they were not practical and politicians were not serious. Even those sham visions are now impossible as almost all state revenue goes to repay loans and interest. There is no money to implement the vision. Borrowing or taxing people to carry out the vision is a waste. “Atuwa kada putuwa sadeema”.

    Vision at this stage is a plan to overcome the debt crisis and replace the messy Constitution.

  2. Randeniyage Says:

    Most urgent need of the country is to REMOVE EXISTING FEDERALISM.
    Second is to establish LAW and ORDER ( non of the current popular and unpopular politicians will do it).
    I believe as, a minimum we should press to remove 13A = Federalism and remove minority laws.

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