THE CONCEPT OF SEPARATE STATE AND ASPIRATIONS OF TAMILS IN SRI LANKA
Posted on February 25th, 2020

BY EDWARD THEOPHILUS

The concept of a separate state is a confusing term to Sinhala and Tamil people in Sri Lanka and it is more complex and baffled term to Muslims too in the country.  The term separate state defines dictionaries and encyclopedia on the internet using the arguments had between Hindu and Muslim leaders before originated a separate country Pakistan.  The question is whether the concept separate state is applied or could be applied to Sri Lanka in relation to Tamil aspirations as it was applied to create Pakistan during the colonial era. I think the answer is impossible as Sri Lanka has no environment that was existed in India during the colonial era and there is no wish of Sinhala, or, Tamil or Muslim people in Sri Lanka.

Sinhala people have a question what is the meaning of Tamil aspirations in relation to the delegation of power to provinces? Does the idea of Tamil aspirations have a relationship to the term used to divide India and Pakistan during the colonial era? During the era of LTTE war, Norway and so-called Wester Peacemakers suggested indirectly a two-state solution to Sri Lanka using an example of Scandinavia as one country and two states of Norway and Sweden and the USA suggested Quami Nasiriya to Israel and Palatine. The Tamil aspiration does not mean by India for Sri Lanka as it would be a clear threat to the security of India and the international community to respect the stand of India to maintain a secure world without wars.

The concept of a separate state is not a simple idea that can be easily understood and the practical operations of separate states in the globe indicate that it is not an agreeable concept to all communities living in Sri Lanka relating to Tamil aspirations in Sri Lanka.  This is a complicated question, and ordinary Sinhala and Tamil people have no interest in talking about the Tamil aspiration as they have the struggle to make an economically affordable life in the modern electronic era.

When Mr. Mahinda Rajapaksa visited India, Mr. Modi, the Prime Minister of India mentioned the Tamil aspirations and I am sure that Mr. Modi did not mean a separate state as Tamil aspiration, but it meant the delegation of power to provinces as stated in the 13th amendment of the constitution.  The conditions spelled out in the 13th amendments have already implemented in the country except for limited areas such as police power, land management, and other areas.  Tamil people living in Sri Lanka have no big deal about the devolution of power, but some who are living overseas use this issue as a big deal.

I read newspaper articles written by Sri Lankan experts’ views on Tamil aspirations and some experts mentioned that the constitution of Sri Lanka limits the authority to distribute power to provinces under the unitary format and to go beyond the 13th amendment it needs constitutional change with the approval of people through a referendum and such an approval may not possible in the current political environment.

The concept of a separate state cannot be applied in Sri Lanka in a democratic framework and Prabakaran attempted by a bloodletting war with full knowledge that separate state for Tamils would not be possible in Sri Lanka as more than 80% of Sri Lankans believe the idea of Mahatma Gandhi on a separate state that “I find no parallel in history for a body converts and their dependents claiming to be a nation apart from the parent stock.”  However, some Tamil politicians are stuck with the idea of Mohamed Ali Jinnah and attempt to demand the pound of meat.

India clearly understands that a separate state in Sri Lanka for Tamils will be a threat to security not only for India but also for the Asian region.  In history, Sri Lanka had Ruhuna, Pihiti, and Maya, but they were not fully powered federal states and the Western invaders abolish such federal states as they strongly believed that such strong states will be a threat to the unity and the unitary system of Sri Lanka. However, Sri Lanka can delegate more power to provincial governments on a district basis with the authority of the central government to cancel the authority when district administration abuses the power.

Whatever changes made in Sri Lanka; the government needs more than a two-thirds majority in the parliament to expand the delegation of power.  In terms of the 13th amendment the delegation of power is based on provincial basis and if the delegation of power would be based on district level more power beyond the 13th amendment including police and land power could be granted to district councils and Neither Sinhala people nor Muslim people will object to such a delegation of power within a unitary form of state.

For the change of constitution needs more than three years as people needs to debate various aspects of power delegation and potential impacts on such a delegation. Most of the population is Sinhala and a large volume of Muslim community also disagree with power sharing which may create problems to them.

The priority of the government should be economic development as many people beyond the communal differences have economic predicaments and constitutional and power delegation are secondary matters to them. While economic development tasks are efficiently going on the constitutional matter could be considered and if the government gives the priority to constitutional and power delegation, there wouldn’t be a change and it might be achieved zero sum like yahapalana regime.

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