GOTA PHOBIA – Part – IX C (Sumanthiran calls Tamils to unite and defeat the Sinhalese)
Posted on November 12th, 2019


It is the wish of the majority of Sri Lankans that we should live as a people of one nation and make the maximum contribution possible to develop this nation as a multi-faceted development hub in Asia.  However this objective has some impediments not from all the Tamils but from a section of the racist Tamils agitating that they should be given a separate State for their self rule, a demand which started with the Malaysian born S.J.V. Chelvanayagam demanding in the then State Council saying that North and East of Sri Lanka is the ‘Homeland’ of Tamils and if the British government contemplates granting independence to Sri Lanka (then Ceylon) the Tamils should be granted the right to self-rule in their ‘homeland. 

This demand was wholeheartedly endorsed by the Vellela Tamils (a group of Tamil Nadu Indians brought to Sri Lanka by the Dutch for tobacco cultivation and settled in the North and later elevated educationally through the American missionary schools during the British colonial period. 

Having failed to achieve their vicious demand through British colonialists these Vellala Tamils started various forms agitations mainly to provoke the Sinhala Buddhists whom they said were inferior to rule the Tamils and these agitations created an era of communal clashes in the country resulting in several hundred deaths on both sides. 

Recently these Tamil racists have found a docile and submissive political group in the UNP and since 1976 they are attempting to achieve a homeland of theirs through political means under stern opposition from the rest of the country which resulted in a bloody ethnic war that lasted for 30 years until it was totally clamped down by Mahinda/Gota Rajapaksa duo.

These racists played a major role in ousting the government of President Mahinda Rajapaksa together with CIA/M 16/RAW/Tamil Diaspora and the locally-based foreign sustained NGOs.  Since then (2015) they became the real rulers of this country functioning as the main opposition party with their leader appointed as the Opposition Leader with only16 seats whereas the joint opposition under Mr. Mahinda Rajapaksa having 54 seats, and the acolytes of these racists the pseudo-Marxists, the Janatha Vimukthi (Vikurthi) Peramuna leader with only 6 seats in the parliament functioning as the Chief Opposition Whip.  But these 2 groups did not perform any functions related to the Opposit5ion and functioned as the henchmen of the government. 

These racist Tamils were only concerned about replacing the existing Constitution with a federal and secular Constitution and MP M.a.sumanthiran acted as an absolute dictator and completely disregarded the objections raised by Mahanayake Theros and other religious dignitaries and he even publicly dictated terms to senior UNP leaders.  Koti-Seeya Sambandan who played a major role in fund collection for the terrorists in Canada and some other European countries also joined Sumanthiran and carried out an extensive campaign to solicit support from the western embassies and the Indian High Commission and visiting UN and foreign dignitaries to Compel the government to adopt the proposed federal and secular constitution,  for which the government had a fear of Buddhist uprising in the country.  A draft constitution has already been made and the Prime Minister tabled this draft in the Parliament on 8th January this year (2019).

Now the country is in a presidential election drive and the TNA and some other fringe Tamil parties, totally 5 parties have submitted 13 demands to be fulfilled by the winning candidate.  Mr. Gotabhaya Rajapaksa aa well as the former President Mr. Mahinda Rajapaksaand all political party leaders in the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna and the Sri Lanka Freedom Party have rejected these demands and it is believed that Sajith Premadasa and the UNP leader Ranil Wickremasinghe have entered into secret pacts with TNA pledging to implement these demands if they come to power .

The treacherous TNA which has no other objective than getting a separate self-ruling entity which was the miserably failed illusory dream of megalomaniac  Prabhakaran is reported to be leaving no stone unturned to defeat Mr. Gotabhaya Rajapaksa.  The terrorist diaspora proxy Sumandaran, speaking at a meeting held in Manthivu, Mullativ has said that the Tamils should unite to defeat the Sinhalese,  He has said that the Sinhalese are united to make Gotabhaya victorious and to counter this move the Tamils should unite and ensure the victory of Sajith Premadasa.  He has said that the Rajapaksa government since 2005 had not done anything beneficial to the Tamils and hence they should be punished by making Sajith Premadasa victorious.  

In an interview with the English daily, ‘Daily Mirror’ Sumanthiran has said that all the political parties affiliated to the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) representing the Tamil community especially in the North and East, have pledged their full support to Sajith Premadasa. Explaining the reasons for this envisaged support, he has said the Tamil community would resist the return of Rajapaksas. 

Sajith has agreed for the same constitutional process that has now reached the draft stage. One cannot conclude without knowing the manifesto and the journey of its process. So in that process, there are two interim reports and this is how the words have been used. In Sinhala, the word ‘Ekeeya’ is being used. In Tamil and English, the equivalent words for unitary are not used. So ‘Ekeeya’ is used in the sense where it is one country

Many countries in the world don’t describe these terms. We in Sri Lanka did not describe it until 1972. Soulbury Constitution never mentioned about unitary neither did it say federal. So you can have your own terms. The word Ekeeya denotes one, and just in case it is misunderstood as unitary that has been defined in the draft. What we wanted to do was to resolve the issue rather than hanging on with empty labels. If you were to have some consensus, we had to annul that label. But we agreed to use the word ‘Ekeeya’ in Sinhala as the literary meaning of that word only means one, nothing else.

If Gotabaya wins, our worry is that the process might not only be stopped but the land that have been released might be taken again

There are no divisions in the Tamil political circuit. The TNA represents the Tamil people and nobody else does. We have 16 MPs out of 18 Tamil members representing the North and East. Even the other two; namely Douglas Devananda and Vijayakala Maheswaran were not elected for one seat. They came in through the highest number of floating votes. Therefore no one can say that there is disunity and there are others outside. We represent the Tamil people and there are others who were not elected. You won’t see this kind of unity in any other community in the country. So we have been given the mandate by the Tamil people, not anybody else. 

We must first settle the issues and do the Constitutional reforms. And if that is done then, we will certainly invite the diaspora to come and invest.

Since 2015, under this government, we have not seen a heavy military presence. They are in the barracks. They hardly come out. That is in Jaffna. But in Vanni and a few other places, there was a more prominent military presence. However, over a period of time, it has been downsized.

We used to have flights from Palai to India up to the early 1980s. They were stopped because of the hostilities. Now that the way is over the flights should have started a long time ago. In fact, Mahinda Rajapaksa’s time when the Indian consulate in Jaffna was opened Minster S. M. Krishna came and at the opening ceremony he mentioned that we must start the flights again. So it is high time that we started it. 

The disappearance issue is one that has been dragged on most without any result. But the Office of Missing Person was established, amounts of money were allocated and work has started but the progress has been very very slow leading the relatives being disillusioned. But the disappearance issue itself is a difficult issue and ten years on when there are no signs of anybody, how does one resolve it. Of course, there should be investigation in each case. The relatives must know what happened to that person so that this office is supposed to do. They still don’t seem to have got their act together for various reasons. 

People are still very apprehensive that the political situation here has not been estabilised. So if there is a political solution, a new constitution something like that, then I think that it will give them adequate confidence to come back and invest. 

In another interview with the Indian journalist Meera Sr4inivasan of the Indian daily ‘The Hindu’ Sumanthiran has said that Sri Lankan Tamils are disappointed as the government gave hope and then failed to deliver.

Given below are some excerpts from what Sumanthiran said to Meera:

At a certain point during the constitutional process, the coalition government wasn’t as strongly knitted together as it was in the beginning. Fissures started emerging and deepened with time, particularly ahead of the local government elections [in February 2018]. The two parties began seeing each other as rivals again. They were more keen to get an electoral advantage over each other than to collaborate and settle this long-standing issue. As a result, they were not willing to own even those matters that had been agreed upon after discussion. They started backing out. That happened primarily with the President’s party [Sri Lanka Freedom Party]. Subsequently, when it became clear to the others that they were not going to sail with the consensus of everyone, nobody seemed to want to carry the can by themselves. They also began to back out.

I can say that at a certain point when they realized that their coalition partner was not going to share the responsibility of taking this through, they themselves started backing out. Of course, neither party said it in as many words. They resorted to blaming each other for the protraction of the constitutional reform process.

To start with, we backed a candidate in 2015 based on certain promises. Apart from the promise to solve the Tamil national issue, the primary promise given was that the executive presidency would be abolished. We sincerely believed that with the two main parties coming together, coupled with the fact that since 1994 the people of this country have clearly given a verdict to abolish the executive presidency, it would be done this time. But that hasn’t happened, and we are in a situation where we have to support one candidate or another for the post of the executive presidency that they promised to abolish.

The 13th Amendment is a watershed: it was the first time that the governance structure was radically altered by the creation of provincial councils which had a measure of legislative power and some executive power through the governor.

When the 13th Amendment was enacted, the Tamil side substantially rejected it saying it was not a meaningful devolution. There are good reasons for that. So, the promise by the southern leadership has been that not only would the 13th Amendment be implemented, but that they would go beyond that and make devolution meaningful. But there was no attempt to implement the 13th Amendment in full, even after the war ended.

It was in that context that the 2015 change came, and a promise given to us that leaving aside the 13th Amendment, there would be a solution found to the Tamil national question based on previous negotiations which, at times, crossed over to a federal arrangement as well. Now, to say that we will consider implementing the 13th Amendment is to go back on all those promises.

But, as I said, this keeps happening all the time. After telling their southern constituencies election after election that devolution will lead to a division of the country, these leaders find it impossible to commit to anything more. While they want to keep the chunk of the majority vote for themselves, in a two-party system like in Sri Lanka, it also becomes necessary to get a substantial minority vote. So, they resort to this ‘full implementation of the 13th Amendment’ rhetoric — that way the southern constituency doesn’t feel insecure, and they are still promising the Tamil voter something.

The only time we had a different approach was in 1994 when President Chandrika Kumaratunga contested. She turned the whole narrative around, promised a federal arrangement and got some 60% of the vote. In 2005, Ranil Wickremesinghe too made a similar pledge, though not as vociferously as President Chandrika. But the LTTE refused to accept that both times. A separate sovereign state was firmly embedded in their ideology that drove their political struggle. Although they engaged in discussions, peace talks and negotiations, when it seemed like a federal arrangement was possible, they broke it, probably fearing that delivery on that promise will forever extinguish their dream of a separate state.

Now in the absence of the war and war-weariness, no leader is willing to go that far. They think the Tamil votes can be obtained by seeming to be the lesser of the two evils, rather than being the party that actually delivers on the promise.

During the first five years after 2009, the Rajapaksa regime treated the war victory as a license to totally subjugate the Tamil people on the basis that you went to war, you lost, and the winner takes it all. It paid lip service to a political settlement. It implemented big infrastructure projects. But in the absence of any attempt to alleviate the sufferings of the people, to improve their livelihoods, and address their immediate concerns, the mega projects were totally alien to the war-affected community.

Now, in the last five years, it is far more complex. The government began addressing people’s long-pending concerns. Military-held lands were returned substantially, if not fully. On accountability, there were measures such as the setting up of the Office on Missing Persons — it was an important one even though the progress on investigations is far from satisfactory. Some political prisoners were released.

On reviving the economy of the Tamil people, nothing has really materialized. Unemployment is increasing. This government gave a reason for hope and then failed to deliver. Our people are bitterly disappointed.

The President’s trajectory is very different from what it was when he was elected in 2015. It was he who led the way by example towards reconciliation in a very constructive way — by not celebrating the [war] victory day, by having the national anthem sung in Tamil on National Day, boldly by making a case for ethnic reconciliation, a new Constitution, etc. Now, regrettably, he has gone back on all of that. We are very disappointed because we know that the President is not given to racism; his actual views are very liberal towards power-sharing. But now he is behaving out of character, compelled perhaps by electoral and other political reasons.

The international community and their moves in the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) have been significant for us. The good thing about the UN resolutions is that although they are non-binding, they have a very persuasive effect. A lot of the changes on the ground here I think are due to the resolutions that were passed in the HRC, including ones co-sponsored by Sri Lanka after regime change. One can’t directly attribute each change to a particular act, but the fact that there is an oversight has made a difference.

When I say the international community, I have been referring to the countries apart from India until now, because India did not get involved in the UNHRC resolutions. It was neutral most of the time. But India has a special interest in the political resolution of this long-term issue. And that comes from India’s own bilateral treaty with Sri Lanka, the Indo-Lanka Accord. India has an interest in seeing that implemented in full and in leaders going beyond that to achieve meaningful devolution.

So, when we talk about the international community’s pressure, it is India and the others. While other countries es back us significantly on human rights and democracy, it is only India that has a direct link to the contents of the political solution, as it was only India that was able to change the governance structure in 1987 with the 13th Amendment.

Our engagement with India has continued through Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s terms and after the change in government in New Delhi. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has visited Sri Lanka more than once. He has even gone to Jaffna — he was the first Prime Minister of India to ever visit Jaffna — and has assured us that India’s policy towards Sri Lanka and the Tamil issue in Sri Lanka remains the same.   he TNA is scheduled to meet Mr. Modi in Delhi soon.

After April 21, initially, there seemed to be a widening of the gap between Tamils and Muslims, which you might see even now on the surface. But I think deep down both communities are more conscious now than before that we need to stay together.

Collaborating with the Centre has also affected us, although we did that because there was a real opportunity to resolve the long-standing issue when the two main parties got together. Now that has failed, and the coalition has broken down and we are seeing various ill effects of that breakdown, the TNA which propped up and even now props up the government is seen as having backed the wrong horse and not achieving anything for its people.

With the defeat of the LTTE, the call for a separate state is over. When that project is over, our approach also should change. There is no substitute for engagement, because what is the alternative? You are not going to take up arms and fight for a separate state, that is not your objective anymore. It is a solution in one country. If it is a solution within one country, engagement is the only way forward.

Unfortunately, I think TNA’s approach to this hasn’t changed sufficiently. We are still hanging on to the old habit of confrontational politics. We can be confrontational, but a greater degree of engagement, a greater degree of appreciation that we are living in one country, and that this is our country, must be there. That is a shift that must necessarily take place and I think our constituency is ready for that shift.

During the last five years, though the government didn’t deliver on promises, it may have contributed to a realisation that we must be engaged much more.

The next phase will have to see a significant shift in how we engage with the forces in the south.

 We have had discussions with the JVP and post-October 26, the 52 day-saga, many told us that the JVP and the TNA were the two parties that held the political side together and that JVP and TNA coming together even on a political project would be a welcome change. I can’t say readily at this presidential election whether we will see a coming together of such forces, but in the long-term definitely that is the way to go. There may be the two main parties with whom we will anyway have to engage with and collaborate – because one or the other will be in the office, but for real change, I think we will have to work very closely with the JVP and other progressive, alternative forces in the south.

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