Empowerment with language-blind
C. Wijeyawickrema, LL.B.,
Kumar David vs. Victor Ivan
What is the difference between Kumar David (KD) and Victor Ivan (VI)?
KD, like so many other "Tamil moderates" with whom he signs
petitions, Colombo-Marxists on the APRC, Mano Ganeshan, Anandasangaaree
and the UTHR (J) group led by Ratnajeevan Hoole is still blinded by
the old separatist paradigm jointly developed by GG Ponnambalam and
SJV Chelvanayagam. For about 70 years this paradigm dominated Colombo
politics. VI, on the other hand, shows signs of realizing that a new
paradigm has arrived on the political scene (Sunday Island, 9/7/2008).
This language-blind new paradigm has shattered the Marxist-propagated
(Stalin and LSSP) theory of a "national question." Sri Lanka
did not have a national question; Sri Lanka had a headache of class
rivalry between elitist Colombo-living, mostly Christian, Tamil and
Sinhala politicians. This is why KD is more concerned about the loss
of a comrade!
Col. Karuna paradigm
Former village terrorist Col. Karuna dismantled the separatist paradigm
that ruined Sri Lanka by just five words-Give us what Colombo gets.
Karuna escaped death in 2004 and in 2006 at a TV interview revealed
a gospel of truth. He accepted the former Chief Justice M. C. Sansoni's
advise "if the Tamils' cry for separatism is given up, the two
communities could solve their problems and continue to live in amity
and dignity" (Sessional Paper No. 7 of 1980). He also silenced
the 13A Plus or Classics supporters (Ref. Island, 8/11/2008) by stating
that he does not think police power is needed to help Tamil villagers
in the Eastern Province. Unlike the two or three Colombo ministers Karuna
knew that the failure of PCs in the south was not because that they
did not have police powers.
Karuna is the first major Tamil politician to derail the homeland in
the EP theory of SJVC. Lakshman Kadiragamar, Neelan Thiruchelvam and
even Jeyaraj Fernando-Pulle supported an "F" solution because
they could not come out of the traditional Tamil homeland trap. Neelan
was not willing to accept the Pondicherry sub-model within the Indian
"F" model because it would have created a moth-eaten like
holes of Sinhala and Muslim enclaves in the N-E homeland. Tamil aspirations,
whatever was meant by that phrase by the late Kumar Ponnambalam from
his Colombo home, can be achieved under the Karuna paradigm of language-blind
The Karuna paradigm is also a rejection of the Colombo paradigm. Karuna
paradigm (2006) is nothing but a Tamil version of what JVP was demanding
in 1971 and in 1988-89. The Colombo establishment impliedly accepted
it by citing the kolambata kiri apita kakiri epithet in their Youth
Commission Report, (March, 1990, p. xvii). Mostly Christian ruling families
operating from Colombo did not want to decentralize power or to engage
in rural development or diversification of the economy, a classic case
of mismanagement in a former colony. The gap between the rich and the
poor widened and the separation between Colombo and the villages increased.
Even the open economy-based infra-structure built by the colonial master
collapsed one by one due to neglect and stupidity. When black cats with
suicide bombs started to follow them up on Colombo roads in the 1990s,
the Colombo ruling class suddenly thought of "devolution packages."
In July 1975 Prabakaran had his first killing, Alfred Duraiyappa, the
SLFP Mayor of Jaffna, but the Colombo minister of local government did
not think of devolution. The biggest problem local governments faced
since 1948 was the minister arbitrarily interfering with their functioning.
Devolution versus empowerment
"Devolution" is thus an arrangement between politicians to
divide the pie or create new mini-pies. The Indian experience of this
arrangement has been (1) further demands for more regional units (initial
14 states are now grown to 28 and at least another 35 are in the pipe
line) (Federal India: a design for change, Rasheeduddin Khan, 1992)
and (2) the taking of Delhi politicians as hostages by regional politicians
(the phenomenon of coalitional politics). Indian devolution did not
help the average Indian. The Indian-imposed devolution in Sri Lanka,
known also as the PC white elephant, is not empowerment of Tamil, Sinhala
or Muslim villagers. This devolution will allow the continuation of
Colombo paradigm along with the separatist design of Tamil politicians
who wants to be new kings and rulers of Tamil people. It will allow
some Tamil politicians to attack any development work as another example
of "Sinhalization." PCs gave Sri Lanka a new set of corrupt
Empowerment and the Panchayathi Raj Institutes
In the modern world democracy operates through people's representatives.
This system has become a way of muddling through political corruption.
Gandhi wanted to avoid this by giving power to people via the Panchayaths
(go back to direct democracy of the Greek city states). It was derailed
by an argument that with severe caste divisions at the village level,
higher castes will take control of the Panchayaths and would further
aggravate the oppression of disadvantaged people. Despite ten five-year
plans and protective discrimination and capacity endowment (to help
backward castes and tribes) the Indian constitutional framework failed
to deliver the trinity of equality-liberty-fraternity to Indian masses.
Therefore, after giving it step-motherly treatment for 40 years, the
Indian ruling elites took a decision to resurrect the old Panchayath
system in 1993 as Panchayathi Raj Institutions (constitutional amendments
73 and 74). Under the Mahinda Chinthanaya approach, a home-grown constitution
is to be developed after the war is over. The SLFP proposal to APRC
in April 2007 to empower people (not province-level devolution of power
to a new set of politicians) at the Grama Rajya-level is an example
of this approach which is in agreement with the new paradigm of Col.
Karuna, ecology and geography of Sri Lanka.
Federalism is Sri Lanka's death-trap
Whether one likes it or not 13A is the gateway to Eelam via the "F"
solution. 13A is constitution-based racism imposed by India following
its own history of communalistic 1935 Government of India Act and the
1956 linguistic demarcation of state boundaries. Sri Lanka should soon
find its own home-grown solutions as there will be no market for separatism
in Sri Lanka when Tamils and Sinhalese become fluent in both Tamil and
Sinhala within the next 10-15 years. Even as a temporary mechanism13A
must be clarified to indicate that there are no ethnic homelands in
Sri Lanka. The 13A road with a Tamil homeland myth is a deadly road.
At least four dangers are inherent and embedded in the 13A.
(1) 13A was an Indian recognition of the SJVC-separatist paradigm that
ruined Sri Lanka and poisoned Sri Lankan minds for 70 years.
(2) 13A recognized a traditional Tamil homeland despite historical,
geographical and archeological evidence against it; SJVC paradigm with
a Tamil traditional homeland faced problems from the findings in Prof.
K Indrapala's doctoral thesis and as reported by Professor Michael Roberts
his thesis was stolen from the London University library. But after
forty years of archaeological field work Ven. Ellawala Medhananda Thero
produced evidence contradictory to SJVC paradigm. The history of Sri
Lanka and its North and East that he has painstakingly constructed (Our
heritage of the North and East of Sri Lanka, 2003) is radically different
from a Tamil rooted ethnic origin of its settlers. The scripts found
on hundreds of rock caves that he was able to trace and record did not
support a Tamil homeland theory. Some donors of these cave dwellings
(to Buddhist priests) had Tamil names. If all donors at that time had
a common Tamil origin, then all of them must have had Tamil names. These
cave donations span from the 3rd century B.C to 5th century A.D. Under
a Karuna paradigm there is no need to destroy these Buddhist archeological
ruins (to remove evidence against a Tamil homeland) because they are
not a threat to the empowerment of Tamil villagers.
(3) There is the world Tamil Federation eyeing for a quick Tamil country
in Sri Lanka because it failed to get one in the Fiji Islands and knows
that it is difficult to fight for a separate country in Tamil Nadu in
the present political climate.
(4) Separatism in Tamil Nadu is alive and thriving (a recent opinion
poll showed 55% supporting Eelam in Sri Lanka (TamilNet, 8/2/2008).
The demand to take back Kachchativu is a political sacred cow in this
regard. Thus, if 13A is accepted as the path to ethnic nirvana in Sri
Lanka, as agitated, there is no way to stop a NGO-INGO-IC-backed demand
by a future Tamil politician on the necessity to create an ISGA or to
take the final UDI path.
Armed with police and land powers it is not difficult to start a protracted
conflict with Colombo over any number of old issues or new issues. Any
domestic rivalry between two Tamil political leaders in the Province
can become an IC issue involving foreign agents with vested interests
and hidden agenda taking sides. A river for Jaffna (Island, 8/31/2008)
is a good example of the potential of shortage of Mahavali water becoming
an issue that could be raised as an international-human rights dispute
by a separatist-prone Tamil politician. Take the case of re-opening
of the KKS cement factory. Cement dust falling on farmers' vegetable
plots was known for a long time in the past. But this will be considered
a serious health hazard now in 2008. Quarrying limestone next to the
factory doors which the cement chairman gave as a plus is actually a
new hazard of seawater encroaching inland and polluting the groundwater
table (TamilNet, 8/3/2008). Increasing links between Muslim radical
groups in the EP and foreign Muslim groups or radical Tamil groups in
the tea-growing area wanting to establish links with EP or NP are potential
issues of conflict that Colombo politicians must not ignore.
Examples of federal dangers
Belgium, Scotland and South Ossetia/Abkhazia (Georgia) are three current
examples that should open the eyes of Sri Lankan politicians on the
need to promote and create language-blind village-level political units
as vehicles for the empowerment of multi-ethnic communities. In Sri
Lanka, over 50% of Tamils live in the South and there is the headache
of Tamil Nadu Tamils supporting an Eelam in the island which they cannot
get in South India. Scotland got what is comparable to 13A but the story
is not over. It is perhaps only one election away from gaining independence
as a separate country escaping from London's control. The nationalist
party which advocates separation is gaining rapidly at each election.
Belgium is a tiny federation to which NGOs organized several trips
of Buddhist monks to see how "F" system works. Today it is
the best example of how "F" has not worked even with a king.
In 1830-31 it was created by the international powers as a political
compromise in building one state out of two nationalities, Dutch-speaking
Flanders and French-speaking Wallonia with Brussels as the capital.
Now Flanders wants to separate from Wallonia because "every attempt
to liberalize the Belgian economy and to reform the generous welfare
system has been vetoed by the relatively poor Walloon socialists."
Flanders is no longer prepared to finance the ever increasing amount
of Flemish subsidies which are flowing to Wallonia! If this happens
then Wallonia will break into four or five smaller parts merging with
other countries (i.e., France, Germany) or deciding to remain independent.
Brussels itself will be a French-majority enclave linked with Wallonia
by a land corridor. Such are the blessings of federating for 178 years!
Russian invasion of the Georgian held Russian-living region of South
Ossetia (North Ossetia is already a Russian state) is an example of
why India did not try to do a Bangladesh "solution" in Sri
Lanka. Sri Lanka is an island. Georgia wanted to stop separatist work
by minority Russians in SO. When it killed some Russians, Russia entered
SO. India is in a dilemma with the Tamil homeland demand in Sri Lanka.
If India accepts an Eelam then later Tamil Nadu itself will demand a
separate country from India against "Hindia." Other secessionist
groups in India will also get a boost. What we see today is, present-day
Indian politicians trying to deal with tomorrow and day after and not
with what would happen in ten years. Sri Lanka cannot afford to follow
Trinity of gama - vawa - dagaba (village-tank-temple)
Instead of Indian or west-baked solutions APRC and people like Kumar
David should look inward to Sri Lanka's own history of language-blind
ethnic harmony for a peace-filled future. Tamils have a homeland in
Tamil Nad. Muslims have Mecca and a billion muslims. Christians have
Pope. Sinhala people and Sinhala Buddhist have this tiny island, 15
million and the ocean. Tamils, Sinhala and Muslims can be empowered
at the trinity level of kovil, temple and mosque -centered societal
units. Aspirations can grow at the family and village levels. We should
not promote aspirations with language-based spatial units. Instead create
language-blind developmental units. If in a given village the majority
happens to be Tamil let them work on their aspirations from house hold
level upward to the Village Council level. Several VCs can go to District
level. Imposing a Provincial level unit on them by a Colombo group is
not suitable in Sri Lankan case as there is the fear and danger of separation.
Because our trinity is tank-centered it fits very well with the modern
concept of river basin-based administrative units. New Zealand, a tiny
country like ours is using this concept. The geography professor C.
M. Madduma Bandara has proposed Seven River Basin-based administrative
region system for Sri Lanka that Kumar David and the APRC's Colombo
lawyers should study (Chapter 4 in Fifty years of Sri Lanka's independence:
a socio-economic review, edited by A.D.V. de S. Indraratna, 1998, p.83;
Island, February 7, 2001). They are: 1. Yalpanam 2. Rajarata 3. Dambadeni
4. Mahaweli 5. Digavapi 6. Kelani and 7. Ruhunu. Sri Lanka has hundreds
of smaller ecological regions. We must promote this geographic diversity
accepting the truth that "one law for the lion and ox is oppression."
Because, one cannot legislate against geography (Island, 2/22/2006),
law in books cannot become law in action if APRC and its chairman act
like a Colebrook in 2007 with the 9-province plan. Past attempts to
develop Sri Lanka at village level failed because they were sabotaged
by the Colombo class. F.R. Senanayakes efforts in this regard
(mahajana sabhas) abruptly ended with his untimely death. In the 1940s
Ven. Kalukondayave Pragnasekera Mahanayake Thero started a village development
and crime eradication movement with Tamil and Muslim participation which
was obstructed by the Colombo establishment. Hopefully, the Gama Naguma
program under the Mahinda Chinthanaya will change Sri Lankan ethnic
and economic landscape for good. The Local Government Reforms Commission
(Sessional Paper No. 1 of 1999, the Abhayewardhana Report) recommended
the resurrection of the local government system we had before 1978 but
it was ignored until 2005. Kumar David needs to think of grass-roots
politics rather than holding to the separatist tail of Tamil Nadu politics.
What is the solution?
Ideally speaking, as soon as Kilinochchi is liberated by the army the
president needs to consider seriously the feasibility of moving the
capital of Sri Lanka to the Raja Rata on a 15-20 year time frame rather
than further aggravating the spatial problems found in the Colombo Region.
Sri Lanka has the record of moving the capitol ten miles to a swamp
creating flash flooding even in the Colombo Seven! Ministry by ministry,
department by department, the government should relocate in the Raja
Rata with a long-term plan. There is no better way to bring Sinhala
and Tamil villagers together than the abandonment of the Colombo paradigm.
No need to neglect essential developments in the Colombo harbor or Colombo
roads or to doubt the geopolitical value of a new harbor in Hambantota
and an alternative international airport near it. Sri Lanka should not
forget the developing new frontier in the Raja Rata relative to South
Indian developments but also the new needs of the Pacific century. Even
in the U.S.A. its Pacific face is developing so rapidly compared to
the 500 year-old Atlantic (European) face. Trincomalee is Sri Lanka's
jewel in the Pacific century.
Sri Lanka requires two sets of actions: (1) a new constitution aimed
at empowering people at the village-level, and (2) a civilian socio-economic
development system aimed at eradicating corruption, poverty and social
injustice. In this regard the President needs to consider taking the
Instruct the APRC and the Constitutional Affairs Ministry research staff
to study the thousands of constitutional proposals they received by
invitation and to publish a detailed analytical report. Why these proposals
were totally ignored is problematic;
Instruct APRC and its Chairman to study the Abhayawardena Local Government
Report and use it as a basis for devolution of power to Village Councils;
Instruct the APRC and the Constitutional Affairs Ministry research staff
to study the 99 point program of action proposed by the late Ven. K.P.
in the 1940s;
Appoint a committee with a geographer as the leader to study how GSN
(grama sevaka niladharee) boundaries could be modified to fit in with
Village Council and ecological boundaries;
Instruct the Defence Secretary to study the feasibility of deploying
the army personnel in civil defence and development work at the village-level;
Make arrangements to formalize the services voluntarily offered by the
Sri Lankans living abroad into a village-Expatriate services system.
This is where Sri Lanka's Seventh Great Force could become a valuable
Sri Lanka's Sixth great force is janitors and maids toiling in Arab
countries. Its Seventh force consists mostly of those who went to universities
in Sri Lanka in the swabasha medium and now living in western countries
holding research, teaching and managerial positions. Most Tamils in
this category are now forced to give money to Prabakaran's killing machine
and in future they would think of helping their villages in Jaffna or
Vavuniya if an opportunity is given.
The National Science Foundation was supposed to develop a project like
this but time is ripe to create a separate governmental agency to coordinate
this important concept. Those who are about to retire from their work
are in a position to return and spend time in the villages providing
help in different ways. Imagine the effect of a talent pool of 1000
expats working outside Colombo!
Buddhists and human rights
The Karuna paradigm is a Buddhist paradigm. Sri Lanka can have a language-blind
empowerment system because Sinhala Buddhist majority in the island never
discriminated against minorities. The reason for this was that unlike
in God-based religions, in Buddhism life is cyclical and not linear.
When life is considered linear there is no difference between a rice
field and a cattle ranch. How to fatten the cattle to sell beef to get
the maximum profit has no issues of morality behind it. There is no
need to worry about the Eight Fold Path. Any sin can be erased by a
week-end confession. All life including plants and trees are part of
one interdependent system according to Buddhism. All life is also temporary.
Impermanence is the common characteristic of all living phenomenon.
Buddhism is also based on following the Middle Path. This is compromise
or reasonableness in the democratic western world. Equality of all human
beings was practiced in Buddhism in 5th Century B.C. by allowing women
to become monks. Trees and rivers were protected in Buddhism just like
the habits and customs in this regard that we find among the Native
American Indians in America.
In today's world 99% of human rights agents are Christians because mass-scale
human rights violations took place in the Christian Europe and Colonial
empires. This is why R2P deals are suspected as a new face of global
colonialism. In this regard the average Christian is as innocent as
an average Buddhist. It was the privileged Christians living in Colombo
who ruined Sri Lanka. The NGOs are dominated by these power-hungry,
dollar-hunting Christian mudalalis. While in Jaffna Christian Prabakaran
applied ethnic cleansing and destroyed Buddhist archeological sites
after 1983, ethnic and religious minorities lived in harmony with Sinhala
Buddhist in southern villages and towns for thousands of years. Kumar
David is concerned with a loss of a comrade perhaps unaware of the universal
brotherhood found in Buddhism. Unlike the historical religions based
on faith, Buddhists never used swords to convert others. But what had
happened to Buddhism in Tamil Nadu and in South Korea should not be
allowed to happen in Sri Lanka.
Further readings available on the Internet on the Karuna paradigm:
"An alternative to the Devolution' dilemma: Move the capital
to Rajarata." (Island, April 21-24, 1998)
"Federalism and marriage" (Island, 12/12/2005, 1/11/2006)
"Racism paradigm versus the Colombo paradigm" (Island, 2/21/2006)
"You cannot legislate against geography" (Island, 2/22/2006)
"Federal Marriages and water wars" (Daily News, 9/13/2006;
"Language-blind regional development units" (Island, 10/25/2006)
"Anandasangaree and God Vishnu" (Island, 1/3/2007)
"A letter to a Tamil friend after 40 years!" (Island, 1/25/2007)
"The end of separatist agenda in Sri Lanka" (www.defence.lk,
"Mr. Anandasangaree's latest plea: is it reasonable?" (Island,
"Professor Rajan Hoole's human rights award" (Island, 10/16/2007)