Neelan – GL 2020 draft the best we might have had
BY Prof. Savitri Goonesekere
(Continued from last week)
When Chandrika Kumaranatunga took office she pledged to introduce a new Constitution that would repeal what she described in colourful Sinhala as Bahubootha Executive Presidential form of governance. This task was entrusted not to a Constituent Assembly of Parliament but to a group of individuals with a range of expertise, with leadership from, Prof GL Pieris, Minister of Constitutional Affairs and late Dr Neelan Tiruchelvam. Both were distinguished alumni of the Peradeniya and Colombo Law Faculty of that time. They had both competed for the prestigious Rhodes Scholarship. Late Lalith Athulathmudali said that the decision to award the scholarship to GL was based on a careful scrutiny of my husband’s letters of reference to each at some point in their careers. My husband was famous for attaching equal importance to opposing viewpoints and Lalith said they had a hard time figuring out from the references who was best!
Neelan and GL produced perhaps the best Constitution for Sri Lanka we might have had, in 2000. It had an excellent chapter on Fundamental Rights that reflected contemporary developments. It also had constructive proposals for power sharing and the independence of the judiciary and public service from political control. Most importantly, it replaced the Executive Presidency with the tried and tested method of an Executive branch with a Prime Minister and Cabinet responsible to Parliament.
Unfortunately a single provision that enabled President Kumaranatunga to become prime minister for the rest of her Presidential term, was used by the Opposition led by Mr. Ranil Wickremesinghe to tear up into pieces the document on the 2000 Constitution on the floor of the House, when it was presented in Parliament, by Minister GL Pieris. The government fell, and this led to the first “cohabitation” in governance arrangement between President Kumaranatunga of the SLFP, and Prime Minister Wickremesinghe of the UNP. The 2000 Constitution has never entered the discussions on Constitutional reform that followed.
A short period of “cohabitation” was followed by a General Election and a further short second term for President Kumaranatunge. The 17th Amendment was passed by Parliament at this time with the leadership of the JVP and provided for the first time Independent Commissions to strengthen public administration, and a Constitutional Council empowered to make recommendations to the President on high post appointments to the judiciary and public service
Mr. Mahinda Rajapaksa was elected as Executive President in 2005. He was given a mandate to abolish the Executive Presidency. However, the focus of his administration was addressing the armed conflict in the North with his brother, who was appointed Secretary of Defence. Winning the war in 2009 was a catalyst for a sea change in the political life of an experienced and respected politician, who had also related to an agenda of human rights. My husband appeared for him as petitioner, and won a fundamental rights case for him, and also successfully argued the famous Janagosha case on the right to peaceful political protest.
From 2009 Mahinda Rajapaksa went on a different political path, surrounded by family and friends espousing a culture of political patronage that debilitated all institutions of governance. This was an inherent aspect of governance in this country even before that. However misuse of Presidential powers without any inhibitions, and family political patronage and empowerment and cronyism was carried to different and more significant levels. In a feudal culture the perception that the President was all powerful and could not be questioned created new levels of sycophancy or reluctance to express different points of view in the administrative services. This had a serious impact on all institutions and was replicated in the behaviour of Cabinet ministers and others who became notorious for abuse of power and corruption. The Proportional Representation system with the focus on a Party machinery choice of candidates also led to more and more incompetent persons being elected as members of Parliament.
The 18th Amendment to the Constitution that saw a removal of the limitation on terms of the Executive President, a core concept in the 1978 Constitution embedded in Presidential power during a term of office, was perhaps an inevitable outcome. A President who had been elected to office, promising to abolish the Executive Presidency was now quite comfortable with becoming a President for life. His cabinet and government was full of approval for this change. So also the Supreme Court in the judgment of Shirani Bandaranayaka CJ when the 18th Amendment was challenged in the Supreme Court. The environment of acceptance and passivity and self censorship in responding to this change was such that there was silence even in academia on this very controversial Supreme Court jurisprudence. It was the theme of my husband’s oration for the Bar Association, in memory of a former President, Desmond Fernando PC.
2015 to 2022
The protest against the worst excesses of Mahinda Rajapaksa led to its unexpected defeat and the election of President Maithripala Sirisena and what was described as a rainbow coalition of political parties led by Mr. Ranil Wickremesinghe as Prime Minister. President Sirisena promised to abolish the Executive Presidency and was given this mandate by the majority of citizens who helped him get elected to office. This was also a personal commitment given to Maduluwawe Sobhita Thero who led the resistance to the previous Mahinda Rajapaksa government. However, in the first flush of victory he was persuaded to support a Constitutional Amendment that would REDUCE presidential powers and transfer them to his Prime Minister, Mr. Ranil Wickremesinghe. The draft Constitution of 2000 which provided for the abolition of the Executive Presidency was unfortunately not considered in this constitutional reform process.
If anyone expected this change to facilitate cooperation between these two centres of power in one administration that was an impossible expectation. Perhaps it increased expectations on the part of the Prime Minister, and resistance on the part of the President to the anticipated happy cohabitation. Inevitably the “empowered” Prime Minister had to experience the full brunt of Presidential anger when they had conflicting view points on the Arjuna Mahendran, Ravi Karunanayake and Aloysius related bond scam. A hurriedly and sometimes poorly drafted proviso in the 19th Amendment facilitated the Constitutional crisis of 2018 and the replacement of the 19th Amendment “empowered” Prime Minister with (of all people ) Mahinda Rajapaksa whom President Sirisena said he was fleeing from in anticipation of grave violence as a candidate in the Presidential election.
When the Easter Sunday violence took place, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, the empowered 19th Amendment Prime Minister, told the nation in a BBC interview that he could not be held responsible for the appalling and reckless lapses in national security because he had been excluded by the President from the National Security Council and “was not in the loop”.
It is the 19th Amendment of the Sirisena/Wickremesinghe government which is the basis of the 21A (MoJ). The Gotabaya and Wickremesinghe government are telling us that this will be the best response in strengthening governance and satisfying the demand for systemic and institutional change. And every one they address including the media and political parties (most recently Maithipala Sirisena led SLFP) is applauding this initiative.
The Opposition’s counter arguments for the 21A (S) to abolish the Executive Presidency appears to be falling on deaf ears, due to ignorance, political expediency or a collective sense of amnesia. The only focus seems to be on a single issue – whether or not to support an amendment prohibiting dual citizens from holding office that may lead to another Rajapaksa sibling being compelled to forfeit his national list seat in Parliament. And that after facilitating another person occupying a national seat in Parliament to become the country’s Prime Minister.
A new Constitution for Sri Lanka as part of Incremental Constitutional Reform
When Minister Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe offers us the prospect of a new Constitution being drafted (after we have emerged from this crisis), he seems to have forgotten the much publicized efforts to do so during the Maithripala-Sirisena Ranil Wickremesinghe governments period in office. What emerged from the Constitution drafting Committee that Mr. Wickremesinghe himself chaired? Large and excellent reports by expert groups working on important areas of governance were produced. What happened to those reports? What also happened to the report submitted to government by the Lal Wijenayake Committee on Constitutional reform after islandwide consultations over a period of time? What happened to the report of the Manouri Muttetuwegama Committee on Transitional Justice mechanisms? And the Truth and Reconciliation Mechanism law that was drafted at the request of the government by a committee chaired by me with a dedicated team of persons who gave their time freely without fees?
Even more curious, what happened to the report of the Constitutional drafting Committee appointed by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa? This committee was chaired by Romesh de Silva PC with, it is said, the leadership of Minister GL Pieris. Where is this draft Constitution and what is its approach to the Executive Presidency and “systemic and institutional change?”
The Way Forward
Faced with a crisis of proportions and impact that has devastated the country it is incredible that we are now engaged in another round of political play acting on constitutional reform. Let us at least on this occasion take serious stock of the very real breakdown in governance that has led to this “man made and voluntary economic disaster” in a country renowned for its human development indicators in South Asia. In doing so let us recognize that we must abolish the Executive Presidency NOW and not later. This requires heeding the voice of the Aragalaya, and supporting the 21A (S) that will abolish the Executive Presidency and will also bring with it the institutional and systemic change in our governance that has been promised for decades by successive governments but never realized due to narrow and selfish political agendas. Saying Yes to the 21A (S) and No to the 21A (MoJ) which is a token gesture of Constitutional reform may be a last chance to save our country from further destabilization and “man made” disasters created through corrupt, inefficient and reckless governance.
Heeding the Voice of the People, Constitutional Reform and the Referendum Concept
The Rajapaksa governments 2005-2014 and 2019-2022 gave scant respect to the “Voice of the People”. Governments in which Mr. Ranil Wickremesinghe had a leadership role, like the Yahapalanaya government, 2015-2019, appointed many “Consultative” and Advisory” Committees, on a range of important subjects of public concern, including Constitutional Reform. Yet the government consistently discarded their reports. Research on the functioning of these “Committees” demonstrates that the Yahapalanaya period had more consultative Committees than any other government. The record of law making and policy formulation in this period however demonstrates clearly government inaction rather than action for change.
So “consultation and listening to the voice of the People and experts” can mean nothing more than political rhetoric. This can also lead to unexpected consequences. The failure to improve and achieve intra-party democracy, in the UNP, the party led by Mr. Ranil Wickremesinghe, despite the many Reports commissioned and Committees appointed, eventually led to a significant group breaking away, and forming a new party as Samagi Jana Balavegaya.
These experiences hardly inspire confidence in the Prime Minister’s address to the nation, saying he will appoint 12 or 15 “Committees” for effective public administration and financial management. A large Expert Advisory Committee of eminent economists, has also been appointed to the Central Bank. A promise has been made by the Prime Minister to provide opportunities for youth participation, including from the Aragalaya, in some of these Committees. The latter initiative is said to help youth to understand the difference between protest and participatory democracy!
It is time that our politicians understand what participatory democracy means, and that the people can see the difference between this concept, and the “Committee Consultation” fetish that is a diversionary political maneuver to resist or avoid change. The Constitutional requirement of having a Referendum and hearing the voice of the People, to initiate major Constitutional reform, must also not be permitted to prevent efforts to abolish the Executive Presidency through Constitutional reform. This is also a demand of the Aragalaya and street protests, which include a large and diverse youth population.
Article 3 of our Constitution articulates the concept of the Sovereignty of the People as including the “powers of governance”. Article 4 clarifies the MANNER in which the PEOPLE’S POWER OF GOVERNANCE can be EXERCISED AND ENJOYED. It is on the basis of this concept that it can be argued that the President in exercising the Executive power of the People with a Prime Minister and Cabinet, collectively responsible for the government of the country under Article 43, has a LEGAL and not just an ethical obligation to fullfil his responsibilities of good governance, preventing the type of economic and political crisis confronting the nation today.
International law is considered “law” that creates legal obligations, despite the limitations on enforcement. Consequently, incapacity for enforcement no longer indicates that there is no legal obligation. A President and Cabinet Ministers who fail in their legal obligations in governance, can be called upon by the People to resign. It is the lack of a procedure for enforcing that legal obligation of resignation, except by impeachment of the President, that has contributed to the urgent need for Constitutional reform to ABOLISH the Presidency in the executive branch of government.
The 19th Amendment made the President liable for a violation of rights and for the Supreme Court to provide “just and equitable relief” for such a violation. This provision was retained in the 20th Amendment. The possibility of a petition for violation of citizen rights, and a call for just and equitable relief in the form of a court order on resignation, in light of the serious responsibilities in governance under the Constitution, may seem theoretical and only aspirational at this time.
The Attorney General has advised that the Presidential status in the executive branch cannot be removed without a two thirds Majority support in Parliament, and a Referendum. The Referendum issue, and its impact on 21 A (S) is therefore an additional concern. This seems an obstacle in effecting a critically important Constitutional change, in responding to our political and economic crisis.
The Constitution has a clear provision in Article 83 which indicates that a two third majority and a Referendum are required for the amendment or repeal of Article 3. Therefore Article 4 on the status of the President in the Executive branch of governance is NOT covered by the Referendum clause. The requirement for a Referendum is thus an interpretive perspective, based on jurisprudence in the Supreme Court linking Articles 3 and 4. That jurisprudence is also not consistent.
In the 20th Amendment case counsel cited earlier cases linking Articles three and four and argued that since the concept of Presidential power had been significantly modified by the 19th Amendment, a Referendum was also necessary to go back to the earlier concept of near absolute Presidential executive power. The court in its opinion rejected this interpretation, and did not follow the jurisprudence linking Articles three and four on the meaning of executive power. It is this interpretation that is being cited in arguing that 21 A (MoJ) seeking to only reduce Presidential powers that can be passed without a Referendum.
There is nothing to prevent the other argument being canvassed again in litigation on the current Constitutional Bills. Besides the Referendum issue can also be resolved if the Supreme Court follows the approach it took in the Port City Bill litigation, where the Court decided that it was not necessary to consult the Provincial Councils on a matter that required their consent, when it was impossible to do so as these bodies were not functioning at the time. The current situation and an argument that it is not possible to have a Referendum, in the current context, is supported by that case.
The lack of clarity on the issue of the need for a Referendum does not mean that this should be used to prevent support for the 21A(S) that seeks to abolish the Executive Presidency. Besides holding such a Referendum is not as complicated and expensive as a General Election, that we cannot afford at this time. All that a citizen is required to do is to say “yes or no” to a single question, of the abolition of the Executive Presidency. They will be happy to provide the piece of paper for this task to the Election Commissioner’s officials, if the State cannot afford to provide this, rather in the manner they are collecting the one rupee coins, after the Minister said the State subsidizes the cost of a rupee for a litre of fuel!
If the Referendum issue is too complicated to resolve in initiating Constitutional reform to abolish the Executive Presidency the time may be ripe for demanding that the President exercises his powers under Article 86 of the Constitution to “submit to the People at a Referendum any matter which in his view is of national importance”. He claims that he has a mandate from 6.9 million people to complete his term. That is now an issue of public concern for him as well as the People. He can hear the Peoples’ voice, on this matter through a Referendum, helping to also solve the differences in viewpoint between him and the Peoples’ Movement of Aragalaya.
Many of the persons involved in this movement for systemic and institutional change are the youth of a next generation, who have come together from diverse communities that link across class, caste and race, calling for a different approach to accountable governance, realizing how poor and reckless government impacts the lives of the People and their future. Mr. Ranil Wickremesinghe has cited a literary source, the German playwright Bertol Brecht’s Caucasian Chalk Circle to explain the manner in which he will perform as the Prime Minister of the country.
Perhaps he as well as citizens, especially the youth, engaged in the Aragalaya should peruse the poem of WS Senior, an Englishman who was a poet and educationist in colonial Sri Lanka. His ashes are interred in Haputale with an epitaph from a poem he wrote on leaving this country: “oh my soul it will break with longing, it can never be good bye”. His poem “The Call of Lanka” has these lines:
I climbed o’er the crags of Lanka
And gazed on her golden sea
And out from her ancient places
Her soul came forth to me
“Give me a Bard said Lanka
A Bard of the things to be
A Bard for my joys and pains
But most shall he sing of Lanka
In the brave new days that come
When the races all have blended
And the voice of strife is dumb
Hark Bard of the fateful future
Hark Bard of the bright To-Be
A voice on the verdant mountains
A voice on the golden sea,
Rise Child of Lanka, and answer
Thy mother has called to Thee.
Navigating challenges of dental education in Sri Lanka
By Udari Abeyasinghe
One of the principles of free education is to provide opportunities in higher education. In 2020, then-President Gotabaya Rajapaksa issued directives to the University Grants Commission (UGC) to increase university admissions by an additional 12,000 students, in line with his election manifesto. Subsequently, student enrollments were increased with inadequate resources allocated for the enhancement of university facilities to accommodate the surge in student enrollments.
Currently, state universities are grappling with managing the increasing number of students in the face of budgetary constraints. Unfortunately, neither physical nor human resources have been expanded in proportion to the increased student enrollment, leading to severe strain on the higher education system. Being an academic in the one and only dental faculty producing dental graduates at present for the entire country, I take this opportunity to shed light on the hardships experienced in dental education owing to financial constraints amplified by the economic crisis in Sri Lanka.
A glimpse into history
The history of dentistry in Sri Lanka is a fascinating journey. On 15 May, 1915, dentistry was recognized as an independent profession in the country. The first qualified dentists were officially registered by the Ceylon Medical Council under the Dentists Registration Ordinance, all of whom were British-trained professionals. These early dentists primarily served the British troops, professionals, and those among the Ceylonese population who could afford their professional services, predominantly in the private sector. It was only in 1925 that the Colonial government recognized the dental health needs of the general public. By the 1930s, several medical graduates from the Ceylon Medical College had embarked on a new educational journey by enrolling in a Licentiate in Dental Surgery programme, a two-year post-graduate course.
By 1943, another pivotal moment in the history of dental education occurred with the launch of the Bachelor of Dental Surgery (BDS) course at the Ceylon Medical College, University of Ceylon, located in Colombo. The inaugural batch consisted of only four students, followed by six students in the subsequent batch. This marked the official commencement of comprehensive dental education within Ceylon. Recognising the necessity of practical knowledge and skills to complement theoretical dental education, a small Dental Unit (now the site of the nine-storey Dental Hospital in Colombo) was established at the Colombo General Hospital, now known as the National Hospital of Sri Lanka.
In 1953, the Dental School was relocated from Colombo to Peradeniya. Subsequently, with the establishment of the second Medical College at Peradeniya, in 1961, the Dental School became affiliated with it, functioning as a department. Over the years, the dental school gradually expanded, becoming a Faculty of Dental Sciences in 1986. In 1998, under the Japan International Corporation Agency (JICA) project, the Peradeniya Faculty of Dental Sciences and Hospital complex was established. Notably, in 2017, the BDS programme transitioned from a four-year to a five-year curriculum on par with international standards. Eighty years after the commencement of dental education in the country, at present about 80 dentists graduate annually, all trained under the Free Education policy. In December 2021, a second Faculty of Dental Sciences was established at the University of Jayewardenepura set to produce its first graduates in three years.
Dental education in crisis
Sri Lanka’s financial crisis has taken a toll on the education sector, resulting in significant cuts in financial allocations. UNICEF reports that Sri Lanka allocates less than 2% of its GDP to education, falling well below the international benchmark of 4%-6% of GDP and ranking among the lowest in South Asia. In 2020, recurrent costs per student per year for the dental degree stood at Rs 1.72 million. The total recurrent cost for the five-year degree was 8.62 million while the total recurrent cost for the medical degree was 4.18 million. The cost of the dental degree programme would have surely increased since then due to the increased prices of imported dental materials. Given that dental education is the most expensive degree programme in Sri Lanka, the impact of these budget cuts has been particularly harsh. Moreover, the government’s decision to increase student intake in recent years, from 80 to 123 students at Peradeniya, has exacerbated the situation, representing nearly a 50% increase.
Dental education requires close one-on-one supervision during clinical sessions, and maintaining high standards necessitates adequate human resources. According to Sri Lankan standards, the student-to-academic staff ratio should be maintained at 7:1. Due to the increased number of students in the absence of a proportionate increase in the number of academics, this ratio no longer exists. This has placed a heavy burden on academic staff, who struggle to balance their responsibilities, including teaching, supervising postgraduate students, conducting research, and contributing to faculty and university administration. The shortage of human resources is taking a toll on the well-being of these academics and affecting the quality of education they can provide.
As outlined in my last Kuppi article (09/05/2023), attracting and retaining young staff in the field of dentistry has emerged as a significant challenge. For any institution’s effective operation, the collective contributions of academics across all levels, from temporary lecturers to junior lecturers, senior lecturers, and professors, are crucial. Presently, the dental faculty faces a unique situation, functioning without a single dental graduate as a temporary lecturer. This situation has arisen primarily because dental graduates are reluctant to take up temporary academic positions due to the relatively low salaries offered in comparison to the potential earnings from private dental practice, not to mention a series of challenges faced in the university setting.
The government’s recent decision to suspend stipends for probationary lecturers in clinical departments to complete MD foreign training is one such challenge. As paid foreign training positions for dental graduates are hard to come by, completing foreign training without a stipend is unfeasible. Even though lecturers can be confirmed in their position before completion of foreign training and board certification, they are not eligible to become senior lecturers. The inability for junior lecturers to advance their careers has directly affected not only retaining but also attracting young dental graduates into the clinical departments. The situation has been further worsened by the government’s discriminatory decision to provide a stipend for postgraduate MD trainees in the Ministry of Health to pursue foreign training, which has compelled dental graduates to opt for employment with the Ministry of Health instead of universities.
The faculty has not been able to increase physical resources in parallel with the surge in student intake. Inflation has tripled the cost of dental materials needed for patient treatment, making it nearly impossible to procure the necessary supplies for both patient care and educational purposes. At present, the faculty relies upon donations from patients and alumni to bridge the gap. Other resources for clinical training, such as manikins in the skills laboratory, dental chairs, clinic equipment, and other basic facilities, including computers in IT labs, Wi-Fi, space in the cafeteria and student accommodation are inadequate to cater to the increased student intake. The responsibility to secure additional resources has fallen on the shoulders of academics with little support from the UGC.
The bigger picture
Dentistry is undoubtedly a costly degree, and access to free education in Sri Lanka has been a crucial lifeline, especially for students from disadvantaged backgrounds. As committed academics, our dedication lies in safeguarding free education and ensuring that students, regardless of their social backgrounds, have access to dental education while maintaining the high standards of teaching and learning. It is essential to keep in mind the BDS programme has gradually expanded from 4 to 80 students over a period of 80 years. The programme’s sustainability has been maintained by gradual and timely planned expansion with adequate public funding.
Indiscriminate increases in student intake during times of financial crisis will surely compromise the quality of dental education. Discriminatory decision to provide a stipend for postgraduate MD trainees in the Ministry of Health but not the postgraduate MD trainees in dental faculties will further compromise dental education. It is essential for decision-makers and policymakers to consider the long-term sustainability and quality of dental education, while strengthening Free Education in the country, even as they explore options for expansion.
(Udari Abeyasinghe is attached to the Department of Oral Pathology, Faculty of Dental Sciences, University of Peradeniya)
Kuppi is a politics and pedagogy happening on the margins of the lecture hall that parodies, subverts, and simultaneously reaffirms social hierarchies.
Full implementation of 13A: Final solution to ‘national problem’ or end of unitary state?
By Kalyananda Tiranagama
Lawyers for Human Rights and Development
It appears that President Ranil Wickremasinghe, all along his political career, has acted in the belief that he can bring about national unity, true national reconciliation among different communities and find a lasting solution to the ethnic problem only by granting more and more concessions to the racist political parties with separatist agendas in the North and the East and complying with their demands.
In 2002, as the Prime Minister, Wickremesinghe signed, without the approval of President Chandrika Kumaratunga, an Oslo-brokered ceasefire agreement with the LTTE, allowing the LTTE to have internal self-administration in the areas under their control in the North-East. In 2005, he supported the move of the Kumaratunga government to sign a Memorandum of Understanding with the LTTE for the establishment of a Post-Tsunami Operational Management Structure (P-TOMS Agreement) under LTTE leadership for carrying out reconstruction work in the six Tsunami affected Districts in the North-East. In 2006, he assured the TNA of support for the re-merger of Northern and Eastern Provinces if a motion was brought for that purpose in Parliament. During the war for the liberation of the North-East from terrorism, instead of supporting the war effort, his party tried to derail the war effort by abstaining from voting for the extension of the Emergency and making derogatory remarks about the victories of the armed forces.
Common Dream of Wickremasinghe and Sampanthan
In his Address to Parliament on February 8, 2023 delivering the Policy Statement of the Government, President Wickremasinghe disclosed a common dream Mr. Sampanthan and he had been trying to realise over the years thus:
‘‘Both Hon. R. Sampanthan and I were elected to Parliament in 1977. We both have a common dream, which is to provide a sustainable solution to the ethnic problem in Sri Lanka while we are both in Parliament. Ever since, we have been discussing that dream and have been making efforts towards its achievement. All previous attempts have failed, but we wish to succeed this time. We expect your support to this end.’’
Before proceeding to examine the dream of the President, let us examine the dream of Sampanthan and the political organisations led by him: the Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF) and the Tamil National Alliance (TNA). This dream remained continuously unchanged since the founding of the Ilankai Thamil Arasu Katchi (Federal Party) in 1949. The name of the Party – Ilankai Thamil Arasu Katchi (ITAK) or (Tamil State Party of Ceylon) itself reflects this dream. This dream was reiterated in various resolutions passed at their conferences and public declarations at different times.
Dream of Sampanthan and other Tamil leaders
Trincomalee Resolution of ITAK – April 1957
The Resolution passed at the first National Convention of the ITAK held in Trincomalee in April 1957 elaborates on this dream citing the components this dream consists of:
“Inasmuch as it is the inalienable right of every nation to enjoy full political freedom without which its spiritual, cultural and moral stature must degenerate and inasmuch as the Tamil Speaking People in Ceylon constitute a nation distinct from that of the Sinhalese by every fundamental test of nationhood, firstly that of a separate historical part in this island at least as ancient and as glorious as that of the Sinhalese, secondly by the fact of their being a linguistic entity different from that of the Sinhalese, with an unsurpassed classical heritage and a modern development of language which makes Tamil fully adequate for all present day needs and finally by reason of their traditional habitation of definite areas which constitute one-third of this island, the first National Convention of the I.T.A.K. demands for the Tamil Speaking Nation their inalienable right to political autonomy and calls for a plebiscite to determine the boundaries of the linguistic states in consonance with the fundamental and unchallengeable principle of self-determination.”
The components of this dream are as follows:
. Tamil Speaking People in Ceylon constitute a nation distinct from that of the Sinhalese by every fundamental test of nationhood: i. playing a separate historical part in this island at least as ancient and as glorious as that of the Sinhalese; ii. with an unsurpassed classical heritage and a modern development of language making Tamil fully adequate for all present-day needs; iii. their traditional habitation of definite areas constituting one-third of this island; b. Inalienable right of the Tamil Speaking Nation to political autonomy.
Vaddukoddai Resolution of TULF
The Vaddukoddai Resolution unanimously adopted on 16 May 1976 by the Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF) consisting of all the Tamil political parties and groups in the North – East narrated in its preamble all the rights denied to or deprived of Tamil people by the successive Sinhala governments and their demands for restoration thereof:
a. The Tamils of Ceylon by virtue of their language, their religions, their separate culture and heritage, their history of independent existence as a separate state over a distinct territory for several centuries and, above all by their will to exist as a separate entity ruling themselves in their own territory, are a nation distinct and apart from Sinhalese;
b. Throughout centuries from the dawn of history, the Sinhalese and Tamil nations have divided between themselves the possession of Ceylon, the Sinhalese inhabiting the interior of the country in its Southern and Western parts and the Tamils possessing the Northern and Eastern districts;
c. Successive Sinhalese governments since independence have encouraged and fostered the aggressive nationalism of the Sinhalese people and have used their political power to the detriment of the Tamils by making serious inroads into the territories of the former Tamil Kingdom by a system of planned and state-aided Sinhalese colonization and large scale regularization of recently encouraged Sinhalese encroachments, calculated to make the Tamils a minority in their own homeland.
d. The proposals submitted to the Constituent Assembly by the Ilankai Thamil Arasu Katchi for maintaining the unity of the country while preserving the integrity of the Tamil people by the establishment of an autonomous Tamil State within the framework of a Federal Republic of Ceylon.
‘‘This convention resolves that restoration and reconstitution of the Free, Sovereign, Secular, Socialist State of TAMIL EELAM, based on the right of self-determination inherent to every nation, has become inevitable in order to safeguard the very existence of the Tamil Nation in this Country.
This Convention directs the Action Committee of the Tamil United Liberation Front to formulate a plan of action and launch without undue delay the struggle for winning the sovereignty and freedom of the Tamil Nation; and
This Convention calls upon the Tamil Nation in general and the Tamil youth in particular to come forward to throw themselves fully into the sacred fight for freedom and to flinch not till the goal of a sovereign state of TAMIL EELAM is reached.’’
· From this it clearly appears that not only the LTTE and the other armed militant groups, but the entire leadership of the TULF was also responsible for aiding and abetting and leading the Tamil youth for the 30-year war against Sri Lanka.
Although the LTTE was defeated and the 30-year war came to an end on May 18, 2009, the ITAK, the TULF or the TNA and the other political parties in the North-East have not abandoned their goal or dream of creating a separate Tamil State in the amalgamated Northern and Eastern Provinces of Sri Lanka. They have only changed their strategy and tactics in the march for reaching their goal.
Speech made by R. Sampanthan, the leader of the TULF, at the 14th ITAK Convention held in Batticaloa in May 2012
In this speech, Sampanthan clearly explains to their members their new strategy to achieve their goal of a separate state thus:
“We gather here following our victory in the passage of the recent Resolution at the UN Human Rights Council, a condemnation against the SL government by the international community.
“Ilankai Thamil Arasu Katchi was created by S. J. V. Chelvanayagam, the father of Tamil Nation, for the purpose of establishing self-determination of the Tamil people on this island. This objective is evident in both the name of the party and in the manner in which it operates.
“Tamil United Liberation Front, of which our party was a member, took the historical decision to establish the separate government of Tamil Eelam in 1976. Based on this decision of our party, and the need to place ourselves in a position of strength, Tamil youth decided to oppose violence with violence and began to rise up as armed rebel groups.
“Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, became a great force within the Tamil community.
“We remember the Tamil youth who sacrificed their lives in armed struggle. …. SL government has committed the crime of extermination against our people,
“The intervention of India has clearly taught us the lesson that whatever our aspirations may be, India will never welcome a political solution in Sri Lanka that does not accord with the interests of India.
“Achieving Tamil Eelam was becoming an increasingly unrealistic goal. Thus, instead of sacrificing more lives to this cause, our party with the help of India, began supporting a solution that allowed Tamil people to live within a united Sri Lanka.
“A most important lesson we have learnt from the past 60 years… is that we should act strategically, with the awareness that global powers will act based on their domestic interests.
“Further, a struggle that runs counter to the international community, built only on military might, will not prevail. It is for this reason, that in the new environment created by various global influences, we have, together with the support and assistance of the international community, found new ways of continuing with our struggle.
“Our expectation of a solution to the ethnic problem of the sovereignty of the Tamil people is based on a political structure outside that of a unitary government, in a united Sri Lanka in which Tamil people have all the powers of government needed to live with self-respect and self-sufficiency.
“The position that the North and East of Sri Lanka are the areas of historical habitation of the Tamil speaking people cannot be compromised in this structure of government…. We must have unrestricted authority to govern our land, protect our own people, and develop our own economy, culture and tradition… Meaningful devolution should go beyond the 13th Amendment to the Constitution passed in 1987.
“The above solution is one that is likely to be acceptable to members of the international community including India and the United States.
“Any solution to the ethnic problem concerning the sovereignty of the Tamil people must be acceptable to the Muslim community in Sri Lanka.
“The international practice prevalent during the mid-eighties, when the intervention of India occurred, has now changed. Although the issue at hand is the same, the prevailing conditions are different. The struggle is the same, but the approaches we employ are different. Our aim is the same, but our strategies are different. The players are the same, but the alliances are different. That is the nature of the Tamil people. Although we still have the same aim, the methods we use now are different.
“The current practices of the international community may give us an opportunity to achieve, without the loss of life, the soaring aspirations we were unable to achieve by armed force.’’.’’ www.sangam.org/2012/06/Sampanthan_Speech.php
(To be continued)
Important assignments…Down Under
Ex-Mirage Melantha Perera, who now performs with the band Black Jackets, left last Tuesday (19), on an important assignment, to Australia.
He will be away for about a month, he said, spending about two weeks each, in Sydney and Melbourne.
His first stop is Sydney for the Australian South Asian Forum (ASAF) that commenced on 23rd September.
This South Asian Film Arts and Literature festival is showcasing the rich art, culture and literary heritage of eight nations – India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bhutan, and the Maldives.
The Performing Arts programme, held on 23rd September, brought into the limelight solo singing, solo dance and musical instrument performance, and Melantha was one of the judges, I’m told.
The big event, to wind up this festival, is the Gala Awards Night, scheduled to be held on 30th September, and will include guest performances, and cultural song and dance performances, presented by eight subcontinent countries.
Once his commitments in Sydney are over, Melantha will head for Melbourne where he plans to promote his Mela Nota project further.
It’s gaining recognition in many countries and Melantha is fully satisfied with the response.
In Melbourne, he will also be seen in action, as a solo singer, at the popular Sundown Regency, on 6th October, along with Noeline Honter, and the band ‘Friends’, and supported by Thirani, Enrico and Lozaine.
In fact, Melantha, made his solo debut, in Melbourne, at the Walawwa, when he was in Australia, early this year, and it turned out to be a memorable occasion for this versatile artiste.
He was, in fact, the centre of attraction at another event, back home, in Moratuwa, before he left for Australia.
Melantha was the President of the Moratuwa Arts Forum, for the previous year, and at the recently held general meeting, to select a new president and committee, Melantha and the previous committee were re-elected, uncontested.
Those present insisted that Melantha and the previous committee continue with the excellent work they have been doing to harness the talent of those in Moratuwa and bring them into the spotlight.
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