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Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka

Given the ineluctable facts of geography, this island’s relationship with India is its most important single relationship; the one that has to be most carefully calibrated and curated.

Given the domestic geopolitics of both countries—the similar demography of Sri Lanka’s northern area abutting India and of India’s southern cone facing Sri Lanka—the Sri Lankan Tamil question is and will remain one of the two pillars of the Indo-Sri Lankan relationship.

The second pillar is Sri Lanka’s strategic relationship with any power perceived as an adversary, rival or competitor of India.

Both pillars frame the architecture of the Indo-Sri Lanka Accord (ISLA) of 1987. The 13th amendment is the child of the Accord, as enshrined in the ISLA’s clause referring to the implementation of the understandings reached in earlier (specified) negotiations between the two governments.

Given the widespread and hardly unfounded perception of Sri Lanka’s tilt towards China, it is all the more important to carefully manage the other pillar of the Indo-Lanka relationship, i.e., that of the Tamil question.

Instead of doing so, president Gotabaya Rajapaksa has resumed his project of chipping away at that pillar and thereby endangering the architecture of the bilateral relationship.

If the bilateral relationship is weakened or even if it remains at its present level instead of returning to its wartime dimensions, Sri Lanka will not have the benefit of India’s umbrella.

In 2007-2009 Sri Lanka prudently positioned itself at the point of overlap of two big umbrellas, those of India and China. Nowhere was this more consciously constructed by Sri Lankan diplomacy than at the UNHRC in Geneva, where it contributed greatly to our success in May 2009 at the UNHRC’s special session.

In the postwar period, the hawks in the state machine and the cabinet pressurized President Mahinda Rajapaksa and moved us from under the twin Asian umbrellas, away from India and towards China, in a choice that was not forced upon us by China.

That choice was made by those ex-military personalities in the Sri Lankan state who had a traumatic memory of Indian intervention, the Indo-Lanka Accord of 1987 and the 13th amendment that issued from it.

Never once did they draw the correct lesson that had the understandings reached between the Sri Lankan and Indian Government between 1984 and January 1987 been turned into law before the Vadamaarachchi operation, there would not have been an Indian intrusion.

It must be said that they pretended that they understood, which is why the then Secretary/Defence Gotabaya Rajapaksa, as a member of the troika, repeatedly reiterated during wartime, President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s assurance to India that the 13th amendment would be fully implemented once the LTTE was defeated. This secured India’s support for the outcome or non-interruption of the outcome.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa looks set to renege on that promise and indeed to reverse it.

President GR’s Pronouncement

The statement issued by the Presidential Media Unit following the call paid on President GR by the visiting Indian Foreign Secretary Harsh V Shringla contains the following sentence:

“The President pointed out the urgent need to understand the weaknesses as well as the strengths of the 13th Amendment and act accordingly.”

It is a single sentence in a statement but has crucial implications for Sri Lanka’s most important external relationship and therefore Sri Lanka’s relations with the world as a whole.

This needs to be unpacked so as to understand its full meaning and implications.

Why is the “need to understand the weaknesses as well as the strengths of the 13th Amendment” quite so “urgent” and from whose point of view?

Who will “act accordingly” and how?

Still more substantively, what are the implications of “understand the weaknesses as well as the strengths of the 13th Amendment and act accordingly”? Does it mean the weakness will be eliminated and the strengths retained? Or does it mean that if the weaknesses are deemed to be greater than the strengths, the 13th amendment will be scrapped? Who will decide on “the weaknesses as well as the strengths of the 13th Amendment”, when and how?

It appears that the ongoing process of drafting a new constitution could be the agency for this adventuristic, unilateral revisionism.

What then will the Tamil parties do? They cannot expect India to do for them what they will not do for themselves. They have to adopt a triadic strategy consisting of Unity, Realism and Alliance/Partnership.

(i) Unity: a broad united front and a united platform;

(ii) Realism: a realist stand that is exactly coincident with India’s officially declared policy i.e., the full implementation of the provisions of 13A

(iii) Alliance/partnership: As Lord Soulbury advised C. Sundaralingam, the best option is to support the main democratic Opposition in Parliament (at the time in the 1960s, the UNP, now its successor). It can only be achieved on the basis of the defense of the 13th amendment and its full implementation. No less, no more.

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Minister warns of emerging racism ahead of elections




ECONOMYNEXTA Minister warns of emerging racism in the island nation targeting ethnic minorities ahead of 2024 elections while regretting the past racism-led events including riots and insurrections since the 1948 independence.

Sri Lankan politicians have historically used racism to divide the country and win elections with the help of their own ethnicities and religious groups.The island nation is expected to hold presidential and parliament polls next year. A parliamentary election is likely in March, sources close to President Ranil Wickremesinghe have told EconomyNext.

The country saw the first racism led division when the island nation’s former Prime Minister S W R D Bandaranaike implemented “Sinhala only” policy which deprived state jobs for well educated Tamils in 1956.

That was followed by abolishing the merit system in university selection in 1972 which later deprived thousands of Tamil youth of being deprived of university entrance despite having higher marks than many others.Racism-led politics has always been the trump cards of some political parties specially when they are in opposition.

“When we are trying to do away with racism, some are trying to trigger the racism,” Manusha Nanayakkara, Minister of Labour and Foreign Employment told reporters in Colombo at a media briefing.

“Everybody blames the country for not progressing for the last 75 years since independence. The main reason for that is racism.”

“From the 1956 Sinhala-only event to each racism event had been used by politicians for their own benefits. People also hung in that string of racism, which could be easily triggered,” he said.

“All anti-Tamil riots, anti-Muslim riots, JVP crisis, LTTE crisis are the reasons that have taken this country backward.”

Sri Lanka’s majority Sinhala politicians use anti-minority sentiment to win votes among Sinhala Buddhists saying that the country’s main religion Buddhism is in danger because of minority Tamils, Muslims, and Catholics.

Similarly, ethnic minority Tamils and Muslims also use racism to say their community is in danger because of majority Sinhalese. Such moves have led to riots and killings across the country, mainly before elections.

“It is highly regrettable even today the racism is being used, ” Nanayakkara said.

Referring to an ongoing growing concern of Tamil people in the Eastern province being deprived of their land rights, the minister said he saw nothing wrong in giving lands to Tamils.

“What is wrong with giving their land to them? All Sri Lankans have come to this country from outside. How can one group say others can’t own lands? We are against this,” he said.

“This country is owned by all. This country is not owned only by Sinhalese or Tamils or Muslims. This is the country we all live in. That is our concept, and we are not scared to tell that.”

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JVP Leader claims there is a witch hunt against ex-military personnel who associate with his party



Anura Kumara Dissanayake

By Saman Indrajith

JVP-led NPP leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake told Parliament on Thursday that the Defence Ministry has launched a witch-hunt of former military personnel who are associated with his party.

Participating in the Third Reading debate on Budget 2024 under the Defence Ministry expenditure heads, Dissanayake said that he too was of the opinion that servicemen should not involve in politics while they are on active service but the ex-servicemen and retired soldiers have a right to support any political party of their choice.

“None has the power to prevent the retired military personnel from engaging in politics. The Defence Ministry is headed by Kamal Gunaratne and he has his political agendas. We have nothing to complain about his political associations. Other retired service personnel too have a right to do politics,” Dissanayake said.

The JVP Leader said that former Commandant of the Eastern Province retired Maj Gen Aruna Jayasekera and his wife had been held at the Bandaranaike International Airport and harassed by airport authorities at the behest of the defence ministry top brass because Maj Gen Jayasekera was involved in NPP politics. When demanded to know the reason for holding them, the authorities said that they were searching whether the couple was smuggling in narcotic drugs.  This is grossly illegal as well as unfair. Does this mean only those who are with the government could be involved in politics?

The Defence Secretary has given orders to limit the medical entitlements given to retired military personnel who are with the NPP. There is a ban for these retired officers going into army camps.

“We are well aware of who was behind the attacks on Lasantha Wickrematunge, Keith Noyahr, Upali Tennakoon and Poddala Jayantha. We also know to which extent those investigations went on. This parliament does not allocate money for the military to attack those who oppose the government. The army is not there to attack the protesters. The defence ministry top brass should understand that their way of politicizing the military will have serious repercussions.

“Narahenpita police recently arrested a group of persons who had attacked protesters. Kamal Gunaratne thereafter gave orders through the telephone to the Narahenpita police on behalf of those attackers. We know that Kamal Gunaratne is a leading political activist. We would not question his right to do politics. In the same manner what right does he have to deprive other retired soldiers doing their politics?

“There was a procession for ethnic harmony. It was a cultural procession but it was attacked at the Town Hall by police. It was Sagala Ratnayake who gave the order to police to attack processions. This is the manner in which the government now uses the defence apparatus to do their politics,” Dissanayake said.

Responding to the issues raised by the JVP leader, Defence State Minister Pramitha Bandara Tennakoon said that retired military officers have all the right to be involved in active politics. Not that all those who are associated with the NPP had faced difficulties but only a few. It is pertinent that Dissanayake should think as to why only a few had faced some difficulties.

There had been instances where some unjust treatment occurred, but those are only isolated incidents. We have addressed those issues. I call on all the political leaders not to bring politics into the army camps. There is no special purpose for retired military personnel to visit army camps. To do so they should first obtain a special permission. Even if I visit an Air Force camp, I inform the Air Force Commander first. It is expected that the Air Force commander will inform the camp officials of my visit. Retired Air Vice Marshal Sampath Thuiyakontha was banned from entering air force bases for reasons other than political,” the State Minister said.

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Sirisena demands action against Rajapaksa economic hitmen for triggering worst financial crisis



Maithripala Sirisena

Legal action should be taken against individuals that the Supreme Court found guilty of triggering the country’s worst financial crisis by mishandling the economy, former president Maithripala Sirisena said.

Addressing the media in Colombo, he said that none of the economic hitmen named by the Supreme Court was in his government.

“People will not rest unless justice is done. Legal action should be taken against these individuals,” he said.

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