by Kumar David
The world has been spared a Third World War thanks to deterrence, that is the threat of mutual destruction. If only one nation possessed nuclear weapons all others would be enslaved. Likewise, should the threat of a military regime surface anywhere in the world, only the presence of countervailing opposition to ensure that the venture will be beaten back, can repel it. Morality and promises are poppycock; only power counts. Soft power is as pathetic and as toothless as Aung San Suu Kyi; the good lady will end her life in prison. From the first dynasties four millennia ago to the coups of yesteryear, that’s history’s stern lesson.
Let us stop playing Russian Roulette with authoritarianism, military dictatorships or fascism, as the case may be, in nation after nation. The state in the third-world, having subjugated every agency of society has emerged as a supra-national entity. This is a new phenomenon; it belongs to recent decades. Neither class, nor wealth, nor race, nor faith are barriers to which it is subordinate. When the nation-state emerged in 17th and 18th Century Europe and later in America it was different; it was the handmaiden of commerce and a rising bourgeoisie. As absolute monarchies receded the nation-state arose not as a power in its own right, but rather the state and its instruments and institutions were subordinate to class, society and liberal norms – brief Bonapartist interludes like Napoleon aside. Now except in the metropolitan world* a profound change has occurred; it is now different in Africa, Latin America, the Middle East and parts of Asia (Cambodia and Central Asia). In the last two decades there have been about 40, at a guess, military seizures of power or annulments of elections by incumbent regimes which summoned the military to crush the people with an appalling lack of conscience and compassion. Hobbes’ Leviathan, Rousseau’s Social Contract and Marx’s version of the relationship of class and state to military power can do with updating.
The change is that the Nation-State is no longer what this term meant when nation was synonymous with country as it was with the French, British, American, Italian and Soviet nation-states though the constitutional arrangements varied. Then the nation was synonymous with country, the whole people but now the dramatic rise of narrow nationalisms has drastically altered this. The nation-state is now the nationalist-state is the narrow-nationalist-state which draws its legitimacy not from the whole but from a part of the citizenry. For example the Hindutva state, the Sinhala-Buddhist state, the Jewish state, the Burman-Buddhist state, Islamic ISIS, and the military dictatorships which draw their sustenance from a tribal (ethnic) group in West Africa or the Horn of Africa. The “Other” is not a foreign power but an “Internal-Other”. In these instances, respectively, it is the Muslims, the minorities, the Palestinians, the numerous ethnic peoples of Burma, the Shia and the other black or brown nearby peoples. The Other is an Internal-Other, the enemy is an enemy within.
To repeat, the critical factor is that fascist, militarist or dictatorial states now draw their strength and moral compass from narrow-nationalism, that is from the state’s manifestation as the enemy of the Internal-Other. The enemy is no longer the foreign foe but the Internal-Other. (Colvin once called our military “A toy army in war and a real army in peace”). Modi’s Hindutva derives its legitimacy as the sworn enemy of Muslims, the rightfulness of the Sinhala-Buddhist state is a beacon against the Internal-Other in the sixty years of SWRD, JR, Premadasa, Mahinda and Gotabaya presidencies. This symbiosis of brutal military regimes with narrow ethno-nationalisms is the fundamental paradigm shift in the modern third-world.
Paradoxically for this very reason these regimes can slaughter with impunity – horrendous carnage in Africa, the Civil War in Sri Lanka, the brutality of the Burmese army and ISIS’s atrocities. Politicians cheering these one-dimensional nationalisms are populist tribunes blaring out the slogans of the crowd or relaying the broadcasts of army TV and radio. The phenomenon draws its strength from the datum that every member of the primary nationalist category, without exception of class or wealth, is united within it; brothers in the crusade against the ‘Other’. This is the foundation of every military dictatorship of recent times. It had its origins in the obscenity of Nazism whose Internal-Other was the “greedy, licentious, dirty and avaricious Jew”!
I would like to further develop these theoretical propositions about the frequency and brutality of the modern military regime as an incarnation of dictatorship that alienates an Internal-Other, but for reasons of space I must draw up my paper and get back home. The stark reality at home is that if there is a power-grab in Lanka, then restoring democracy will be a road through hell. Does anyone imagine that restoring democracy in Burma, in Sudan, in Venezuela and everywhere where a military regime as foisted itself will take less than decades of anarchy, economic ruin, blood, civil war and revolution? This is the point at which I am flabbergasted by the JVP and the Sajith-SJB. I am not declaring that a military venture is likely. No, indeed the odds are less than even; it is not possible to predict the odds. But only a fool will say that economic disaster, an insoluble debt imbroglio, president-made fertiliser scarcity, man-made power crises and food shortages are not breeding grounds for frantic regimes to seek desperate responses!
Is it asking too much of the JVP and the SJB to concede that the danger is real even if the odds are less than even? Why not take simple measures to thwart it if the cost of such measures is insignificant? As with nuclear war the cost of deterrence is zilch compared to the charge that history will levy on a negligent world. What does it cost these two parties, the TNA, smaller entities, trade unions, civil society and Churches and Temples to convene, discuss, warn and issue proclamations to the effect that any extra-parliamentary adventure will be resisted, an attack on one will be deemed an attack on all, and postponement of elections will not be permitted?
JR and Mahinda in their day led pada yatra, People’s (foot) Marches; peaceful and orderly, clergy in the vanguard, expressing deep public anger and discontent. There is no shortage of issues today for grassroots mobilisation; ‘Hands off Democracy’, ‘Can we Farm without Fertiliser?’, ‘Give our Children Food’ are a few examples that will galvanise people. The objective at this point in time is by no means to bring down the government or to foreshorten its electoral term, rather it is as deterrence against authoritarian ambitions, to expose idiotic decisions and to deter unconstitutional excesses.
Deterrence! What does it cost the participants? Nothing! There is no commitment to programmatic unity or to future coalition government. No endorsement of each other’s ideology is implied. I have raised this several times in discussions and in my columns but received as response only inanities such as “We will consider when the time comes”, “There is no such danger now” and “Defensive preparations have to be done secretly”. Why oh why did god deprive some people of a brain!
To return to my theme that third-world dictatorship in recent times is the manifestation of a narrow-nationalist state in crisis, it is useful to appreciate that Sri Lanka may have progressed to a stage where that cock will not fight any more. Has the usefulness of the call to war against the demala and the hambaya lost its resonance? The results of the 2019-2020 election cycle may give you pause in endorsing this thought, but what has lost its sheen is the promise of this victorious regime. “The stupid 69 lakhs” is mockery even on the lips of those who themselves were among the 69! Is the sheen of narrow Sinhala-Buddhist nationalism wearing thin? Has the theme song of depicting the minorities as the felons lost its resonance? If you listen to the tales of woe at every street corner the culprit is the government, this Minister or that, the President and his aanduwa. A take-over to “safeguard the nation from the Internal-Other” is no longer credible. The same is not true of the military machine. The tri-services were purged of Christian and Tamil vermin in the wake of the 1962 coup and is now a purified and sanitised Sinhala-Buddhist triple-gem! (For the full story see Jayantha Somasunderam; The Island of January 26, 27, 28 and 29, 2022 and the Colombo Telegraph of January 25).
So then, we have an interesting dichotomy where narrow racist extremism is saleable to the military but less so to the Sinhala people at large. The appointment of loyalists to high posts such as state ministerships, ministerial secretary posts and corporate chairmanships, pardoning convicted killers and scuttling trials against alleged military-police murderers (Trinco student murders, Médecins Sans Frontières killers) would no doubt have cemented loyalty of the military to the regime. Therefore, we have a mixed equation; will a narrow-nationalist extremist power grab (or postponement of elections), citing the Internal-Other as the enemy within carry legitimacy only with the military? The one thing that the JVP-NPP, Sajith-SJB, trade unions and civil society can do is to make it clear that any such gorilla venture will be resisted by counter mobilisation of the people, mainly the Sinhalese people. This is the sole purpose of my column, not deep scholarship and profound analysis – others outrank me in these respects – but to kick the arses (editor permitting) of slumbering comrades who seem to have taken Robert Burns to heart. “My (comrades) are asleep by thy murmuring stream: Flow gently, sweet river, disturb not (their) dream”.
[However, all is not well in the First World either. The US Congress was informed last week that the Trump White House drafted two Executive Orders, one to the military the other to Homeland Security ordering counting machines be seized when the presidential election-count was going badly. The orders were not signed or issued, but this was a common practice in Latin America in the 1960s].
Unlocking shareholder value: How finance professors enrich corporate governance, maximise wealth
I recently attended a conference “The AsianFA Annual Conference” at the University of Ho Chi Ming City (UEH University, Vietnam). The key note speech was delivered by Professor Roni Michaely, an Israeli academic specializing in Economics and Finance. Michaely is Professor of Finance at the University of Hong Kong, School of Business and Economics. Professor Michaely’s research has also received many awards and honours. Michaely published numerous works (several of which received best-paper awards) in high ranked academic journals. His research has been also frequently featured in the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, the Economist, Investor’s Business Daily, the San Francisco Chronicle, BusinessWeek, Forbes, Barrons, Money, Reuters, Worth, among others.
Prof Michaely presented a paper utilizing a unique dataset comprising nearly one million voting rationales provided by investors. The research findings shed light on the motivations behind institutional investors’ voting decisions and their impact on corporate governance practices.
The first finding reveals that institutional investors are more likely to provide rationales when voting against management, indicating that they disclose their concerns over management practices.
The most significant reasons include board independence, board diversity, tenure, firm governance, and busyness. These factors play a crucial role in institutional investors’ decision-making process when opposing directors.
Furthermore, the research highlights an increasing trend among institutional investors to vote against directors who have failed to address environmental and social issues adequately. This indicates a growing emphasis on holding directors accountable for their actions and the impact of their decisions on broader societal concerns.
The study finds that institutional investors’ concerns are well-founded, as companies with low board gender diversity receive more rationales regarding board diversity. Similar patterns are observed for companies with long director tenure and directors with busy schedules.
Finally, the research demonstrates that companies that experience high dissent voting related to board diversity, tenure, and busyness tend to improve their board composition in the subsequent year. This suggests that voting rationales containing investors’ reasons for opposing directors serve as valuable information for firms, enabling them to address governance shortcomings and promote better practices within their portfolio companies.
In summary, this particular study shows that institutional investors are more likely to provide rationales when voting against management, indicating their concerns over management practices. Key factors driving opposition to directors include board independence, diversity, tenure, firm governance, and busyness. Institutional investors are increasingly voting against directors to hold them accountable for addressing environmental and social issues. Companies with low board diversity, long director tenure, and busy directors receive more rationales related to these factors. Moreover, companies with high dissent voting on board diversity, tenure, and busyness tend to improve their board composition in the following year. These findings suggest that voting rationales contain valuable information for firms and serve as a low-cost strategy to promote good governance practices in portfolio companies.
Another researcher revealed that to maintain diversity in corporate boards they hire finance professors from universities. That strategy serves many purposes;
Finance professors possess specialized knowledge and expertise in the field of finance. They bring a deep understanding of financial concepts, markets, and instruments to the boardroom. Their expertise can enhance the board’s ability to make informed decisions regarding financial strategies, investments, risk management, and capital allocation.
Research and Data Analysis:
Finance professors are well-versed in conducting rigorous research and analyzing complex data. They can provide valuable insights based on empirical evidence and help the board in assessing the financial implications of various strategic choices. Their analytical skills enable them to identify trends, risks, and opportunities, guiding the board’s decision-making process.
Teaching and Communication Skills: As educators, finance professors possess strong teaching and communication skills. They can effectively articulate financial concepts, principles, and strategies to fellow board members who may not have a finance background. Their ability to simplify complex financial information can foster better understanding and facilitate more meaningful discussions among board members.
Objective and Independent Thinking: Finance professors often maintain a degree of independence and objectivity in their research and analysis. This mindset can be valuable in the boardroom, where unbiased thinking is crucial. They can challenge prevailing assumptions, ask critical questions, and provide alternative perspectives, contributing to more robust board deliberations and decision-making.
Academic Network and Industry Insights: Finance professors typically maintain extensive networks within academia and the industry. They have access to the latest research, trends, and best practices in finance. This network can provide valuable insights and connections that can benefit the board in staying updated on emerging financial issues, regulatory changes, and industry developments.
Institutional Knowledge and Governance Expertise:
Finance professors often have a deep understanding of corporate governance practices and frameworks. They can bring this knowledge to the board, helping to enhance governance processes and ensure compliance with regulatory requirements.
Their familiarity with governance principles can contribute to improving board effectiveness, transparency, and accountability.
Bridge between Academia and Practice:
Hiring finance professors to cooperate boards creates a bridge between academia and the corporate world. They can facilitate the transfer of knowledge, research findings, and best practices from the academic realm to practical applications in the boardroom. This integration can foster innovation, informed decision-making, and the adoption of evidence-based strategies.
In summary, hiring finance professors from universities to cooperate boards offers the advantages of financial expertise, research and data analysis skills, teaching and communication abilities, independent thinking, academic and industry networks, governance expertise, and bridging the gap between academia and practice.
These benefits can strengthen board performance, contribute to sound financial decision-making, and enhance overall governance practices within organizations.
Another paper discussed on The growing demand for (environmental. Social and governance) ESG-related corporate information spurs the adoption of mandatory ESG disclosure regulations worldwide. We document that firms respond to these mandates by strategically adjusting productive assets through acquisitions and divestitures to enhance their ESG profiles. In particular, firms acquire more assets with strong ESG performance but divest those with weak ESG records, particularly in the wake of negative ESG incidents. Moreover, firms facing ESG disclosure mandates pay higher premiums for acquiring good-ESG assets and accept lower premiums for divesting poor-ESG assets. Acquisitions are more effective than divestitures for improving ESG performance and enhancing firm value.
Another paper points out that Researchers often study the relationship between CSR and firm value and the linkage between ownership and firm value separately. Only a few papers in the existing literature combine both the study branches, that is answering how ownership can affect the CSR-firm value relation. In this paper, we intend to fill this gap by investigating how state ownership can affect the mentioned relationship. Using a sample of Vietnamese listed firms, we figure out an interesting feature in the Vietnamese financial market. When the state is the sole large shareholder in a firm, it negatively affects the CSR-firm value relation. However, when there are foreign institutions concurrently appearing as other large shareholders, the state ownership then positively affects the mentioned relation. We interpret the phenomenon by using the overinvestment hypothesis. That is due to the agency problem, when the state presents as the only large shareholder, it uses the firm’s financial resources to overinvest in CSR activities to improve the state’s reputation in the public eye. However, doing that comes at the cost of other shareholders, specifically a decrease in firm value. Nevertheless, when foreign institutions come in, they can help monitor and alleviate the issue, therefore, the firm value increases. In this case, foreign institutional investors might play an effective role in mitigating the mentioned issue.
Another study from Korea argues that, the effects of corporate social responsibility (CSR) on firms’ stock performance were examined in the context of a corporate scandal closely tied to environmental and social (ES) issues, namely the humidifier disinfectant scandal in Korea. The researchers found that firms with higher ES ratings, particularly those with stronger social ratings, experienced significantly better stock performance during the product safety scandal. The findings highlight the influential role of CSR in shaping a company’s stock performance, especially when investors demonstrate significant attention to ES issues. This suggests that firms’ investments in CSR can effectively mitigate nonfinancial risks and contribute to their overall financial performance.
(The author, a senior Chartered Accountant and professional banker, is Professor at SLIIT University, Malabe. The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the institution he works for.)
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)
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