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Opinion

Tamil parties need new political approach

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By VEERAGATHY THANABALASINGHAM

Indian National Security Adviser Ajit Doval, who visited Sri Lanka last week, met TNA leader R Sampanthan, at the India House for about half an hour prior to returning to New Delhi.

It is learned that they talked about the future of the Provincial Councils, which would give some devolution to the Tamils and the 13th Amendment to the Constitution which led to it, and agreed to keep what they discussed in secrecy owing to the sensitivity of the issue.

During the meeting with Sampanthan, Doval expressed interest in the economic development of the Northern and Eastern Provinces, and advised Sampanthan that the TNA should focus more on economic development.

The fact is, in the current context, India does not want or is unable to exert pressure on the Sri Lankan government as regards domestic political issues, such as the constitution and devolution. Though Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, during his official meetings with the Rajapaksa brothers, made it a point to insist that Sri Lankan Tamils’ aspirations must be addressed through the full implementation of the 13th Amendment, but to no avail. They (Rajapaksa brothers) always maintained a studied silence in front of PM Modi, and later gave lengthy interviews to prominent Indian English newspapers in Delhi itself, proclaiming they were unable to grant anything against the will of the Sinhala majority. That was their response to Modi’s request regarding the Tamil problem. But, no doubt, India would certainly continue to raise the issue.

But the fact is, in the current context, India doesn’t want to put pressure on the Sri Lankan government regarding the domestic political issues. India is not prepared to alienate or contradict Colombo, at a time when India is engaged in strategic moves with the United States to curb China’s growing influence in the Indian Ocean region. Therefore, India does not wish to alienate or get into conflict with the government, and India will not take any action that could embarrass the Rajapaksa government. That is the Geo political reality today.

Therefore, it is more prudent for India to be concerned with economic development than to be at odds with the government over the political issues of the Tamils in the North and East. If the TNA is willing to cooperate with the government in this regard, India is ready to provide assistance for development projects in the Tamil areas. This is India’s current approach to the Tamil issue. If the TNA does not co-operate, it cannot expect anything else from India.

The need, therefore, is for the leaders of the TNA to change their political strategies and action in line with this approach, which India considers convenient at present. Another important question is how they are going to fulfil it.

As far as the TNA is concerned, it cannot be said that they are not at all focused on the economic development of their areas. The MPs of the TNA implement economic projects with the funds allocated to them annually. But aside from the fact that the funds are not adequate, their main focus continues to be a political solution to the ethnic problem. Most of the MPs in TNA speak emotionally and live in the past. In the changed geo-political arena, they are unable to devise new approaches to guide the Tamil people in the post-war period.

Tamils are not accustomed to a political culture that collaborates with the Government in Colombo. As all governments in power since independence have discriminated against Tamils, Tamil political parties have always engaged in oppositional politics. Therefore, it has become customary for Tamils to call politicians who work with the government ‘traitors’. Although it is difficult for Tamils and their political representatives to change from such a political culture, the situation has changed since the end of the war and therefore, it requires a change in their political culture.

When the Maithri-Ranil led government embarked on the process of drafting a new constitution, the TNA collaborated with the government in an attempt to find a political solution to the ethnic problem through that process. Although TNA did not join the government, it fully supported it. As the new constitution drafting process failed, the TNA’s influence among Tamils began to wane. Even co-operating with Colombo was to no avail.

In such a scenario, it is an embarrassment to TNA when India asks it to cooperate with the current Rajapaksa government in economic development activities. This government is pursuing development projects in the north and east without consulting the Tamil MPs in those areas. TNA and other Tamil parties believe that the government should consult with them prior to undertaking any development activities in the Tamil regions. If the government proceeds to adopt a strategy that includes Tamil MPs in its development activities in the North and East, it will be easier for them to co-operate in economic development activities as per India’s insistence. India should use its goodwill to persuade the Rajapaksa government in this matter.

Meanwhile, Tamil parties must not give up the basic aspirations and ideology of the Tamis’ struggle for their legitimate rights; but at the same time they must prepare themselves to adopt a short-term pragmatic political approach or strategies to address the post-war economic and humanitarian needs of the Tamil people, especially given the current context.

The necessity to give up the traditional confrontational politics to facilitate to a new approach in the interests of their people, doesn’t have to necessarily mean surrendering to Colombo dispensation,

The writer is a senior journalist



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Opinion

Can we return to English medium?

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B PERERA

Goolbai Gunasehera (GG) wrote in The Sunday Island (June 19) under the caption, “We need to return to the English medium”. When summarizing her long article, my conclusion is that what is necessary is not returning to English Medium of instruction in schools, but improving the teaching of English in schools. In the article she writes “Many of that 16.5 million people barely speak English and the majority certainly cannot read or write it, despite English being taught (appallingly badly) in all schools”, and “I quote from a WhatsApp message I received from a former maid now in Kuwait. She writes, “yers madam iam gud,” in response to my query, “are you well?” She has an O L pass in English. This would be funny if it were not so pathetic”. If the conditions are such, what would be the result if we return to English medium?

We have thousands of Sri Lankans who had their primary/secondary education in Sinhala/Tamil media, employed (even at highest levels) all over the world/in Sri Lanka effectively using not only English, several other world languages as well. Every effort should be taken to improve the ways and methods of teaching English. Another important thing is to encourage all levels of students to read books written in English, as it is not happening now. What Kumar David (KD) queried recently was whether English should be Lanka’s National language (“Should English Be Lanka’s National language?” Sunday Island, June 12), not about medium of education as GG mentions. [That would also be a different issue as KD wrote about (a) Lanka not Sri Lanka].

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Opinion

Irreplaceable Rajapaksas

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S K MUTHUKUMARA

MP Namal Rajapaksa’s (NR) name was recently mentioned in two instances where his official presence was not required. The most recent was when he appeared with Minister of Power and Energy, Kanchana Wijesekera, when the Minister addressed the press about the fuel crisis. The earlier instance was when Adani Group Chairman Gautam Adani, was in Sri Lanka in October, to meet the President and Prime Minister.

Although NR – a Minister at that time – had no connection with the subjects Adani Group is involved in, he had been attending their meetings and involved in other aspects of the Adani visit. Whose interests are looked after by NR and why?

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Opinion

A national strategy to alleviate suffering at fuel queues

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Dr B. J. C. Perera
MBBS(Cey), DCH(Cey), DCH(Eng), MD(Paed), MRCP(UK), FRCP(Edin), FRCP(Lon), FRCPCH(UK), FSLCPaed, FCCP, Hony FRCPCH(UK), Hony. FCGP(SL)

Specialist Consultant Paediatrician and Honorary Senior Fellow, Postgraduate Institute of Medicine, University of Colombo, Sri Lanka.

The country is in turmoil. In addition to all of the other problems, our people are really suffering at these transport fuel queues. Tempers flare at fuel stations. Undesirable elements, thugs and all kinds of nefarious elements are making hay while the sun shines at these fuel sheds.Enough is enough. Given below are a set of strategies to alleviate this suffering, at lest, to a certain extent, for consideration by the powers-that-be:

Maintain law and order at ALL fuel stations with the help of the police AND the armed forces with a contingent of officers under one higher ranked Commanding Officer at EACH fuel station. All trouble-makers would be promptly dealt with by using minimal force. A few will need to be arrested and dealt with under the laws of the country. If this is instituted without fear or favour, these undesirables will soon disappear.

All fuel stations should be provided with adequate supplies of fuel, starting from 6.00 am, and ALL fuel stations to be kept open 24 hours a day for six days a week. ALL fuel stations will be closed on Sunday from 6.00 am till Monday 6.00 am. The security forces and police should be strictly instructed to prevent any unauthorised issuance of fuel during these times. That will prevent the general public reacting as it is the same for all.

From Monday to Saturday, ALL ambulances will get priority at ALL filling stations at ALL times.On Fridays, SELECTED fuel stations right round the country, will entertain ONLY the four-wheel vehicles of essential services. Two bowsers for petrol and two for diesel to be provided for these selected fuel stations for 24 hours, from 6.00 am. ALL envisaged recipients of fuel for essential services should provide proof of serving in such a service. Times should be allocated to different services as follows:

Healthcare Services

Nurses – 8.00 pm to 10.00 pm

Doctors – 10.00 pm Friday to 02.00 am Saturday

Other healthcare personnel, except Doctors and Nurses – 6.00 pm to 8.00 pm

All other essential services – Suitable times to be allocated within the 24 hours, from 6.00 am Friday to 6.00 am on Saturday, outside the allocations made for the Healthcare Services. Vehicles of police and the armed forces too should be given specified times.

ALL OTHER FILLING STATIONS, NOT INVOLVED IN THESE DEDICATED ESSENTIAL SERVICES PROVISIONS, WILL PROVIDE FUEL TO ALL OTHER PRIVATE VEHICLES AND TRANSPORT VEHICLES, INCLUDING LORRIES.

On Saturdays, from 8.00 am, ALL fuel stations will provide fuel ONLY for vehicles involved in passenger and goods transport, including buses, school buses, school vans, three-wheelers and lorries. These vehicles will not be entertained on any other day.On Mondays and Wednesdays, ALL filling stations will provide fuel to all private vehicles, including three-wheelers and motor cycles with Vehicle Registration Numbers, with an ODD number last digit.On Tuesdays and Thursdays, ALL filling stations will provide fuel ONLY to all private vehicles, including three wheelers and motor cycles, with Vehicle Registration Numbers with an EVEN number last digit. A zero is considered to be an EVEN number.No fuel will be supplied to cans and large containers. Fuel will be pumped only to in situ tanks of vehicles.Of course, all these arrangements will depend entirely on the ability to provide adequate stocks of fuel to the sheds. It is up to the government to make sure that this is done.

IT IS IMPERATIVE THAT THE MINISTER AND THE MINISTRY INSIST ON ALL CEYPETCO AS WELL AS ALL INDIAN OIL COMPANY FILLING STATIONS COMPLY WITH THESE STIPULATIONS. This is the time to use the power that is given to them.

If there are any abusers of these proposals amongst the filling station staff, arrest them, and just seal and close the shed for a few days and they will learn their lessons.

The scheme proposed above is a carefully thought-out strategy. Drastic changes in it will only defeat the purpose for which it was formulated. The writer hopes that the authorities will take note of the contents written with a lot of goodwill.

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