Excerpted from the authorized biography of Thilo Hoffmann by Douglas. B. Ranasinghe
Set out below is an account of Thilo Hoffmann’s other work in nature conservation site by site. Further details about his involvement in some of these sites and yet others are found elsewhere in this book.
1) Wilpattu National Park
When the important Western section of Wilpattu had only the status of Sanctuary, and it was even proposed that there should be a public road across it, Thilo intervened on behalf of the WNPS and persuaded the government to make it part of the Wilpattu National Park.
The two Intermediate Zones to the South and East were incorporated in the Park at his suggestion. It was an important consolidation, as the Wilpattu East IZ occupied a major portion of the present Park.
He proposed, as also described in the last Chapter, a further extension to the Park as a Marine Sanctuary. This proposal, too, was supported by ample documentation prepared by him.In recognition of Hoffmann’s contribution to the cause of conservation of nature and wildlife in Sri Lanka, the Talawila bungalow at Wilpattu was named after him by the Ministry of State in 1985. On this occasion two conservationists were honoured in this manner, the other being Dr. RL Spittel.
2) The South-East Complex
On Hoffmann’s suggestion all the Intermediate Zones in the country were incorporated into National Parks. Thus the land in the Yala complex with that status was made part of the Yala, now Ruhunu, National Park. He also proposed extending the Park into the ocean to include the Basses ridge and reefs.
As the President of WNPS Thilo was pleased when the Society was invited on two occasions to participate in discussions at the Ministry of Irrigation, Power and Highways on the Heda Oya Project and the development of the Lower Uva area. He pointed out that, if implemented, the projects would have a very considerable impact on exiting and proposed conservation areas, notably the entire Yala complex, the Lahugala-Kitulana Sanctuary and also the very important Bundala Sanctuary, the two last named now National Park.
In 1977 Thilo gave his view on this project in an article to Loris under the title ‘Major Threat to the Oldest Wildlife Reserve’. He brought to the notice of technocrats and administrators that National Parks and other National Reserves are areas sacrosanct by definition and law, which cannot be altered and changed at will, that it is only the National State Assembly which can decree and approve boundary alterations in these.
Further, he strongly argued that buffer zones of natural forest or of plantation forest should be established and maintained in lieu of Intermediate Zones when the latter were incorporated in the National Parks. His opposition to the construction of hotels on the Yala coast is also set out together with his comments on visitor pressure at the Ruhunu National Parkrk’, below.
The Lahugala-Kitulana National Park of 1,550 hectares was declared on October 31, 1980 especially for the protection of elephants, and the Bundala National Park of 6,216 hectares was declared on October 15, 1990 mainly for waterbirds. The earlier planned development projects were abandoned.The Bundala National Park was named Sri Lanka’s first Ramsar Site in 1991. Thilo’s role in this, and the declaration of other Ramsar Sites, is also recorded in this book.
The Gal Oya National Park, of 25,900 hectares, was established on December 12, 1954 by the Gal Oya Development Board for the protection of the new reservoir, the Senanayake Samudraya, and was handed over to the Department of Wildlife in 1965. It lies in the dry zone low country, and is part of the Uva Province. The basic concept of the Park was to provide at least a small, fully protected catchment and protective area for the reservoir – whose total catchment is much larger.
Thilo made several visits, and reported to the authorities on shortcomings and the improvements that could be made. In April 1973 – just after climbing Ritigala Peak and despite a painful back injury, a slipped disc – Thilo spent four days in this National Park, sleeping in the open and walking long distances in the company of several officers of the Wildlife Department, in order to obtain a clear picture of the conditions in the Park at that time.
It contains the greatest extents of talawas with mana grass and the fire resistant aralu, bulu, nelli and gammalu (Pterocarpus marsupium) trees and madu. Hoffmann published a summary of the report on this visit in Loris, titled ‘The Gal-Oya National Park. His ideas, in brief, were:
1. This is the most beautiful and attractive National Park. The combination of its wildlife, notably elephants and birds, the special flora and the impressive landscape makes it ideal for visitors, including foreign tourists. The potential of the Park was great and basic access relatively easy with almost daily flights to and from Ampara. Opening it for visitors should be the first priority of the Department.
2. The boundaries of the Park should be altered with the inclusion of a few square miles of additional land, notably along the Western flank. The most important corrections suggested were those concerning the inclusion of the ‘Nilgala wedge’, the Pallang Oya Reservoir (now called Jayanthi Wewa), and all uninhabited land west of the Namal Oya and the reservoir of that name and/or the road from Iginiyagala to Mullegama.
3. For tourist and visitor development:
a) Have several boats because a trip on the waters of Senanayake Samudraya is an unforgettable experience and the best way to see elephants.
b) Establish one major viewing track and a few jeep tracks. The major track could be from Mullegama via Bubula and Henebedda to Makara where the Gal Oya River enters the lake through a picturesque boulder-strewn gorge.
c) A bungalow and a camping site at Makara.
These suggestions were made nearly 40 years ago and are still valid.
Some time later a foreign company proposed to take over the Gal Oya National Park and develop it as a tourist project. Thilo opposed this project because he feels that in a National Park only full government control, which is subject to public scrutiny, can guarantee the proper maintenance of correct conservation practices. Further, the Fauna and Flora Protection Ordinance does not allow the alienation of land under its purview, or commercial activities such as private tourist camps in National Parks.
This principled stand caused Thilo further worry in his dealings with the WWF, and added to his troubles in the matter of the presidency of the WNPS. The reasons were that a member of the WNPS Committee was the designated Manager of the private Gal Oya project, and the foreign company had close ties to the WWF.
Thilo and the WNPS had upheld the same position in the battle against a chain of hotels along the coast in the Yala National Park, and in the construction of the Society’s own bungalows, which are all outside National Parks.
4) Udawalawe National Park
After years of agitation by the WNPS, the Udawalawe National Park was declared by the Government in June 1972, when Mr S. D. Saparamadu was Director of the Department of Wildlife Conservation. Like Gal Oya it was mainly meant as a protection for the reservoir.
The new ‘Park’ was in desolate condition. It was crisscrossed by tracks for the extraction of timber and large-scale cultivation. Large numbers of people worked in felling camps, and many capitalist landholdings had been cleared. Bananas, chillies, tobacco, tomatoes and other crops were grown, with paid labour living in wadiyas on the land. Much of the forest had been cleared, and wild animals exterminated in these areas. The Park was a hive of illegal human activity.
There were also extensive teak plantations, and the State Timber Corporation was busy removing all the usable timber trees from the area.One month after the declaration Hoffmann visited the new Park, mostly on foot, during several days, and wrote a detailed report, which was later published in Loris, titled ‘The New Uda Walawe National Park’. A copy with a request for action was handed over to Mr Saparamadu as Director of the Wildlife Department. It is the only detailed account and description of the state of all parts of the Park at that time, and contains a number of specific recommendations for improvement.
During that visit the newly appointed Park Warden had stated: “It was a mistake to declare this Park.” He felt that it was beyond redemption, as did his mentor and friend, the earlier Director. Thilo comments:
“Contrary to what S. D. Saparamadu writes in his book Sri Lanka: A Wildlife Interlude (2006), the Wildlife and Nature Protection Society welcomed the establishment of the new Park for which it had lobbied over the years. This is recorded in the WNPS annual reports and Loris as they had foreseen its great potential.
The Society, however, was not happy when after the declaration nothing happened with regard to the desperate situation of the Park, despite the appointment of a few staff without the means to assert the Department’s authority over it. When Director Saparamadu retired a few years later, in early 1975, the Park was in the same desolate state.
Subsequent Directors did what was required, and the Park was properly opened for the public in 1980. It was also somewhat enlarged, and now comprises 30,821 hectares. It has amply fulfilled the high expectations which Thilo and the WNPS had of it. Thilo says:
“Saparamadu’s book contains many more distortions, manipulations of facts and downright untruths. There is hardly a chapter in which he does not disparagingly refer to “the wildlife establishment”, by which he means the WNPS, described as “western educated, English speaking and mostly Christian”. He and – in some ways – his predecessor were the extreme cases of supercilious bureaucrats with minds battened down against anything and anyone outside their own establishment. Arrogant confrontation and denial instead of friendly collaboration was the rule.”
In Thilo’s report to Loris in 1972 – written after his visit – he noted the matters set out below:
1. In the eastern sector, there were at least four timber wadiyas. The area had been systematically logged since the 1950s. As a result there were no large trees to be seen anywhere.
2. Large tracts of abandoned chenas were overgrown with Lantana and eupatorium, the latter recently introduced from abroad: New land was being cleared for cultivation.
3. The Forest Department had established 3,500 acres of teak plantations in the Park. 500 acres were newly earmarked for a three-year chena control system.
4. Inside the eastern sector there are two ancient villages, Sinuggala with four families and Nebodawewa with two families.
5. Few animals were observed. A leopard was seen, a very rare occurrence here. The presence of elephants was noted. It was recorded that there was a potential carrying capacity of about 150 elephants. Though not a single spotted deer was seen, dry deer skins were observed in timber wadiyas.
6. Logs were being loaded into lorries using tame elephants.
7. The situation in the western sector of the Park (west of the Walawe River) was very similar with chenas and settlements. The latter would have to be excised, but the higher lying part, north of Kuda Oya, was ecologically very valuable because of its special character, containing talawa.
The report (in 1972) ended with the following sentence: “The new Uda Walawe National Park has a future and is worth a special effort; no more time must, however, be wasted.”
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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