“This is the only deal.”
– Colin Farrell as Sonny Crockett in ‘Miami Vice’
At the heart of the Constitutional Question is the crux of the continuing Sri Lankan crisis. And that is what may be variously called the Tamil Question, the Tamil issue, the Tamil problem, the Tamil national question, the Tamil nationalities question, the Tamil ethnic issue etc. I tend to see it as Sri Lanka’s North-South Question.
What is the Tamil Question? It is the problem of accommodating the identity and aspirations for irreducible political space of a community with a justifiable sense of pride and achievement, and doing so while not impinging upon the identity and aspirations for a secure space, of the unique community that forms the majority on this small island placed on a strategic sea-lane and in close proximity to a massive landmass with a huge population.
Who controls the destiny of this island? Who should control it? Who can sustainably control it? Is it the majority community? The outside world? The minority or a coalition of minorities? The minorities together with the outside world? Or all those who have chosen to live on it as citizens and consider it their home? Obviously the last named category. The problem is that this is not a homogenous category but a segmented one. Therefore the challenge is to formulate the basis on which this island should be shared.
Since the constituent, component communities are not willing to adopt the melting pot model (Vijaya Kumaratunga said in a 1986 lecture at Fr. Tissa Balasuriya’s Center for Society and Religion that “inter-communal marriage is the only real solution”), which we approximated as Ceylon, the only solution is a Realist one of ‘spheres of influence’. The question then is how much autonomous power each sphere should have. That in turn leads to the question of whether such power should include sovereignty or a measure of it and if so how much.
None of these question can be posed or exist in a vacuum or as an abstraction. We are talking about autonomous spheres on a relatively small island located where it is, with the neighbors it has, and populated by the specific communities it is peopled with. Each of these communities have their distinctive identity, histories or imagined histories, myths and legends and collective consciousness—or in the words of that most unromantic and coldly realist of authorities on the National Question, Joseph Stalin, each collective has “a common psychological makeup manifested in a common culture”.
How then to accommodate politically, the Sinhalese and Tamils, not to mention the Muslims, as collectives i.e. as communities? By means of what political structures and sub-structures? Given the history and demography of the island, the respective autonomous spheres of influence cannot be equal or as act as counterweights to each other. There cannot be a bi-polar model on a small island next to a hostile landmass which was a jumping off point for invasions. Thus the autonomous spheres of influence must be uneven and hierarchical with the sphere located at the vulnerable, porous periphery firmly located within and under a strong overarching structure—a unitary state, de jure and de facto.
Continue reading ‘Tamils Must Combine “Idealism” and “Realism” In Their Push For Highest Level of Autonomy.’ »