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Power Sharing Quest of Sri Lankan Tamils After Independence

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By D.B.S.Jeyaraj

SJV Chelvanayagam, Rajavarothayam Sampanthan & MA Sumanthiran

SJV Chelvanayagam, Rajavarothayam Sampanthan & MA Sumanthiran

The premier political configuration representing the Tamils of Sri Lanka in the Northern and Eastern provinces is the Tamil National Alliance(TNA). According to newspaper reports the TNA seems to be disappointed over perceived delay in setting up an appropriate mechanism to draft a new Constitution for Sri Lanka. It is also worried about what it sees as a potential dilution of the Constitution making exercise. Views have been expressed to this effect by TNA spokesperson and Jaffna district Parliamentarian M.A. Sumanthiran at a press conference held last week at the office of the leader of the opposition.

The TNA’s concern over what it perceives as unnecessary delay and potential dilution of the Constitution –making exercise seems understandable when viewed against the backdrop of recent history in the Island where the Sri Lankan Tamils have consistently struggled to achieve equality through adequate power sharing arrangements.

Sadly these attempts to remedy the situation through Constitutional reform have not resulted in success from the Tamil point of view. The post –independence quest for power sharing of the Tamils of Sri Lanka has remained elusively unattainable.

Handing over of land in former High Security Zones-Mar 2015

Handing over of land in former High Security Zones-Mar 2015

Fresh winds of optimism started blowing in Tamil hearts and minds after the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe Government came into power. The pledge of a Constitutional assembly to help draft a new Constitution opened up new vistas of hope. It was expected that a viable power sharing arrangement could be evolved by adopting a consensual approach in the Constitution making exercise. Recent intra-govt developments have brought about an inordinate delay in the process and has even raised doubts as to whether the Constitutional process would continue as envisaged. It is in this context that the TNA spokesperson Sumanthiran has expressed concern over the prevailing situation. He has in fact articulated the opinion of many Tamils in this respect.

In order to understand Tamil anxiety over this issue it would be necessary to reflect upon the post – independence political history of Sri Lanka with particular emphasis on the long struggle conducted by Tamils to achieve political equality. This history is replete with instances where Tamils hopeful of an effective political settlement have been disappointed time and again. Given the bitter lessons of past experience such fears continue to linger in collective Tamil memory.Let me therefore briefly examine the course of post –independence politics in the Island pertaing to the Tamil quest for equitable power sharing.

S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike, G.G. Ponnambalam

S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike, G.G. Ponnambalam

The acknowledged leader of the Tamils at the time of Independence was G.G.Ponnambalam. The All Ceylon Tamil Congress(ACTC) led by him advocated “balanced representation”as its policy before Independence from the British. After independence Ponnambalam adopted “responsive cooperation” as his policy and joined the DS Senanayake Govt as a cabinet minister. This caused a split in the ACTC. The breakaway group led by SJV Chelvanayagam formed the Ilankai Thamil Arasu Katchi(ITAK) called Federal Party in English. It was the ITAK led by Chelvanayagam which introduced the demand for federalism into post- independence political discourse . Within a decade Chelvanayagam of the ITAK displaced Ponnambalam of the ACTC as the accredited leader of the Tamils.

“Eezhathu Gandhi”(Gandhi of Eelam)

The ITAK under SJV Chelvanayagam adopted the strategy of non – violent agitation and negotiation. This was the method of Mahatma Gandhi during India’s struggle for Independence. The Tamil leaders of that era were greatly influenced by the “ahimsa” concept of non-violence and Chelva himself was referred to as “Eezhathu Gandhi” (Gandhi of Eelam)by his followers. Eelam was the ancient Tamil name of the entire Island and did not carry any “separatist” connotations then.

The ITAK was for federalism in principle. The party clamoured for a “Thamil Arasu” or Tamil State comprising the Northern and Eastern provinces. The demand however was for a federal state within a united Country. In practice Chelvanayakam was prepared to compromise for political arrangements falling far short of the federal ideal.

Another tactic on which the ITAK relied on was power brokering and political bargaining.The expectation was that Sinhala dominated political parties would not be able to command clear majorities in Parliament and would require assistance from a third party to form governments. The ITAK was to be the “king- maker” third force capable of making and unmaking Colombo governments. Therefore the ITAK appealed to the Tamil voters that they elect party candidates as a “bloc” to broker and bargain.

Dudley Senanayake and M. Tiruchelvam

Dudley Senanayake and M. Tiruchelvam

1956 was a watershed with SWRD Bandaranaike riding to power on the crest of a “Sinhala only”wave. The ITAK led by SJV Chelvanayagam won most of the Tamil and Muslim majority seats in the Northern and Eastern provinces. Despite the clear political divide and the prevailing volatile situation both leaders attempted to arrive at some form of settlement by signing a political pact.The Bandaranaike – Chelvanayagam pact of 1957 (known as B-C pact) was the first instance of Sinhala and Tamil leaders in post – independence Sri Lanka (or Ceylon as it was then)attempting to resolve the Tamil national question through appropriate political arrangements.

In 1957 the B – C pact was for setting up regional councils. The North was to be one region and the East two regions to accommodate Muslim interests.Three major grievances affecting Tamils in the spheres of language, land settlement and regional autonomy could have been redressed through the pact had it ever been allowed to work. It’s jettisoning by SWRD Bandaranaike led to further deterioration of ethnic relations resulting in massive communal violence.

1960 saw two elections to Parliament being held in March and July. A significant outcome of both polls was the re-iteration by Tamil voters in North – East that the Ilankai Thamil Arasu Kastchi (ITAK) or the Federal Party was their chief political party. The ITAK won 15 comprising 10 seats in the North and 5 in the east in March; In July it won 16 including 10 in the north and 6 in the east. If the proportionate representation system was prevalent the ITAK could not have won so well. But the first past the post winner system enabled it to reduce the Tamil Congress to one in both polls.

In March 1960 the UNP under Dudley Senanayake had 50 and the SLFP under CP de Silva had 46. Both sides wooed the ITAK but Chelvanayagam opted not to support the UNP and arrived at an understanding with the SLFP. The Senanayake Govt could not forge a majority and elections were held again in July. The Federal party called upon Tamils in the South to support the SLFP. The SLFP got 75 seats and with the six appointed members had a razor thin majority. It had no need for Tamil support and the understanding with the ITAK was not honoured.

Chelvanayagam at a Satyagraha

Chelvanayagam at a Satyagraha

Conducting a Satyagraha Campaign

This resulted in the ITAK conducting a satyagraha campaign which virtually paralysed civil administration in the North – East. The ITAK even printed stamps, postcards and envelopes and ran its own postal service. The Govt clamped down by deploying the army. The unarmed Satyagrahis were bodily assaulted and key leaders arrested. A curfew was imposed. The Tamil leaders were detained without trial at the Panagoda army camp. The ITAK had its revenge when it voted with the opposition over the Press takeover bill in 1964 and helped bring the Mrs.Bandaranaike led Govt down.

1965 March saw the UNP coming to power with 66 seats. The SLFP (42) LSSP (10) and CP (4) had 56 seats. If the ITAK which won 14 seats supported the SLFP coalition then Mrs. Bandaranaike could have formed a Govt with the help of some independents and the six appointed MP’s. There was frantic lobbying by both parties for Tamil support. The ITAK smarting from SLFP betrayal in 1960 opted for Dudley this time. The Tamil Congress with three seats also supported the UNP. Dudley Senanayake formed what was called the “National Government” then. Eminent queens counsel and Chelvanayakam’s confidante Murugeysen Tiruchelvam became local government minister.

The ITAK extended support to the UNP after protracted negotiations. Just as Chelvanayakam signed a pact with Bandaranaike in 1957, he signed one with Senanayake too in 1965. This was called popularly as the Dudley – Chelva (D – C) pact. A key element of the D – C pact was the setting up of district councils. Tiruchelvam was made local govt minister to steer the District councils through. Interestingly all four persons, Bandaranaike, Senanayake ,Chelvanayakam and Tiruchelvam were old Thomians.

Unfortunately the District Councils scheme became a non – starter. In a nutshell the situation was something like what happened in 1957. Then in the late fifties the UNP under JR Jayewardene and the Sinhala – Buddhist extremist forces found common ground in opposing the regional councils. Now in the late sixties the UNP was opposed by the SLFP and Sinhala Buddhist elements. “Dudleyge Bade Masala Vade” (The tamil delicacy masala vadai was in Dudley’s stomach)was the slogan.To their eternal shame the Trotskyites and Communists went along with this chauvinist line.

A white paper on the district councils was presented in Parliament. The floodgates were opened for torrential waters of opposition . Within the UNP a “ginger group” of 16 MP’s under Festus Perera opposed it. People like Cyril Mathew resigned from the party in opposition. Dudley even suspected JR of instigating protests from within the party. Senanayake lost the nerve to go through with the district councils.Unable to honour his pledge Dudley offered to resign but Chelvanayakam did not agree. The ITAK pulled out of the Govt some months later when Tiruchelvam resigned over the Trincomalee Koneshwaram temple sacred zone issue.

Agitation cum Negotiation Strategy

Interestingly the sixties of the 20th century had seen the ITAK reaching the high watermarks of its agitation cum negotiation strategy. The 1961 Satyagraha was the zenith of its non – violent agitation; the 1965 – 69 period where it formed part of the Govt was its peak in terms of the negotiation strategy. Both were now tried and exhausted. The 1970 electoral verdict delivered a shattering blow to Tamil ambitions of making and unmaking Governments.

The United Front of SLFP (91) LSSP (19) and CP (6) had 116 seats in Parliament. The ITAK had 13 and Congress 3 but they were of no use as this steam roller majority needed no props. SJV voiced Tamil frustration at this turn of affairs by proclaiming “Only God can save the Tamil people”.

Dr. Colvin R. de Silva

Dr. Colvin R. de Silva

One of the new regime’s first tasks was converting Parliament into a Constituent assembly to evolve a new, republican Constitution.The LSSP veteran Dr. Colvin R de Silva was Constitutional affairs minister.Initially the ITAK or FP participated in the Constituent assembly and tabled a proposal seeking to set up five autonomous units in the Country. This was summarily rejected and the Federal MP’s walked out. This Constitutional exercise provided an opportunity to make a fresh start in forging justice and equality through power sharing. But it was lost. Furthermore the situation worsened.

Though the Soulbury Constitution was unitary in nature it had not been explicitly stated so. But the new Constitution proclaimed itself as “Unitary”. The Country’s name Ceylon was changed to Sri Lanka. Buddhism was given foremost place. Section 29 of the earlier Constitution that provided limited protection to minorities was no more. It was Colvin who pithily summed up the future in 1956 during the Sinhala only bill by saying “One language two nations;two languages one nation”. Ironically the same Colvin’s Constitution by ignoring Tamil aspirations was now making the ground fertile for seeds of secession to grow.

Political course of events took a new turn thereafter. The Tamils became disillusioned with the quest for federalism. It was seen as futile. On ground there was broader Tamil unity with the Federalists and Congressmen coming together as the Tamil United Front (TUF). Youth power too came to the fore. The cry for a separate state called Tamil Eelam gathered momentum. Some youths became enamoured of an armed struggle to achieve this. The TUF re- named itself as the Tamil United Liberation Front in May 1976. A formal demand for Tamil Eelam was adopted with only veteran Educationist Nesiah master disagreeing openly. The TULF contested the 1977 elections on a separatist platform seeking a mandate for Tamil Eelam and swept 18 of 19 Tamil seats in the North – East.

Threatening Spectre of Separatism

The overall situation was gloomy with the threatening spectre of separatism dominating Tamil politics. Any visionary Govt would have adopted political means to contain this trend and through political concessions and tried to pull back the Tamils from a secessionist precipice. No such attempt was made though at the tail end of her rule Mrs. B held informal talks with the ITAK about getting support in a situation where further extension of Parliament was being explored. This came to naught.

Mrs. Bandaranaike

Mrs. Bandaranaike

There was however a silver lining. The need to de – centralise administration for greater equity, productivity and efficiency was beginning to be felt. The district was becoming the unit of de- centralization.The Dudley Senanayake Govt had started this process by setting up co-ordination committees at district level to boost agriculture and food production. Mrs. Bandaranaike’s UF govt introduced a special de – centralised budget for districts. Divisional development councils were set up. A district political authority for each district was also appointed. Thus de-centralised activity at district and grassroots level became official.

The UNP under Junius Richard Jayewardene won 141 seats out of 168 in 1977. The SLFP was reduced to 8 and the TULF with 18 sears became chief opposition. Amirthalingam was leader of opposition. The Tamil people who voted overwhelmingly for the separatist TULF were unaware that backroom negotiations had been on before polls with the UNP. JR then expected only to win 70 seats and through Saumiyamoorthy Thondaman had met TULF leaders to arrive at an understanding. The UNP manifesto had several progressive clauses regarding solutions to Tamil grievances.

However the massive majority acquired by the UNP removed the need for the party to depend on the TULF to form a Govt. JR brought in the executive presidency through the 2nd amendment and also appointed a Parliamentary select committee to draft a new Constitution. The TULF did not participate but Thondaman did so and was able to restore lost rights in the spheres of language and citizenship. But the question of devolution to the regions remained elusive as Thondaman was not concerned too much about power – sharing at the periphery. The UNP’s democratic socialist Constitution made the unitary clause an entrenched one. It required two – thirds majority and a referendum victory to change the Constitution’s unitary character.

The UNP also enacted progressive measures to plan, coordinate and implement developmental activity at a district level. The de – centralised budget was enhanced further with each MP being allocated 25 lakhs per year for projects. A Plan implementation ministry was set up and integrated district development plans were formulated. Unfortunately the Tamil districts were ignored for a long time. Finally integrated plans were formulated for Mannar and Vavuniya but by then events of 1983 had transformed the situation.

JR also appointed district ministers. Under the executive Presidency all executive power was concentrated in the President and the district minister system was more of a delegation rather than devolution of powers.. The district minister chaired district development committees comprising MP”s from each district.The Government Agents became District secretaries.

Prof A. J. Wilson

Prof A. J. Wilson

Adopted a “Carrot and Stick” Policy

Meanwhile violent activity by armed Tamil youths began increasing. JR adopted a “carrot and stick” policy. The stick had two items. One was the promulgation of emergency for Jaffna and sending Brigadier “Bull” Weeratunga with instructions to eliminate terrorism in all its forms. The other was the introduction of the draconian Prevention of Terrorism act.The carrot was Devolution. A Commission on Devolution was appointed under former Chief Justice Victor Tennekoon.Prof AJ Wilson and Dr. Neelan Tiruchelvam were also Devolution Commission members.Tiruchelvam was the TULF nominee.

The Commission after protracted sittings came out with a report. Neelan wrote a dissenting report. A bill to set up elected district development councils was passed in Parliament in 1980.Many of the clauses were similiar to Tiruchelvam’s dissenting report. Elections were held to DDC’s in 1981. The TULF won Jaffna, Mannar, Mullaitheevu, Vavuniya, Batticaloa and Trincomalee districts. TULF Members were chairpersons of all these councils. For the first time Devolution of powers to the regions (district level) had taken place. There was hope in the air.

Unfortunately two developments occurred. The Councils found themselves powerless in a functional capacity. For example the Trincomalee DDC found it unable to impose taxes on tourist projects in the district. The DDC’s were strapped for cash and Colombo did not allocate special funds. Moreover it was found that powers could not be effectively devolved to the DDC’s under an executive presidency. Negotiations to make the DDC’s work properly kept dragging on and on. The other development was increasing Tamil militancy. Events began to overtake and July 1983 exploded in frenzy. The Country’s history changed drastically. The sixth amendment to the Constitution disallowed separatism and the TULF went out of Parliament.India stepped in with its good offices.

Indian efforts succeeded in an all party conference (APC)in 1984. Discussions began on annexure C. The CWC on behalf of the TULF submitted a proposal to set up a linguistic region of the Tamil speaking North and Eastern provinces. The final outcome of the APC was disappointing with the district being promoted as unit of devolution. The TULF demanded a unified North – East with Amirthalingam emphasising the “security of our people” and “integrity of our homeland”.

Then in 1985 came the India sponsored talks held in the Bhutanese capital of Thimphu. The Thimphu talks saw five militant groups the LTTE, PLOTE, TELO, EPRLF and EROS also being brought in along with the TULF. The Tamils presented four principles demanding self – determination, nationhood, homeland and citizenship for Up Country Tamils. The talks broke down.

District as Unit of Devolution

Following the break-down Sri Lankan Govt negotiators along with Indian officials drafted a working paper in New Delhi outlining the district as unit of devolution and providing for districts to join together.At India’s behest the TULF engaged in negotiations with the Govt in Colombo and increased the substance of devolution further. The unit however remained a stumbling block.

A visit by then Indian ministers K.Natwar Singh and P. Chidamparam in December 1986 saw new ideas emerge.The December 19th 1986 proposals envisaged the excising of Amparai electorate from the East and setting up of two separate provincial councils for North and East. Both provinces could have common institutions. This proposal also failed to gain wide acceptance.

Signing of the Accord-1987

Signing of the Accord-1987

Then came the Indo – Lanka accord of July 29th 1987. The Indo – Lanka accord provided the greatest benefits to the Tamils.As a result the13th amendment to the Constitution was brought in. This ushered in the Provincial Councils. The North and East were temporarily merged. A referendum was to be held in the East to make the merger permanent.Three lists of devolved subjects – central, provincial and concurrent – were formulated. The Substance of devolution was inadequate in many respects. JR gave a written assurance to New Delhi that he would rectify matters in due course.

War erupted between India and the tigers. New Delhi held a rigged election to the North – Eastern provincial council and propped up Annamalai Varatharajapperumal of the EPRLF as chief minister. Ranasinghe Premadasa was now president. He promised “Ellam” (all) if Tamils gave up “Eelam”. But when the N- E Council tried to extract structural and functional powers Colombo did not budge.Furthermore Premadasa did a deal with the LTTE and got the Indian army out. He set up a round table conference to come up with proposals through the three stage process of “consultation, compromise and consensus”. The tigers also had observer status at this conference which gradually petered out.

With the LTTE demanding it, Premadasa enacted a law enabling him to dissolve provincial councils. When Perumal got a resolution passed, expressing intent of making an unilateral declaration of independence, Premadasa promptly dissolved the N- E council. Thus the LTTE and EPRLF played into Premadasa’s hands in negating a major gain made through the Indo – Lanka accord.

The provincial Councils were brought in mainly to remedy Tamil grievances and satisfy Tamil aspirations. It was a landmark in the long, long road towards power sharing.But the N- E council remained defunct from 1989 while the seven councils were functioning in Sinhala majority provinces. It was an ironical situation where the people who wanted to share power at the provincial level were denied it while those who were not so keen were having it. Premadasa also appointed a Parliamentary select committee under Mangala Moonesinghe’s chairmanship. The committee recommended enhanced devolution through removal of concurrent lists. It envisaged separate councils for North and East but provided for an apex council to link both provinces in some aspects. Though the UNP and SLFP agreed on this the Tamil parties rejected it.

Dr. Neelan Tiruchelvam

Dr. Neelan Tiruchelvam

Prof G.L.Peiris-Dr.Neelan Tiruchelvam Package

Then came Chandrika Kumaratunga who captured the nation’s imagination as an angel of peace. A devolution package to make Sri Lanka a union of regions was drafted by Prof – GL Peiris and Dr.Neelan Tiruchelvam and dubbed the GL-Neelan package was presented in 1995. It was dismissed by the LTTE. Years later Anton Balasingham was to praise Tiruchelvam’s package as “acceptable”. The GL – Neelan package lost its potency to some extent when presented as the SLFP proposals in 1996. It was further eroded during Parliamentary select committee proceedings. When tabled as a white paper in 1997 powers had been further reduced but still remained a vast improvement on the existing Provincial Councils scheme.

Separate negotiations between the TULF and Muslim Congress had seen an understanding on the N- E unit. Trincomalee and Batticaloa districts were to be linked to the North to form a Tamil majority province. The electoral divisions of Pottuvil. Sammanthurai and Kalmunai were to form a Muslim majority South – Eastern province. The Amparai division would form another Sinhala majority province or merge with Uva province.

Neelan was brutally murdered in 1999 by a tiger suicide bomber. With his death the Country in general and the Tamils in particular, lost an ardent advocate of the Federal idea. That vacuum is yet to be filled. In 2000 Kumaratunga tabled in Parliament a draft Constitution bill with many progressive provisions for power sharing. The draft had been formulated in consultation with the UNP. Yet the UNP refused to support it in Parliament saying Kumaratunga was trying to prolong her presidency. The TULF under R. Sampanthan also opposed it saying it was too little. The draft bill was abandoned.The march towards greater devolution suffered a tremendous set back.

The next phase was the advent of Ranil Wickremasinghe as Prime minister in 2001. A ceasefire agreement came into force with the LTTE in Feb 2002. Direct talks between the Govt and LTTE commenced in September in Thailand. A tremendous breakthrough was made during the third round of talks in Oslo in December. Both sides agreed to explore a federal solution. This was a historic event for two important reasons. This was the first time a Sri Lankan Government had openly agreed to explore federalism; This was the first time the LTTE had agreed to explore federalism as an alternative to secession. The Federal idea had once again bounced back into Lankan political discourse.

G. L. Peiris

G. L. Peiris

Alas! hopes were dashed as further progress on federalism discussions stalled. The LTTE dropped out of talks and demanded an Interim Self – Governing Authority (ISGA) Before any progress could be made Kumaratunga dissolved the Wickremasinghe government and called for elections. The UNP was defeated and with that the peace process reached an impasse. In 2005 Mahinda Rajapakse became President aided by Sinhala and Tamil extremists. The war escalated.

Motions of Constitutional Reform

Mahinda Rajapakse too went through the motions of Constitutional reform as president. He convened an All Party representative Conference minus the Tamil National alliance and also appointed an expert panel to assist it. A majority group of the experts consisting of six Sinhala , four Tamil and One Muslim submitted a highly commendable report Other experts also submitted three reports. The APRC chairman Prof. Tissa Vitharane compiled all reports and drafted a working paper that inculcated the bulk of majority report recommendations. The UNP also backed the majority report. Later on the APRC submitted an interim report

Political parties also submitted respective reports.The SLFP report sent shock waves. It was a climb down from the SLFP position of 2000 when a draft bill was presented in Parliament. The SLFP report emphasised a unitary state in unambiguous terms.It also reduced the substance of devolution.The unit was reduced from the present provincial level to district and village level. The SLFP stance came in for heavy criticism from academic circles. Despite the best efforts of Prof. Vitharana who was s saddled with the unenviable task of reconciling different perspectives regarding devolution into a coherent and acceptable whole, the APRC exercise was doomed.

PIC: facebook.com/PresidentRajapaksa

PIC: facebook.com/PresidentRajapaksa

A Supreme court ruling in 2007 resulted in the Northern and Eastern Provinces being de-merged. In 2008 elections were held to the Eastern provincial council. The chief Tamil party TNA boycotted the Eastern province poll in 2008 protesting the North – eastern demerger. The ruling United Peoples Freedom Alliance(UPFA)won the polls and ex – LTTE militant Sivanesathurai Chandrakanthan alias Pillaiyan contesting from Batticaloa district became chief minister. Elections were held again in 2012. This time the TNA contested in the east and did very well. However the UPFA with support from the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) formed an administration with Najeeb A Majeed becoming chief minister.

A political re-configuration took place in the country after the defeat of Mahinda Rajapaksa at the presidential elections of January 8th 2015. In Fenruary 2015 the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress was able to form an eastern provincial administration with the support of the TNA and UNP. Zainulabdeen Ahamed Nazeer of the SLMC Became chief minister. The TNA now joined the eastern administration and was given two provincial minister portfolios in March 2015. TNA provincial councillors S. Thandayuthapani from Trinco district and K. Thurairajasingham from Batticaloa district became eastern province ministers.

Meanwhile elections were held to the Northern provincial council in September 2013. Retired Supreme Court Judge Canagasabapathy Visvalingam Wigneswaran contested on the Tamil National Alliance ticket under the house symbol of the Ilankai Thamil Arasu Katchi and won with a thumping number of preference votes. Wigneswaran was sworn in as Northern chief minister in October 2013. Four provincial ministers were appointed. They were P. Ayngaranesan, B.Deniswaran,T.Kurukularajah and P. Sathiyalingam.

Laughing Stock of the Country

The long quest for power sharing achieved partial results in the form of the India sponsored 13th Constitutional amendment and consequent setting up of provincial councils. Common sense decrees that the Tamils and Muslims of the North and East welcome it and then build upon it incrementally. This however has not taken place so far.The Tamil political parties continue to clamour for something more without utilising the provincial powers positively and productively. The Northern province council under chief minister Wigneswaran has created a record for under performance among all provincial councils in the country. Sadly the NPC from which much was expected has become the laughing stock of the country with an ex –judge of the supreme court turning into a virtual court jester.

After the military defeat of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam(LTTE)in May 2009 there were some expectations that President Mahinda Rajapaksa would now win the peace as he had won the war by addressing the Tamil national question politically. Mahinda himself told Indian leaders that he would go beyond the 13th amendment. He promised 13 A plus. This pledge was honoured in the breach. Fruitless talks were conducted with the TNA at different levels but they were all deadlocked. Hard as it may be for hawkish tamils to accept,it was Mahinda Rajapaksa who liberated the Tamils of Sri Lanka from the oppressive LTTE. Sadly Mahinda failed to strike a responsive chord in their heart and minds by failing to address redress their political grievances and address their political aspirations. By doing so Rajapaksa violated the cardinal principle that a military victory must be followed by a political solution.

This then is the intermittent tale of the post – Independence quest for the elusive goal of power sharing by Tamils in Sri Lanka. Ultimately there can be a durable political settlement only on the basis of equitable power sharing. The sooner this is realised the better it is for the Country and all its people. The country is now embarking on another constitutional journey in which the Tamils yearn for their rightful place under the Sri Lankan sun. It is to be hoped that this long thirst of the Tamils for equality in an undivided Sri Lanka would be quenched at last!

FI 013015

This article written for the “DBS Jeyaraj Column” appears in the “Daily Mirror” of January 30, 2016, it can be reached via this link:

http://www.dailymirror.lk/dbs-jeyaraj-column

DBS Jeyaraj can be reached at dbsjeyaraj@yahoo.com

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