President Sirisena is blowing hot and cold. It reminds one of the donkeys that will not change its voice however much you try to preach to its ears. Sirisena having brought up on a steady diet of Sinhala Only, Buddhist Only political culture will not give up his archaic political thinking. Those who oppose federalism are ignorant of political systems.
On August 4, 2017 the Supreme Court in the case filed by Petitioner Hikkadu Koralalage Don Chandrasoma Vs. Respondent Mawai S. Senathirajah, Secretary, llankai Thamil Arasu Kadchi ruled as follows:
“The labelling of states as unitary and federal sometimes may be misleading. There could be unitary states with features or attributes of a federal state and vice versa. In a unitary state if more powers are given to the units it could be considered as a federal state. Similarly in a federal state if the centre is powerful and the power is concentrated in the centre it could be considered as a unitary state. Therefore sharing of sovereignty, devolution of power and decentralization will pave the way for a federal form of government within a unitary state. The Thirteen Amendment to the Constitution devolved powers on the provinces. The ITAK is advocating for a federalist form of government by devolving more powers to the provinces within the framework of a unitary state. Advocating for a federal form of government within the existing state could not be considered as advocating separatism.”
The Tamils are asking for a federal form of government in an undivided and indivisible country and not a federal state per se.
Federalism is simply a form of government most suited to a multi-racial, multi-lingual, mute -religious and multi cultural country. Enactment 13A is a form of quasi-federalism in which powers are shared between the centre and the peripheral.
President Sirisena is making a mistake if he thinks the problem faced by the Tamils in the north is economy and development and not political. The problem in the North is not economy, it is political. Even if you build some factories and give employment to the Tamils, the Tamils will not give up their demand for autonomy within the existing state.
The Supreme Court of Sri Lanka has agreed that asking for federalism is not separation and the Tamils are a people under international law and entitled to the right of self-determination. If the problem is economy and development, they would have voted for Mahinda Rajapaksa. It is he who restored electricity, re-built the railway and laid carpet roads in the war-torn North. What the Tamils are fighting is for equality and dignity nothing more.
Instead of scaring the people, President Sirisena should read the judgment of the Supreme Court on what is meant by federalism.
President Sirisena says there won’t be any electric chairs, international war crimes tribunal or foreign judges. However, these are the commitments his government has agreed to implement by co-sponsoring Resolution 30/1. Is he now saying he will withdraw the co-sponsorship of Resolution 30/1 of 2015? If so he must inform the UNHRC officially. His speeches are increasingly sound un-presidential.
Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights declares “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.”