A detailed Response by Nakkeeran

An Ineffective and Fragmented Political Opposition of Tamil Leaders 

Thambu Kanagasabai

– A detailed Response by Nakkeeran

(1) In Sri Lanka’s last Parliamentary and Presidential elections in 2015, the majority of Tamils and Muslims voted for the ‘good governance’ promised by the UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe and SLFP led by Maithripala Sirisena who wisely broke free from the hold of Mahinda Rajapaksa. The International Community greeted the victories of these leaders with much relief resulting in the ouster of a hostile and dictatorial Rajapaksa.

The Tamils also felt relieved and hoped for the deliverance of promises made during the election campaign by the new leaders. The Tamil National Alliance [TNA] for the first time called on the Tamils and Muslims to vote for the coalition parties though Tamils were already determined to vote out Mahinda Rajapaksa for conducting the genocidal war with the support of 22 countries and caused the worst sufferings for the Tamils.

Now, after two years in power, the record of ‘good governance’ is disappointing and deceptive as a whole, except the removal of fear and insecurity among the civilians who now enjoy the freedom of speech and expression.

TNA’s Leader Sampanthan became the official Opposition Leader, a post which was earlier held by the Tamil United Liberation Front’s [TULF] late Amirthalingam during the UNP’s rule in 1977 by the late J.R. Jayewardene.

The defeat of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam [LTTE] in the 2006-2009 war who dominated the Tamil’s political scene and power has resulted in a complete change of equations. The fall from a commanding position of the Tamils has now resulted in a fall into divisive dismal politics and policies among the Tamil Parties and leaders.

Response- All though I appreciate some of the concerns of the author of this piece, as usual he sounds overly pessimistic. Most of the points covered  have been recycled.  The fact is not everything is lost.  Losing the war is both a tragedy as well as an opportunity. It is a tragedy because the victor draws the borders and writes the history. The war victory parades and celebrations during Mahinda Rajapaksa’s regime are good examples. These have been reversed with the installation of government of  good governance. Also the fact,  gripped with a guilty conscience US and her allies are fighting diplomatically  at the political front for transitional  justice to Tamils. The UNHRC resolution 30/1 of October 01, 2015 was in respect of  Promoting reconciliation, accountability and human rights in Sri Lanka. Resolution 34/1 reaffirms the full and proper implementation of HRC Resolution 30/1 of October 2015, and gives the Government of Sri Lanka (“GSL”) two more years beyond 2017 to fulfill its international commitments on reconciliation and transitional justice. Both these resolutions are  good examples of the continued interest by the office of the UNHRC/UNHRC.   The Sri Lankan government cannot easily wriggle out of the commitments outlined in the resolution. The government can delay, but not escape the guillotine indefinitely. Let us remember that though US defeated Japan during  WW2, today Japan is a strategic partner of  US.

(2) TNA comprised of Tamil Eelam Liberation Organization [TELO] People’s Liberation Organization of Tamil Eelam [PLOTE] Eelam People’s Revolutionary Liberation Front [EPRLF] and Illankai Tamil Arasu Kachchi [ITAK] opted to support the ‘good governance’ of coalition Government without joining it and without any written agreements laying down conditions of support.  Oral and gentlemen’s promises and undertakings were preferred and relied on by TNA despite the fact that earlier written agreements were treated with scrap values, while oral promises also suffered similar fate like Mahinda’s offering of 13+, with more powers in the 13th Amendment for the Northern Provincial Council] for the Tamils. It has always been the habit and practice of Sinhalese leaders to pour out promises on occasions whenever they appear in the Tamil areas and cities, Jaffna, etc, and during election time.

Response: The TNA did not enter into a written agreement for valid  reasons.  (1) The opposition like in the past would have mounted a campaign  that the UNP and common candidate Maithripala Sirisena have sold the Sinhalese to the Tamils by signing a secret pact. (2) Written  and oral agreements entered previously with Sinhalese leaders  have been torn up or not implemented at all. In fact there was an offer to sign a written agreement, but TNA did not accept the offer citing  how the previous agreements have been reneged by the government. 

(3) The classic example is former Prime Minister Sir John Kotelawala’s promise in Jaffna in the 1950s to grant parity of status to Sinhalese and Tamil Languages. In general promises given to Sinhalese in the South are mostly honored to keep alive the chances of political success. Similarly the written Pacts made with Sinhalese leaders also suffered the same fate for political expediency and fortunes like:- Bandaranayake/Chelvanayagam Pact of 1957. Dudly/Chelvanayagam Pact of 1965, Indo/SriLanka Accord of 1967, Oslo Agreement of 2002, etc.

Response What is the point in repeating ad nauseam about  past history? The Indo – Ceylon agreement was implemented by J.R.Jayawardena’s government in the form of a 13A. 13A created 8 power centres in the 9 provinces which resulted in shared sovereignty. In fact 13A had quasi-federal features although the Supreme Court by majority vote  held that it did not infringe the unitary nature of the state.

(4) Political opportunism always prevails over political stability and national reconciliation. The present Government of ‘good governance’ deservedly justified the hopes of Tamils for a permanent and acceptable political settlement, viewing the historical but uneasy alliance of the two major political parties, UNP and SLFP who always earlier played the role of killing each others’ political proposals, true to the spirit of opposing them for political opportunism and gains.

These two parties with their absolute majority in Parliament along with the unconditional support of TNA appear to be wavering, bickering among themselves, showing the lack of commitment and political determination to end the ethnic problem once and for all. The present opportunity could be the last and if missed, it will never materialize in the future as ‘opportunity only knocks once and if missed it is lost forever’. It appears to be that this opportunity is being frittered away.

Response: The UNP – SLFP (Sirisena) alliance may be an uneasy one, but the alliance still remains united as far as the national question is concerned. This is a quantum leap and a paradigm shift.  The current  constitutional process which has now reached the stage to draft a new constitution will give provinces maximum autonomy. By provinces I mean all the  nine  provinces. It is not  only the Northern province the other  8 Provinces have demanded more powers to peripheral  units by stripping the Governor of his executive powers. What more the Provinces will  be the Primary Unit of Devolution which means the Kachcheri system will be abolished. The Chief Secretary (Government Agent) will work under the Chief Secretary of the Provincial Council.

(5) The past two year’s rule of the government is surely disappointing for all but more for the Tamils. As for the Tamils the writing was on the wall when the 100 day program first mentioned and included the settlement of ethnic problems and later deleted it as a non-priority.  The hopes of the Tamils and even the TNA’s expectations were dealt a blow by this deliberate action which was in fact like the Tamil proverb “the sound of bells comes first signalling the after arrival of elephant”. True to the policy of following the precedents of earlier Sinhalese leaders, several and various promises were made by President Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil to Tamil leaders, Tamil demonstrators, Tamil delegations even to the International Community and foreign dignitaries. Some of them are related to the release of political prisoners and the fate of missing and/or disappeared persons and seized civilian lands.

As expected these promises remain unfulfilled so far and hopefully they will remain as they are now, ignored and considered as casual.

Response: The thrust of the  argument  is totally cynical, fatalistic,  nihilistic and defeatist. The change of government has increased the space for democracy.  It is a paradigm shift. White vans, nocturnal calls by the intelligent agencies  and grease demons are no more. The people are free to move, though the presence of  150,000 army in uniform inhibits free movement.  This is a problem every country faces after the end of a  costly civil war. This government has not delivered all  the promises made,  but it is moving  in the right direction.

According to Hon. Minister D.M Swaminathan “the security forces have continued to progressively vacate lands in the Northern and Eastern Provinces that had been occupied for military use and strategic security reasons and appropriate compensation will be provided where release is not feasible due to security reasons. At the end of the conflict the security forces were using approximately 88571 acres of state lands and 30, 337 acres of private lands. Of this, as at 31st October 2017, the armed forces had vacated 57,278 acres of state lands and 24,675 acres of private lands in the Northern and Eastern provinces. 604 more acres of state lands and 294 acres of private lands have been earmarked for release by the end of this year. Appropriate compensation in consultation with the persons concerned, will be made in connection with private land that cannot be released for security or strategic purposes such as land around the Palaaly airport in the North.

In 2016, a total of 11,253 houses (Rs. 8,963 million) were handed over to Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and an additional allocation of Rs. 4,785 million has been made in the 2017 budget for the construction of 5,732 houses. In the next year’s budget, we have proposed an allocation to support the construction of 50,000 brick and mortar houses in the North and East. It is clear for all to see that our commitment to redressing those affected by the conflict in all areas of our country is rooted in action, not only words.

As for Keppapulavu  out of 482 acres of private land  the Resettlement Ministry  made a payment of Rs5 Million  03rd of May 2017  to the army  for release of 189 acres of land. This land  was released on the 19th of July.  2017.

On  24th of August 2017  the Ministry  released Rs.148 Million. to the army   to cover  the initial shifting cost. The  Army Commander has  agreed to release 111 acres of land from the Keppapilavu Army Camp before the end of 2017.

From January 2015 up to July 2017 4830.41 acres of land had been released in the Northern Province. (Read more: http://www.island.lk/index.php?page_cat=article-details&page=article-details&code_title=175120)

It is admitted the progress is painfully slow. The army has put up permanent buildings and the materials stores in private lands have to shifted. This takes time.  Only last week the army closed the camp at Iranaimadu Tank.

The people concerned continue to apply pressure. The TNA has told the government that the army has no right to occupy private lands and should vacate same.

At Miladdy 550 were resettled early this year. Now the Norway government has promised to provide USD 1 million (Rs. 150 million) to the settlers to facilitate settlement.

In  his budget for 2018, the Finance Minister has announced several projects worth several billions  to improve the living conditions of ex LTTE cadres, war widows, farmers etc. Provision has been made in the 2018  budget for the construction of 50,000 brick and mortar houses in the North and East.  ( Read more: Island – 17/11/2017) (See URL https://nakkeran.com/index.php/2017/11/11/more-funds-allocated-to-northern-provincial-councils/  and https://nakkeran.com/index.php/2017/11/12/it-is-a-beneficial-budget-for-people-of-north-east-and-hill-country/)

(To be continued)

An Ineffective and Fragmented Political Opposition of Tamil Leaders – A detailed Response by Nakkeeran

(Part 2)

(6) TNA’s leader Sampanthan who is also the Leader of the Opposition crowned with the leadership of Tamils reposed full trust and confidence on the dual leadership of President Maithri and Prime Minister Ranil. He also made strong and convincing statements with full confidence that an acceptable political settlement would be forthcoming within 100 days and then promised it before the Diwali in 2016 and then again before the Diwali in 2017.  Now he is expressing his hope to celebrate the next 2018 Diwali with happiness and joy, believing that the evasive political settlement will materialize by then. On all occasions, he requested for patience and not to spoil the present climate which is seemingly muddy and pessimistic.

The ongoing episode involving the political prisoners who are locked up without going through the judicial process of trial, bail, conviction or release is simply a mockery of justice and rule of law inflicted by this ‘good governance’ The pathetic scenario concerning the three political prisoners whose trials which were conducted in Vavuniya and now ordered to be transferred to Anuradhapura is just another hallmark of this ‘good governance’ aided by the favourable Attorney General’s office.

It is all the more sickening to note the disappointing TNA leadership to remedy this simple and unjust procedural step. It appears that he has now folded his opposition role and has opted to treat the promises given by the President as light-hearted empty statements with no value or seriousness while being careful to maintain the policy of collaboration and co-operation with the Government.

Response: As for political prisoners there were 217 prisoners as of January 8, 2015, today, the number is reduced to 130 in all. Out of this number 6 have been sentenced to death, 25 to life imprisonment and others either they have been sentenced for various terms in prisons or others whose cases at various stages of inquiry in courts. There are a few others who have not been charged in courts. Therefore to claim “prisoners who are locked up without going through the judicial process of trial, bail, conviction or release is simply a mockery of justice” is an unfounded canard.  Strictly speaking not all those arrested and tried under the PTA are “political prisoners.” The writer of the article who is a lawyer will agree that a political prisoner is someone imprisoned because they have opposed or criticized the government responsible for their imprisonment. In other words, a political prisoner is someone who is imprisoned for his or her participation in political activity. Those charged for the murder of Sinhalese POW are NOT political prisoners.  However, it is the stand of the TNA that ALL l prisoners arrested under PTA should be given amnesty like in the case of JVP prisoners. Like the JVPs these fought for a political cause.

(7) The obvious unjustifiable fear is that the trial in Anuradhapura will lead to conviction influenced by the ethnic factors and spoiling and damaging situations for the prisoners and Tamil lawyers. This is another assault on the judiciary and the lack of faith on Tamil Judges or jury while expecting a sure conviction to follow if the trial is conducted in Anuradhapura possibly before a Sinhala Judge. The ‘good governance’ has thus indicated its ‘continuance of the policy of justice based on ethnic factors’. [It is to be noted these political prisoners were arrested on suspicion under DRACONIAN Prevention of Terrorism Act [PTA] and most of them are in jail for more than 10 years with delayed hearings and inaction of the Governments in power.

Response: The writer is totally ignorant about the trial of these prisoners in Anuradhapura courts.   The 3 prisoners who went on indefinite fast have been charged with killing 18 navy and 8 army personnel held as POWs by LTTE during the war. If true, this amounts to war crime. The case was transferred to Anuradhapura court because the witnesses (all 3 ex LTTE cadres) asked the Attorney General to transfer the case to Anuradhapura courts because of the threat to their lives if the case is tried in Vavuniya Court.  .So whose interests should take precedence in this case? (1) The 3 prisoners who fear danger to their life, or (2) the rights of the prisoners for fair trial. In short, it is a question of safety of the witnesses Vs the rights of the prisoners. Fortunately, one of the three LTTE witnesses have now agreed to give his evidence in Vavuniya court, the other two are out of the country.

(8) The TNA’s performance in the other serious matters affecting the Tamils is far from satisfactory. The Interim Committee’s Constitutional Proposals are just formulations and suggestions without any finality. The proposals like the rejection of a unitary form of Government and a shared sovereignty for the North and East have not been accepted by the committee which is confirmed by the TNA’s footnote to the proposals which bares the truth that there was no 100% consensus for the proposals by those participated excepting the UNP.

The TNA Leader is now asking Tamils not to mention the word ‘federal’ as it would antagonize the Sinhalese. It is to be mentioned that late S.J.V. Chelvanayagam formed the Federal Party advocating federalism as the final and only solution to the Tamils political grievances. Even the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka in its judgement confirmed the position that ‘federalism is not separation and it would not lead to separation’, thus once and for all put an end to this unfounded controversy and confusion surrounding federalism which is prevailing among the Sinhalese.

Response: In one sense we are a defeated people militarily. We are negotiating with the government on the strength of our peoples’ mandate within and moral support of the Tamil Diaspora.   We also have the   tacit support of US, EU, UK, Canada and their allies. Resolution No. 30/1 preamble 20 welcomes the government of Sri Lanka’s commitment to the devolution of political authority.  Preamble 19 welcomes the return of lands to its rightful civilian owners and to help local populations to resume normal livelihoods and restore normality to civilian life. The learned writer must know that there are federal constitutions with unitary features and vice versa. On  August  04, 2017   the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka delivered a landmark verdict in a case filed by petitioner Hikkadu Koralalage Don Chandrasoma.Respondent was Mavai Senathirajah, the then Secretary of  ITAK. It was claimed by the Petitioner that ITAK is committed to confederal as opposed to federal and confederal means Separation. The Petitioner sought a Declaration under and in terms of Article 157A (4) of the Constitution (As amended by the Sixth Amendment to the Constitution) of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka.

 Here are some salient points contained in the judgment delivered by a 3 bench Supreme Court in the case.

It is established that there is a clear distinction between words ‘federation’ and ‘confederation’. The main issue in this case is whether advocating the establishment of a federal state tantamount to establishment of a separate state. It is relevant to consider the manner the federal states were formed in various parts of the world. United States of America, Australia and Switzerland are federal states. Thirteen States which were former colonies of the Great Britain joined to establish United States of America. The reason for uniting under one state is to promote trade and to ensure the security of the States. Six States in Australia in fear of pacific powers united to establish a federal state. In order to remove linguistic and regional differences Swiss federation was formed. Great Britain, France and Italy are examples of unitary states.

The labeling 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.  (https://nakkeran.com/index.php/2017/11/24/mavai-senathirajahs-landmark-decision/)

In short the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka has espoused the following principles:

(1) Advocating federalism is not the same as advocating a separate state;

(2) The invocation of self-determination does not amount to a demand for a separate state:

(3) 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;

(4) it was clear the ITAK did not have as its aims or objects the demand for a separate State.

UK – Scotland is a good example where “There could be unitary states with features or attributes of a federal state and vice versa.”  Scotland   which enjoys wide devolved power which in effect tantamount to a federal state, though UK has a unitary constitution. The Scottish people have their own parliament, own bank, flag, and national anthem. Powers over education, immigration, health, currency etc.  In fact the UK government even allowed a referendum for separation by the Scottish people.

So let us not squabble over labels. Let us look at the content of the proposals.   To borrow from Deng Xiaoping Theory also known as Dengism, “It doesn’t matter whether a cat is white or black, as long as it catches mice.

(9) It is all the more pathetic to note the unbelievable silence of TNA to launch an awareness campaign for the people in the South and mobilize the support of both Tamils and Sinhalese to endorse federalism, besides pressing the ‘good governance’ to take a meaningful steps towards a federal system justifying its position morally, legally and politically suitable for Sri Lanka.

Response: It is easily said but in practices a difficult mission. No Tamil leader can mobilize the support of Sinhalese over the heads of Sinhalese. This is also true of Sinhalese leaders. They cannot galvanize support of Tamil people by passing the Tamil leaders. Yesterday, M.A, Sumanthiran addressed a meeting held in the south in Sinhalese.  

(10) TNA has also unreasonably failed to fully identify itself with the peaceful protesters campaigning for ‘the disappeared and missing’, ‘political prisoners’, and release of lands seized by the security forces’. TNA has now opted and chosen the role of spectators and as random face showing participants instead of acting as leaders to spearhead these campaigns. It appears that the affected Tamils as a whole are now brought down and forced to the position to initiate the protests and fend for themselves on their own as long as they can survive braving the heat, dust, cold and rain.

Response:  The writer is displaying ignorance. It is the TNA that has consistently raised the subject of missing persons in the parliament through adjournment motions. It is TNA that argued in the parliament to pass legislation regarding missing persons. As a result a law has been passed in parliament and full implementation is awaited. The government says the law will be operational beginning 1918. I confess this has been a slow process.

(11) There is no doubt that this weak and aimless leadership of TNA has emboldened the ‘good governance’ to proceed with its own agenda of Buddhistization and Sinhalization in the North and East of Sri Lanka [The historical and traditional homeland of the Tamils]. TNA holding the ‘Leader of the Opposition’ post is functioning neither as an opposition party to the Government’s program and decisions affecting the Sinhalese and Tamils, nor with any constructive moves to carry forward the struggle of Tamils giving vent to their feelings of grief, frustration and traumas accumulated during the last sixty years.

Response: The writer is entitled to his opinion. Opinion of course differs. One thing is obvious. He is insulting the intelligence of our people back home have reposed confidence on the TNA leadership by voting in support of the TNA. The level of support has increased since 2009 elections to local bodies. The TNA is looking at the bigger problem of securing full autonomy by power sharing.  Only by securing autonomy by power sharing we can solve some of the pressing problems faced by Tamil people. The TNA is making full use of the office of the Opposition. We are able to interact with visiting diplomats, UN officials and others. There are no short cuts to remedy problems accumulating for the last 69 years. Peaceful protests as well as armed struggle did not end in success. Now we are resorting to global diplomacy to find solutions to the problems confronting our people. UNHRC Resolution No.30/1 of 2015 is the out come of quiet diplomacy.

To be continued

(11) It appears that TNA has chosen to better support ‘Maithri and Ranil’ rather than allowing Mahinda to rise as the next ruler.

Response: This is an extremely queer and weired comment. . This has been the sing-song of TNA’s predators. and armchair critics.  If the TNA leadership is weakand aimlessthe writer should go back home and provide a more robust  leadership. The cream of the Tamil society,  including the writer,  has bolted from their country  of origin supposedly  because of  the war. Such people should not complain  about the ‘weak’ and ‘aimless’ leadership of the TNA.  It is the people  who elected them to the  leadership. Tamils in Diaspora should  not insult the intelligence  or the democratic choice of the people who have remained back risking their lives. One should agree, theTNA leadership is primarily answerable to the electors  in  North and East.  Parliament is not a boxing ring where boxers exchange blows and sometimes a knock out. On the contrary, Parliament  is a people’s forum where decisions are taken after discussion and debate.   I  whole heartedly agree with the  writer  when he claims  “TNA has chosen to better support ‘Maithri and Ranil’ rather than allowing Mahinda to rise as the next ruler”.  This  is not a secret the whole world knows it. And they know the reason(s).  TNA  follows Thiruvalluvar diktat  that “He who is alone and helpless while his foes are two should secure one of them as an agreeable help (to himself).”  In both the Presidential elections in 2010 and 2015 TNA did ask the people to vote against the common enemy. The people heeded the appeal of the TNA. TNA entertains no regrets for bringing about a regime change. . Only those who want our people to suffer persecution and oppression, while they safe in foreign climes, advocate Rajapaksa’s come back to power. Our people are intelligent and think otherwise.

Valluvar says it is easy for people to  say how an act is to be performed) is (indeed) easy for any one; but far difficult  is to do according to what has been said(Kural 664).  Instead of  whining  and finding faults with others the Tamil intelligentsia  should join the fight for Tamil people’s rights. Sinhala intellectuals like Dayan Jayatilleka,   Neville Ladduwahetty, C.A.Chandraperuma,  Sanja de Silva Jayatilleka,   Shamindra Ferdinando,  Gunadasa Amarasekera  just to mention a few who are championing the interests of the majority.     Through their writings they promote  Sinhala – Buddhist  fundamentalism, that is, ethno-nationalist and often ethno-religious nationalism. They claim that Sinhalese has a chequered history of safeguarding Buddhism for the last 2,500 years.  That Tamils are illegal immigrants of recent past. They repeatedly pose the question “What is the problem the Tamils have that is distinctively their own and not shared by the Sinhalese?” But we know their argument is  in the realm of pure fiction.

There was no Sinhalese collective  identity till the 8th century AD.  The war between Ellalan and Duttu Gemenu is not a war  between  Tamils and Sinhalese.  It was a war between Hindu Tamils/Nagas and Buddhist Tamils/Nagas.  Gemenu  was of Naga descent from both his paternal and maternal  side. His  great great grand father was Muttu Sivan a saivaite Naga King  who ruled from Anuradhapura. He is the father  of  king Devanampiya Tissa the fisrt convert to  Buddhism. 

Buddhism has come to Tamil Nadu as early as the 3rd century BC. King Asoka in his Rock-Edict No. III,  says that his Dharma Vijaya prevailed in the kingdoms of the Colas, Pandyas and at Tambapanni (Sri Lanka).The major urban centers of Kancheepuram, Kaveripattinam, Uragapura (Udaipur), and Madurai were not only centers of Buddhism, but these were also important centers of Pali learning. . Tamil Nadu boasted of outstanding Buddhist monks, who had made remarkable contributions to Buddhist thought and learning. Three of the greatest Pali scholars of this period were Buddhaghosa, Buddhadatta, and Dhammapada and all three of them were associated with Buddhist establishments in the Tamil kingdoms.

The well known Tamil Buddhist epics Manimekalai, Silappadhikaram, Valaiyapathi, Kundalakesi and Jivaka Cintamani are some of the well known Tamil Buddhist epics. The lost Tamil Buddhist works include the grammar Virasoliyam, the Abhidhamma work Siddhantattokai, the panegyric Tiruppadigam and the biography Bimbisara Kada. Manimekalai, a purely Buddhist work of the 3rd Sangam period in Tamil literature is the most supreme and famous among the Buddhist work done in Tamil. It is a work expounding the doctrines and propagating the values of Buddhism. It also talks about the Tamil Buddhists in the island/Nagadipa.

It is a historical fact that among the many ancient Buddhist shrines in Sri Lanka is   Velgam Vihara which was renamed Rajaraja-perumpalli, also called Natanar Kovil by the present day Tamils.  Late  Dr. Senarath Paranavithana described it in his book `Glimpses of Ceylon’s Past` as an `Ancient Buddhist shrine of the Tamil people`. Some of the Tamil inscriptions found at the site record donations to this shrine  during the reigns of the Chola Kings, Rajarata Cholan 1 and Rajendradeva 11.

In Sri Lanka, the Tamil Buddhists who followed Theravada Buddhism shared the common places of worship with the Sinhalese, but there were also Tamil Buddhists who were following Mahayana Buddhism and they had their own Mahayana temples. There are still some Tamil Mahayana Buddhist establishments (Palli) in the  north and east.  The best known is the Buddhist temple at Nainatheevu and  Velgam Vihara which was renamed Rajaraja-perumpalli after the Cola emperor. Another was the Vikkirama-calamekan-perumpalli.

During the Bhaakti movement (6th century AD on wards),  Buddhists and Jains were persecuted by Saivaites  and thousandsof them were  hoisted on petards.  Buddhist Tamils sought asyluium in Ceylon and in course of  time became Sinhalese Buddhists. tthrough a process of  assimilation. The fusion of Sinhala and Buddhism into Sinhala-Buddhism took place only in the early 20th century by revivalists such as Anagarika Dharmapala.

Unfortunately,  Tamils ignorant of history,  believe that Buddhism is a  Sinhala relgion. Buddhism came to be identified with Sinhalese (just like Saivaism  came to be identified  with Tamil) only from the 20th century, The campaign was led by Anagarika Dharmapala who called Sinhalese ‘sweet Aryan children;.  Insltead of shooting same side goals, the learned writer  should direct his writing skills to dispel the illusion that  Buddhism is an alien religion to Tamil people.

(12) As for the Tamils, there is no gainsaying of the fact that all the Sinhalese leaders are united in pursuing the agenda of Buddhisiation and Sinhalisation but only disunited as to the intensity and scope in their pursuit of communal campaign with each one out classing and out beating the other to capture the political crown.

Maithri’s veiled warning to the protesters in Jaffna who protested against his visit by saying that “If you don’t support me you will allow only a ghost to emerge” shows his fear for Mahinda , but for the Tamils both are one coin with two faces but with same political value.

It is incomprehensible to note that the TNA leader has not achieved anything concrete so far after eight years of leadership given by the Tamils since 2009. Their failings and omissions have to be highlighted for the sake of information.

1). TNA has neither passed a resolution confirming the ‘GENOCIDE’ nor there is any oral statement made to this effect so far. TNA by this unpardonable blunder have only weakened the Tamils cause in the United Nations, UNHRC and International Community while discouraging the West also to desist calling the war crimes as GENOCIDE.

Response: The writer as usual is off limit. He is recycling stuff he has covered for the umpteenth time in the past. Two thousand affidavits were submitted to the UNHRC citing human rights violations, war crimes and crimes against humanity by Sri Lanka, but the UNHRC spokesperson said that there were not enough evidence to support the charge of genocide. May be with more evidence the UNHRC might change its stance later. The charge of genocide is difficult to prove as we saw it  in North Sudan. However, we are encouraged by the verdict  by the ICC which  sentenced Serbian general   Ratko Mladic to life imprisonment after finding him guilty of genocide.

2). TNA has failed to carry on a campaign to prosecute the war criminals either locally or outside or even initiating steps to prosecute them under the Universal Jurisdiction Clause. This inexcusable lapse is nothing but inflicting more wounds to the victims of war and to the dead and fallen youths and civilians, thus jettisoning the twin principles of accountability and justice.

Response:  Due to the campaign by the TNA and other groups Resolution 30/1 was passed on October 01, 2015. The most consequential clause of the October 2015 resolution read as follows:  “…takes note with appreciation of the Government of Sri Lanka’s proposal to establish a Judicial Mechanism with a Special Counsel to investigate allegations of violations and abuses of human rights and violations of international humanitarian law, as applicable; and affirms that a credible justice process should include independent judicial and prosecutorial institutions led by individuals known for integrity and impartiality; and further affirms in this regard the importance of participation in a Sri Lankan judicial mechanism, including the Special Counsel’s office, of Commonwealth and other foreign judges, defence lawyers, and authorized prosecutors and investigators.” So the ball is now in the court of UNHRC.

3). TNA has maintained inexplicable silence over the ongoing process of Sinhalisation and Buddhisisation. It appears they have left this matter to the affected locals to protest in places where Buddhist Viharas are built and Buddha statues are erected. This silence of TNA could be considered as consent to the Government’s program, justifying the saying that ‘silence is consent’.

4). Furthermore Sam and Suma appear to be controlling the ITAK as well as the TNA. This is seen when the other partners in the TNA [TELO, EPRLF and PLOTE] have started to openly criticize Sam and particularly Sum for taking decisions without their approval, not even consultation with them. Sampanthan’s recent step motherly treatment of EPLRF MP Sivasakthi Ananthan as an outcast in the Parliament during the debate on the constitutional proposals by denying and stifling his democratic rights to speak while allowing all the other TNA MPs smacks of his dictatorial attitude. Above all this unjust action confirms his utter disregard to maintain the unity of TNA, thus falling into the hands of Maithiri/Ranil’s ‘divide and rule policy’. The duo have thus broken the TNA’s unity and discipline along with their strength to speak with one voice. Undoubtedly, the duo have fallen into the historical ‘divide and rule trap policy’ of Sinhalese leaders. The often heard pleas and cries of suffering Tamils for a united front and united voice seem to be falling on the deaf ears of TNA.

Response: The writer is appearing without a fee  for the constituent partners in the TNA. He is insulting the intelligence of the ITAK members. All policy decisions are taken after consulting the Executive/General Council which meets frequently. The last  one was held a few days ago. in Vavuniya.  Sivasakthi Amanda was not given time to speak because he did not attend the workshop  for TNA parliamentarians held at the office of the Opposition Leader. Who should speak or not speak is a prerogative of the  TNA parliamentary  group leader. The writer is displaying juvenile delinquency  like a person who has not reached the adult age. Sampanthan is a veteran politician who joined the satyagraha staged by the ITAK in 1961. He is representing Trincomalee in parliament since 1977 – 1983  and 2001 – to date! Some people specialises in denigrating our elected leaders on flimsy and frivolous grounds.  

5). TNA has so far never initiated any mass and popular protests against the Government for their delay, refusal and denial of justice and remedies for the grievances of Tamils which have been accumulating for the past sixty years, particularly after the genocidal war, Above all it is a pity that TNA has no agenda or program of action to pursue the goals and aspiration of Tamils. It appears the recent statements of TNA are confirming their abandoning the election pledges of Federalism and North & East merger while accepting the unitary form of Government and endorsing Buddhism’s foremost place in the Proposed Constitution.

Response: The TNA is interested in the content and not the form of the constitution. UK has a unitary constitution, but Scotland enjoys extensive  devolved powers over banking, immigration, educations, judiciary, currency, flag, national anthem etc. The word unitary and federal have lost their original meaning. A unitary constitution can offer devolved powers not found in some federal states. We will not be bogged down by symbols  or  on  semantic gymnastics!

6). TNA leadership is also making wavering and confusing statements on the Interim Committee Proposals, sometimes saying “we will fight for federalism and merger of North and East’ and on another occasion ‘a united country with federal aspects’, while Suma says ‘There is no possibility of North and East merger’. Sam and Suma are also blowing hot and cold over the clause giving Buddhism its foremost place’. While in Parliament, Sumanthiran in one breath advocates the insertion of ‘secular state’, in another breath he says ‘we will accept Buddhism’s foremost place if the Buddhists want it’. This is nothing but confusing and self-contradictory.

Response: These queries are childish. Please read the interim report. The ITAK has asked that the Northern and Eastern provinces should  constitute one province/state. However, the interim report has listed 3 options regarding amalgamation of  provinces (1)The constitution recognises the Northern and Eastern Provinces as a single province (2) Amalgamation of existing Provinces after a referendum in each Provincce (3) The Constitution should not provide for merger. The TNA wants a secular state in which every citizen is equal  like in Canada. But if the existing provision to give Buddhism foremost place the TNA  will not as pro quid co oppose provided the Provinces are given maximum autonomy. The writer is engaged in nitpicking!

(7) It is further disappointing to note the dismantled TNA and the subdued and meek opposition expressed by TNA which is not the hallmark in the political history of Tamils. Viewing the TNA’s unacceptable and poor political performance and consequently weakening the causes of the Tamils, who are also ignored by Security Council and United Nations so far, a solemn duty has fallen on the shoulders of students and their leaders to rise up and take control of the politics and destiny of Tamils. Power of students has to be recognized, embraced and accepted by all the Tamils to carry forward the struggle for accountability and justice.

Response: This is wishful thinking.  One cannot manufacture leaders. The TNA has increased its vote bank in every election held since 2009. The people  and not those in the Diaspora will judge n the performance of the TNA at the next election after three years. Even during the last parliamentary elections there was a concerted campaign by the remnants of LTTE to defeat the TNA. The campaign the unseat the TNA was an unmitigated disaster. People will not accept  Gajendrakumar and his ACTC which betrayed  one million Tamils of Indian origin for  a mesh of pottash! They will also not accept Wigneswaran as a leader after his dismal  performance  as Chief Minister of the Northern Province as the Chief Minister.  Who else is there? Suresh Premachandran? He lost the election at the last parliamentary elections.

(8) Sacrificing some time and energy for this noble cause will go down in the history as sacrifices to save the Tamils from extinction through the process of assimilation which is underway in the North and East. Duty and burden also lies on them to make the Government and the International Community realise the strength of opposition which is now treated by the Government as nuisance or no value.  Sam & Suma’s much applauded speeches in Parliament during the debate on ‘Interim Committee Proposals’ focused on the need for an acceptable solution ending with entreating and humble pleas to the Government to consider the importance of solution to the national question. However, it has fallen short without indicating or mentioning the action plan of TNA in the event the Government fails to honour the pleas and deliver an acceptable political settlement proposals, which situation is going to be certain to materialize viewing the past political somersaults of past Sri Lankan Governments’, who have been adept in delivering promises only to be followed by breaches.

Response: There lies the problem. No sacrifice of time and energy. Worse no financial sacrifice. For the information of those concerned Tamils, the international community is with us. It is putting diplomatic presure on the GoSL  TNA listens to international communuity.   There is no assimilation of Tamils going on in North and East by the help of the stat now.  If individuals are converted from one religion to another it is permitted in law. If  Hindu Tamils get converted to other relgions  it shows the weakness of the Hindu religion.  No army discloses its action plan in advance. We will tell the people when we come to cross the bridge. Some Tamils are born  doomsday soothsayers. Always having a pessimistic and defeatist attitude.

(9) Above all whether the proposed new constitution will have a ten month safe delivery without abortion is doubtful and far from certain viewing the rising tide of irrational and communal opposition from various quarters in the South like Mahinda front, Mahanayakaès front and other chauvinist outfits and groups who are breathing fire and fury and helping themselves with the bogey of separation as their trump card.

Response:  Yes, it is a long  journey into night! But we shall overcome!

(10) With a wavering and disunited TNA,  which is not exploiting its present political strength and status, it is left for the students, Tamil Civil Groups, Intellectuals and Diaspora to lead the Tamils as one force while seeking the support and intervention of International Community.

It is better late than never for the TNA to initiate and pursue a concerted campaign for the universally and UN recognised people’s right of self-determination which has been kept alive in all the political manifestos of all Tamil political parties since 1976 including the present TNA.

The much expected hope and optimism that the existing historical coalition of major parties in Sri Lanka, UNP and SLFP would bring out a permanent and acceptable political settlement for the Tamils has proved to be an illusion as the reality is  that the South political parties will never be able to free themselves from the entrenched ‘Maha Vamsa’ mindset and the resultant process of  Buddhisisation and Sinhalisisation agenda set in motion from 1948 by the late D.S. Senanayake which is continuing unabated, unhindered, undeterred and uninterrupted  in the North and East.

Response: Everyone knows what is ailing the Tamil Nation. The dispute is not over the prognosis but about the remedy. But crying and sitting on one’s elbow is not the way. Unity cannot be forged for the sake of unity. It must be anchored on policies, principles and goals.   Unlike during the past 69 years, today we have succeeded in placing the National Question in the UNHRC successfully. Now the ball is in UNHRC’s court. And Sri Lanka is in the dock.

I have taken pains to write a lengthy refute, since this article contains the same sing song of most   arm chair critics. One should know that we don’t live in paradise among angels. In the real world we live Utopian dreams should be given up because the reality is different.  So we should not live our life like imbeciles because the real world can be brutal and cruel.

Martin Luther King Jr.says “Cowardice asks the question – is it safe? Expediency asks the question – is it politic? Vanity asks the question – is it popular? But conscience asks the question – is it right? And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular; but one must take it because it is right.”

Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable. Every step towards the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.

(Concluded) .


About editor 3016 Articles
Writer and Journalist living in Canada since 1987. Tamil activist.

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