| by Ishara de Silva
( January 17, 2013, London, Sri Lanka Guardian) Ever since I wrote on a ‘1 Country-2 Nation’ solution to the Tamil-Sinhala problem, a number of articles have appeared heralding that view, a good thing for peace mongers around the world I think.
Entitled “The De Silva Principle,” a half page opinion piece was written in Britain’s Asian Times newspaper that said this type of peace was possible, and indeed was something the LTTE had been prepared to accept before their defeat at the hands of government forces.
On Monday January 31, 2011, The Sri Lanka Guardian , some time afterwards, ran a piece, using reverse phraseology for this same slogan, originally sourced from the Chinese model of ‘1 Country-2 Systems’ for the handover of Hong Kong from the British to China, which headlined an article using the caption: ’Two Nations One Country Option: way out of impasse’.
The article, by I. S. Senguttuvan, said “Our conflict is essentially race-based. From ancient times two nations have lived in the Island. In the circumstances, a way out on a Two -Nation One-Country formulae (Sinhala and Tamil Nations) should be looked into.
It added: “The Israeli-Palestinian question is being negotiated currently under the same formulae is relevant to be borne in mind. Hardline Tamils also should note a Separate State altogether is harmful both to them as well. However, deep their wounds of the present and the past a certain degree of give-and-take is necessary for the sake of the future.
It went on: “The region and the world too will not accept any effort at bifurcation. Last week Norway herself came out against dividing the country. The arrangement now suggested, it should be noted, will not in any way jeopordise the territorial integrity of the country. On the other hand, as it has been convincingly shown, this arrangement will only go out to free the country from most of our serious pressures. Control in Finance, Foreign Policy, Security of the State will remain in the hands of the Centre. The Principle of supremacy by majority rule is in no way compromised. This is no different to the “13th Amendment plus” the President has been suggesting now and then.”
Now while the idea is accurate to what I have been suggesting, it does not mean that the Centre ought to have a majority rule slant, but could work on an equal basis between the two communities based on common interest. Still, the ‘1 Country-2 Nations’ mantra is encapsulated in this view, a promising sign for all involved in the dispute that has ran on ever since the British withdrew, if not before.
In addition to the Sri Lanka Guardian article, Britain’s prestigious The Economist journal also ran a piece in November 25th, 2010, also several years after my first intervention with this notion in my journalism, with the headline precisely this: One country, 2 Nations – The Rajapaksa clan is justifiably triumphant, But Sri Lanka remains dangerously divided.
Meanwhile, TamilNet, the well known news source run by Tamils, ran an article about the 1-Country-2 Nations notion some time back, but again after my campaign in London, as follows:
“Jaffna University Student Union (JUSU) representatives held discussions individually with the candidates of Tamil National Alliance (TNA) and Tamil National Peoples’ Front (TNPF) contesting forthcoming parliamentary elections Tuesday in which the candidates were requested to spell out their political principles, the stand and activities they intend taking after the election, the media report released by Jaffna University Student Union (JUSU) said. The discussion was organized by JUSU representatives so that the doubts prevailing among the Tamils about the political policies of both parties could be cleared. TNA did not accept TNPF’s doctrine of ‘One country, two Nations’ but upheld the policy of ‘One Country with Two Nationalities’, the report quoted TNPF candidates.
Now the concern for nations, as opposed to nationalities was because they said “two nations” implied no sovereignty for Tamils, but “two nationalities” did not. Now it is encouraging that the TNPF supported the 1 Country-2 Nation policy, but the TNA reluctance is merely pedantic. You can, in other words, have one country with two nations with Tamil affairs under the legal authority of Tamil representatives, just as the Scottish in the UK have their own parliament and so decide on legislation concerning the Scottish people to be upheld by the courts.
The thrust of my article, which appeared in Sri Lanka’s Island newspaper on Monday 7th August 2006, entitled UNP’s Self-Determination Phobia, was to make Sinhala parties more aware of the fact that a unified Sri Lanka can be achieved with the recognition of nationhood of the Tamil people. Here, both sides win! So, the UNP, SLFP and JVP should all make a 1 Country-2 Nations solution their prime objective and secure an end to the national question once and for all.
The question is do they have the political will and courage to do it. Already, the world media has brought the 1-Country-2 Nations formulae that I promoted around 10 years ago now to the fore, and this is an encouraging sign which should be continued as long as the Sinhala-Tamil dispute remains an obstacle for the people of Sri Lanka.
(The writer is former Asian Times Editor (UK), and a member of the OLR Opinion Leader Panel (UK) (2002-2003) )