I am one who is not communal and had been always saying that I wish to have a Sinhalese family as my neighbour on one side and a Muslim family on the other. I have still not changed my views in this matter. I want anyone to read and respond to this appeal whether positively or adversely but guided by their own conscience and not by sentiments. As for me, like many others, finding a permanent solution should be the Government’s top priority which is not at all difficult. I am yearning to see the dawn of peace in its true form in this beautiful Island of ours, in which from time immemorial the Tamils and the Sinhalese had lived in peace and harmony along with Muslims and many other ethnic groups, before the country gained its independence.
| by V. Anandasangaree
(November 19, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) Although both of us entered Parliament together in 1970, I am more senior to you in age and in politics. Hence I have a moral duty to tell you frankly what I feel about every one of your actions and decision.
What was going on in this country since independence in 1948 is not fully known to the present generation. They hardly know what a peaceful country Ceylon was in the good old days. I am one who had lived throughout this period and had witnessed and experienced all good and bad events that took place in our country. The turning point was the passage of the Citizenship Acts and the situation got aggravated with the passage of the Act making Sinhala as the only official language of the state in 1956. Since then for more than half a century no one could live peacefully in any part of the Country whether one is the Head of the state like you or an ordinary citizen of Sri Lanka like me.
Building a new Sri Lanka
Peace knocked at our door a number of times. It is we who shut it out. If your continue to maintain that a solution to the ethnic problem can be found only on the basis of consensus reached among all sections of the people, I bet you will never solve it. You are aware what problems the Tamils and other minorities face. You are also not unaware as to what solution that will be acceptable to the minorities, for which you do not need any select committee of Parliament, or so many meetings with others or any more All Party meetings. If you persist in finding a solution under a Unitary System, you will never solve the ethnic problem even if your party wins all Tamil majority seats in the North and the East. A unitary system will not be acceptable to the minorities, the Tamils in particular. It will never serve as a permanent solution, since it can be meddled with, by some others when you and I are no more. I had been repeatedly saying that only the Indian Model will be acceptable to the minorities as the only alternative to a “Federal Model” if the term “Federal” is allergic to some. Otherwise it would be the best and the most acceptable one. The term “Unitary” is equally allergic to some others. You can rest assured that if certain doubts are cleared in the minds of the section of the people who think that the country may get divided someday, they are bound to accept a Federal Solution. For your part make ample provisions in the constitution deterring everyone from making any attempt to divide the country and also make everyone to feel that we are all equals and will be treated as such and will never be allowed to be subjected to any form of discrimination, imposing severe penalties for violations by any official. I am sure that finding a solution on this basis is achievable, if you are determined to do so. The proposal could be prepared by you in consultation with leaders of all parties and other dignitaries in whom you have confidence and placed before the country for anyone to suggest any amendments that should appear to be reasonable and acceptable.
At this juncture I wish to refer to my common letter dated 02-10-2005 sent to you and to Ranil Wickremesinghe during the Presidential Election of Nov 2005 at which both of you were candidates.
In this letter (copy attached) apart from many others, I have pointed out the need for an early settlement of the Ethnic Problem, — The need to keep it out of the presidential campaign — Failure of politicians to keep up promises made during election campaigns, — Allaying the fears of the people with regard to – Federal form of government. — The demerits of the unitary system in relation to Sri Lankan ethnic problem — The merits of the Indian Model of devolution and wound up by saying:-
“Thousands of Sri Lankan Sinhalese, Tamils, and Muslims and other ethnic groups visit India every day. They are full of admiration for its liberal democratic ideals. A majority Hindu country has a great Muslim Scientist as Head of the State and treat him with due honour. Another highly respected leader is the Prime Minister of India from an ethnic group that forms only 2% of its population and the leader of the ruling Party who is a very highly respected lady is one, not born in India. This great neighbour of ours has found unity in diversity; why can’t we have powers devolved to our regions on the Indian pattern? “
“I strongly urge that both candidates should declare that a solution to the ethnic problem will be found jointly, by both agreeing to take it up soon after the election, irrespective of who wins. I am positively sure that this is the only way to bring back peace to our suffering masses. With the attention of the entire international community focused on Sri Lanka, I believe this is the best time too.”
After the Presidential Election at which you won, you made your policy statement in Parliament on 25-11-2005. I wrote to you another letter on 28-11-2005 captioned “Policy Statement and the Peace Process” (Copy attached) from which a selected paragraph is quoted here: –
“As usual like your predecessors, you too have sought the co-operation of everyone to help you to build a New Sri Lanka. Without a contented minority support, it is difficult to achieve it. Even the full co-operation of the majority Sinhalese may be available to you because the main concern of the people of Sri Lanka today is achieving Peace and to achieve it, an acceptable solution is a pre- requisite. Peace is knocking at our door. Whether we are going to let it in or shut our doors, is in your hands. Having found a reasonable solution, within the framework of a United Sri Lanka, acceptable to the International Community, which will never support separation, you can then proceed to muster support for the creation of a New Sri Lanka. Until then the minorities are not at all interested in anything, even if you give them everything free. To put it better the LTTE won’t allow them to do anything. With no satisfactory response from your side, they have no alternative other than submitting themselves to the LTTE’s pressure for everything. “
What is reasonable and honest
I now come to your 2nd Independence Day message to the Nation, after you got elected as the President of the Democratic Social Republic of Sri Lanka, delivered at the 59th Independence Day Ceremony held at the Galle Face Green on the 4th of Feb 2007. I was moved to tears for not participating in that ceremony not because anyone prevented me from doing so, but because I felt that the Tamils have lost their right to rejoice at the Independence Day ceremony as one belonging to a subservient community or race. It was too much for me to bear, being one who is very patriotic and had actively taken part in the Independence Day ceremony on the 4th February 1948. I had lived in this country for 78 years and I hardly remember when I last celebrated the Independence Day Ceremony.
Permit me to quote an extract of your speech at that ceremony:-
“It is this massive commitment to peace that led our Security Forces to liberate the innocent Tamil people who were taken hostage and used as a human shield by the terrorists, to win their savage demands. For this valiant effort our heroic security forces deserve the salute of the Sri Lankan people on this honoured day.
Similarly, we should now take speedy action to establish democratic governance in areas liberated from the clutches of the terrorists in the East and the North. It is our duty to protect the lives and property of the Tamil and Muslim people, and bring sanctity to the future world of their children. As I stated at the inauguration of the Moragahakanda Maha Samudra, I wish to re-emphasize that the most reliable weapon against terrorism is to do justice by the innocent Tamil people. I know that the Sinhala people in the South are ready for this. We are not ready to give into the blood-thirsty demands of the LTTE. However, at the minimum we should be reasonable and honest enough to agree with Mr. Anadasangaree or the Hon. Douglas Devananda.”
Indian Model acceptable
This was a part of your message to the Nation at a time when the country did not have much hopes of defeating the LTTE. Yet since you had said so, it came as a guarantee that you were giving to the Nation. You said, “However at the minimum we should be reasonable and honest enough to agree with Mr. Anadasangaree or Hon Douglas Devananda”, Even at that time he was a minister of your cabinet. But I was not even a Member of Parliament or a member of any local body. Long before you contested the Presidential election in Nov 2005 for the 1st time, I had started my campaign for an Indian Model of devolution and even suggested during the Presidential Election campaign of 2005 to leave the ethnic issue out of the campaign and to take it up with the defeated candidate to agree on a consensus. Hence mentioning my name, at the 59th Independence Day speech, and saying that at the minimum you should be reasonable and honest enough to agree with me or with Douglas Devananda, gave me hopes that you were considering the Indian Model as a solution to our problem. My hopes got strengthened when one day you asked me not to use the term “Federal” in any of my articles and statements but to use the term “Indian Model” liberally, in all my writings. I also remember your asking me to discuss this matter with the J.V.P too.
In conclusion I plead with you to consider the Indian Model as an alternative to a Federal Solution, if you still won’t support the Federal Model which was to your liking once. The SLFP convention also once approved it. Our people should be told that “Democracy” is not merely the rule of the majority. But Democracy is rule of the majority with the consent of the minority. At the 2005 Presidential Election the UNP offered a Federal Solution and obtained 49% of the votes. Out of the votes you obtained, the leftist votes you got could be taken as votes cast for a Federal Solution. Although my suggestion looks ridiculous it has some moral values since one percent of the votes cast at an election should not obstruct the finding of a reasonable solution for a 55 year old problem that had brought destruction to the country, which would have been otherwise peaceful and prosperous. If a solution based on the Federal or Indian model is found several thousand souls from all ethnic groups in Sri Lanka will rest in peace. To achieve it, assurance from several countries can be obtained, to get their full co-operation in curtailing the activities of all, who are opposed to peace in Our Country. As for you, you will go down in history as the single person who brought peace and prosperity to an ailing nation. I am advising you in good faith that no satisfactory permanent solution can ever be found under a unitary system of Government.