| K Anandan Simon Silva
(November 06, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) The Tamil political parties should come into the mainstream and help build this country which is as much ours as it is of the Sinhalese and the other communities who inhabit it. There are more Tamils living in the South of this country than in the North and East. The Tamil political parties must change direction for they have both the political and intellectual capacity to understand what is possible; they are today moving backwards sowing dissension towards conflict, hatred and division. They should call for the restoration of true /real Democracy in this country; demand the restoration of the 17th Amendment and the repeal of the 18th. They must call for the implementation of the Dinesh Gunawardena report on Electoral Reform immediately. They should call for the rigorous implementation of the Rule of Law and the independence of the Judiciary; they should also call for the Equal Opportunities Bill to be brought back and the enthronement of merit and call for the curbing of corruption by calling for a new Declaration of Assets Law and a Right to Information Law.
They should also call for the vigorous implementation of the Presidents initiative to make English the compulsory link language. I am certain the Commonwealth, the Colombo Plan, The US, Britain, Canada and Australia would help generously to implement such a project whilst helping us to promote through education the creation of a more understanding, tolerant, caring society and friendship among all racial and religious groups in our country.
The Tamil Parties must set an example to other political parties. They have a DUTY to do this by our people. They must play a more responsible and positive role and set an example to the other political parties. There is no question that the Sinhalese MUST also change their attitude and help bring the Tamil people, who were described as also “OUR PEOPLE’ by Minister DEW Gunasekera, into the mainstream; We Tamils must feel that this country is as much ours as it is of the Sinhalese and other communities who inhabit this country. We must be able to live as equal citizens with equal opportunities, in dignity and have a right to decide on our own destiny and also have a significant say at the center in deciding on the destiny of our country.
Recently Minister Douglas Devananda called for the implementation of the 13th Amendment MINUS Land and Police Powers, a sensible and responsible position to take in the light of the opposition to such a concession not only in the south but also in the north and east as by well meaning people, who know the quality of our politicians who are mostly criminals and dependent on thugs and the underworld for their survival. We already have a situation where law and order has broken down in an unprecedented manner, and to give Police Powers to politicians would be akin to committing national suicide.
I cannot understand why the government has been dragging its feet on the matter of amending the 13th Amendment and removing Land and Police Powers and implementing the 13th Amendment and working out a system decentralizing and integrating the present administrative system into that framework of the 13th Amendment. There are many retired senior public servants who have served for years in the provincial system and could assist the government to work out a system which will empower the people at the village level, at the Division level and at the District level within the Provincial Administration. This will take the wind out of the sails of the Diaspora’s campaign overseas. The people MUST be empowered to decide on matters that affect them locally.
Today the Diaspora is spending their millions not on the purchase of arms as before but on this huge “Diplomatic” offensive to blacken the name of the country. The government’s so called counter offensive is, we regret to say, not effective; it is wasting millions of USD on so-called Lobbyists who have neither the knowledge nor the commitment to counter the ‘charges’ of our detractors. The best answer is to get our house in order —- why cannot this government explain to the JHU and the Buddhist clergy that conceding to the Tamil people rights which the government is committed to concede under international covenants, which our country has agreed upon, which requires the government to accord minorities in their countries the same rights as is enjoyed by the majority is entirely in the national interest?
No doubt the Sinhalese were discriminated against for over 400 years but they have come into their own a few years after our country received independence, now it is for them to be magnanimous and reach out to the minorities in their own interest.
It is conceded that though the country received independence from the British in 1948, it did not mean anything to the ordinary man for the pro-British elites continued to rule; the grant of independence meant nothing to the ordinary Sinhalese Buddhist and it was only in the election of 1956 that the Buddhist clergy, the Ayurvedic practitioner (they had no place though we had a two thousand year history of ‘native’ medicine), the Sinhala school teacher (almost every temple had a school which taught Sinhala, Pali and Buddhism) and the farmer came into their own and swept the Polls. This powerful rainbow coalition that emerged from this election was not prepared to consider equal status for the Tamil people whom they considered to have been privileged under British rule. Hence it was that the Tamil language was shut out. The Tamil people were no doubt unfairly victimized and with no concessions being made they took to terrorism to obtain their goal, which after 1976 and the Vaddukodai Resolution, took the form of establishing a separate state.
Now that the separatist war is over we do have an opportunity to settle this problem in a fair manner for the Tamil people are, as Minister DEW Gunasekera stated, “also our people”; the majority of Sinhalese people, though they claim to be Buddhists, are Hindus, having adopted the Hindu Gods as their Gods also, (though Buddhism places the entire emphasis on the development of the mind and holds that salvation (if that be the word) or enlightenment, comes through meditation and the practice of morality – the Noble Eightfold Path) . The Sinhalese Buddhist and the Tamil Hindu share much, the God of Kataragama is also our God Kandswamy, worshipped by both communities from north to the south.
Many ‘Sinhalese’ of today came from Kerala during Portuguese and Dutch times to work in the cinnamon and the coconut plantations and much of our food too came from Kerala, including our hoppers and string-hoppers besides certain other dishes such as ‘ambulthial’. Yes we do, as our President has himself stated, have a ‘blood relationship’ with India but of course this did not give her the license to interfere in the internal affairs of our country in the manner she has done with impunity since 1982. Even after paying a heavy price in Indian lives, India continues to seek to meddle in and influence our internal political situation because of the center being dependent on the politicians of Tamil Nadu.
It is indeed time that India respected our sovereignty and let this country decide on its own destiny and most important of all it is time for the international community to also act positively and tell the Tamil political leaders of Sri Lanka to change their negative approach to winning the Tamil people their rights. Their politics is making us feel insecure. They should join the mainstream —— they need not only to seek to ensure the rights of the Tamil minority in the North and East but of those of all Tamil people (the majority) living outside the two provinces and of all the people of this our country. They must join our Sinhala brethren and work together for Justice and Human Rights for all the people in this country for that is the key to peace and a sustainable Sri Lanka.