[Click Here for the Critique of Devolution Proposals]
An ACSLU Report
C O N T E N T S
|SL||Sri Lanka, Sri Lankan||UNP||United National Party|
|ITSL||International Tamil Separatist Lobby||PA||Peoples Alliance|
|SLFP||Sri Lanka Freedom Party||LTTE||Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam|
|NGO||Non-Governmental Organisation||FP||Federal Party|
|EPDP||Eelam Peoples' Democratic Party||NIO||New International Order|
|AI||Amnesty International||TELO||Tamil Eelam Liberation Organisation|
|ICRC||Int'l Committee of the Red Cross||TULF||Tamil United Liberation Front|
In August 1995 the Sri Lankan Government tabled its Political Solution to what it described as the "ethnic problem" behind the military conflict which has been raging in Sri Lanka for the past twelve years. The Government's solution was to change the Constitution of SL from its present unitary system into a "Union of Regions". It was therefore a Constitutional solution that was proposed to what was considered to be an ethnic problem. The solution was widely perceived as the adoption of a Federal System for SL even though this term was studiously avoided in the document. The proposals themselves have been referred to as the "Devolution Proposals".
A short time later ACSLU published a Report detailing a critique of these proposals. It was argued there that not only was the proposed solution a Federal one, but that it was an extreme type of Federalism, verging on a confederal system, and based on the principle of racism. Several other critiques have appeared both in Sri Lanka, and in documents published by other expatriate groups. In Sri Lanka some Buddhist and community organisations and small political parties have taken a stand against the proposals. While there is a great deal of overlap between these different critiques none of them touch all the issues canvassed in the ACSLU report, nor do they propose an alternative other than some minor amendments to the Government's proposals mainly relating to the division of powers between the Centre and the Regions. In contrast to this ACSLU has proposed a radically different solution firmly based on the five principles that it has identified as essential to a just solution to the problem.
Since the publication of the ACSLU critique there have been several developments. Since the LTTE has rejected the proposals the military offensive has continued both in the Jaffna peninsula and in the Eastern Province. Meanwhile the Government announced that its Proposals will be presented to Parliament, perhaps in an amended form, as a draft Bill. While some minor parties have taken an unequivocal stand against it the major parties are undecided, but generally favouring amendments to the proposals rather than their outright rejection. So it is quite possible that these proposals may be adopted by Parliament with some small changes. As argued in the ACSLU publication such cosmetic changes will not make any difference as there is no mechanism by which the Tamil Eelam Region could be disciplined if it violates the substance of any legislative enactment, or if it makes a unilateral declaration of independence on one pretext or the other.
Another issue is the objective of the current military campaign. If its purpose is to persuade the LTTE to accept the proposals then it is a misuse of resources and lives. Its aim should be to defeat terrorism. Many people forget that it was the terrorists who initiated the "military solution" to the problem in Sri Lanka. This military solution of the separatists can only be opposed by military means. It is indeed a matter of satisfaction that the Government has not abandoned this option, which for a long time had been placed in cold storage. However there are forces, some even within the Government, who oppose the military initiative. While we cannot give credence to reports that such opposition is widespread within the Government, there are outside bodies who have called for the cessation of the military effort. These include pro-Eelamist groups, certain religious bodies and foreign organisations operating in Sri Lanka allegedly concerned with human rights or humanitarian causes.
There appears to be a contradiction between the offer of Federalism and the military campaign. It would be a supreme irony if a military victory for SL is followed by the offer a legal mechanism for the separatists to achieve their objective of the partition of Sri Lanka. It is this contradiction that will be explored in this document. In general while the military initiative is appropriate there is the problem whether the devolution proposals offer the separatists another way reaching the goal which their "military solution" had failed to achieve.
Two other matters will also be addressed. (1) The implication of the "solution" of the Western powers to the Bosnian problem. Fresh from the partition of Bosnia it is quite possible for these self-appointed international policemen to turn to SL. Already the Devolution proposals has gravely compromised SL's stand. If they are adopted by Parliament, even in an amended form, the case for a foreign imposed solution … la Bosnia will be greatly enhanced. In any foreign solution it will be the Tamil separatist interest will prevail as the ITSL has already made many Western Governments captive to their views. (2) The clarification of some statements relating to the role of a section of the Sinhalese to the separatist problem.
The proposals that have been advanced seek to convert Sri Lanka from its present status as a unitary state into a Federal state, or a "Union of Regions" which is the favoured terminology on the Proposals. These proposals are a logical development of the notion of Devolution which had been touted since independence.
It will be recalled that during the independence agitation the dominant view amongst Tamil politicians was the demand for "fifty-fifty", i.e. that the legislative and executive power should be equally shared between the Sinhalese and ethnic minorities. This racist principle was rejected by the Colonial authorities, who were perhaps conscious of the great disproportion between the Sinhalese and the other races combined, even if they were not averse to a racial solution.
With the failure of the "fifty-fifty" demand Tamil politicians revived the demand for "Federalism". This was originally articulated by the Federal Party (FP) of Mr Chelvanayakam, which subsequently changed its name to the Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF). There is a widely prevalent view that the principal demand of this group was the transformation of Sri Lanka into a Federal state. This is not correct. Even the original name of the party, translated into English as the "Federal Party" is not correct. In Tamil it meant the "Tamil State Party (Thamil Arasu Kachchi)". There was never any implication that the "Tamil State" which they sought was to be a part of Sri Lanka. The view that the Federal Party stood for Federalism was one of the delusions of the non-Tamil politicians. Right from the beginning it was independence rather than a union with the rest of Sri Lanka that was sought. This was further emphasised when the new name of TULF was adopted. It contained the clear implication that Tamils are ruled over by an external force from whom the supposed "liberation" was to take place.
Today the notion of "Tamil Eelam" as a separate state occupying a large section of Sri Lanka is openly touted. Now there are over half-dozen Tamil political parties that have "Tamil Eelam", "Eelam" or "Liberation" as part of their official designation. The LTTE is the best known of these separatist groups, but separatism is also the cardinal aim of the other groups sheltering in Colombo. These groups are as much committed to the principle of separatism as the LTTE. Moreover these non-LTTE separatists have a history of terrorism which is no less virulent than that of the LTTE. The LTTE now enjoys the exclusively support of the International Tamil Separatist Lobby, and funded to a considerable extent by them. However this allegiance may shift if circumstances change. It is not surprising that the non-LTTE Eelam groups have been the most ardent supporters of the Government proposals for devolution of power. Even sections of the LTTE, sometimes called the "moderate LTTE", are in favour of these proposals as these proposals guarantee a sure route to the ultimate goal of Tamil Eelam.
While Tamil politicians were demanding a Tamil state a reciprocal movement was set afoot by non-Tamil politicians under the name of "Devolution". The first proponent of this policy was Mr S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike who became Prime Minister when the SLFP won the General Elections of 1956 with a landslide majority. Mr Bandaranike initiated two policies which were destined to be used extensively by the separatists in their international propaganda. One was his Official Language policy which was enshrined in the two bills, the Sinhala Only Bill and the Reasonable Use of Tamil Bill. We shall not consider this policy at this stage but make a few comments on it later. The other policy was the proposal for the Devolution of Power to District Councils. Even though this policy was never enacted into law it introduced a new concept into political thinking in Sri Lanka which was to have serious consequences.
The best expression of Mr Bandaranaike's ideas on devolution is contained in the understanding which he reached with Mr Chelvanayakam the leader of the FP. This is the notorious Bandaranaike-Chelvanayakam Pact (or B-C Pact) which was destined to play an important part in the mythology of the Tamil separatists. This "Pact" was characterised by extreme vagueness and many interpretations could be given to the kind of devolution it envisaged. Naturally the Tamils interpreted it to mean a concession of near-Sovereignty to them over a large part of Northern Sri Lanka. This pact could not be implemented and in the event became defunct. Later Tamil propaganda portrayed the "abrogation" of this Pact as the ultimate example of "Sinhalese Perfidy" which would make it impossible for Tamils to enter into any agreement with "Sinhala politicians". Of course the B-C Pact was not a solemn concordat between the Sinhalese and the Tamils as later Tamil propaganda made it out to be. Mr Bandaranaike could not speak for the "Sinhalese" any more than Mr Chelvanayakam could speak for the Tamils. Then as now there were many parties on both sides of the question. In any case while there was no lack of Tamil and Muslim political parties, none of the major parties were racially or ethnically exclusive. The fact is there has never been any exclusively Sinhalese political party of any importance in Sri Lanka. Thus the non-implementation of the B-C Pact cannot be taken as an example of "Sinhala Betrayal" as Tamil separatist propaganda made it out to be.
Even though Mr Bandaranaike may have been one of the early proponents of devolution the scheme of devolution he had in mind was quite tame compared to what is now proposed. Four features distinguish it from later proposals:
(1) The unit of devolution was the District rather than the Province. As there are many more Districts in Sri Lanka than Provinces the extent power devolved cannot be great for such small units. In fact what was proposed was an extended system of Local Government rather than any elaborate scheme of genuine devolution.
(2) The devolution proposed was devolution within a unitary state, so there no question of Federalism let alone confederalism.
(3) The racial principle was not emphasised, and given the limited nature of the devolution proposals this did not arise.
(4) Geographical boundaries were not to be manipulated to create an artificial "Tamil homeland" as has become the practice since the Indo-Sri Lankan Accord.
However in the Pact with Mr Chelvanayakam some of these qualifications were not clearly spelled out. When the Pact became defunct these matters ceased to be subjects of debate in SL.
Ever since Mr Bandaranaike's original proposal the SLFP had become wedded to a notion of devolution admittedly in a somewhat undefined form. The notion of Devolution was soon adopted by the other major political party, the UNP. It was given constitutional expression in the constitutional reform brought about by Mr J. R. Jayawardene after he won the General Election of 1977. The notion of devolution was further expanded as a result of the Indo-Sri Lankan Accord which was the consequence of the Sri Lanka acquiescence to the Indian aggression on behalf of its LTTE prot‚g‚s. Two aspects of the Jayawardene scheme, as contained in the Constitutional reforms and the Accord with India. are the following:
(1) The system of Provincial Councils. Even though the real powers conceded to these Councils was small it nonetheless provided the basis for an extension of the devolution notion beyond the Districts to which it had hitherto been confined. There were several motives involved in the establishment of the Provincial Council system. One was to devalue the role of Parliament. Already under the Executive Presidency Parliament had been devalued. With the delegation of more powers to the Provincial Councils the power of Parliament was further eroded. In effect what the Provincial Councils introduced was an new and unnecessary layer of politicians and bureaucrats into the governance of Sri Lanka. This pleased the politicians and bureaucrats, but became a burden to the nation.
(2) The "temporary" merger of the North and the East. This merger to form the so-called traditional homeland" of the Tamils was done under the dictates of the Rajiv Gandhi who at the time was currying favour with the Tamils. This introduced the racial factor which though implicit in their proposals were not expressly articulated by SL politicians who had embraced the notion of devolution. The Eastern Province was never a "traditional homeland" of Tamils. For that matter even the Northern Province was originally inhabited by the Sinhalese and it was only after successive invasions from South India that a Tamil presence was created there. As invariably happens when Tamil chauvinists take over a region the other inhabitants were not allowed to exist; so the original inhabitants of the Jaffna peninsula have fled.
The position of the Indian Government on the question of Federalism for Sri Lanka after the break with the LTTE is not quite clear. They had favoured it when they thought that the Tamils would become a convenient tool in their hands. As has been shown the Indian the system of Government cannot be described as a true Federal system. Since the break-up of the alliance between the Indian authorities and the LTTE several statements have been made to the effect that India affirms Sri Lanka's status as a unitary state. However more recently there appears to be another shift of position on this. This was in the context of the devolution proposals of the present Sri Lankan Government to which India has given a cautious welcome. However Indian views on this question are not relevant and should not be allowed to determine the constitutional system in Sri Lanka.
Thus the progress of opinion in Sri Lanka has been increasingly towards a general acceptance of racial devolution as a practical, even ideal, system for Sri Lanka. Its ultimate expression is the demand for Eelam whether it comes from the LTTE or the Colombo-based Tamil groups. This drift of political thinking from the unitary state towards Federalism which has been going on for four decades must be halted. It is not an easy task, but not an impossible one. What must be shown is that once embarked on the slippery road to Federalism there may well be no means, Constitutional or otherwise, to avoid the complete disintegration of Sri Lanka.
3. Amending the Devolution Package
The ACSLU critique of the devolution proposals of the SL Government has shown that they lean more towards confederalism than federalism. Thus the seemingly innocuous system of expanded local government foreshadowed by Solomon Bandaranaike under the name of the District Councils System has grown under the proposals of daughter into a blueprint for confederalism and thereby a springboard for the partition of Sri Lanka along racial lines.
It would appear that the people of SL are slowly realising this. When the proposals were first mooted opinion polls showed that over two-thirds of the population was in favour of the proposals. The most recent opinion polls suggest that over two-thirds are against the proposals. However such shifts of opinion in Sri Lanka are fickle, and nothing can be taken for granted in this matter.
The sections in Sri Lanka who are still in favour of separation, apart from its sponsors, are the various Tamil groups domiciled in Colombo, certain Church and religious groups, the traditional Troskyte and Communist groups, and a section of the Sinhalese. In an attempt to induce more people to embrace this suicidal plan the Government has engaged in a strategy which has included promising Amendments to the proposals. Since the major political parties have not taken a stand against the proposals it is quite possible that these proposals may still get through if only in a slightly amended form.
The Devolution proposals have given the separatist Tamils the opportunity of creating a racist Tamil state by relatively peaceful means. The support for the Proposals from the Colombo based Tamils groups is not surprising. It is the attitude of the LTTE that has most concerned the Government. In the LTTE opinion on the proposals seems to be divided between the megalomaniac and the "moderate" sections. The hard-line racists give the impression that they will not budge from their military stance, although this may well be a bluff to wrest more concessions that would make their final rupture that much easier. The so-called "moderate LTTE" is no less committed to this same goal, but see the possibility of reaching the goal in several steps. Their strategy would be to accept the devolution proposals as representing a system of true federalism. Then under some pretext or another the federal arrangement could be ruptured and Tamil Eelam realised.
Meanwhile the Government in an attempt to revive the flagging confidence in these proposals, and perhaps even to secure the support of the UNP, has argued that it will amend the proposals. The changes envisaged relate to three main areas:
(1) Modifications to the Devolution Scheme. It has been claimed that while the status of SL as a "Union of Regions" should prevail the actual scheme of Federalism could be diluted. What is proposed is not so much as to do away with the Federal solution, but to water down some of its "confederal" aspects. It is thus proposed that the power of intervention given to the Centre in the Indian Constitution be introduced into the SL legislation.
This however will not be a real solution. Even if the Centre has the theoretical power to intervene it is very unlikely that any SL Government will be willing to take on the Eelam Region if it decides to declare unilateral independence. Now the SL Government is hard put to defeat an illegal and private terrorist army; when their opponents become the security forces of the Eelam Region which will have forged international links and obtained some measure of international recognition effective intervention from the centre will become an impossibility. Similarly any other changes that may be proposed will only be purely legalistic moves with no basis in real politics.
(2) Re-allocation of functions between the Centre and Regions. It has been claimed that the Government will be prepared to review the distribution of powers between the Centre and the Regions as given in the original proposals. As has been shown by ACSLU the current distribution of powers does not make any sense except the attempt to endow the Eelam Regions with all the economic, political and international powers in order to confer it de facto independence. While many permutations and combinations can be devised when it comes to the carve-up of powers and functions between the Centre and the Eelam Region, in effect what will prevail is the military power of the Eelam Region.
(3) Minor changes to Provincial Boundaries. It is proposed that the actual boundary between the Eelam Region and the rest of Sri Lanka could be changed from the existing boundaries of the Northern and Eastern provinces. Such changes, even if it were to happen, and even if it were to diminish the actual territory given over to the Eelamists may not become a permanent line of demarcation. The Eelamists will assured encroach on other territory given that their claims extend to nearly half of the country stretching all the way from Puttalam on the West Coast to Yala in the South-East.
Any "concession" along the lines identified above cannot be taken as a fundamental departure from the objectionable principles which underlie the proposals already made. If people in Sri Lanka, and in particular the political parties whose support is crucial if the proposals are to receive Parliamentary acceptance, are misled by these essentially cosmetic changes to the Devolution proposals they will be committing a grave error.
Certain recent developments have given support to the above analysis. The LTTE has stepped up its attacks on the Tamil groups domiciled in Colombo. Recently the headquarters of the Eelam Democratic Peoples Party in Colombo was destroyed by the LTTE and many of its activists killed. This group had actually been supported by the SL Government even though it is as militaristic as the LTTE. It has been given the right to carry arms even in Colombo itself. It is possible that other Tamil groups in Colombo will in the future be less enthusiastic in criticising the LTTE. Already some of them are seeking to mend fences with the LTTE. Thus TELO refused to negotiate with the Government unless the LTTE was also participating in the negotiations. All this shows that whatever happens the real force in the Eelam Region after devolution will be the LTTE. The only question is whether it will still be led by its current Supremo. Even if the alleged "moderate" elements of the LTTE take over it will not be before long before they put on the trappings of the old LTTE that is now so well known to Sri Lankans and the world.
The Government has launched a campaign of intimidation and fear to obtain support for its devolution proposals. Journalists critical of the proposals have been intimidated. The threat of "conscription" has been held up. There has been a constant complaint of the costs of the war, and an extolling of the alleged benefits of the "peace dividend". Of course there will be no peace dividend. At best what can be expected after devolution will be cold war, which history has shown can be even more expensive than a "hot" war. The cold war will be with an entity legally recognised and entitled to a para-military force. Thus while the costs of the war are now undoubtedly high (a figure of one million US dollars a day has been quoted) there is no guarantee that an even higher price will have to be paid once the Eelam Region begins its campaign of aggrandisement, rearmament, and the promotion of subversion in the non-Eelam regions. There will be no lack of parties in the rest of Sri Lanka who will be willing to serve the rulers of the Eelam Region.
The most objectionable features of the present proposals is that they lead to the creation of an apartheid system through the institutionalisation of the racial principle. This is contained in the second article of the preamble to the devolution package. It deserves to be quoted in full:
"[Ensure] that all communities be given the space to express their identity and promote that identity including the right to enjoy their own culture, profess and practice their own religion, and nurture and promote their own language including the right to transact business with the state in the national language of their choice" [Article 2 of the Preamble to the Devolution Proposals]
As has been shown in the previous publication the notion of "racial space" is derived principally from two source: (1) the Hitlerite theory of "living space" (Lebensraum) for the master race, and (2) the Apartheid notion of segregated "homelands" for the different races of South Africa. Both these theories have been completely debunked, the first by military means and the second by a process which resulted from the armed struggle of the African National Congress. In Sri Lanka the opposite seems to be happening. The demand for separate space by terrorist racists is now seconded by the SL Government and apparently supported by sections of the Sri Lankan nation. This theory of racial space raises many questions which must be raised at this stage rather than at a later stage when it may well be too late.
The theory of racial space seems to suggest that the Eelam Region will be a Tamil territory. But what will be the status of the rest of Sri Lanka? Is this area to be "cleansed" of Tamils, and if so how is this to be done? If on the other hand the non-Eelam region is not to be "cleansed" of Tamils how are the Tamils resident in this region going to "express their identify". If on the other hand they can indeed express their identity in the non-Eelam region without their being given territory in their own right what is the rationale for the Eelam Region to be given over to Tamils? And what about the non-Tamils in the Eelam region (assuming that some of them are still left alive)? How are they to "express their identity" when the region has been given over to the Tamils? Or should they suppress their identity? These are questions that inevitably arise from the doctrine of racial space.
The Sri Lankan Tamil separatist terrorists have made many contributions to the techniques of terrorism such as the routine use of children, women and suicide bombers. But their most noxious practice has been ethnic cleaning even though this term gained general currency after it was adopted in the territory of former Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. The first act of ethnic cleansing was the massacre of the inmates of the prisoner rehabilitation camps called the Kent and Dollar Farms established in the North. They were massacred by the incipient Tamil terrorist movement. Since then almost all the inhabitants of the Northern province had been killed without as much as a murmur from the self-appointed human rights guardians in the various parts of the world. Then ethnic cleansing was introduced into the Eastern province, and it was extended to the Muslims as well.
A peculiar fact of the devolution proposals is that they are going to reward the very same people who have engaged in the ethnic cleansing. Meanwhile the number of Tamils in the non-Eelam region has actually increased, with Colombo becoming something of a refuge to many Tamils (including terrorists). Another peculiarity of the situation it is these Tamils resident in the non-Eelam region who seem to be the most enthusiastic supporters of devolution. It must be remembered that it is in search of the votes of these Tamils that both the present Government and the previous one tolerated Tamil separatism, and even included vocal supporters of the separatist cause in their very Governments.
Two specific aspects which the theory of racial space is supposed to promote are the pursuit of religion and the use of language. Several questions arise with respect to these aspects. As far as religion is concerned there seems to be a grave confusion between race and religion. It is well-known that about 25% of Tamils have converted to Christianity while about 8% of Sinhalese are Christians. Are these Christian minorities to be given "space" within the Tamil and the non-Tamil regions into which Sri Lanka is to be divided ? It is well-known that a bulk of the terrorists are Christians, and that they are supported by Christian groups in several parts of the world (e.g. sections of the Uniting Church in Australia). If these belligerent Tamil Christians dominate the Eelam Region (as they seem to the section plentifully supplied with arms) what will happen to the religious rights of the Hindus? They may well end up without the racial "space" that is supposed to be guaranteed to them by these devolution proposals.
Just as religion will be a divisive force in a segregated situation, so will language. The proposals seem to envisage that Tamil will be language of the Eelam Region while the present practice of "parity of status" between Tamil and Sinhala will continue in the non-Eelam region. Or is it proposed that once the Eelam Region is conceded (with Tamil as its official - indeed sole - language, that the current practice of parity of status will be done away in the non-Eelam region which will revert to the old policy of "Sinhala Only"? However this does not appear to be envisaged because the proposals speak of an equality of access to Government for the speakers of both the main languages?
These are some of the conundrums that will arise once the principle of "racial space" is recognised as the basis of the Sri Lankan state. There is no easy way in which these problems can be resolved in purely territorial terms. The only rational solution is to give up the notions of racial space, racial segregation and instead recognise the whole of Sri Lanka as equally accessible to all persons without the need for any racial or religious qualifications.
The policy of racial space is none other than the policy of apartheid. Apartheid is, of course, the notorious policy of the white racists of South Africa whose theory was to carve out separate racial homelands for South Africa different ethnic groups. The world condemned this policy, and ultimately this policy has been abandoned. Yet it is this same policy of racial separation that is proposed for Sri Lanka in the guise of racial space. It is a paradox that the same elements who once opposed apartheid in South Africa seem to support it for Sri Lanka.
Since the LTTE repudiated the phase of unconditional negotiations in April 1995 the SL Government has embarked on the most intensive phase of the war. It started with Operation Leap Forward in July 1995 and has since continued under a number of operational codenames, and with a high level of casualties on both sides.
There was of course no other option but to engage in this struggle. The complete bankruptcy of the so-called peace process, together with the heavy casualties inflicted on the SL forces by the unilateral actions of the LTTE in April 1995, made such a response inevitable. If not it would have meant the recognition of the LTTE as a real power in the so-called Eelam Region.
It must be mentioned that given the long inaction ever since the Indian intervention after Operation Liberation in 1988 the current moves are a welcome development. Sri Lanka's previous military efforts did not bring much success, and this has often been attributed to political intervention. It has been claimed that Sri Lanka's political leaders often urged restraint and caution even when on the brink of a military victory, and this has crippled Sri Lanka's military efforts to curb the "military solution" imposed by the separatists. There is much substance to this claim, especially as it relates to the three UNP administrations of Jayawardene, Premadasa and Wijetunga. One can only hope that the same kind of injudicious political intervention will not characterise the present military efforts.
Already the military successes of the armed forces has taken away something of the myth of LTTE military superiority which had been assiduously perpetuated not least by Government spokespersons. Most of the recent military gains have been in the North, and even there no crippling blow has as yet been delivered to the terrorists. The terrorists continue to hold key positions in the Jaffna peninsula including the capital city of Jaffna itself and their chief naval port Pt Pedro. For any substantial military gain these should be denied to the separatists. Whether this is possible is something that still to be seen.
The lack of authentic information about the state of the military campaign makes it difficult to make any meaningful comment about it. This is particularly true for expatriate organisations like ACSLU which are situated far from the scene of action. Thus we cannot, and we do not, make a critique of the Government's military efforts, and we have to accept the claim that until the terrorists give up their military efforts the military campaign will continue. All we can urge is that the mistakes that marred the previous attempts at dealing with this problem should not be allowed to continue.
Some peculiar aspects of the military campaign however deserves comment. There is first of all the question of sending supplies to the "civilians" of Jaffna. For over a decade the entire population of this region has been supplied by the Sri Lankan government even though their public loyalties have been with the LTTE. There are very few instances in military history where a party engaged in belligerent activities has been financially supported by their erstwhile enemies, and absolved the duty of feeding the population under their control!
Furthermore it is not only the civilians that are so supported. Almost all items sent to the North, whether food, medicines or fuel, come under the control of the LTTE. These supplies are distributed with LTTE approval, and in many instances the items are sold to the public and the money put into LTTE coffers. Thus the SL Government is actually financing the LTTE. It is indeed a curious fact that the very armed terrorists of the LTTE who have killed so many Sri Lankans, both military and civilian, are provisioned by the Sri Lankan Government! This enables the LTTE to devote all its funds received from their support groups, expatriate Tamils, and the proceeds from criminal activities like the narcotics trade, to the purchase of arms. If the obligation to feed the people, at least in part, is transferred to the terrorists, as it should be, then the funds devoted to military activities will be greatly curtailed. It is questionable whether after over a decade of providing supplies gratis the Government has won the "hearts and minds" of the people. What the Government should realise is that its duty is to act with firmness, fairness and justice and not to engage in a competition to win so-called "hearts and minds".
Recent developments have shown that there has been a quantum jump in the sophistication of the armaments used by the terrorists. They have surface-to-air missiles, and are rumoured to have even light aircraft. They constantly boast that they are the only terrorist group to have a naval capability. All this would need large scale funding. In the light of the proven ability of the LTTE to raise funds to obtain such military hardware there is no justification for the SL Government to feed and supply the so-called "civilian population" of the North, when this should be an obligation of the LTTE. There are plenty of international precedents for such a course of action, e.g. US embargoes against many countries (Cuba, Iraq, etc.)
In this connection the role of Western humanitarian groups must be noted. Of these the Red Cross (ICRC) and the M‚d‚cins sans frontiŠres (MSF) are the best known. While groups like Amnesty International (AI) provided moral and propaganda support to the separatists these humanitarian groups actually provide material aid. This aid is not directly of a military nature but they free up other funds which the separatists could use for military purposes. These groups work in close conjunction with the LTTE. They are blind to the human rights violations of the LTTE even though they do not fail to corroborate LTTE claims of alleged killings and bombings of civilians during combat operations.
Present policy relating to the free supply of food to the North and the latitude given to the Western humanitarian groups to conduct their openly biased activity should be urgently revised.
Some measure of interest, and a fair degree of misunderstanding, has arisen in connection with comments made in the original ACSLU Report on those who were described as the "Post-Bandaranike Sinhalas" (p. 23). It was argued there that it was this section of the Sinhalese who were most in favour of some kind of rapprochement with the LTTE. Many of them support of the Devolution proposals, and accept the line put out by the authors of these proposals that they constitute a solution to Sri Lanka's alleged "ethnic problem". It is unfortunate that comments in this regard have been interpreted as being critical of those who genuinely stand for the interests of the Sinhalese. This is certainly not the intention of ACSLU. This matter deserves further investigation especially as many of those who are critical of these sections of the Report accept the rest of its argument.
The term "post-Bandaranaike Sinhalas" was perhaps an unfortunate term as Mr Bandaranaike cannot be held responsible for the views and actions the group of people designated by this term.. It is now proposed that this term be replaced by the term "neo-Sinhalas". This term will be used to designate not merely those who had grown up under the education policy associated with the language reforms of the late Mr Bandaranike, but more importantly those who (1) share the view that devolution is the solution to the alleged ethnic problem (even if only along the lines set out in the Bandaranaike-Chelvanayakam Pact), and (2) adopt a narrow interpretation of the Language Policy of 1956 as implying that Sinhala to the exclusion of English and Tamil should immediately be the major language of communication and education for the country. The category of neo-Sinhalas does not include all Sinhalese who were educated under the scheme introduced progressively since 1956. Of course such people now constitute the majority of the population of Sri Lanka, and it is heartening to note that many of them do not subscribe to the two positions that we have identified as being essential to the "neo-Sinhala" viewpoint. But there is a sizeable section of people who do fall into this category, and this includes many in the "Sinhala-educated elite". It was the views of this group that were considered to be corroborative of the Tamil racist position on the partition of Sri Lanka. Thus any reference to neo-Sinhalas will include only those Sinhalas who subscribe to the two principles identified earlier in this paragraph.
The neo-Sinhalas are so called because they are alien to the true traditions of the Sinhalese. In their long history the Sinhalese have never been chauvinistic and have treated all ethnic groups, including the Tamil people living in Sri Lanka with justice and fairness. In the case of the Tamils they had adopted this stance despite the fact that Tamils originally came to Sri Lanka in the wake of the South Indian invaders many of whom were little better than vandals and plunderers. The traditional Sinhala position had not been to divide the country into racial areas but to allow persons to live in peace and fairness under a unified Kingdom. However the neo-Sinhalas we speak of have adopted a chauvinistic position which complements in many respects the racism of the Tamil separatists. It is therefore not surprising that these neo-Sinhalas have advocated a modus vivendi with the Tamil racists and have been supporters of racial devolution, some of them even advocating the grant of a racial homeland to the Tamils.
The recent Sinhala migration to Australia (and perhaps other Western countries as well) contains a strong neo-Sinhala representation. These neo-Sinhalas were so busy organising themselves into narrow ghettos in the countries of migration that they were completely oblivious to the fate of their erstwhile homeland. Tamil separatist theoreticians were spreading the story that Sri Lanka consisted of "two nations" which cannot live together. The neo-Sinhalas in effect corroborated this theory by organising "Sinhala only" activities as a complement to the "Tamil only" activities of the separatists. This in effect meant support to the separatist theory that Sri Lanka consisted of "two nations" which had to be separated from each other if the country was to exist in peace. After the election of Mrs Chandrika Kumaratunga as President, and the effective restoration of the Bandaranike dynasty, the expatriate neo-Sinhalas sprang to life first as defenders of unconditional negotiations with the LTTE, and then as supporters of devolution .
A curious anomaly of the neo-Sinhala position is that they have completely abandoned the Sinhala Only policy of their founder. What passes as language policy in Sri Lanka is an effective policy of parity of status between Sinhala and Tamil and English ruling the roost in all but official designation. Thus the wheel seems to have turned full circle and the situation which prevailed in British times and in the pre-Bandaranaike era has been re-established. However this has not won them any kudos from the Tamil separatists who continue to tout the view that the language policy of 1956 still prevails. The fact of the matter was that the 1956 language laws have remained a dead letter. Effective power is still exercised in Sri Lanka by narrow elites and the majority ethnic groups remain as marginalised as they were in the period before 1956. The neo-Sinhalas are only provided with circuses to indulge in their chauvinistic nostalgia. The only real difference is that while previously ordinary Sri Lankans could gain access to the highest positions through the public education system, now this is confined to the rich who can afford to send their children abroad for their education (in non-Sinhala of course). It is no coincidence that while the Bandaranaike scions are educated abroad their followers had to do with a rapidly deteriorating and inadequate educational system.
Recent developments in the Bosnian crisis hold serious implications for the outcome of the Sri Lankan problem. Bosnia had become the classic case of ethnic partition. The break-up of the Yugoslav Federation is itself a salutary lesson for those who want to set up a Federal state in Sri Lanka. What Yugoslavia has shown is that a Federation constituted on the racial principle is not a viable constitutional unit. Should Sri Lanka adopt the scheme of racial division that is envisaged in the proposal for a "Union of Regions" the resulting Union will have an even shorter life than the Yugoslav federation.
But of all the constituent parts into which Yugoslavia has split it is Bosnia that poses the most compelling parallels with what is happening in Sri Lanka. The grab for territory by the contending groups (Serbs, Croats and Muslims) has led to some of the most horrible scenes of ethnic cleansing the world has seen. This scenario will not be too far way for Sri Lanka if the present proposals get through and the grab for territory by Tamils, Muslims and Sinhalese will take place paralleling the worst excesses that has taken place in Bosnia.
The most disturbing aspect of the Bosnian solution of ethnic partitioning of the country is that this has now been endorsed by the super-powers. In the post Cold War era the superpowers (mainly the United States and large European states) have taken upon themselves to define the New International Order (NIO). The NIO is essentially one of economic colonialism with the parts of the former Third World made into dependencies of the NIO arbiters. The countries that are most likely to fall victim to this are those beset by ethnic conflict. Thus it is in the interest of the NIO arbiters to institutionalise racial and ethnic conflict. This could best be done by ethnic partitioning so that the partitioned units will be consumed by the historical legacies to be antagonistic to each other. This will facilitate interference by NIO arbiters to their own advantage and the common ruin of the partitioned entities. This strategy has been seen in the last few decades in Western policy with respect to India and Pakistan, which provided the good example of the dismemberment of a nation along racial and religious lines.
While the NIO arbiters have been busy advocating ethnic partition for Bosnia and for Sri Lanka they are very careful not to introduce this principle into their domestic jurisdictions. At home the NIO arbiters maintain the policy of multi-Culturalism or "unity in diversity", but it is not this principle but that of racial separation that is advocated for hapless countries like Bosnia and Sri Lanka.
Bosnia also saw the introduction of a new policy of active military action in support of racial policies. So far it is only the Serbs who have been victims of the NATO air strikes even though all sides in Bosnia have been guilty of ethnic cleansing. Even while NATO action was taking place against the Bosnian Serbs the Croats were conducting mass ethnic cleansing in the Krajina region of former Yugoslavia without as much as a reproach from the Western powers. This shows the partisan nature of the NATO imposed solution in Bosnia. In SL too the Western powers are not even-handed but have always been biased towards the Tamils despite recent delusions entertained by the SL Government that matters have changed in this regard. The fact that the NIO arbiters have used the UN to cover up their activities should not be taken to mean that there has been a genuine UN policy in force.
The danger for SL is that fresh from the Bosnian victory the NIO arbiters (with or without the UN camouflage) will try to impose the Bosnian solution on SL. Already it has been reported that the British Foreign Minister has stated that he is willing to "arbitrate" on the SL problem. SL's own foreign minister Mr Kardirgamar (himself a Tamil) has stated that Australia has also made a similar offer even though this has not been confirmed and the Australian Foreign Minister stated in his visit to SL in May 1995 that there is no place for foreign intervention. But that was before the devolution proposals were put on the table. Canada has been a long standing supporter of the Tamil interest and recently sent a Foreign Affairs official to re-start the dialogue between the SL Government and the LTTE. The SL Government claims that most Western powers, and the European Union support its devolution offer, as if this is a great achievement. If the NIO principals are allowed to have their say in the outcome in SL it will be devolution that will be imposed possibly with the persuasive power of NIO bombs!
This document has concentrated on a few issues that have emerged in the period since the devolution package was tabled by the Sri Lankan government. We have shown that the "amendments" mooted does not touch the objections to the proposals. What SL needs to do is to propose an alternative policy. The basics of that policy was given in the original ACSLU critique of the devolution package. What it involves is a move away from the racial principle towards a genuine multi-Culturalism within a united Sri Lanka. One of the urgent needs is the abolish the system of Provinces and make the Districts the units of local government dealing with extremely localised subjects. All other functions should be centralised in a single Parliament of Sri Lanka which should be the sole source of legislative and executive power. Questions of discrimination should be dealt with by an entrenched codes of human and civil rights relating to individuals and not ethnic groups.
The paradox of the current position is that a military offensive is in progress in the North while the separatists are at the same time offered a political package that will enable them to realise the objectives of the their military campaign by relatively peaceful and legal means. Whether the military campaign is another of those "phony wars" which have been so typical of this problem we are not in a position to determine. ACSLU sincerely hopes that it is not and that a genuine effort if made to rid the land of terrorism. But there is no rationale in eliminating terrorism if the terrorists sans weapons are allowed to secure their goals by the legal processes built into the devolution proposals. The essential contradiction between the so-called political solution and the military action now taking place has not been adequately explained, and is a source of foreboding for those interested in the continued unity of Sri Lanka.
The acceptance by NIO principals of the policy of racial separation implicit in the Bosnian, Palestianian and other solutions holds ominous implications for Sri Lanka. The ITSL has for long cultivated the Western powers who are the NIO arbiters. It may well be that if the NIO principals are able to impose their will on SL then the investment by the ITSL will have paid off. It is well known that the ITSL has also persuaded such bodies as the ICRC, AI, MSF, and leading Church bodies in the West. These unofficial bodies have a great influence with the NIO principals. This influence will be brought to bear to see that a NIO imposed solution in SL will lean towards the separatists.
The window of opportunity confronting the SL nation is indeed very narrow. If the present opportunity to abandon the devolution proposals, to eliminate militarily the terrorist threat, and to establish SL as a unitary state with guaranteed human rights is not taken, then SL's cause may well be lost for ever, and we will see an end to two millennia of proud history of SL as a non-racist Nation.