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The SLFP Devolution Proposal – a Preliminary Comment

It has been reported that the long awaited GOSL proposal to solve the separatist crisis has been forwarded to the APRC. While the full text of the proposal is not available there have been reports about it as it seems to have been released to interested parties. A full analysis of the proposal will be made when the full text is available. Meanwhile some of the early reactions from interested parties is given in the news reports below.

It would appear that the crux of the proposal is devolution of power to District Council (DC) units. As there is no information on exactly what powers are devolved to these DCs we will have to postpone full analysis of this proposal until this information is given. In the ACSLU Proposal it was suggested that there should not be any devolution of power from the Central Government which should be the only Government for Sri Lanka. If the DCs were to play any role this should be as local government units. All unitary states have local government powers given to cities, towns, boroughs, etc. but this kind of authorization is not described as devolution of power. The powers given to local bodies relate to purely local duties like provision of local services. But the SLFP proposal is to devolve power, so that sovereignty is shared with these DCs. There appears to be provision for the amalgamation of contiguous DCs, so that it is possible we may end up with a large DC covering more of the Tamil majority areas. This will not be very different to the Eelaam demanded by the separatists.

It is quite clear that despite the talk of devolution, decentralization, development, etc. this is simply a plan for racial devolution. Such devolution has always been unstable with separation taking place sooner or later. In SL it is will be sooner. The size of the country is so small that further division into separate parts is absurd. The only justification is racial devolution. This is also seen in the statement accompanying the release of this plan where it is stated that it is "a lasting and honourable solution to the ethnic issue in the country." This is something that should not be allowed. Racial separation for Tamils will be followed by demands from other racial, ethnic or religious groups. It will lead to the fragmentation of a nation that had been largely a unitary state for millennia.

This proposal has already been rejected by the leading non-LTTE Tamils. The joint statement by the TULF, EPRLF and TELO is given below. They reject is completely. Of course the LTTE will treat it with even grater contempt. So this is a non-solution like all the other non-solutions that have been proposed so far. This is clearly shown in the article by K.T.Rajasingham (also given below) who is as much of a Tamil racist as the others. All these Tamil groups, LTTE and non-LTTE, are racist groups. There is no formula that will satisfy them, and churning out this kind of devolutionary solution has been a sheer waste of time. What this latest episode tying to give flesh and blood to the Mahinda Chintanaya promise of "maximum devolution within a unitary state" will prove to be abortive. What is wrong is the basis on which this so-called Chintanaya rests. It was a deceptive election promise, and remains one. It is only the so-called 'Patriotic Lobby' that is fooled by all this.

It is reported that when announcing the proposal "the SLFP said that it firmly stood for a negotiated settlement of the political crisis in Sri Lanka based on a scheme of devolution of power". Despite this clear statement of the intentions of GOSL many "patriots" think that the Government is seeking a military solution and a defeat for Prabhakaran. Indeed one patriot has said that before the year is out Prabhakaran will be "crushed" and will be forced to chew his cyanide capsule. They have mistaken the capture of Mavil Aru, Sampur, and Vaharai as the beginning of a comprehensive military solution. So it is good that GOSL has clears state what has been recorded above. They are not about a military solution, but still aim at "negotiation" despite the rebuffs their previous attempts at negotiation resulted in.

This preliminary comment will have to be expanded when we know the full text of the proposal after it has gone through the APRC process.

Victor Gunasekara

Rajapaksa's plan to resolve ethnic crisis

B. Muralidhar Reddy

The Hindu : 02-05-07

COLOMBO: Abolition of the executive presidency; replacing it with the cabinet system of government led by the Prime Minister subject to consensus; the district as the unit for devolution of powers; and the creation of a bi-cameral legislature – these are highlights of the package proposed by the ruling Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) led by President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

The SLFP, the largest party in the governing coalition, the United People's Freedom Alliance (UPFA), has put forward its proposals with the objective of realising "a lasting and honourable solution to the ethnic issue in the country."

To be placed before the All Party Representative Committee (APRC), this package is expected to bring democracy to the people who have been held hostage by terrorist elements in some areas of the North and East, Mr. Rajapaksa said at a May Day rally here on Monday.

Announcing the proposals, the SLFP said that it firmly stood for a negotiated settlement of the political crisis in Sri Lanka based on a scheme of devolution of power

The proposals aim to preserve the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Sri Lanka, the identities of different communities, and peaceful co-existence among these communities. They recognise the multilingual, multireligious, and multicultural character of Sri Lankan society. There will be strict implementation of the constitutional provision for the use of Sinhala and Tamil as the national languages. Another feature of the package is the promise to establish two independent permanent commissions for land and water.

The SLFP seeks to restore the parliamentary model of Government. While the unit of devolution would be the district, two districts could amalgamate and form one unit. However, the amalgamating units should be in the same geographical division and be contiguous.

Joint Statement by Three Tamil Parties

Asian Tribune : 2007-05-02 05:09

Colombo, 02 May, ( Three Tamil political parties in a joint statement expressed their disappointment over the devolution proposal put forward by the ruling Sri Lanka Freedom Party. The joint statement added that the proposal did not meet the genuine aspirations of the Tamils. V. Ananandasanagaree, President TULF, D.Sithadthan, President PLOTE and T.Sritharan General Secretary, EPRLF have said in the joint statement that instead of taking the peace process forward, the ruling party's proposal has made it difficult to find a reasonable solution. Furthermore, the joint statement pointed out, "Being the ruling party's proposal that should form the guideline to a solution, it had made even the proposals of the other parties irrelevant."

The full text of the statement is given below:

It is with deep regret that we the under signed, representing the TULF, EPRLF and PLOTE being thoroughly disappointed with the proposals of the SLFP, as one that will not meet the aspirations of the Tamil people, reject it totally.

Instead of taking the peace process forward, it has made it difficult to find a reasonable solution.

Further more being the ruling party's proposal that should form the guideline to a solution, it had made even the proposals of the other parties irrelevant.

The powers to be devolved under the SLFP proposals are not even coming closer to the powers vested in the provincial council formed under the 13th amendment to the constitution.

Fifty years of agitation by the Tamil speaking people to win their rights, has brought them back to square one.

After so much of loss of life and destruction to properties and having failed to find a solution under a unitary system, the Tamils will not accept any solution less than one under a Federal constitution.


V. Ananandasanagaree, President TULF,
D.Sithadthan, President PLOTE and
T.Sritharan General Secretary, EPRLF

Sri Lanka ruling party proposal failed to meet
the concerns of the Tamils

By K.T.Rajasingham

Asian Tribune : 2007-05-02

The so-called proposals put forward by the ruling Sri Lanka Freedom party clearly shows that it has failed to grasp the reality by putting forward a Sinhalese solution to a national issue. This clearly indicates that those who drafted this proposal are not pragmatic in their approach to the subject. It amounts to a famous Tamil adage "The story of a donkey wearing away as an ant. "

Those who drafted this proposal have arrogantly divorced them from finding solution but have given room for creating more problems to the ruling party in general and the country in particular. The proposals clearly indicate that they are not intended to create a solution but to create more fissures in the country.

Since 1975 the country was threatened with separation. Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) has come up with a single sentence program to solve the ethnic issues the country faces. They have identified it with an emotive cry: "Thirst of Tigers is the Tamil Eela Motherland.” Other Tamil groups have come up with the Indian model devolution. They have time and again said that this is the only panacea that could solve the problem. Many of them have even rejected the solutions included in the 13th amendment to the present Sri Lanka constitution, which includes the Provincial Council system.

But SLFP which failed to grasp the reality has come up with the most outmoded and already rejected District Council system. This they say is the form of 'Pancahayat system,' a model said to be existence in Indian. This District Council system has already been rejected when it was introduced by the late President J.R.Jayawardene in the early 1980s.

It is generally believed that reintroducing District Council system as the form of devolution amounts to fooling the country. There is nothing new in these proposals. In fact it amounts a step back from the present unitary system which includes Provincial Council system. It was unfortunate that the present government failed to sustain the merger of the North –East provincial Councils, when it was challenged in the Court of Law. Majority of the Tamils are of the view that Government failed to take steps to maintain the merger of the two provinces at least by introducing the referendum in the east. They say the present Government remained a silent spectator until such time the Supreme Court ruled the merger "unconstitutional."

Once it was ruled unconstitutional, Government demerged the two provinces by appointing separate Provincial Councils and separate Governors. (The appointment of the Governor for the Northern Provincial Council is still awaited.) When the international community including India urged the Sri Lanka Government to come up with a proposal to solve the political issues faced by the people of the country especially the Tamils and the Muslims, the minority communities, the ruling party of the Government has come up with a proposal which is not keeping with the expectations of the Tamils who opposes the terrorism unleashed by the LTTE.

It must be remembered because the ruling party has come up with a proposal; it does not mean that the international community would accept the same as something done to the Tamils. As long any proposals that meet the aspirations and dignity of the Tamils are not met the international community in no way would consider the proposals as something acceptable to them. The other Tamil groups oppose the LTTE because of its terrorist agenda. They oppose the LTTE for its killing spree. That is why they voiced their concern that they wish to remain in a united country called Sri Lanka if they are given a suitable alternative proposal to the separate state of Tamil Eelam.

We must recall that during Chandrika Kumaratunga's presidency, she came up with the devolution proposals in August 1995 and in January 1996. These proposals were put forward as an alternative to the devolution proposals under the 13th amendment to the existing constitution created the Provincial Councils which has been rejected due to administrative inaction of the successive governments. Following the rejection of the Provincial Council system Chndrika Kumaratunge came up with a proposal of "Indissoluble Union of Regions."In other words it was a constitution for federal states of Sri Lanka. Unfortunately even before this proposal was tested LTTE flatly rejected the proposal. Anton Balasingham who rejected the devolution proposal described it as another mirage in the political experiences with Sinhala political establishments over the past 40 years, but we are yet to distinguish between illusion and reality.

Subsequently LTTE came up with a temporary proposal of Interim Self Governing Authority (ISGA.). President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga when making her comments about ISGA said that although she accepted devolution, she would not agree to any proposal to grant the LTTE an 'Eelam' or a separate state by any other name. She said the LTTE interim administration proposals went far beyond devolution. The President said that if the LTTE agrees to a power sharing solution it must be a model similar to the one in the Provincial Council system.

It should be placed on record that 'Asian Tribune' too rejected LTTE's proposal - Not a means to an end, also not an end itself. The last two proposals – One that was put forward by then President Chandrika Kumaratunga - "Indissoluble Union of Regions." Was rejected by the LTTE. The proposal put forward by the LTTE "Interim Self Governing Authority " Was rejected by the then President and the Sri Lanka government.

Therefore the new proposal should have had something in between these two proposals. Unfortunately, SLFP which is the ruling Party, has failed miserably to come to terms with the urgent need of the hour to defuse tension and stop the threat of separation that hangs like Damocles sword. Instead it has regrettably come up with something unacceptable in the name of unity and maintaining sovereignty of the country which might in no way help to clear the looming threat of separation. The Government has to come up with a solution agreeable to Tamils but also acceptable to other minority community Muslims and the majority Sinhalese.

Those who prepared the SLFP proposals it seems are those who failed to discern the ground realities. First and foremost, those who undertake to write a plan – a constitutional proposal -- should forget that it is not necessary that they should stick to a 'unitary formula.' It is highly unfortunate the Government and the Sinhala majority have failed to realize that the country is today facing the threat of separation because of this very unitary system of Government. This system of government is responsible for the death, destruction and misery in this country. Therefore it is important that the unitary form of government has to be changed to another suitable system which would be acceptable to all. Tamils who do not support the LTTE still has the hope that the Government led by Mahinda Rajapakse would come up with proposals that would be acceptable to all sections of the communities in the country. An autochthonous form of government proposals, in other words, the home grown constitutional draft has to be put together that would be acceptable to Sinhalese, Tamils and Muslims living in the country. Failure to come up with a proposal acceptable to all would amount to driving the 'Other Tamils' into the LTTE camp.