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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2730

Heart to Heart With Somawansa Amerasinghe (2)

By K.T.Rajasingham

JVP Stood for Equality in the Proper Sense

Colombo, 04 February, ( Somawansa Amerasinghe analysed JVP’s stand on equality before the law. He stated “I am not blaming only the Colonial rulers. I am blaming all the leaders, Sinhalese, Tamil and Muslims who led the country after 1948. They formed the Ceylon National Congress in 1919, if I remember correctly; they could not carry on with that great effort after 1921, due to mistakes made by everyone. I am not only blaming Colonial rulers alone, I am blaming Sri Lankans leaders from among the Sinhalese, Tamils and Muslims Burgers. Somawansa Amerasinghe : "India violated our sovereignty. India imposed this 13th Amendment that is the truth, if you read the book written by Dixit, you can see very well how he has done that. I am talking with some authority; we had some discussion with him during that time."Somawansa Amerasinghe : "India violated our sovereignty. India imposed this 13th Amendment that is the truth, if you read the book written by Dixit, you can see very well how he has done that. I am talking with some authority; we had some discussion with him during that time."

Yesterday, Somawansa Amerasinghe , Leader of the JVP mentioned why they considered the 13th Amendment, Referendum and the Provincial Council illegal.

The second installment of the interview is given below:

Somawansa Amerasinghe : When we are talking about abolition of provincial council it is nothing but removal of 13th Amendment.

K.T.Rajasingham: But provincial council came into existence for the first time by a provincial council Act No. 42 0f 1987?

Somawansa Amerasinghe : Ok but under the 13th Amendment.

K.T.Rajasingham: But it is different, when you say you are going to abolish provincial councils. Are you abrogating or repealing the Act that brought in the provincial council?

Somawansa Amerasinghe: You see, please read 1.3, 13th Amendment …. It resulted in the 13th Amendment and we are challenging that. 13th Amendment was brought to the Parliament to establish the Provincial Councils and for nothing else.

1.3 The 13th Amendment to the 1978 Constitution was enacted following the Indo Sri Lanka Agreement of July 1987. It resulted in the setting up of Provincial Councils throughout Sri Lanka and it devolved power to the Provinces under the unitary Constitution. The powers devolved fall under a Provincial List and a Concurrent List. All other powers were reserved for the Centre through a Reserved List. Further, any subject or function not included in any of the three Lists will also be deemed to be a subject or function in the Reserved List.

K.T.Rajasingham: And also for the official language Act, the 13th Amendment brought in ‘Tamil shall also be an official language’ of the country?

Somawansa Amerasinghe : So it was a degradation of the Tamil language.

K.T.Rajasingham: Earlier Tamil was not an official language?

Somawansa Amerasinghe : Even now it is not the official language. Even Sinhalese is not an official language. You need not talk about Tamil; Tamil has never been an official language, English is the official language of Sri Lanka.

K.T.Rajasingham: We will go to the next Clause 1.4, do you have to say anything?

1.4 Implementation of subjects and functions devolved on the Provinces through the Concurrent List has not taken place at all due to the fact most of these subjects and functions were retained by the Centre as if they also belonged to the Reserved List.

Somawansa Amerasinghe : We are against it because India violated our sovereignty. India imposed this 13th Amendment that is the truth, if you read the book written by Dixit, you can see very well how he has done that. I am talking with some authority; we had some discussion with him during that time. We held discussion with him number of times, even under proscription we met them. At that time one of the political secretaries of the High Commission was residing in front J R Jayewardene’s house. I went there to see him and said do not to make a terrible mistake, a strategic political mistake.

K.T.Rajasingham: I think at that time Mr. Puri was the political secretary of the Indian High Commission in Sri Lanka?

Somawansa Amerasinghe : No, I don’t want to mention names.

K.T.Rajasingham: He was the political secretary of the Indian High Commission at that time?

Somawansa Amerasinghe : I don’t like to mention manes and say whether you are correct or not. These are diplomatic matters. I don’t divulge names. During the last 21 years it has been proved very well that provincial council was not the solution and it will not be a solution. In politics it has escalated matters.

K.T.Rajasingham: Now, we will come to your solution?

Somawansa Amerasinghe: I think there are so many other things to say about the proposals.

K.T.Rajasingham: Yes, go ahead Sir.

Somawansa Amerasinghe : Yes that was the beginning of a constitutional cover for a so called traditional homeland of one community, ignoring the fact that people belonging to all communities lived in that two provinces for centuries and it was a terrible, terrible mistake to encouraged the separatist forces in Sri Lanka.

K.T.Rajasingham: But I want to ask you another question, if you say that 13th Amendments was unconstitutional, Tamils are saying that even the 1972 Republican Constitution was unconstitutional? 1972 Republican Constitution was unconstitutional?

Somawansa Amerasinghe : You say 1972 constitution was unconstitutional?

K.T.Rajasingham: Yes, because you know the 19th article in the constitution of Ceylon was an entrenched one, you can’t remove the 19th entrenched Article of the constitution?

Somawansa Amerasinghe : Ok, let them say that.

K.T.Rajasingham: Have you not gone into that subject?

Somawansa Amerasinghe : That is not an excuse for anyone to fight for separation or for separate state.

K.T.Rajasingham: I am not asking you about separatism, from 1948 up to the day 1972 constitution was promulgated, there was no cry for separatism. The Ilankkai Tamil Arasu Katcchhi led by S.J.V.Chelvanayakam was only asking for a Federal set up that was all he was asking for, the question of separatism or separate country never arose. It arose only after 1972?

Somawansa Amerasinghe : According to our studies Tamil Arasu Katchchi which was called Federal party, but the real name of the party is the Tamil State Party.

K.T.Rajasingham: But it is unfortunate that you have left out the most important part of the name, it says Ilankkai Tamil Arasu Katchchi, it never says Tamil Eealam or anything, but it says Ilankkai Tamil Arasu Katchchi, denoting a state (a federal state – the unit of devolution) within Ceylon (Sri Lanka).

Somawansa Amerasinghe : Why do you want to say Ilankkai Tamil Arasu Katchchi?

K.T.Rajasingham: At that time there was Ilankkai Tamil Congress led by G.G. Ponampalam and he quit that party and started a new party in 1950 and called it as Ilankkai Tamil Arasu Katchchi.

Somawansa Amerasinghe : What we want him to say is this, he would have been correct and you would have been with him, if he said that I am fighting for equal opportunity before the law. That would have been the correct slogan.

K.T.Rajasingham: You started your fight in 1971 and it took so many years to come up with this statement and you should have fought for equality. At the earliest stages I think in the early 1950s Chelvanayagam came up with the party called Ilankkai Tamil Arasu Katchchi. In 1950s no one even dreamed of having a separate state. They named the party Ilankkai Tamil Arasu Katchchi they wanted to give prominence to the Tamil cause it does not mean that they were aiming for a separate state as even Bandaranaike had organized the SLFP and stated the need for the importance of Sinhalese ethnicity and Buddhist religion.

Somawansa Amerasinghe : What I say is we are against giving prominence to Sinhalese, or Tamil or Muslims. Give them equal status.

K.T.Rajasingham: Even now 22 members in the Parliament belongi to the Ilankkai Tamil Arasu Katchchi.

Somawansa Amerasinghe : No, they are TNA (Tamil National Alliance) people.

K.T.Rajasingham: No, no they contested on the Ilankkai Tamil Arasu Katchchi ticket.

Somawansa Amerasinghe: They must have used the name but they were selected by the LTTE and not elected by the people.

K.T.Rajasingham: Selected by the LTTE, even today they represent the Ilankkai Tamil Arasu Katchchi.

Somawansa Amerasinghe: Ok they must be. Alright, that is what they say. We say they are representing TNA and they were elected because they are connected to this party and selected by LTTE and not by the Tamil people. They are not representing the Tamil people.

K.T.Rajasingham: I never said that they are representing the Tamil people. I said even Election Commission said that they legally contested elections as members of Ilankkai Tamil Arasu Katchchi and elected to the Parliament.

Somawansa Amerasinghe : We don’t accept that they contested the elections. They did not contested the election they were selected by the LTTE there was no election there. So no question of contesting there. That does not arise.

K.T.Rajasingham: Ok, Sir now we will come to our subject.

Somawansa Amerasinghe : Ok, then Tamil Eelam and Sinhala Sri Lanka , please state this clearly, your question is how best to give prominence to Tamil people, my answer … we are against giving prominence to Sinhala, Tamil or Muslim people or Burgers or Malays in this country. Every one is equal before the Law.

K.T.Rajasingham: Have you ever call yourself a Sri Lankan?

Somawansa Amerasinghe: Yes.

K.T.Rajasingham: In down south no one calls themselves as Sri Lankans. They call themselves as Sinhalese or as Sinhalese Buddhists. In the North they call themselves as Tamils?

Somawansa Amerasinghe: That is, also a mistake you know? That itself shows that we are not united.

K.T.Rajasingham: There is no national integration?

Somawansa Amerasinghe : Yes, there was no national integration. Exactly. I completely agree with you, because we were made enemies by the colonial rulers. That was the beginning of the problem.

K.T.Rajasingham: Ok Sir, you can blame the colonial rulers, that they adopted a ndivide and rule policy?

Somawansa Amerasinghe : I am not blaming only the Colonial rulers. I am blaming all the leaders, Sinhalese, Tamil and Muslims who led the country after 1948. They formed the Ceylon National Congress in 1919, if I remember correctly; they could not carry on with that great effort after 1921, due to mistakes made by everyone. I am not only blaming Colonial rulers I am blaming Sri Lankans leaders from the community, Sinhalese, Tamils and Muslims, Burgers.

The merger of North and East was done under emergency only for one year. It was illegal for the Government to leave the merge until 2007, until we challenged that in the Court of Law.

Now they said that they will create an interim Administration, a political appointments, President is required to appoint an entity (Clause No: 3) due to the condition in Northern province (Clause No: 3.2). We say you can’t do that; Number one question is to defeat terrorism and simultaneously restore democracy. To restore democracy. At least now they are able to have elections in the Eastern province, the local Government elections, then provincial council elections could be held and then the general election if they need.

3. Special Arrangements necessary to permit Maximum Devolution of Powers to the Northern and Eastern Provinces under the 13th Amendment

3.2 Conditions in the Northern Province are far from being peaceful. A free and fair election in the North will not be possible in the near future. Hence an alternative arrangement is required in the Northern Province to enable the people of that Province to enjoy the fruits of devolution.

K.T.Rajasingham: Yes, they are doing it now.

Somawansa Amerasinghe: Tomorrow it will be peaceful and it must be made peaceful. That is why the military operations are there to defeat the terrorists. That could be done. If you accept this clause that means the legitimate army the security forces are unable to establish peace, establish democracy, and restore democracy in that Northern Province, if we accept this.

K.T.Rajasingham: The way you say is hypothetical, that if we accept this position.

Somawansa Amerasinghe: Yes, we can’t accept this position, because it can be defeated. This terrorist organization can be defeated and that has been manifested very well now. So one must have courage to expedite that process.

K.T.Rajasingham: You say that you wanted to defeat the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eealam(LTTE) whom you claim as ‘terrorists’ , but they claim that they represent the Tamils and we don’t know how the Tamils feel, whether they accept the leadership of the LTTE or whether they accept the leadership of the Sri Lanka Government, there was no attempt made to gauge or to find out the mentality of the Tamil people?

Somawansa Amerasinghe : Mr.Rajasingham, in that case we have to accept the position that the Sri Lanka Government and the LTTE must share power there in that case.

K.T.Rajasingham: No, no what I am trying to say is that Sri Lanka Government should be the 'Sovereign Government', they must be the authority who should administer the whole of Sri Lanka and there can’t be pockets ruled by anyone else. Then there is no sovereignty, this is the position.

The actual position was that Sri Lanka government has sent in its army to fight the so called terrorists, but unfortunately they have not made any attempt to find out what the Tamils wanted? All these years the successive governments of Sri Lanka were under the impression that LTTE and Tamils are one. They never separated and said that LTTE is LTTE and Tamils are different.

Tamils are an ethnic group, no one viewed in that respect and nobody asked what the Tamils wanted? If there were some leaders who spoke on behalf of the Tamils, they were killed; nearly 37 elected members of parliament including a few Sinhalese members were killed by LTTE. Started with Alfred Dhuraiyappa, and last one to be killed was T.Maheswaran MP on 01 January 2008, so the blame has to be placed squarely on the successive Sri Lankan Government?

Somawansa Amerasinghe : Yes we are not going to absolve them, we are blaming the Sri Lankan Government also. For not establishing equal opportunity and equality before the Law.

K.T.Rajasingham: For your information, I was also for sometime member of the Sri Lanka Freedom party.

Somawansa Amerasinghe : I did not know this information about you earlier!!

K.T.Rajasingham: Before joining the SLFP in 1967, I never supported any political party, when I joined the Sri Lanka Freedom Party, I was subsequently made the party’s organizer for sometime. After leaving the party I never joined any other party in my life, so far. The thing is this, while I was a member I urged Madam Srimavo Bandaranayke, to set up a National Integration Commission.

Somawansa Amerasinghe : Exactly, these are found in our literatures which we have produced during the last 42 years. From the very beginning we have been fighting for the right of everyone in the country.

K.T.Rajasingham: In my proposal for the National Integration Commission, I insisted that everybody should be treated as Sri Lankans.

Somawansa Amerasinghe : Yes, without national integration we are not going to achieve anything.

K.T.Rajasingham: There should be also a committee to go into discriminations by the Government and Government officials in this country.

Somawansa Amerasinghe : Exactly.

K.T.Rajasingham: This is what I was advocating during those days.

Somawansa Amerasinghe : Exactly, please refer to our literature.

K.T.Rajasingham: This was one of the reasons why I then left the Sri Lanka Freedom Party in 1975.

Somawansa Amerasinghe : To clarify our position, we always stood for equality of the people before the law and equal opportunity for the Tamils, for Sinhalese, for Muslims and for all the other communities in the country. We are the only political party that talks about national assimilation.

K.T.Rajasingham: National assimilation is something and we should use the word national integration. To assimilate mean we assimilate Tamils into Sinhalese?

Somawansa Amerasinghe : No, it can be on the other way round also.

K.T.Rajasingham: Sinhalese into Tamil?

Somawansa Amerasinghe : Yes, it is happening in the country. I saw it with my own eyes. I served in other part of the country those days. In Wellaveli, which was earlier a strong hold of LTTE, I worked there. I saw how the Tamils were married to Sinhalese and Sinhalese were married to Tamils and how they change their names. Sudhu Banda was registered as Sudhu Vandhaiyah, he became a Tamil after marrying a Tamil woman. I have never heard a name like that in my life before, that is why I called him to my quarters when I was there. I asked him what this name is. Tell me what is this name? I thought he is a Tamil, and with my poor Tamil I asked him Ithu unkaudaya pera? I asked him whether your name is Sudhu Vandhaiyah? He said ‘I am a Sinhalese and I am Sudhu Banda, I am married to a Tamil woman and became Sudhu Vandhaiyah just like Kandaiyah.‘

K.T.Rajasingham: Similarly in Wayamba in Puttalam, Chillaw and Neegambo area the people over there are almost more than 60% of them are Tamils but they have registered themselves as Tamil speaking Sinhalese.

Somawansa Amerasinghe : Exactly, these are natural processes and no one should impose anything. No one should force it to assimilate. Assimilation is natural, so let it happen in both ways. Let it happen naturally. I am talking about assimilation because you passed national integration and then will arrive at national assimilation. That is the end of the process. At the beginning there should be a process for national integration, I fully agree with you.

K.T.Rajasingham: I am still of the opinion that the Government must set up a national integration commission?

Somawansa Amerasinghe : Exactly, there must be a commission to defeat all the communalism in this country.

K.T.Rajasingham: After 1948 – after the independence of Sri Lanka, the independence day was never celebrated in the Jaffna peninsula. It has been put in the minds and hearts Tamil people that they did not receive the independence and it was only the Sinhalese who received the independence.

Somawansa Amerasinghe : > Sinhalese even did not receive the independence.

K.T.Rajasingham: For the simple reason, right from the beginning the day when Legislative and Executive Councils were set up after 1833, they had members representing the Tamils and they had a member for up country Sinhalese, a member for low country Karava Sinhalese, Muslims, Burghers and the plantation Tamils of the up country, separately. The ethnicity was given an important place. And we all thought only of Tamil nationals, Sinhalese national and Muslim nationals and we never thought ourselves as Sri Lankans.

Somawansa Amerasinghe : That is why we blame our leaders.

- To be Continued -

Also Read

1. Heart to Heart With Somawansa Amerasinghe (1)

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