Skip to Content

Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2618

Heart to Heart With Somawansa Amerasinghe (3)

By K T Rajasingham

How to Deal with Racial Discrimination

Colombo, 05 February, (Asiantribune.com): The JVP leader Mr.Somawansa Amerasinghe talks today of a commission and how to do away with racial discrimination. He says that there should be an official body in every province a national integration commission to do away with the racial discrimination in the country. 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 all the other communities in the country.   We are the only political party that talks about national assimilation." 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 all the other communities in the country. We are the only political party that talks about national assimilation."

In the meantime, yesterday K.T.Rajasingham pointed out, “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 nationals and Muslim nationals and we never thought ourselves as Sri Lankans.

Somawansa Amerasinghe responded, “That is why we blame our leaders.

The third installment of the interview is given below:

K.T.Rajasingham: This is what I was advocating at that time.

Somawansa Amerasinghe: Exactly, please refer to our literature.

K.T.Rajasingham: This was one reason 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 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. Wellaveli, was a strong hold of LTTE, when 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 that is why I called him to my quarters when I was working there. I asked him what this name. 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 you name is Sudhu Vandhaiyah? He said that he is a Sinhalese and he is Sudhu Banda. He said,” I am married to a Tamil woman and became Sudhu Vandhaiyah just like Kandaiyah.

K.T.Rajasingham: At the same time in Wayamba district, Puttalam, Chillaw and Neegambo area, people over there are Tamil speaking Sinhalese.

Somawansa Amerasinghe:

K.T.Rajasingham: Also 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 the independence of Sri Lanka on 04 February 1948, the independence day was never celebrated in the Jaffna peninsula. It has been put in the minds and hearts of Tamil people that they did not receive the independence 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, from the day when Legislative and Executive Councils were set up, they had members representing the Tamils and they had a member for the Up Country Sinhalese, a member for Low Country Karava Sinhalese , Muslims, Burghers and the Plantation Tamils of the up country separately. Ethnicity was given the important place. We all thought as Tamil nationals, Sinhalese national and Muslim nationals and we never thought ourselves as Sri Lankans.

Somawansa Amerasinghe: That is why we blame our leaders.

K.T.Rajasingham: Up to now, nobody has thought of setting up a national integration commission.

Somawansa Amerasinghe: No, we have.

K.T.Rajasingham: And set up a commission and also do away with racial discrimination and there should be an official body in every province a national integration commission to do away with the racial discrimination in the country.

Somawansa Amerasinghe: There must be an institution that encourages people to deal with complaints.

K.T.Rajasingham: The head of the commission should hold a position as a of High Court Judge.

Somawansa Amerasinghe: Mr. Rajasingham, don’t forget this. JVP is the only party in Sri Lanka that proposed a name of a Tamil as Prime Minister. Please don’t forget that.

K.T.Rajasingham: Lakshaman Kadirgamar?

Somawansa Amerasinghe: Yes, that itself is detrimental in this country for a political party. We did not care about that. We want the correct person who had the ability whether he is a Tamil, Muslims or Sinhalese or anyone else.

K.T.Rajasingham: Even now the Government can make a Tamil as a Prime Minister.

Somawansa Amerasinghe: What even now?

K.T.Rajasingham: Yes, there are Tamil ministers belonging to the ruling party. I don’t want to name them.

Somawansa Amerasinghe: The thing is that we don’t want this system. We want to abolish the executive Presidency. That is one of the most important slogans in our programme. Now lets us come back to the topic we are discussing.

Now to create a political entity and interim council- we are against it as I said earlier. Wwe don’t want to select but elect: we need election to be had there, because we had observed that President has the power to do that. Of course he has power and we are not challenging his power but we challenge the system itself. During the last 2 1/2 years since he became the president he had acted as the leader of the Government or the leader of the SLFP, and not as the leader of Sri Lanka, so he is not impartial, so he is not neutral, so he cannot appoint anybody without giving consideration to his affiliation.

First of all, we don’t want him to select anybody we need aan election not selection.

Secondly, he is not impartial he cannot do this job and this is going to be a political committee and not an administration. They say to do administration in the north; to carry out administration work there must be an interim council.

This is not only limited to administration of the Northern Province if that is the only aim it is being done now by the GA, by the district secretaries and even in the LTTE areas. Administration work is done by the officials who are paid by the government, the government is running the hospitals, and the government is running the schools. So even now there is administration, but by appointing an interim council like this we are not going to achieve anything. And this should be a part of the future political agenda.

K.T.Rajasingham: Who, the president?

Somawansa Amerasinghe: Yes, of course the Government. One must not do politics here. Of course he is a politician. But it should not be a political campaign. In that case he cannot achieve the much needed unity, much needed support.

K.T.Rajasingham: Do you have any alternative solution as to how the government can go and work with the people, those whom you mention are bureaucrats, they are all officials, it does not mean that they can give a political leadership.

Somawansa Amerasinghe: Yes, to have a political leadership, then the simple thing is hold the election.

K.T.Rajasingham: Out of the 5 district we have in the Northern Province 2 1/2 districts are not under the Government.

Somawansa Amerasinghe: That is the crux of the matter. That is why we are saying that they must be defeated and restore democracy there.

K.T.Rajasingham: It was only after Mahinda Rajapakse came into power we are able to say that LTTE can be defeated?

Somawansa Amerasinghe: I will come with the truth later. It is not the occasion for that now. I will divulge the truth; I am saying this with some responsibility. Alright?

K.T.Rajasingham: There is some hidden things behind this statement?

Somawansa Amerasinghe: Not hidden, people of this country should know what has happened after he became President. I will come out with the truth later. How all these started and how he carried on with our support? I will come out with that in some other occasion. This is not the time.

About the interim council now; without the interim council the administration of Northern Province could be possible, but when there is a conflict is there even if an interim council is appointed, they can’t do anything other than what is happening now. This is going to be a problem because the council members are going to be selected.

3.3 As it is not possible to hold elections in the North, the President could make appropriate order to establish an Interim Council for the Northern Province in terms of the Constitution.

3.4 The Interim Council of a Province will aid and advise the Governor in the exercise of his executive powers, and will function until Provincial Council elections are held in that Province.

3.4.1 The Interim Council should reflect the ethnic character of that Province.

It says that the interim council should reflect the ethnic characteristics of the province.

No, this is the colonial policy.

This is the policy that divided our people in this country. That should not be tolerated. People must be able to elect their members. Please remember that in Colombo, not in Kelaniya, a predominantly Sinhala area, they elected a Tamil defeating the Sinhalese leader.

I don’t say that it should happen again. Let the people elect the person that they want. This ethnic character should not be a basis election or for selection. And it says the person should have political experience, acceptable to the people of the province.

3.4.2 It is proposed that the Interim Council for a Province should consist of individuals who have political experience and an abiding interest in the development of the Province and in its people and be acceptable to the people of the Province. A person to qualify for appointment as a member of an Interim Council should have a thorough knowledge of the particular Province.

What are these things? Acceptable to the people of the province? How are you going to determine whether he is going to be acceptable or not? Only way is to has the election. Let the people elect in a free and fair environment. That is how we must decide whether he is acceptable or not to the people of the province.

These are attempts to deceive the people, deceive everybody, not only Tamils, but also Muslims and Sinhalese. This is not the solution. This is just the beginning of another problem. This is an attempt to make the problem more complex. Therefore, this must be rejected.

4. Implementation of the Official Languages Provision of the Constitution
4.1 The Government should take immediate steps to ensure that Parliament enacts laws to provide for the full implementation of Chapter IV of the Constitution on Language.

4.2 There are many contexts in which remedial measures will assume an administrative, rather than a legislative, character.

Government must take immediate steps to ensure that Parliament elect or to provide for the full implementation of Chapter 4 of the constitutional language. We say no. An emphatically “No”, because chapter 4 itself is a manifestation of discrimination. Clause one says Sinhala is the official language of Sri Lanka, number two is “Tamil is also an official language of Sri Lanka.” That itself is a manifestation of discrimination.

K.T.Rajasingham:

Somawansa Amerasinghe:: Exactly.

K.T.Rajasingham:Your policy is that a state cannot have a language?

Somawansa Amerasinghe: Exactly, all three languages Tamil, Sinhalese and English. All three languages must be treated as national languages of the country for the whole country then there won’t be any problem, if these three languages are treated as national languages.

The last thing is Clause No: 4, 2 Why all these things are mentioned? That itself shows nothing is going to happen. This is just an attempt to eye wash everybody. Including themselves those who took part in the committee. That should not be the way. Now I will come to the road map of JVP.

K.T.Rajasingham: Before that you have clarify one thing, why did you withdraw from the APRC?

Somawansa Amerasinghe: Exactly, we from the outset proposed to the APRC when we took part in the committee’s deliberation that first let us identify the problem, let us study what the grievances are of the people of Sri Lanka, Sinhala, Tamil and everybody. We kept on discussing and insisting, but all of a sudden after 4 or 5 sittings a constitution draft appeared before the committee, the Majority Report and also a little later the Minority Report.

Then we protested that we should not get to into this now, let us carry on with what we are doing up to the last sittings. Our request was rejected and we explained to them, the so called Expert Committee does not have a mandate to draft a constitution.

They were appointed to give technical support. To define words and clauses and all the other such matters. Not to draft constitution.

However our proposal was rejected. The committee did not accept our proposal. We believe that we said the correct thing.

There was an opportunity to go deeply into the matter, to study the whole problem and once and for all, to give a solution and come to a decision. And give a new solution for this problem.

K.T.Rajasingham: So that was the reason why you left the APRC?

Somawansa Amerasinghe: Exactly. We mentioned that any proposal to be made by the APRC should not subordinate the mandate President received at the Presidential election. So the draft constitution did not satisfy that condition as a result we have to leave the place. We could not give any contribution to the APRC proposal.

K.T.Rajasingham: You did not participate meant that you did not give not give legitimacy to the committee and also you did not contribute after that with any a valuable or acceptable proposal.

Somawansa Amerasinghe: No, no, from outside we have been discussing about this problem. Once we were rejected on very unfair basis that means we can’t take part in the committee from outside, we have been saying that this must be done this way and this is going to be the solution. I will come out with the solution.

K.T.Rajasingham: The JVP’s road map?

Somawansa Amerasinghe: Yes, JVP’s road map … this is a draft ok? I am not going to elaborate on this now. Number (1) Defeat terrorism militarily, then leave it aside and withdraw the armed forces from the North and East and hand it over to the Police to take care of law and order issues. These must be done simultaneously as there are no wars. There is no great war. These are more important process.

The 4th installment of the interview will be posted on 09 February, 2008

- Asian Tribune -

Also Read

1. Heart to Heart With Somawansa Amerasinghe (1)

2. Heart to Heart With Somawansa Amerasinghe (2)

Share this


.