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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2395

Britain's answer to separatism – Lessons for us

[b]Britain's answer to separatism – Lessons for us[/b]

By Vasantha Raja

President Rajapakse's recent comments on the British-model of power devolution have provoked a healthy debate. He has vaguely expressed his willingness to follow the British way to pacify separatism within a unitary setup. Interestingly, many commentators from both sides have responded negatively. 'British circumstances are different; therefore inappropriate for us' is the crux of their arguments.

True, we cannot dig up the British solution to separatism and arbitrarily impose it on our soil. Two decades of war and deep-rooted distrust would not permit that. But never underestimate the significant lessons we can learn from our former colonial ruler. After all, the British were the original architects of our state structures in their own image - though the British themselves had to dramatically modify their system as recently as the turn of the 20th century to conciliate a similar problem to ours: separatism.

The Scottish National Party was openly campaigning for a separate state, and it was gaining significant electoral victories in Scotland on that demand. Thanks to embedded democratic traditions in Britain the Scottish struggle did not develop into an armed conflict. The London government did not outlaw the SNP; it did not prohibit anybody from campaigning on separatism; and, it did not send an English army to occupy Scotland. If it did, the Scottish movement would undoubtedly have taken the war path and the SNP would have ended up as the ‘British LTTE’.

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