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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2619

The Great Federal Controversy Resurrected

By Gomin Dayasri

The great federal debate began long before Prabhakaran was born. But it was Prabhakaran who committed the Sri Lanka government to accept it as a matter that requires examination as the solution to the problem in the Oslo Declaration We did so in a state of feebleness before the Norwegians just as when we signed the 13th amendment before the Indians.

The UNP is more servile and subjugated to international opinion than any other political party except the Communist Party. Both the UNP and the Communist Party are reined by foreign elements. It is not surprising two parties with so divergent views agreed on a federal concept as the final solution.

It is equally not surprising at elections both the parties are not acceptable to the people. The people vote for a national agenda-not an agenda dictated by a foreign hand.

Oslo Declaration was greeted by the UNP as a major triumph in their negotiating process while the critics argued against it as a stepping stone to a separate state.

It is worth while harking back to the approved text of the Royal Norwegian government outlining the basic proposal which was hailed by the UNP government as jettisoning the Elaam concept- “the parties agreed to explore a solution founded on the principle of internal self determination in areas of historical Tamil habitation of the Tamil speaking peoples based on a federal structure within a federal framework within a united Sri Lanka.”

Sri Lanka delegation to Oslo talks consisted of G.L.Peiris, Milinda Molegoda, Rauff Hakeem and Bernard Goonetilleke. LTTE was represented by Anton Balasingham, Adele Balasingham, Jay Maheswaran and R.Rudrakumaran.

Looking back at the text it is frightening and if implemented would have placed Sri Lanka in peril. It recognizes the (a) concept of internal self determination and (b) such internal self determination in areas of historical Tamil habitation.

It was agreed at a time when Sri Lanka had merged the provinces of North and East which were depicted to constitute Elaam on the maps of the LTTE. Yet the term ‘historical Tamil habitation of the Tamil speaking people’ can be extended to mean the tea country in the hills to form a homeland of the Tamil speaking people.

Oslo Declaration did in fact extend the borders of Elaam reaching beyond the North and East.

Furthermore it introduced dissolution of the unitary state to be replaced with a federal constitution. Envisaged within a federal constitution was the creation of internal self determining unit for the Tamil speaking people on a vague historical concept.

Indeed crafty word play by the Norwegians which escaped our delegation and UNP government which went overboard with the sight of the word ‘Federal’. Fortunately, Prabhakaran disassociated himself with the text and the local patriotic forces were sufficiently enlightened to highlight the impending dangers.

We never came closer to establishing Elam and yet Ranil Wickremasinghe determined it as a historic victory. The belief that undermined our inner strength was the bloated image of the LTTE war machine and a view of a war incapable of being won. Naturally the chicken hearted saw in the 2002 December Oslo Declaration as a golden egg with the yoke of peace.

The state of mind is best reflected in the transcript at the press conference at the Peace Talks at Sattahip Thailand in September 2002 where G.L.Peiris in the presence of Anton Balasingham asserted:

“Well all I would like to say is that the overwhelming majority of people in the country are solidly behind peace. There cannot be any question about it. Across the political divide there is a deep desire for peace…..The country does not believe in war. This war has gone on for 18 years; we can see the destruction that has been caused by the war. And today the country is deeply committed to a political process and there is a profound conviction that is the only key to a viable solution”.

It was not a winnable war so the process of appeasement was to grant the maximum and leave the rest to history.

In 2009 in retrospect such a bounty on a platter is virtually unthinkable. It is the reason for those in the West, the Diaspora, the NGO community, and the Colombians to counter by attempting to degrade the victories on the war front by raising the issues of humanitarian violations, war crimes and the plight of the Internally Displaced People (IDPs) to achieve through a political solution what was not reachable in their war or peace exercises.

LTTE and their local and foreign coterie lost on both fronts - in war efforts and peace negotiations. The final resting place is in the forum of political solutions; to which they will next turn their attention. So must others.

The political solution must be to attend to the grievances of the minorities and not to confer more power to minority politicians by which the ordinary people do not gain any or sufficient benefits.

The grievances of economic social and cultural nature which are the pressing demands include the hardships faced by children can be fast tracked only by the central government. IDPs must be given better facilities and be resettled in their homes swiftly. This again is the province of the central government and beyond the reach of the peripheral outfits.

These are the priority issues which need immediate remedial measures. The IDPs is the show piece for foreign interventionists. It is the make or break issue for Sri Lanka with foreign aid and the attending NGO personnel. The country could be held to ransom and it must be handled delicately to safeguard the image of the country and win the hearts of the displaced people.

The soundings have already being made by some Government MPs partial to a federal framework leaning on an extensive devolution pattern which could lead to secession. Among them are those left leaning internationalists and some recent crossovers from the UNP and those inclined to federal solutions.

In the opposition in parliament there are stalwarts still under the influence of western embassies and NGOs propagating the federal formulas under deceptive captions.

Both in the government and the opposition the bedrock is supportive of a country that will be never be placed on the road to secession.

It is because the People voted for Mahinda Rajapakse as President and for his Unitary State platform on which he stood; and he utilized his presidential powers to defeat the LTTE comprehensively, that we are blessed not to be in the hands of Norwegians reading out the text of the Oslo declaration.

The decision again is with the People. Vote for any Party of your choice for any Candidate of your choice but for candidates who stand firmly for a unitary state and not yield an inch to separatism, peacefully or otherwise. In a nutshell, vote to retain the glory achieved by our Forces with blood sweat and toil to eliminate terrorism without any revival of a movement towards the creation of two states again.

The value of the vote is two fold. It will bring to parliament from the government and the opposition, the patriotic members to the forefront, who will not stoop to sell the country with local and foreign internationalists. It will silence those politicians who seek to divide the nation. Afraid of the voter-as patriotic voters irrespective of politics- constitute the majority in both the main parties, such loose talk will soon fade away.

There could also be those who will try to win the minorities with sweet talk on IDPs and win the majority bashing the 13th amendment comprehensively. That blend will win only a handful of supporters.

Such men can do as much damage to the country wittingly or unwittingly as J.R.Jayawardane.

- Asian Tribune -

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