Coexistence or Unitary State?

Coexistence or Unitary State?

3 February 2019 09:38 am

Sri Lankans are now debating between the existing Unitary structure and Federal structure as a better alternative through which to Administer and Govern. Administration is the pathway to common governance. When we administer as per our conscience – we become self-governing. Such administration may be in harmony with laws of the nation / area or they may not be. Where they are not – those laws are counterproductive to enjoyment of peace on the inside, confirmed by harmony on the outside.

In his Ceylon Today article headed ‘Arjuna on the lifeline of coexistence’ Manekshaw states:

[So, on 27 January travelling all the way from Colombo Fort to Jaffna by the new DMU Uttara Devi train, Transport Minister Arjuna Ranatunga followed the path of legendary Sri Lankans of the bygone era reviving the `lifeline of coexistence’ at a time Sri Lanka celebrates the 71st year of gaining independence from the British.]

One is therefore entitled to conclude that Manekshaw sees Tamils coexisting with Sinhalese. Manekshaw does not see integration. A Unitary state confirms integration at the top and assimilation at grassroots. Manekshaw states also:

[Arjuna’s train journey also led to remember one of the foremost freedom fighters Sir Ponnambalam Ramanathan who even initiated the plan to build the Railway line to the Northern Province when the Island Nation was under the British Empire.]

In other words, Sir Ponnambalam Ramanathan also sowed the seeds of militancy led by the LTTE. LTTE represented the de facto army of Tamils who sought not to assimilate with Sinhalese for the same reasons why the SLFP and the UNP made up largely of primary level thinkers not wanting to assimilate – but would prefer to coexist. The recent problem in National Parliament is the parallel of ethnicity based civil riots. Coexistence needs clear lines of separation. That is what Tamils are truly seeking and are entitled to – to the extent majority have been self-governing in their respective areas of authority – starting with family relationships.

It is rumoured that TNA is promoting Unitary state. This means they dishonour the armed militants who reacted to the unruly Sinhalese driven by desire to rule by suppression. In 1977, the SLFP lost even second place in elections. To my mind, this was because by damaging the roots of the One/Unitary mind in the Constitution – through Buddhism foremost article – they lost their own right to self-governance. To override the constitutional error – they have to perform much more through discretionary powers with consolidated mind. Even if one Tamil believed in the Constitution through its secular provisions – the outcomes would be in her/his favour. The 1977 elections confirmed this Truth that there was at least one self-governing Sri Lankan Tamil.

As per Dharma – the government that failed to discipline civilians who attacked on the basis of ethnicity – disconnected itself from the common law and was entitled only to the authority understood and used by majority power that surfaced that manifestation. In simple language – the government limited itself to the voter’s law. A voter cannot empower a government more than her/his own entitlement to self-govern. A politician who looks to the law for authority has to have her/himself invested in the law by conduct and / or top-down learning and commitment to such learning. The level at which we developed that self-governance is the level at which such law would manifest itself. The recent experience in National Parliament of Sri Lanka have confirmed that majority in Parliament lack such higher authority but are limited to customary authority. The self-governing amongst them would manifest at the lower level than the intellectually driven governor.

Tamils to whom Tamil militants are the highest level leaders would accept total separation. But the problem with this is that intellectually driven Tamils who do raise their thinking above the level of the local customs – would also be disconnected and alienated by such groups. Hence LTTE killed politicians – the worst and saddest for me being the killing of Dr Neelan Thiruchelvam. Each time that was allowed to happen, the community whose duty it was to prevent such disaster loses its right to self-governance. Self governance is confirmed only when our actions do not hurt the self-governance of another. When they do hurt – we have interfered with that person’s sovereignty and the natural punishment is loss of our own privacy to practice sovereignty.

The ordinary Sinhalese does not understand the constitution and its provisions. They ‘saw’ the return attacks by Tamil militants and they feared them or were cautioned. Punishing the militants therefore will remove this caution and there would be ‘free’ interpretation of articles such as ‘Buddhism foremost’ to take authority to attack. The emotionally driven person would not stop until the emotion is exhausted. But the problem is that if the emotion is based on hearsay / looks and not on truth - it would damage the support of the intellectuals and the self-governing individual in minority clothes. Then the Sri Lanka that Sinhalese relates to is less powerful than it was when it was connected to higher minds of other ethnicities and the integrating Sinhalese intellectuals.

Whether we like it or not – our Truth is always there to influence us when we are ‘free’. If such truth is negative in value – we need positives to balance it. This applies to both sides – especially to those who blame the other rather than themselves when they are unhappy. One who takes responsibility for the total owns the total and therefore is the true leader. One who reacts confirms dependence on the other to become active.

TNA’s duty is to demand that the Prevention of Terrorism Act be repealed so that a criminal act does not become terrorism just because it was committed by a member of minority. TNA has the duty also to demand that all prisoners of war be released before it consents to Unitary state. Sinhalese are not likely to accept it – but the way to true self-governance is to stick to our own Truth. Then every such victim will know that TNA is also participating in their pain. The ordinary Sinhalese needs to ‘see’ that all religions are Equal in status – and that the militants who died in protecting self-governance as per their own truth and conscience – are heroes to their communities. Otherwise Unitary structure will lead to more war – and more quickly now than before. Then the UN forces may come in and achieve that which they could not diplomatically.

Gajalakshmi Paramasivam