Ballot Vs. Bullet and the DS Formula
Sunday Leader Editorial
The address of Sri Lanka’s Leader of the Opposition and the Leader of the Tamil United Liberation Front, Rajavarothyam Sampanthan, to a conference on Counter Terrorism held in New Delhi, is of significance not only for its contents but also for the spirit in which it was delivered and the sincere expression of a desire for a United Sri Lanka where all its people can live together as free and equal citizens.
Sampanthan as a Tamil political leader had gone through the rigours of one of the most ruthless violent political conflicts of a near three decades, survived, and is still the leader of Tamils though his people are not yet out of the woods.
Much still remains to be done but his speech sans rancour and anguish delivered to a foreign audience is indicative of his political maturity and intellectual grasp of the problem at issue.
The opening lines reveal all this: ‘The choice should not be difficult, looked at superficially. But our experience shows that the choice is not that simple. It is quite difficult, why is it that way? It is because human society is so complex, so diverse as to necessitate that government is structured to meet such complexity and diversity…….
‘The mode and manner of governance decides the choice between the ballot and the bullet. Governance is dependent on a constitution and the constitutions play a vital role in the structure of governance of a country…….
Sampanthan belongs to a group of politicians both Sinhala and Tamil of a very rare vintage. They are perhaps the last in a generation of Sinhalas and Tamils who lived amicable and in peace as people of one community before the racist dragon set upon us and tore Sri Lankans apart. Those born after that fateful year of 1956 are not beneficiaries of the friendship that existed between communities before them – that is those now in their late fifties!
The closing words of Sampanthan’s address goes beyond sentiments of the past and nostalgic memories and bring us back to the realities of the day. He noted: ‘For the first time in post independent Sri Lanka an opportunity is available for the framing of a constitution, based upon a substantial and reasonable consensus amongst political parties and all peoples in the country. This opportunity must be pursued with genuine commitment’.
Sinhala leaders of the South, are you listening? Have you even read this very relevant speech? Or are you more worried about Wimal Weerawansa’s ‘ fast to death’ for being remanded by a court of law on a charge of misusing official vehicles when a minister to the tune of millions of rupees and demanding his release?
It is indeed regrettable that while an opportunity has arisen for a possible break- through in the country’s main problem, a significant proportion of politicians of the South are attempting to use this opportunity of constitutional reform to create a racist backlash against the National Unity government to bring about a collapse and make a grab for power. Is Sri Lanka’s National Curse of creating a racist backlash to unseat a government and grab power with us since 1956?
Marxist Revolutionaries claim that it is their kind that creates history. But so far Sinhala ‘revolutionaries’ have only been repeating history like the conservative UNP and the half- baked SLFP socialists. So are the Marxist revolutionaries still alive? Vasudeva Nanayakkara and Tissa Vitharana are the remnants of the former Trotskyite party, which is now called the Dead Left. Can they break out of the fossilized state and once again march the streets chanting: One language two states – two languages one state? Are they the descendants of ‘The best government Sri Lanka never had’? Or will they hang on to the racist ‘Satakaya’ of the Rajapaksa clan to prevent disappearance into political oblivion?
The UNP has a traditional and historic role to play. It was their leader D. S. Senanayake who rallied Tamil political parties as well as the Sinhala Mahajana Sabha of S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike to form the UNP, gain Independence and the confidence of the majority of the Sinhala electorate to win Sri Lanka’s first General Election. It was a close call with the LSSP Trotskyites at their heels but the UNP won with votes of the minority parties – Muslims and Tamils.
History repeated itself in 2015. They rallied part of the SLFP (Equivalent of SWRDB’s Sinhala Mahajana Sabha), Tamil and Muslims parties and won both presidential and parliamentary elections.
Racism can be defeated on a broad national front, the 2015 elections proved.
That’s the old DS formula.