By Kumarathasan Rasingam –
The coalition Government of United National Party [UNP] – Sri Lanka Freedom Party [SLFP] calling itself as a Government of ‘Good Governance’ took office in January 2015 with Mithiripala Sirisena [SLFP] as President with Ranil Wickremasinghe as Prime Minister [UNP]commanding 105 members of Parliament and Mithiripala Sirisena [SLFP] holding 97 members. Two major political parties who were battling against each other in all parliamentary elections joined to form a historical Government giving high hopes and optimism to all sections of the people in Sri Lanka particularly for the Tamils. Plenty of vote catching promises were made. The most important being the elimination of bribery and corruption and prosecuting past corrupt politicians particularly the former President Rajapaksa clan, who amassed wealth unprecedented in the history of Sri Lanka. The other promise was to offer a just, and permanent political settlement to the 70 year old ethnic problem with promises to take steps to redress the other grievances due to war and after the war. Another important promise was to replace the old JR Jayewardene’s constitution with a new constitution engaging the public from all walks of life with a consultative process. The mandate of the people was obtained to carry out the above commitments with the approval of 6.3 million voters during the elections, including the majority of Tamil and Muslim voters.
The Government acted on the promised steps to set up a Constitutional Council, independent Police Commission, and independent Judicial Commission while clipping some powers of the President under the 19th Amendment. The extent of independence and impartiality is far from satisfactory when looking back at some of these Commissions’ past conduct of functions which appear to be falling in line with the ruling Government’s thinking.
The Government after more than 30 months in power is still grappling with power struggle, inner divisions and personal clashes in and outside the Parliament particularly between the UNP and SLFP ministers and high ups. Doubts as to who runs the Government, President or Prime Minister also are cropping up due to lack of co-ordination and consultation or even personal communication. The recent meeting of the UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights and Counter Terrorism with the Tamil political prisoners in Anuradhapura irked President Mithiripala Sirisena who was unaware of it until knowing the UN Rapporteur’s scathing comments on Sri Lanka made by him in a Press Conference.
The Joint Opposition Group initiated by Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa has also become a veritable irritant threatening to scuttle the Governments move to enact a new constitution, not to mention his venomous opposition to increased devolution of powers to Northern Provincial Council, a permanent political weapon used to sway the Sinhalese voters. PM Ranil is also accused by some in the Maithiri’s quarters for the soft approach in the prosecution of Mahinda Rajapaksa associates as a check mate to SLFP’s electoral ambitions and gains. The net result is a government which is running only to survive and last until the next Parliamentary Elections. This corroding instability has resulted in many failures for the ‘GOOD GOVERNANCE’ which has progressed to a Government of “NO CONFIDENCE’ and ‘NO GOVERNANCE’ hoping to survive until the Parliamentary Election in 2020.
1. All the recommendations of the UNHRC Resolution 30-1-2015 remain unimplemented except the Office of Missing Persons Act which was passed in August 2016 without adequate powers to ensure culpability for the offenders but only ensuring impunity for them. The Internal Judicial Mechanism is yet to be conceived and with the declared statements of President, Prime Minister and Foreign Minister not to prosecute any security personnel for war crimes, even holding investigations, the principles of justice and accountability have got their good byes in no uncertain terms, while burying the reconciliation process.
2. The proposed new constitution could be an aborted or child of miscarriage. The all powerful Maha Sanga with its three Chief Prelates landed their knockouts for any new constitution, calling on the Government to look after the existing constitution with suitable amendments which should be confined to reduction of Presidential powers and electoral reforms, with Buddhism and unitary system remain as it is. The government has also yielded to the demands of Maha Sanga by declaring that any changes or amendments to the constitution will be submitted to Maha Sanga for their pre approval. This is nothing but a slap on the face of the 6.3 million voters who gave the mandate for a new constitution and who only have their right to exercise either to approve or reject it based on the sovereignty of people over everything else.
The statement of the Joint Opposition Group “No one should act against Maha Sanga and its stand”. And the statement of UNP member Kajantha Gunawardene “Consent of two parties is required to enact a new constitution, one is the consent of Maha Sanga and the other is the consent of people. Without these consents a new constitution cannot be enacted”. These statements are the writings on the wall as to the fate of a new constitution.
It appears that Sri Lanka holds the unique distinction of having two states with the veto power, being vested with the Maha Sanga.
It is to be stated that the move to incorporate the UN Convention on Enforced Disappearances and implement as a local legislation has been blocked by Maha Sanga who opposes it as s trap to prosecute security personnel even though the former foreign minister Mangala Samaraweera insits that its provisions would apply to future disappearances and prevention of recurrences
It is an irony of fate that the Maha Sanga which maintained deadly silence during the massacres of innocents in 2009 and during the violence unlashed against the Muslims and their Mosques recently, is now holding the whip hand over the elected Government and spoiling the reconciliation process to keep the communal fire burning.
The coalition Government’s promise to punish the past corrupt politicians particularly Mahinda Rajapaksa’s group is almost given up after viewing the grassroot popularity of Mahinda Rajapaksha family still having its hold.
The coalition Government has failed to honour its promises given to Tamils who voted expecting the ‘GOOD GOVERNANCE’ to redress their grievances as well as offering a just political settlement;
Some of the dishonoured promises are:-
 Release of Tamil political prisoners with or without trial.
 Release of civilian lands occupied by security forces for no justifiable reason.
 The promise of President given to the delegation of disappeared women in Jaffna on June 12, 2017 remains in limbo with no facts and figures coming from the National Security Council or President.
 No initiatives have been taken to arrive at a political solution for the ethnic issue nor any talks have been held with Tamil National Alliance Party and others, except the guaranteed statements as to Buddhism’s foremost place and unitary constitution. The statement of Foreign Minister Ravi Karunanayake sums up the position of the Government. “Fostering and protecting Buddhism, giving due respect to Buddhism and strengthening unitary system of Government are the objectives of the national government”
By strengthening the already existing unitary system of Government, a Federal System or any other form of devolving the powers of centre are completely ruled out. This statement has effectively killed the election manifesto and pledge of Tamil National Alliance Party, who are now left wondering and searching for any salvage while continuing to offer their meaningless support to a Government which is proceeding with their own agenda.
In this post election scenario which has killed the hopes of Tamils in all matters the dubious stand of Tamil National Alliance is drawing criticism from all Tamils including Diaspora Tamils.
Tamil National Alliance’s unconditional backing of this government with nothing in return so far is comparable to chasing mirages for water in the desert. As usual and as experienced in the past, the Sinhala leadership has proved their diplomacy and political strategy to subdue the occasional and momentary noises and outbursts of Tamil National alliance and their weak knee opposition.
The Tamil Leadership right from Independence in 1948 have resorted and tested conciliatory approach and hobnobbing politics with Sinhala leaders, like G. G. Ponnampalam, S.J.V. Chelvanayakam and Amirthalingam, They finally succumbed to the wiles and guiles of Sinhala Government s, opening the gates for confrontation by Tamil youths as Liberation Tigers for Tamil Eelam which stood for thirty years against the Government and its security forces. However it collapsed due to the skillful diplomacy of Sri Lankan Government who conducted a Genocidal war with the support of 22 foreign governments who labelled it as a ‘war on terror’ refusing to tackle and discarding the underlying causes for militancy. However, Sri Lanka is still manoeuvring to extricate itself from the clutches of UN Human Rights Council, United Nations and Security Council, whose on the spot investigations and report on War Crimes, Crimes Against Humanity are staring at Sri Lanka’s faces.
The recent statement of UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and Counter Terrorism Ben Emmerson in Colombo who visited Sri Lanka in May 2017 could be a pointer. He said “Sri Lanka could face a range of measures including a referral to UN Security Council, if it fails to meet the commitments it made under a 2015 UN Resolution. “Sri Lankan Government has done almost nothing to hold human rights violations in the military to account”.
Sri Lanka’s attitude to international criticisms and allegations concerning its human rights violations, and war crimes has always been initial flat and blunt denial, and character assassination of officers who investigated and reported, later a qualified and partial admission and raising the defence of state sovereignty and internal matter coupled with delaying tactics to make the issue stale and/or frozen, even forgotten.
Tamil National Alliance’s role in backing the Government’s tantrums unconditionally is despicable and unjustifiable bordering on betrayal of Tamils and their causes. Stumbling Sampanthan and dual actor Sumanthiran do not represent the TNA or Tamils as a whole. The duos who only participate and hold most of the talks with Government and Foreign Emissaries, keep the matters talked in secret which only harbors suspicion and doubts. It is high time that TNA particularly Illanki Tamil Arasu Katchi [ITAK] shed their lopsided relationship and futile flirtations with the Government and initiate a campaign soliciting international support and pressure against the Government. Casual and opportune criticisms of Government and empty hopes and promises are not the needed steps. A mass campaign of protests is the need of the hour and making use of the present international understanding and awareness of the Tamils’ problem.
For the Sri Lankan Government, the prophetic opinion of TARZIE VITTACHI [Free lance Journalist] on his book “Emergency 58’ – Pages 6-8 [the first pogrom against the Tamils] is worth quoting.
“When a government, however popular begins to pander to racial or religious emotionalism merely because it is the loudest of the raucous demands made on it, and then meddles in the administration and enforcement of law and order for the benefit of its favourites or to win the plaudits of a group, however hysterical it may be, catastrophe is certain”.
He ends with a question: “HAVE WE COME TO THE PARTING OF THE WAYS?”
Many thoughtful believe that WE HAVE
The question is now is IT DUE OR OVERDUE?