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'Much ado about nothing'

Writing for the Colombo Telegraph, Kumaravadivel Guruparan, a Tamil civil society activist, and attorney at law and lecturer at the University of Jaffna, outlined the facade of the proposed northern provincial elections and inadequacy of the 13th Amendment.

See here for original article, extracts reproduced below:

“Many ask as to whether the Tamil Civil Society’s position is pragmatic. As for our assessment of the 13th amendment – our assessment is one based on a realist analysis of the state of affairs. As to what we prescribe, if we are thinking of what is only possible, the options are very limited within the status quo. To be pragmatic should not be a call to learn to live with the oppression. To be pragmatic should not be a call to accept minimalistic solutions, which do us no good.”
“The Government has made the holding of the Northern Provincial Council elections a ‘high value commodity’ for the Tamils. By promising and breaching the promise and re-promising to hold it, the Government has made the Tamil community yearn for it. The strategy seems to be to get the Tamils to ask, demand, struggle, fight for something so minimalistic; to get them to feel and identify with the Provincial Council as an institution that will solve their problems. The political leadership of the Tamils – particularly the Tamil National Alliance has fallen for this trap. It has become very difficult to get the Tamil polity to debate and discuss about what contesting in these elections might mean for the Tamil struggle for self determination and meaningful self-government. Most Tamils want to vote, purely to show their displeasure with the Government. Many Tamils actually think, quite mistakenly, that an elected TNA Chief Minister will be able to reign in the unruly Governor of the Northern Province. The defeatist mentality stemming from Mullivaaykkal reigns supreme and many actors are making convenient use of this collective despair of the Tamil people.”

“The particular political role given to the Governors in the provincial administration in the North and East adds to the agony and pain of the experience of the 13th amendment in the North and East. In the South the Governors are dormant. (The image that should come to your mind are retired politicians like an Alavi Moulana or a WJM Lokubandara) They do not interfere with the Provincial Council administrations. However in the North and East, wherein the Governor’s chair is occupied by two retired army personnel, the Governors make maximum use of their constitutionally granted power. The 13th amendment gives the Governor a choice as to whether she wants to be active or not. In the North and East the Governors act like Viceroys from an alien land. But the hard truth is that the Governors are constitutionally empowered to act like the colonial Viceroys.”

“The important point to note is that Dayan is not really saying implementing the 13th amendment will benefit the Tamil people in the short or the long term. He is saying it will release Sri Lanka from international pressure or at least ease that pressure.”

“Are the Tamils not entitled to ask the logical question, as to what we the Tamils stand to gain from the 13th amendment? Or what we stand to gain from an elected Northern Provincial Council? Can an elected Northern Provincial Council help the war-affected with livelihood support?, stop the land grab?, leave alone do anything about the release political prisoners lingering in prisons in the south? To articulate this sounds ‘moronic’ and ‘ultra nationalistic’ and worse sounds like ‘Kaluthaihal’ (donkeys) for some pundits. Purely from a realist, pragmatist framework, I beg to ask the question, why is what we are saying irrational or illogical?”

“Since the provincial council system does not offer any solution to the immediate problems of the Tamil people, the Tamil Civil Society has taken the position to reject the 13th amendment as a starting point or even a reference point to a political solution. We see any promise of incrementalism as an empty promise. We also see any engagement with the elections as being a stumbling block towards finding a political solution. The Tamil Civil Society’s rejection of the 13th amendment, I would emphasize, is is not a reflection of ideological intransigence but is a reflection steeped in experience and reality.”

“It is in the above circumstances that the Tamil Civil Society has come out with the position that the North and East of Sri Lanka, needs a transitional administration. To call for a transitional administration should not be interpreted as a call for a separate state. The social and political transition of the Tamil people from an environment of war and oppression to an environment of peace and justice cannot be achieved under the present framework of governance with or without the 13th amendment. Given that the Government of Sri Lanka in particular and the Sinhala Buddhist polity in general, is reluctant to seriously engage with the political solution question, the Tamil people cannot be asked to wait, and hence an interim arrangement is of urgent necessity. Hence the call for a transitional administration.

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