Ilankai Tamil Sangam
Association of Tamils of Sri Lanka in the USA
Presidential Election: Keeping the Family Enterprise Afloat
THE ACTION GROUP OF TAMILS (TAGOT)
Kotte, Sri Lanka
18 October 2005
KEEPING THE FAMILY ENTERPRISE AFLOAT
President Chandrika Kumaratunga has discovered "federalism" about 2 months before she permanently vacates the post of Executive President in November 2005. The process of discovery began on 8 September 2005, hours after presidential candidate Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapakse signed the pre-election pact with a Sinhala-Buddhist extremist party, the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP).
Kumaratunga wrote to Rajapakse on the same day demanding he explain why the pact rejected the Post-Tsunami Operations Management Structure (P-TOMS). The pact refers to the "unitary State", which, she claimed, contradicted their Sri Lanka Freedom Party’s (SLFP) policy on devolution.
Rajapakse ignored Kumaratunga’s sabre rattling and concluded a similar agreement on 13 September with the Sinhala-Buddhist fundamentalist party Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU). This jolted the process of discovery forward.
Plural and federal
Two days later, Kumaratunga completed the process. "We need to transform the State so it is more inclusive - equally reflecting the concerns of all communities," she purred at the Asia Society in New York. "My view and the view of overwhelming sections of Sri Lankan society is that this will involve transforming the State from a unitary one to one that is plural and federal in nature."
Tamils knew this blinding fact more than half a century ago!!!
Of course, Kumaratunga did absolutely nothing to effect that transformation during her 11-year tenure as Executive President. Indeed, she did the opposite. She unleashed unprecedented State terrorism to cow the Tamil National Movement into submission. Simultaneously, she masked the military solution with a political smokescreen made up of moribund model constitutions laced with duplicitous, federalist-type vocabulary like "devolution", "Centre", "Region" and "Capital Territory."
Her efforts have been duplicitous because Kumaratunga ruthlessly excluded the word "federal" from every constitutional reform proposal she released, from the 1995 Basic Ideas to the 2000 Draft Constitution.
No Sinhala politician from either the Opposition United National Party (UNP) or the SLFP, including Kumaratunga, has ever explicitly included the word "federal" in any election manifesto. The reason is well known. For over half a century both Sinhala-chauvinist parties have cynically mis-educated the Sinhala people to believe that Tamils are plotting to introduce federalism to divide the country and eventually establish an independent Tamil State.
Federalism and Sinhala nationalism
As part of the mis-education, any Sinhala politician – invariably from the miniscule and irrelevant Sinhala Left – who expressly supports federalism has been branded a "Tamil lover" and a "traitor to the Sinhala nation."
Today every mainstream Sinhala politician sees conceding federalism to Tamils as a defeat for the Sinhala nation, as a mortal blow to Sinhala supremacy.
So, the UNP presidential candidate Ranil Wickremasinghe slurred over federalism in his election manifesto. He coyly referred merely to a vague solution based on the Oslo and Tokyo declarations!
The SLFP presidential candidate Rajapakse went several steps further; his agreements with the JVP and JHU constitute a charter for Sinhala-Buddhist supremacy.
In her letter to Rajapakse, Kumaratunga scrupulously avoided the word 'federal'; "our party", she wrote, "has long held that peace can be achieved only by devolving power within a united country"!!!
Kumaratunga NEVER recommended that SLFP’s policies must be changed to purge Sinhala-Buddhist chauvinism and incorporate federalism as a political objective.
In fact, Kumaratunga’s SLFP opposed a federal alternative tooth and nail from 1956 to the present. Kumaratunga also is opposed to adopting federalism as an explicit, written policy of her party. All her actions – political and military – since she took office in 1994 strengthened and entrenched the Sinhala-Buddhist unitary State and brutally marginalized the Tamil people.
Why, then, is Kumaratunga pushing the party’s presidential candidate Rajapakse to publicly commit himself to changing the Sinhala-Buddhist unitary State into a so-called "inclusive" and "plural" federal State?
Kumaratunga apologists in Colombo – mostly Sinhala peace activists – came up with what they think is a clever explanation. "CBK", they gushed, "wants to leave behind a positive legacy by promoting federalism. What is interesting is that Kumaratunga felt the urge to spruce up her legacy AFTER Rajapakse signed the two agreements with the JVP and JHU and AFTER he emerged almost overnight as a potential winner.
Exploiting the National Question
The Action Group of Tamils (TAGOT) sees the familiar pattern of Sinhala parties exploiting the Tamil National Question for electoral ends.
But this time our soundings in Colombo point to a novel political twist, in which the Tamil National Question is being exploited in an internal, intra-party power struggle.
To grasp this new twist, it is useful to begin with the background elaborated in our Press Release of 4 August 2005.
In August Kumaratunga did not even remotely expect Rajapakse to clinch a deal with the JVP. Rather, she calculated that the JVP would work against Rajapakse. An isolated Rajapakse was destined to lose the coming November election to Wickremasinghe. And then her brother Anura Bandaranaike (not forgetting her son waiting in the wings) would have been the unchallenged SLFP candidate for the next presidential election.
But Rajapakse outmanoeuvred Kumaratunga.
His pact with the JVP and the support he garnered from the JHU are very likely to ensure his victory. Kumaratunga’s ploy to keep her family’s political prospects alive for the next presidential election is in serious jeopardy. A victorious Rajapakse will consign all of them to the dustbin of history.
That would suit the JVP just fine. It is in JVP’s interest that Rajapakse’s wins and puts the Bandaranaike clan out to grass.
So Kumaratunga is moving to undermine Rajapakse’s chances of victory by demanding that he publicly commit himself to federalism.
Obviously Rajapakse will not do that. And Kumaratunga knows it well. So, she is raising federalism to underline the fact that Rajapakse, by rejecting it, is defending the existing Sinhala unitary State.
Her transparent intention is to turn Tamil and Muslim voters against Rajapakse and reduce his chances of victory.
Aggressive Sinhala-Buddhist chauvinism
Rajapakse answered Kumaratunga aggressively by intensifying his Sinhala-Buddhist chauvinism. Immediately after formalising the agreement with the JHU at the historic Buddhist Dalada Maligawa Temple on 13 September, Rajapakse bluntly warned Tamils: "They [the Tigers] must realise that we have to satisfy the Sinhalese people in the majority. Without them we can't move forward."
Three days later, at the Sinhala-chauvinist Patriotic National Movement (PNM) convention, Rajapakse made a moving plea to safeguard the Sinhala country: "I will save the [Sinhala-Buddhist] nation for the future generation," he chanted to an ecstatic crowd.
All this confirms the conclusion Tamils have reached already. Who wins in Colombo at the November presidential election is of little consequence to the Tamil people. The reactionary Sinhala leadership of any hue is incapable of working towards a political settlement with the Tamil National Movement, led by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).
The Action Group Of Tamils (TAGOT)
Dr S Sathananthan Ph D
Posted October 19, 2005