Ilankai Tamil Sangam
Association of Tamils of Sri Lanka in the USA
Rebuttal to H.L. de Silva's views on the ISGA :
I in ISGA is for Interim Self-Governing Authority
by Prof. C. Suriyakumaran
H.L. de Silva PC, in his denunciations of the LTTE-proposed ISGA on the occasion of the launching of S.L. Gunasekera's 'Abomination', has allowed the 'authorship' of the ISGA and the politics of its follow up, like innumerable others here, to get the better of himself.
The LTTE's proposal does not need to be correct all the way, for a fruitful discussion of its pluses and minuses, towards quiet, feasible, agreed-upon solutions - indeed, given also the availability of people of the calibre of Mr. de Silva.
Apropos the desideratum of the 'final context' of any solution being also known in advance, at least the Oslo accords to which the LTTE has been a party, envisaged ultimately a Federal Framework basis on which the constitutional arrangements for the NorthEast could be found.
As I had recalled myself in a recent article, in the intended LTTE Self-Governing Authority, the letter 'I' is simply Interim (certainly not 'Internal' or 'Indefinite'!).
The above two factors, by themselves provide a basis to start the discussions without further dissections. The recent Article by me referred to, extended what should be welcomed as the strongest possible 'common denominator of understanding' across the board for the Country as a whole, on National Governance along with Regional Self-Satisfaction.
It is the extension of satisfaction mutually by all sides, in Constitutional arrangements at the Center as much as at the Periphery, that must be sought; and not denials of these, well established, components of Governance, in the name of various 'ogres'. Mistrust must create mistrust. Creating Trust itself from a position of current mistrust requires as much (a) Patience, (b) the acceptance of elements in Governance at the Periphery hitherto considered 'unheard' of, and (c) at the center, hitherto considered impudent !.
In the latter, H.L. de Silva's writings themselves, consider concepts such as 'Regional' Foreign Borrowings, or (though not mentioned) Regional Flags, as signs of 'alienations'. Yet we know that not only are these replete with examples abroad, in contrary illustration, but indeed in our own Provincial Areas, where special Names and special Flags have been adopted legally by these Provincial Areas, and Foreign Borrowings executed by their Provincial Councils. Certainly, good economic common sense would have required mechanisms of mutual consultation, information, and collation between the Center and the Regions; as indeed happens. And these work ! - to the better advantages of both Devolution and Development.
There are indeed other 'issues' too - if one wanted to make them so before one has started - including as well the structures of the Police, Armed Forces, the Judiciaries right down to the Primary Courts.
Yet we have means, methods and example around the world, in some of the best and most abiding arrangements within countries.
Any final workout must necessarily be political, not legal, the latter only giving expression to the former. Perhaps political science, and conjoint constitutional expertise, may emphasise better the type of the background that should produce abiding solutions apart from good common sense dispassionately used.
As I wrote in March 2002, following on Mr. H.L. de Silva's writings on the four point Thimpu self-determination, our own historical realism was what I have repeatedly called 'consensual pluralism', not 'confrontational pluralism'.
I stated, "....In the midst of these, Mr. de Silva's grave advertence to the existence of 'contested issues'; controversial concepts of 'social science, political theory and international law'; and the 'inability to arrive at meaningful conclusions before these terms were refined and more restrictively construed having regard to the factual matrix (sic!) and the historical context'; do not take anybody far.
".... Finally, there is no need to be confrontational about conceptualising 'self-determination'. This is in fact the challenge for creative people, and which Mr. de Silva could have done far better undertaking than his present exercise. It involves an extensive review and reformation of,
1. The Central Structure of Governance (of which S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike knew very well);
2. Intermediary high level Informal Structures of co-existence and cohesion; and
3. A truly evolved (in structures, functions, finance, resources use) framework of self-determination providing for true expressions of the goals of 'identity, security, and opportunity'. (We still confuse deconcentration, decentralisation and devolution !)
".... Just two matters, Mr. de Silva's claim of the legal process through courts, or even through parliament as exists, is a total confusion between these openings of varying purposes, and a constitutional arrangement which pre-empts precisely these resorts to costly ad hoc legal resorts or indeterminate parliamentary protestations". "..... Secondly, when G.G. Ponnambalam, (as Mr. de Silva should know) made his representations to the Soulbury Commission in 1945 (not for separation), the vicious onslaughts of 1958 and 1983, the razing of the library, 'the tyre burnings' in the Jaffna town center there, and others, were still things of the future.
"Even later, when Prof. Sundaralingam contested on an Eelam ticket he was wholly thrown out by a purely Tamil electorate.
".... Mr. de Silva has fondly quoted a number of foreign authorities with which we need not quarrel. I have quoted others too in the past.
An essential one, amidst Mr. De Silva's praise of the Indian constitution, is a notable declaration by the opposition parties of India in October 1983 in Sri Nagar, known as the 'Sri Nagar Declaration'. 'Assertive Centralisation', they said, 'was leading to authoritanism and to alienation.
Integrity and sovereignty of a country must emerge from harmonization of the distinctive linguistic, ethnic and cultural entities'.
I have also quoted myself recently, that 'the diminution of a nation state by crisis is under any circumstances not of nationality but of the particular state not fulfilling the needs of nationality'.
Perhaps we have to 'thank' J.R. Jayewardene for the crisis we are in. He had all the opportunities - both amidst his acts of omission and commission. So much so, that upon signing of the 'accord' when asked on international TV why he came to sign it, simply for once, said 'too little foresight, too little intelligence, too little wisdom!'.
'When SWRD Bandaranaike was asked much earlier how he came to sign the B-C Pact, replied at once, 'My dear fellow ! I was, simply interpreting the present in the context of the Future'! As they say, I was there, having been modestly in the process.
As the Sri Lankan phrase goes, 'aiyyo,' it would have been so much better no, if we had adopted it then !'. As it was, SWRD was marginalised and, eventually, done away with. 'How welcome if Mr. De Silva would help, with is undoubted immense capacities, towards this Future, in the so much needed peace process that is being now grappled with'.
(Prof Suriyakumaran is an economist who has worked for the UN Environmental Protection Agency as Director, South Asia Region for a long time before retirement.)
Sunday Observer, November 21, 2005
Posted November 29, 2004