Archive for February 9th, 2008
by Kanaganayagam Kanag-Isvaran
On the occasion of the launch of “Senator Tiruchelvam’s Legacy” Selected Speeches of and Tributes to Senator Tiruchelvam Q.C., Sri Lanka Foundation Institute, Colombo, 1st February 2008:
[Bradman Weerakoon, former Secretary to the PM speaking at Book Launch]
The year was 1973. I had moved into my residence at Barnes Place. Soon thereafter my father visited me, and as is usual, he commenced his peregrinations in Colombo, visiting his old friends and their visits in return.
One day, he came and announced, “There, Tiruchelvam wants to meet you”.
Soon an appointment was made and I went to see him on a Saturday morning, at about 10.30, at his residence in Rosmead Place.
I had heard of Mr. M. Tiruchelvam but had never met him. But from what I heard, I knew him to be a Senator, a former Minister, a Queen’s Counsel, principal political advisor to Mr. S. J. V. Chelvanayagam, a political strategist and to be a cunning man– cunning in the sense of being ingenious and skilful.
[Justice CV Wigneswaran speaking at the book launch]
I was therefore somewhat daunted and apprehensive when I entered his home.
But there he was seated on a low sofa, in a bookshelf lined lounge, in a white verti and white short sleeved shirt-(I have never seen him in a long sleeved shirt), looking quite civilized, with that infectious smile and charm and quiet dignity.
I was immediately immersed in a sense of well being in his presence. I knew I was going to like the man-and much later, I would like to believe, he became rather fond of me.
There was another gentleman with him that day, Mr. R. S. Wanasundara, the then Solicitor General and later a Justice of the Supreme Court.
After a little banter, I was told “We are looking for a young man like you, why don’t you join the Crown Counsels’ Department”?
Though it was a great honour, I said that my heart was set on private practice.
A week later, Mr. Tiruchelvam called and informed me that he had nominated me as his Junior in an appeal from Batticaloa. That is how I came to work in his Chambers,-a very short time though-until his untimely demise on the 22nd of November 1976.
Nevertheless, during the three and a half years I worked with him, he has enriched me beyond my wildest dreams.
Soft spoken and charming he had humane and lovable ways. He had the humility to listen to you even as a junior lawyer. He was an educationist-keen to teach not only law, but also social and political history.
Quick to sense, that I was ignorant of the political developments in the country during the period 1960 to 1965, when I was in the United Kingdom, he took upon himself to educate me on the “Struggles of the Tamil People” as he called it.
When we used to travel by air to Trincomalee and Batticaloa for legal work, I will be given a lecture on the history of the place, of its ancient glories and of its peoples. Often he used to speak to me about a quaint Hindu village in the Chilaw District called Uddappu-a stronghold of his political party.
His knowledge of the history of this island from ancient times, of Tamil civilization and culture, of the Hindu religion and of other religions, religious architecture, iconography and on a whole variety of subjects was prolific and came in very useful when he was leading me in an action relating to a Hindu temple and its temporalities and succession to trusteeship in Chilaw.
In law, his forte was constitutional law, administrative law (now called public law) and the law of Trusts. He initiated me in these areas of law, for which I owe him a deep debt of gratitude.
The crowning moment in my career as his Junior came when he invited me to work with him closely as a Counsel at the trial of Appathurai Amirthalingam, when he with three others, namely M. Sivasithamparam, K. P. Ratnam and K. Thurairatnam were arraigned at a trial-at-bar on the 18th of June 1976 charged with sedition.
It was then, whilst working with him, that I was introduced to world renowned authorities on constitutional theory and law, such as Dr. K. C. Wheare, Sir Kenneth Roberts-Wray, Prof. S. A. de Smith and to A. Rubinstein’s seminal work, Jurisdiction and Illegality and to jurisprudence on the subject in decisions from Uganda, Southern Rhodesia, Cyprus, Pakistan and India.
We had to work on tomes of material in preparation for the submissions Mr. Tiruchelvam had to make on the constitutional aspects of the case on behalf of the defense.
The trial-at-Bar was before J. F. A. Soza, H. A. G. de Silva and Siva Selliah, Judges of the High Court, with Mr. Shiva Pasupathi, A. G. prosecuting, and Messrs S. J. V. Chelvanayagam Q.C, G. G. Ponnampalam Q.C., Mr. M. Tiruchelvam Q.C. and some seventy five other Tamil Counsel appearing for the accused.
In a lighter vein, I remember that in the preparation for the trial-at-bar I had to run between the Chambers of Mr. G. G. Ponnambalam and Mr. Tiruchelvam, as they were not inclined to visit each others Chambers! And when it came to seating arrangements in Court, Mr. Tiruchelvam told me “Sonna” you sit between me and G.G! Thereby I earned a place in history, which is attested by a photograph in the book that is being launched today at page 320!
I believe this is the occasion on which something of the background that led to this indictment should be noted. I recount from memory what I learnt from Mr. Tiruchelvam.
The Tamil people’s relationship with the Sri Lankan State, after we achieved independence on the 4th of February1948–the 60th Anniversary of which we are supposed to celebrate this year, has gone through distinct periods.
From independence, till the enactment of the Official Languages Act of 1956 the two major linguistic groups would appear to have co-operated and cohabited to ensure that the newly independent state remained a viable democracy.
Since the Official Languages Act, the old camaraderie appears to have become a little tenuous, with the result that the Tamils were seeking autonomy as articulated by the Elangai Thamil Arasu Kadchchi-The Federal Party.
Aversion to the 1972 Constitution, which is quite evident from the speeches made in the Senate by Mr. Tiruchelvam, and reproduced in “Senator Tiruchelvam’s Legacy” shows that the Tamils had lost confidence in the ability of the Sinhala Governments to redress their grievances and it would appear to have influenced the call for separatism–or an ethnic divorce, culminating in the Vaddukkodai Resolution of 14th May 1976.
On that day, the Sri Lankan Tamils, the Indian Tamils and the Tamil speaking Muslims-the leaders of the Tamil United Front (TUF) met at Vaddukkodai, (which incidentally is also the village of my father as of Mr.Tiruchelvam) and reconstituted themselves as the Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF), and presided over by Mr. S. J. V. Chelvanayagam, resolved to restore and reconstitute a Tamil State, a political reality that had previously existed.
I quote below the resolution
“The first National Convention of the Tamil United Liberation Front meeting at Pannakam (Vaddukoddai Constituency) on the 14th day of May, 1976 hereby declares that the Tamils of Ceylon by virtue of their great language, their religions, their separate culture and heritage, their history of independent existence as a separate state over a distinct territory for several centuries till they were conquered by the armed might of the European invaders and above all by their will to exist as a separate entity ruling themselves in their own territory, are a nation distinct and apart from Sinhalese and this Convention announces to the world that the Republican Constitution of 1972 has made the Tamils a slave nation ruled by the new colonial masters the Sinhalese who are using the power they have wrongly usurped to deprive the Tamil Nation of its territory, language, citizenship, economic life, opportunities of employment and education thereby destroying all the attributes of nationhood of the Tamil people.
And therefore, while taking note of the reservations in relation to its commitment to the setting up of a separated state of TAMIL EELAM expressed by the Ceylon Workers Congress as a Trade Union of the Plantation Workers, the majority of whom live and work outside the Northern and Eastern areas,
This convention resolves that restoration and reconstitution of the Free, Sovereign, Secular Socialist State of Tamil Eelam based on the right of self determination inherent to every nation has become inevitable in order to safeguard the very existence of the Tamil Nation in this Country.”
Thereafter the TULF issued its Manifesto demanding the creation of an independent Tamil State. It read,
“What is the alternative now left to the nation that has lost its rights to its language, rights to its citizenship, rights to its religions and continues day by day to lose its traditional homeland to Sinhalese colonization? What is the alternative now left to a nation that has lost its opportunities to higher education through “standardization” and its equality in opportunities in the sphere of employment? What is the alternative to a nation that lies helpless as it is being assaulted, looted and killed by hooligans instigated by the ruling race and by the security forces of the state? Where else is an alternative to the Tamil nation that gropes in the dark for its identity and finds itself driven to the brink of devastation?
There is only one alternative and that is to proclaim with the stamp of finality and fortitude that we alone shall rule over our land that our fore fathers ruled….Hence the Tamil United Liberation Front seeks in the General Election the mandate of the Tamil nation to establish an independent, sovereign, secular, socialist state of Tamil Eelam that includes all the geographically contiguous areas that have been the traditional homeland of the Tamil-speaking people in the country.”
The TULF Manifesto also stated that Eelam would be ultimately established “either by peaceful means or by direct action or struggle.” However, despite this vow TULF members, for the most part, continued to negotiate with the government in hopes of finding a solution to the ethnic problem.
It is in this background that Mr. A. Amirthalingam was indicted on five counts of contravening the Emergency Regulations framed under the Public Security Ordinance by possessing and disseminating subversive literature, to wit the document “Resolution adopted at the first Annual Convention of the Tamil United Front”. Counts 1 and 2 relate to the possession and distribution of the document, which is likely to incite persons to defy or act in derogation of the Constitution of Sri Lanka. Count 3 accused him of distributing it to the public without the permission of the Inspector General of Police. Count 4, charged the accused with reading out the document as an attempt to incite the Tamil Speaking public to procure otherwise than by lawful means alterations of the Unitary State of the Republic of Sri Lanka. In the 5th Count the accused was charged with attempting to create discontent by reading out the said pamphlet. The date of the alleged offence was 22nd May 1976.
When the indictment was read out Mr. Amirthalingam stated as follows:
“I humbly state that I am not pleading guilty or not guilty because this Court is not properly constituted and it is not valid and there is no jurisdiction and therefore I am not pleading guilty or not guilty to the charge.”
Consequently, two preliminary objections were raised for the ruling of Court.
Firstly, that the 1972 Constitution of Sri Lanka is invalid and consequently this Court itself is a nullity.
Secondly, that the Emergency Regulations under which the accused has been indicted are invalid per se and in so far as they relate to the constitution of the Court.
The Attorney General, Mr. Shiva Pasupathi, on behalf of the Republic, raised the question of “justiciability” to counter the contentions of the defence. In other words, the contention was, that the preliminary objections were not “suitable questions for a court of law; it is not judicially examinable”. Meaning thereby that it had to be resolved by some other way – e.g. political.
Mr. Tiruchelvam brilliantly argued the constitutional aspects of the case as to why the 1972 Constitution was invalid. You would see the basic framework for the argument in his speech in the Senate on the 30th of June and 1st of July 1970 which is reproduced in the book under the caption “The Looming Dangers of the United Front Government” especially from pages 279 et seq.
The Court however, having heard submissions throughout the month of July 1976, determined on September 10th 1976,
“In these circumstances the time honoured and judicially settled principle of justiciability that a court or tribunal which owes its creation to a particular Constitution cannot embark upon an inquiry into the validity of that Constitution demands to be accepted. We therefore hold that the validity of the Constitution is not justiciable by us.”
On the validity of the Emergency Regulation, the Court held-
“We hold that there has been no valid declaration of a state of emergency by the President as set out in Section 134 (2) of the Constitution and that there has been no delegation of the legislative power by the National State Assembly to the President as envisaged in Section 45 (4) of the Constitution. Consequently Regulation 59 of the Emergency (Miscellaneous Provisions and Powers) Regulations No. 5 of 1976 published in Gazette No. 213/5 of May 17, 1976 as amended by Regulation 59 (1A) published in Gazette No. 214/16 of May 28, 1976 can have no sanction or validity in law. We cannot therefore continue to exercise any further jurisdiction in this case to try this accused for the offence for which he has been indicted. We accordingly discharge the accused from these proceedings.”
There was an electrifying silence when the verdict was announced and then an explosion of jubilation. The historic picture of the triumvirate–Mr. Chelvanayagam, Mr. Ponnampalam and Mr. Tiruchelvam–all smiles, reproduced in the book was taken soon after, outside the Court House.
Strangely in six months time from the date of this photograph being taken all three had passed away. Mr. Tiruchelvam in November 1976, Mr. Ponnampalam in February 1977 and Mr. Chelvanayagam in March 1977!
A new period of “ethnic conflict” was soon to begin in the years following.
The five year state of emergency of the United Front Government and its attendant repression brought new issues– the need for guarantees of personal liberties, freedom from arbitrary arrest and detention, police excesses, rule of law, independence of the judiciary, the repeal of the ex post facto penal laws etc. And because of the Tamils’ demand for separation, the need to find a solution to the problem became important in Sinhala politics.
J. R. Jayawadena offered a “Dharmista” government. He issued commitments on constitutional reform, a package of protection for minority rights and decentralization.
The 1977 UNP election manifesto contained three major commitments relating to the Tamil question. The first stated-
“We will ensure that every citizen, whether he belongs to a majority or minority, racial, religious or caste group enjoys equal and basic human rights and opportunities. The decisions of an All Party Conference (APC) will be summoned to consider the problems of non-Sinhala people and will be included in the constitution.”
All possible steps to remedy the grievances of the Tamil people was said to be via the APC.
The second was a proposal to decentralize administration by the creation of District Development Councils (DDCs) down to village levels.
The third, and more significantly, was the section on the “Problems of the Tamil speaking People’, which listed four areas of concern-(a) education; (b) colonization; (c) use of the Tamil language and (d) public and semi-public employment.
It resulted in a massive landslide for the UNP, winning a 5/6th majority or 83% of the seats in Parliament. The Tamil people were hopeful of solutions to their problems, because of the UNP’s pledges in its Manifesto.
But that was not to be.
Within a month of the UNP government taking office, the anti-Tamil riots of August 1977 engulfed the country. The UNP had in its Manifesto accepted that there were numerous problems confronting the Tamil peoples-education, colonization, use of Tamil language, employment and pledged to solve it. But once in power, it assumed a position no different from previous governments.
But that is another story, to be recounted at another time, not appropriate for discussion today.
As Dr. Neelan Tiruchelvam was to observe, years later in 1984, the Vaddukoddai Resolution “represented a shift from the struggle for equality to an assertion of freedom, from the demand for fundamental rights to the assertion of self-determination, from the acceptance of pluralistic experiment to the surfacing of a new corporate identity.”
Senator Tiruchelvam stood for a pluralistic society. In his speech in the Senate on the Address of Thanks for the Throne Speech (1970) he said,
“That in a plural society minorities can only be satisfied by federalism or some form of regionalism is a well-recognized political solution, a solution accepted not at the point of the bayonet…but voluntarily.
For a minority people there are three solutions available in a country. The first is assimilation. That is, giving up being a Tamil.
The second course is more abhorrent, and that is the course of separation, to go our different ways, to fight it out and reach a different status.
Then, the third course is national integration. That can arise only by a recognition of the mutuality of our rights and obligations, by recognition of the fact that we exist as a people who have lived in this country for 2500 years; that we exist as a people who have a language of our own, with traditions of our own and a way of life of our own.”
Then he went on to say-
“We will get it one day, if not from this Government, then from the next; if not from the next Government, then may be 25 years hence; if not 25 years hence, then 100 years hence. I want to say here and now, for all time, that the cry for federalism will never be given up”
Nearly thirty eight years have gone by since these words were spoken. Thirty two years, since his death. A new generation has come into being. We live in difficult times. A great transformation has and is taking place, since his time.
A Sinhala Buddhist nationalist ideology has been institutionalized as state policy, perpetuating its supremacy within a unitary state and attacking as enemies those who disagree. Traducing the Tamils has become a way of life.
Tamil nationalism-a reactive phenomenon to ethnocentric policies embraced by successive Sri Lankan governments, champions the separatist cause and struggles.
If Mr. Tiruchelvam was living today what would he have said? Would he accept that the second choice open to a minority-the abhorrent choice of separatism-is the way forward or would he still believe in a credible autonomy proposal as a sine qua non for future Sinhala-Tamil co-existence?
We would never know!
What lies ahead is any body’s guess!
February 9th, 2008
History was made on February 5th when Raseen Mohammed Imam was sworn in as a national list MP of the Tamil National Alliance which contested on the Ilankai Thamil Arasu Katchi ticket during the last elections held in 2004. The 61 year old lawyer hailing from Moor street in Jaffna town became the first ever Muslim from Jaffna district to become a Parliamentarian.
[Raseen Mohammed Imam MP]
RM Imam as he is generally known has replaced M. Kanagendran alias Eelaventhan as national list MP. At the last poll the TNA was entitled to two national list seats. Joseph Pararajasingham from Batticaloa and MK Eelaventhan from Jaffna were appointed. After Pararajasingham was assassinated , Chandranehru Chandrakanth from Thirukkovil in Amparai district became national list MP.
Eelaventhan lost his seat as he had been away from Parliament without leave for more than three months. He forfeited his seat as a result. Still Eelaventhan could have been re – nominated but he had fallen foul of the LTTE over certain issues. The LTTE did not want Eelaventhan as MP again.
RM Imam had been on the TNA national list in 2004. He had been a loyal Federalist and later TULF member from the days of his youth. Given the injustice meted out to Northern Muslims by the LTTE the appointment of a Jaffna Muslim as MP is certainly a good public relations exercise.
I met Imam first in 1981 when I was the “Virakesari”s Jaffna correspondent. He was then a Jaffna MMC on the TULF list.
Muslims living in the Jaffna municipality are concentrated in “Sonakatheru” or Moor street and Bommaively. Imam is from Moor street. His father was the “vidanai” or headman of the area but died early.
The father was very knowledgeable about Tamil culture and used to wear the verty and adorn his forehead with sandalwood say Jaffna old timers.
Imam himself is close to the Tamil community and enjoys many good friends among them. Some of his old Law College Tamil friends recall an incident where he dispensed with Islamic tradition at his wedding.
Though the bride was not to be seen by strangers before certain times during the wedding , Imam had persuaded the parents of his bride to be flexible. So the Law college friends all of them Tamil had sat with the groom and bride and partaken of a special meal at the wedding house. This was seen as a remarkable deviation from tradition then.
Imam had been a school teacher before passing out as a lawyer. He was practising in Jaffna. His wife too is from Moor street and hails from a rich family owning jewellery stores.
Yet in 1990 the family like all other Jaffna Muslim families were driven out from the Peninsula at short notice by the tigers. Their valuables, jewelley, cash etc were seized and each person was allowed only 150 rupees and a change of clothing.
Imam and his family stayed in Vavuniya for a while with relatives and then moved to Colombo. He started life again practising law in Colombo and the outstations. The family lives in Maradana.
The Muslims of Jaffna town though small in number had played a vibrant role prior to their mass expulsion . The Muslims were for long the king makers of the Jaffna electorate and Municipality.
The independent Alfred Durayappah owed his political success to the unstinted support he got from the Muslims.
A Muslim MMC Sultan was Mayor of Jaffna once. Another MMC Basheer was deputy – mayor at another time.
There have also been distinguished Jaffna Muslims who made a mark in poublic life. Sri Lanka’s first Muslim civil servant AMA Azeez was from Jaffna. He later became Zahira College principal. The Judges Abdul Cader and Jameel were also from Jaffna. So too was Education director Munsoor.Now Imam has become the first Jaffna Muslim MP.
Imam played an active role in supporting TULF candidate for Jaffna Vettrivelu Yogeswaran in 1977. In 1979 Imam contested on the TULF ticket and was elected MMC. There were three Muslim MMC’s then.Rajah Viswanathan was the mayor.
There was a gentlemans agreement that some MMC’s should resign after two years to enable others on the list to become municipal councillors.
Some MMC’s refused to resign but Imam was one who honoured his pledge and resigned promptly. TULF Secretary – General and opposition leader Appaipillai Amirthalingam was greatly impressed by Iman then.
Imam contested the ill – fated Municipal election of 1983 also but then the LTTE wanted people to boycott elections. Imam was presiding at an election meeting in the “ainthumuchanthi ” (five road junction) in Jaffna when some militants led by Sellakkili invaded the venue and fired shots in the air. The crowd scattered but Amirthalingam stood firm on the stage.
The voting had a poor turn out.. The elected Municipal council did not function due to LTTE threats.
Despite the reprehensible treatment of Jaffna Muslims by the LTTE there are many who have not let that cloud their relations with Tamils. They continue to maintain their friendship and links with Tamils.
Imam is one such Jaffna Muslim. He also continued to retain his TULF membership.
He was one of those instrumental in persuading fellow Jaffna Muslims to refrain from contesting Parliamentary elections in 1994.
Since the bulk of Tamils livig in LTTE controlled Jaffna could not vote the evicted Muslims in Puttalam also boycotted elections in large numbers as a magnanimous gesture of solidarity.
Since the TULF was now a component of the TNA , Imam canvassed for the party during the 2004 polls. He was placed on the national list.
When Eelaventhan fell out of favour it became clear that Imam could be his replacement
There was much controversy when the chances of Imam becoming an MP gathered momentum.
There was a strong undercurrent of suspicion, resentment and hostility among the displaced Jaffna Muslims. This was quite understandable as the TNA was now a virtual lackey of the LTTE.
Some felt that no Jaffna Muslim should have anything to do with any party linked to the LTTE. Others demanded that the bona fides of the LTTE be gauged first.
Imam himself consulted many prominent Jaffna Muslims including educationists, religious dignitaries etc. Many felt that Imam should accept the post in the interests of the Jaffna Muslims and help begin the process of healing.
Imam also went to the Wanni on Jan 20th and met with LTTE leaders. He became convinced that this was a genuine bid for Tamil – Muslim rapprochement and not a devious stratagem.
He then returned to Colombo and accepted the offer.
There was however some opposition instigated by a Moulavi who perceives Imam as a political rival.
Around 6000 Jaffna Muslims from 1500 families living in 21 refugee camps in Puttalam staged a demonstration against Imam becoming an MP.Many of the demonstrators were from Bommaively
One of the organizers M. Naushad was interviewed by the BBC Tamil service. He levelled two charges. One was that Imam had not visited the refugee camps in recent times. The other was that having a TNA Muslim MP could affect Sinhala – Muslim relations.
Imam too was interviewed by the BBC Tamil service. He dismissed the protest as being done by interested parties with vested interests. He admitted that he had not been to the refugee camps for a while.
He explained the reasons for it. Imam said that since he had no elected office he had neither the power, position or authority to do anything meaningful.
There was no point he said in simply visiting the area and doing nothing. Now that he had some political authority he would dedicate himself to their service he pledged.
When Imam was sworn in only about 30 – 35 Jaffna Muslims came from Puttalam to witness it. Another 50 – 60 from Colombo also attended.
Imam made a short maiden speech in Parliament according to convention. It was quite moving as he stated that he was only accepting office to help improve the lot of his people.
His task was to develop harmony among all people and look after the interests of his displaced brethren.
[Most of them say that they have lost their identity due to displacement-There are 136 families- 720 persons living in Koiyaavaady welfare camp in Puttlam district for more than 17 years: Pic: by Dushiyanthini Kanagasabapathipillai]
His long term objective was to help Jaffna Muslims return to their traditional abode.
There was a time when many Muslims like Kariapper, Mustapha, Ahamed, Mohammed Ali etc contested on the FP ticket and won in Eastern electorates.
Others like Mashoor Moulana, Uduma Lebbe etc have contested on the FP ticket.
Persons like Ayoob and Basheer Segu Dawood became MP’s as EROS backed independents.
The nomination of Imam could be the beginning of a new phase in Tamil – Muslim relations. Hassan Ali of the Muslim Congress has welcomed Imam’s appointment and sees it as a token of reconciliation.
The mass expulsion of Muslims by the LTTE in the north is a sordid chapter in Tamil – Muslim relatios. Tamils who complain about Sinhala oppression against a minority in their midst must hang their heads in shame for what was done to the microscopic Muslim minority in their midst.
Tamils who complain of ethnic cleansing by the Sinhala rulers in the Manalaaru/Weli – Oya region must accept that the wholesale eviction of Muslims from the North amounts to ethnic cleansing too.
Tamils must apologize to the Muslims for this grave inhumanity done to a small group in the name of liberation.
It is to the credit of the northern Muslims that they still seek rapprochement and reconciliation. They continue to emphasise that the north is their homeland (vadakku engal Thayagam).
Tamils must extend the hand of friendship to their Tamil speaking brethren.
Against this backdrop the nomination of Imam comes as a welcome gesture. It is only a small step yet it can be the beginning of a long, pleasant journey.
Imam faces great challenges. He has to win the confidence of displaced Jaffna Muslims, reconcile with the Tamils and usher in a sense of confidence among the Sinhalese.
He has to better the living conditions of the refugee camps while encouraging the return to their original homes.
Hopefully RM Imam will not be found wanting as he faces up to this daunting task.
Related: Tamil Translation of this article:
யாழ்ப்பாணத்திலிருந்து பாராளுமன்றம் செல்லும்
முதலாவது முஸ்லிம் எம்.பி.ஆர்.எம்.இமாம்
February 9th, 2008
MK Eelaventhan nominated as MP on the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) national list has been deprived of his Parliamentary membership. Eelaventhan which means “King of Eelam” had been in Parliament since 2004. A Muslim lawyer from Jaffna, Rizwan Mohammed Imam, has been appointed in his place.
Eelaventhan lost his seat in Parliament because he was absent without leave from Parliament for more than three months last year. The septuagenarian was away in North America for some months.
He celebrated his 75th birthday in Canada during October last year. Upon his return to Colombo in early december Eelaventhan found himself disqualified on this procedural technicality.
Apparently Eelaventhan had informed his Parliamentary colleague from Batticaloa district, Kanagasabai, to seek an extension on his behalf. Eelaventhan was to return on Dec 4th.
According to TNA sources this was not done because a Parliamentary official had informed them that Eelaventhan had attended Parliament in October. This was not correct as Eelaventhan had been absent from last August
Eelaventhan returned and attended Parliament for three days in December. He even voted. It was then that a TNA colleague “tipped” off a Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna MP about Eelaventhan’s illegibility.
The JVP which hated Eelaventhan’s obnoxious antics promptly made it an issue. The TNA national list MP forfeited his seat.
Initially the man ranted and railed in the Tamil media saying he would sue the Parliamentary staff for their lapse in misinforming his party. However it was not a major problem as the party could always have re – nominated him.
This did not happen. Later there was media speculation that a Muslim was likely to be appointed in Eelaventhan’s place.
Again Eelaventhan told the Tamil media that he would file action against his party if he was not nominated again. This too did not happen.
Eelaventhan then went to the Wanni with his wife to plead his case before the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). He returned after a few days and became silent.
RM Imam whose name was on the TNA national list in 2004 was appointed and became Jaffna’s first Muslim MP.
Why was Eelaventhan’s Parliamentary career cut short midway without him completing the mandatory five years that would have entitled him to a pension? Why did he become silent after his trip to the Wanni?
EPDP leader Kathiravelu Devananda alias Douglas is fond of saying the TNA stands for Tiger nominated Agents. This is because of the control and authority wielded by the LTTE over the TNA.
There was a time during the ceasefire when the TNA would regularly go to Kilinochchi and get orders from their political masters.
Eelaventhan’s downfall was due to the LTTE becoming annoyed. It was the LTTE that got Eelaventhan appointed as MP in 2004. It was the LTTE that wanted Eelaventhan out of Parliament four years later.
When it became clear that the LTTE was calling the shots in his case the man and wife went up to Kilinochchi to plead with the tigers.
Earlier when he went to the Wanni, Eelaventhan used to have one on one meetings with LTTE supremo Velupillai Prabakharan. This time he could not meet with senior tiger leaders let alone Prabakharan. It is not clear as to who the people he met were but they were not senior leaders.
At one point Eelaventhan’s wife got extremely emotional and argued strongly that her husband had been of yeoman service to the LTTE chief and that the tigers were being ungrateful. Irritated , the LTTE then informed the couple that their Pajeiro jeep was to be acquired by the movement.
Eelaventhan was one of the first TNA Parliamentarians to purchase a Pajeiro jeep. It was this vehicle that the LTTE now wanted for their own use.
The tigers then took the vehicle keys and vehicle – related documents. The dazed man and wife were curtly informed that the meeting was over. They were asked to make their way home sans the vehicle.
They were also ordered to return to Colombo immediately and keep mum. Eelaventhan returned to Colombo and enveloped himself in silence.
Interestingly the story of Eelaventhan’s discomfiture in Kilinochchi is being spread by none other than his erstwhile TNA parliamentary colleagues. At the Indian republic day reception Somasundaram Senathrajah alias “Mavai” Senathirajah was seen and heard regaling people with the tale of Eelaventhan’s downfall.
Eelaventhan’s real name is Kanagendran. Eelaventhan is a pseudonym under which he writes and speaks. Eelaventhan means “King of Eelam”. Soon the name became popular and he became known as MK Eelaventhan. This native of Colombothurai in Jaffna was a translator at the Central bank. He identified himself with Tamil nationalism and was affected in the 1977 violence .
Eelaventhan is a maverick type of politico. He was an ardent supporter of the Federal Party but in 1968 – 70 broke ranks with the FP and supported V. Navaratna’s Tamil self – rule party. He returned to party folds and became president of the TULF colombo branch. He split again in the eighties and was a founder member of the Tamil Eelam Liberation Front (TELF).
Eelaventhan re – located to Chennai in 1982 with his family. He was associated closely with SC Chandrahasan the son of SJV Chelvanayagam. During this phase the man was opposed to the LTTE. After some years he fell out with Chandrahasan also. Thereafter he began drifting closer towards the LTTE.
He was jailed in 1997 in Madras on suspicion of procuring medicine and medical supplies for the LTTE and released later.
In 2000 Eelaventhan was forcibly deported to Sri Lanka from Tamil Nadu. He was charged of abusing his refugee status by engaging in anti – Indian and pro -tiger propaganda on Indian soil.
He began identifying with the LTTE openly after the 2002 ceasefire. Eelaventhan made frequent trips and met with Prabakharan. Once he issued a press release about a discussion he had with the LTTE leader.
Diehard TULF supporters were angered by a reference in the statement which justified the killing of former opposition leader Appapillai Amirthalingam by the LTTE.
The loose coalition known as the Tamil National Alliance began playing a subservient role to the LTTE from 2001.The TULF, Tamil Congress, TELO and EPRLF came under the TNA umbrella. Only TULF President Veerasingham Anandasangaree refused to toe the LTTE line.
The TNA contested the 2004 elections on the Ilankai Thamil Arasu Katchi ticket. Eelaventhan’s elder son in law is Prof. Rajendran an Indian national.
Rajendran an ardent supporter of the Dravida Kazhagham once paid a visit to Kilinochchi in connection with a book release. Rajendran requested from Prabakharan that his father in law be given a MP seat for services rendered to the Tamil cause.
Former LTTE political strategist Anton Stanislaus Balasingham and ex – political commissar Suppiah Paramu Thamilselvan also supported Eelaventhan’s case. The tiger supremo gave the green signal. After decades of political activism the veteran Tamil nationalist entered Parliament for the first time.
Despite his seniority Eelaventhan did not conduct himself with dignity or decorum. Though he did not engage in rowdyism like MK Sivajilingam or S. Gajendran , the new national list MP got involved in verbal duels that descended into shouting matches. Some of his statements were unnecessarily provocative and aroused the ire of the JVP.
Eelaventhan was also known for his absent mindedness. Once he mistakenly walked in to the chamber from the opposite side and sat down in the wrong seat on the side of the treasury benches. It took a while for him to realise his mistake. That too after jeering by some MP’s.
On another occasion he protested to the Speaker that Parliament had stopped simultaneous interpretation of proceedings into Tamil. Since that service had not been suspended Parliamentary officials were confused. It was later discovered that Eelaventhan had messed up with his ear phone controls. Though sheepish the man did not have the grace to apologize.
Being an impressive orator the man was much sought after by the Tamil Diaspora. He has travelled to many countries including Australia, South Africa, Malaysia and a lot of European Countries to address meetings.
One Country he wanted to visit badly was Canada where his sister lives now.Ultimately Eelaventhan’s fall from grace was due to his trip to Canada and USA.
Canada has for some time stopped issuing visas to TNA parliamentarians due to their links with the “terrorist” LTTE. Former Batticaloa MP Joseph Pararajasingham had been a frequent visitor to Canada as two of hic children live in the Toronto area. But he was denied a visa.
Suresh Premachandran’s wife and children live here but he has been denied a visa. Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam’s grandmother and aunts live here but he too is not given admission. People like Sivajilingam. Adaikkalanathan. Gajebdran, Padmini Sithambaranathan etc have all been refused visas in recent times.
The only TNA leader allowed to enter Canada in recent times was Trincomalee district MP R. Sambandan. He was given a special ministers permit in order to participate in meetings with Canadian foreign ministry officials. He was allowed to address a Trincomalee residents association meeting but debarred from participating in political meetings.
Against this backdrop it was indeed a wonder that Eelaventhan got his Canadian visa. He was invited as chief guest for a book release ceremony. The book was on deceptive practices in astrology.
Eelaventhan whose real name was Kanagendran had applied for his visa from Malaysia. He also travelled to Canada via a circuitous route through Japan.
When he arrived at the Lester Pearson Airport in Toronto , Eelaventhan was detained by national security personnel for several hours. He was then allowed in with the condition that he refrains from addressing political meetings and engaging in LTTE related activity.
There was a possibility that Eelaventha’s admission was a trial balloon. If he conducted himself well there was a strong chance of visa restrictions being eased further by Canada for other TNA members..
Eelaventhan however conducted himself in a shameful manner. He involved himself openly with pro – tiger activity. He spoke at many LTTE gatherings and accompanied tiger operatives on fund raising missions. He was also interviewed frequently by LTTE media organs.
In an interview given to the LTTE’s “Thamil Solai” radio a day after the tiger attack on the Anuradhapura Air Base, Eelaventhan described TULF president Anandasangaree as a “rotting leper”.
He also said that traitors like Sangaree had to be exterminated and quoted two stanzas from the “Thirukkural”, One spoke of the need to pluck weeds to let plants grow,the other stated that sugar crane had to be crushed into pulp to obtain tasty juice.
TULF supporters in Toronto took recordings of the radio interview to Canadian law enforcing authorities. The officials assured them that Eelaventhan had stated that he would be leaving Canada on Dec 4th.
If he tried to stay on after that date action would be taken to deport him as an inadmissible person to Canada they said.
Though Eelaventhan’s conduct irritated Canadian officials it would have by no means angered the LTTE. How then did he fall foul of the LTTE resulting in the tigers coming down hard on him?
According to informed Tamil sources two chief reasons are attributed. One was his trip to the USA where Eelaventhan had made irresponsible comments about Sri Lanka, India and Ranil Wickremasinghe. He had also openly asked Tamils to donate money to the LTTE through the TRO.
This had upset many Tamil professionals in the USA who were nervous about a US crackdown. Several Tamils including the local LTTE chief Kandaswamy Karunakaran are in custody.
There is also a freeze on the TRO. Eelaventhan’s antis added more fuel to the fire. Many US Tamils had complained to the LTTE about this.
The more important reason was that in the LTTE’s perception Eelaventhan had disobeyed, defied and deceived them.
The LTTE helped Mahinda Rajapakse become President in 2005 through enforcing a boycott in the Tamil areas. Among other things the LTTE thought that a hard liner being in power was more favourable to them than some one like Ranil Wickremasinghe.
These calculations went awry. President Rajapakse is conducting relentless warfare against the tigers. In another exhibition of political clowning the LTTE which forced Tamils to boycott voting to get Rajapakse elected now wanted Tamil MP’s to vote against Mahinda to engineer his downfall.
With talk of a mass cross over from Govt ranks humming on the political grapevine the LTTE wanted all TNA Parliamentarians to vote against the Govt on Nov 19th during the vote on the budget second reading.
Eelaventhan in Canada was also instructed to return but the man dis – obeyed the diktat as he wanted to stay on till Dec 4th.. This was seen as defiance by the LTTE desperately trying to defeat Rajapakse on a money bill.
Aware that he had aroused tiger wrath, Eelaventhan tried to do some damage control. He made the cardinal error of trying to hoodwink the LTTE .
A news story was planted in overseas pro-tiger media about Eelaventhan having a one to one meeting with Canadaian Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
The news story stated that Eelaventhan had explained the Tamil problem to Harper and sought assistance. Harper had assured him that he would do all what he could.
[M. K. Eelaventhan with Canadian Prime Minister Prime Minister Stephen Harper]
A picture of Eelaventhan talking to harper was also published thereby adding more credibility.
For a few days the Tamil Diaspora in general and Canadian Tamils in particular were impressed by Eelaventhan’s feat. A one to one meeting with Prime Minister Harper to discuss the Tamil problem was a rare achievement indeed.
Even Kilinochchi may have for a while thought that Eelaventhan had done the right thing by staying on in Canada and meeting Harper.
But then the bubble burst! The truth was out!! What had happened was that Eelaventhan had gone with a few Canadian Tamils for a Conservative Party fund raiser banquet on Nov 8th. He was given 30 seconds to shake hands and pose for the camera with the Canadian PM.
Eelaventhan had used it to blurt out a minor speech very rapidly. A bewildered Harper could not even comprehend what this man was uttering at an incredible speed in English with a foreign accent.
At the end of it all Harper politely said he would do all he can and turned to the next in line for the photo opportunity.
This was all what happened. It was no big deal.
But when Eelaventhan discovered that the LTTE was displeased over his disobedience he tried to pull a fast one over the tigers and Tamil Diaspora by publishing the picture and news item. It was an exercise in duplicity.
Eelaventhan’s deception was first exposed by California based entrepreneur and LTTE supporter Jayantha Gnanakone. Jayantha is the brother of Australia based Charles Gnanakone who was detained in connection with the Lakshman Kadirgamar murder and later released.
The tigers obviously were annoyed at Eelaventhan’s disobedience. But they were angered at the deception. Small wonder then that they wanted to penalise him by preventing his re- nomination.
The authoritarian LTTE does not tolerate defiance and when Eelaventhan’s wife spoke stridently on his behalf the vehicle too was seized as punishment.
So the :King of Eelam” is now in the doldrums. He is an avid reader and no doubt will spend his enforced leisure in reading books.
One book Eelaventhan may like to read is Goethe’s Dr. Faustus. It may help him to ponder over the fate awaiting those who strike bargains with the Devil for worldly success!.
February 9th, 2008
Former Indian Prime minister Indira Gandhi was unseated as MP for the Lok Sabha constituency of Rae Bareilly in 1975 when courts ruled in favour of an election petition filed by her chief opponent Raj Narain.In a controversial move she declared emergency rule and jailed her political rivals in the opposition.
Censorship was imposed. But to the eternal shame of India’s fourth estate the media fell in line meekly. Only a few honourable exceptions like the Press baron Ramnath Goenga and “Cho” Ramaswamy-maverick editor of “thuglak” – displayed some resistance to the clamping down of media censorship.
The Indian media’s servility during emergency came in for severe criticism later. One comment that aptly summed up the surrender was “The Indian Media was only required to stoop but instead they chose to grovel”. This pithy comment was applicable to a pathetic event in Sri Lanka on January 23rd.
The All Party Representative Committee (APRC)chaired by Prof. Tissa Vitarana on that day prostrated itself before President Mahinda Rajapakse and surrendered its self – respect meekly Like the Indian media during emergency , “The APRC was only required to stoop but instead it chose to grovel”.
This columnist has been writing regularly on APRC proceedings from 2006. This was due to the fact that the APRC was the only glow of light in a dark, dark tunnel. Despite overwhelming odds , Prof. Tissa Vitarana aided by his advisers and supported by progressive elements within the APRC laboured valiantly.
There was a cold war between hawks and doves in the APRC search for political consensus on power sharing.Despite some bottlenecks much had been achirved by the APRC.
The APRC was expected to conclude sittings early this year and come up with a report comprising proposals for Constitutional reform. It was then that President Rajapakse diverted the APRC’s course. Rajapakse wanted the APRC river to flow backwards and resurrect the 13th amendment to the Constitution.
It was on Jan 9th that President Rajapakse “requested” the APRC to evolve recommendations to make Provincial Councils set up under the 13th amendment to the Constitution work better. He set a deadline of two weeks. The APRC was in a quandary as it was focussing on finalising its own set of Constitutional reform proposals.
Prof. Vitarana who was primarily responsible for steering the APRC decided to adopt a parallel track policy. The APRC was to work simultaneously on both projects. Consulting his Constitutional advisers Prof. Vitarana came up with a draft scheme of recommendations to work the Provincial Councils more efficiently.
This draft was given to APRC participants on Jan 17th. They were asked to study it and come up with their input on Jan 20th. When discussions commenced on the 20th there was much debate and heated exchange of words.
While the SLFP representative Prof. Wiswa Warnapala maintained “relative” silence the verbal assault was led by the JHU’s Udaya Gammanipila and MEP’s Nalin de Silva. They were given side support by the ACMC’s YLM Hameed and EPDP’s Maheswari Velayutham.
The quartet wanted some clauses pruned and demanded deletions. Others in the APRC protested.Gammanipla was extremely harsh towards Vitarana who held his ground stoutly.
It is an open secret that Gammanipla has the President’s ear. So the JHU representative apparently carried tales to the President. As a result Rajapakse telephoned Vitarana and gave him a tongue lashing.
The President accused Vitarana of filibustering tactics and “urged” his Science and technology minister to deliver the goods by the specified deadline.
Vitarana then burnt the proverbial midnight oil with his advisers and came up with a second set of recommendations. The veteran Trotskyite was now in a compromising moood and mode. The second set incorporated much of the suggestions made by the JHU – MEP – ACMC – EPDP.
The second set of proposals was presented on Jan 21st. But Vitarana’s appeasement was not enough. Bullies get more boisterous when they sense weakness. Likewise the JHU and MEP sensed that Vitarana was on the defensive when they saw the new document.
They pounced on it with unconcealed glee. Once again more changes and deletions were demanded. In contrast to the previous day the fight seemed to have gone out of Vitarana this time. According to some APRC participants , NM Perera’s nephew seemed to be a tad subservient to Gammanipla.
This was presumably due to pressure exerted by Rajapakse. It was now obvious that Gammanipla was the eyes and ears of the President within the APRC and not his own party man Warnapala. It appeared to some APRC members that Vitarana was now being deferential towards the Presidential blue – eyed boy.
There was also a perceptible change of mood among some participants. Some of those who were at the forefront in resisting the hawks and promoting progressive suggestions were now docile. The reason was not hard to discover.
This columnist has often pointed out that the inherent weakness of the APRC was that most parties involved were constituents of the government. What had happened according to a representative of an Up Country Tamil party was that his party leader had been “advised” to instruct the representative to adopt a soft approach.
To most minority community party members of the Government , the reason for toeing the Govt line is not merely due to the perks of ministerial office. It is more due to fear of consequences if they refuse to comply. Files of corruption would be unearthed, security refused and killer squads unleashed. It is fear of the stick rather than lure of the carrot that works here.
Against this backdrop the honourable tussle that went on within the APRC lost its zing. The progressives were deflated.The second set of recommendations was also criticised severely. A crestfallen Vitarana then withdrew almost a beaten man.
Still the tenacious Trotskyite laboured with his advisers and came up with a third set of recommendations. This time the new document was presented to the President at a special meeting held on Jan 22nd. APRC participants and party leaders were present. Also present were the TULF’s Anandasangaree, PLOTE”s Siddharthan and EPRLF’s Sritharan.
The Tamil trio was a non – participant at the APRC but in recent times was being viewed by President Rajapakse as representative of “moderate” Tamil opinion. The trio had been given copies of the recommendations earlier.
In a bid to know more about the proposals , Anandasangaree had reportedly asked Indian High Commissioner Alok Prasad whether some Constitutional expertise could be provided to study the proposals. The Indian envoy had suggested that the Tamil trio contact his deputy High Commissioner Manickam.
Subsequently the EPRLF’s Sritharan alias Sugu had got in touch with the Indian deputy high commissioner. When requested for expert assistance , Manickam had recommended – tongue in cheek perhaps – the name of former North – East provincial council secretary and member of experts panel Dr. K. Vikneswaran.
The Sangaree – Siddharthan – Sritharan trio was reluctant to approach Vikneswaran because of an earlier problem. At one point all of them were involved with a new Tamil party the All – Ceylon Tamil United Front. There had been disagreement and the trio had brken off with Vigneswaran who remains as Secretary of the new Tamil party.
Subsequent events showed that the Tamil trio need not have tried so hard to get constitutional expertise for studying the recommendations.What happened on Jan 22nd was a farce.
President Rajapakse was in no mood for constructive analysis and discussion.The laird of Medamulana came up with a unique formula to achieve consensus.
This was to adopt the principle of deleting all disputed issues.Like the editors of old, slashing copy extensively with their blue pencils the President of Sri Lanka commenced drastic downsizing of the recommendations.
With the JHU, MEP, ACMC ad EPDP working to a set plan clause after clause was objected to. Rajapakse then applied his consensus formula and cut it down. As a result of this exercise, the ten page document came down to about two pages.It was mutilated and moth – eaten.
At one point the TULF’s Anandasangaree ventured to dissent. He said that the APRC would lose all credibility by this and tried to read out a portion of LTTE leader Velupillai Prabakharan’s great heroes day address. Prabakharan has called the APRC a sham drama.
Sangaree’s aim was to show that the LTTE leader was now going to be proven right about the APRC. A furious President snapped rudely at Anandasangaree and told him to stop. He ordered harshly to stop reading the LTTE leader’s speech.
Rajapakse’s treatment of the septugenarian Tamil political veteran shocked and awed the gathering. Thereafter all attempts to propose alternatives or express dissent ceased. Like petrified schoolchildren in the presence of a tyrannical pedagogue the party leaders and representatives became tongue – tied.
President Rajapakse also issued his diktat on three points. Firstly he ruled out an interim administration for the East and wanted elections to be held for the Provincial council. Secondly he wanted the 13th amendment related recommendations to be presented as proposals of the APRC. Thirdly he wanted the APRC to take its own time with its originally mandated task of evolving a Constitutional reform package.
Rajapakse had in one move foisted his will and imprimatur on the APRC. After protracted discussions the APRC was stymied from pursuing its original mandate. Instead a “johnny come lately” was being substituted as the “real MCcoy”. In short the APRC’s credibility was destroyed and the chairman’s self – respect shattered.
It was a pathetic and deplorable sight to see those political stalwarts troop out , tails tucked between legs. Prof. Vitarana whom this columnist has often described as “indefatigable” went about his “duty” as a matter of routine.
It was Karl Marx who said that history repeated itself first as a tragedy and then a farce. In the case of the APRC, history was repeating itself rapidly as tragedy, farce, tragi – comedy and fiasco. Tissa Vitarana did some patch work with the “bits and pieces” of his original document and tried to make it a whole.
So on Jan 23rd Prof. Vitarana had a 4 page document with him. His task now was to obtain signatures of the 14 parties involved in the APRC. Once again there were hiccups as some more changes were demanded. Otherwise we will not sign they thundered.They were made and finally the amended document was signed by all except the Western Peoples Front.
This resulted in only 13 parties endorsing it. The relevant amendment itself was the 13th amendment. For those with a superstitious streak this unlucky number 13 could prove ominous.
And then the puerile act of deception was played out to the end. A ceremony was held and it was announced that the APRC had recommended proposals as a “prelude”. To those unaware or unfamiliar with the twists and turns of the APRC it was as if the mountains had laboured and brought forth a mouse.
The APRC had surrendered abjectly to the President. Jan 23rd was a day of shame where the APRC had grovelled before the executive president.
Like the Tamil saying about the “donkey decaying into an ant” (kazhuthai theinthu katterumbu) the original document had gradually been downsized.Vitarana after stonewalling at the crease had thrown up his wicket with a lifeless stroke.
The next big disappointment was the International community including India. It had been India that had evinced great interest in the APRC and had provided much asistance.
One reason for Rajapakse to set an early deadline for the APRC was the hope that Indian premier Manmohan Singh would grace the 60th independence day celebrations.
It had been only a short while ago that New Delhi had called for “credible devolution” in Sri Lanka. Yet India was the first Country to hail the APRC package positively as a first step. Later Japan followed with a conditional welcome.
Indian diplomats were to explain their stance privately as being pragmatic. According to them the recommendations for rejuvenating the PC’s and the on going search for Constitutional reform were parallel processes. The 13th amendment renewal was not to be a substitute for the other.
Western diplomats were silent. People like the American Ambassador and British High Commissioner had often emphasised the importance of the APRC and indicated that an adequate devolution package was being anticipated. Yet these nations were now maintaining a deafening silence.
In private Western diplomats sought to rationalise their conduct. India was blamed for welcoming the APRC report.”Because of this the silence”. , they said. “Otherwise we would have come out with statements expressing disappointment. But with India adopting this stance we did not want to comment” said a Colombo based diplomat of a western nation.
It appeared that the International community was perceiving the APRC report on rejuvenating the Provincial councils as a “prelude” to another more comprehensive report on Constitutional reform.
As written in these columns re- activating the PC scheme for the North and East was seen as the attainable in the short – term while the APRC’s original mandate was perceived as the desirable in the long – term.
Despite all the big talk of maximum devolution under the 13th amendment the reality seems to be quite different. The JHU saffron brigade and JVP crimson comrades have been used cleverly by Mahinda Rajapakse to promote his designs without blame being attached to him.
As far as the APRC was concerned the ethno – fascists worked within it to downgrade its positive progress. The national socialists worked outside the APRC to undermine it.If the JHU had been used to whittle down the APRC recommendations the JVP was now used to stymie it further.
In a clearly orchestrated action the JVP went to war against the 13th amendment. It spoke of dangerous consequences if the 13th amendment was to be fully implemented in the North when a war was on. Therefore the JVP demanded a full jettisoning of the 13th amendment.
The stage was being set. Hey presto! the anticipated announcement came. The 13th amendment was not going to be implemented in full immmediately it was said. Police powers etc will not be given till the LTTE was vanquished. Some skeletal form of powers would be given it was said
Thus even the “little” that was prescribed was now being circumscribed. The rationale for rejuvenating the 13th amendment was that the people of the North and east could not wait for the fruits of devolution till new proposals of constitutional reform were passed with a two – thirds majority. Now the very same people had to wait until the LTTE was defeated to savour the fruits of devolution in full.
Furthermore it had also been touted earlier that devolution was to be upgraded to a 13th amendment plus level. Again the bitter reality was starkly different. What was on display was not plus “minus – minus” devolution when compared to what prevailed in 1987.
When the 13th amendment came into effect the unit of devolution was a merged North – East. The provinces have now been de – merged. So its a minus as far as unit of devolution is concerned.
As for substance , powers like Policing etc have not ben given and are not likely to be given. The central government in Colombo has not shared powers coming under the concurrent list with the Provinces.
Also using “national policy” as a pretext many of the things allocated to the Province like schools and hospitals etc have been taken over by the centre.Thus substance of devolution too has been eroded greatly.
The decision to disallow an interim administration for the East and stage elections to the Provincial council is also a double edged sword. On the one hand it seeks to expedite the democratization of the Eastern province. On the other hand the holding of PC elections to the East will make the de – merger permanent.
It is against this backdrop that the APRC is scheduled to meet on the 12th. Only the naive and incurably optimistic person would think that the APRC will complete its unfinished task of evolving a Constitutional reform package.
It is certainly true that the APRC has so far managed to reach consensus on a number of issues.Earlier there was doubt in my mind whether the APRC would ever reach agreement on certain issues.
After what transpired recently I am not sure of whether the APRC can consolidate and sustain whatever agreement that has been reached. The shameful spectacle that one witnessed on Jan 22nd and 23rd leaves little room for hope.
One can almost predict how the drama is likely to unfold. The APRC will be reduced to a lame duck session of Parliament. Initially there would be listless, half – hearted meetings where matters will drag on.
At one point the signal would be given and then the saffronistas and crimsonians will begin their onslaught.
The JVP will renew its attacks on the APRC and slander it as anti – national. The JHU – MEP duo aided and abetted by Devananda’s EPDP and Rishard Bidiudheen’s ACMC will commence an insidious campaign within.
Areas where agreement has been reached currently will become the target. The consensus reached would be torn to shreds.
In such a situation the APRC would become fragmented. Earlier I would have thought the progressive forces within the APRC would hang in together and come up with one positive report in defiance of the regressives.
With the wisdom of what prevailed on Jan 23rd I have lost that hope. I cannot see these minority and left parties doing that. Even if they did so they would simply totter at the knees before Rajapakse and surrender all what they stood for.
There are however two interesting developments that may radically transform the situation.
President Rajapakse appointed a ministerial sub – committee under Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickramanayake to make recommendations about how to implement the APRC proposals and how to rejuvenate the 13th amendment in accordance with APRC recommendations.
This exercise itself was another time – consuming ploy but now it is faced with a difficult dilemma.
The original set of recommendations formulated by Prof . Vitarana was a comprehensive one. This was whittled down. Finally President Rajapakse chopped clause after clause simply because some of his stooges objected.
The final “consensus” document is woefully inadequate as a result. Thus it would be practically impossible to devise ways to implement because the mutilated set of recommendations does not provide for concrete proposals. This is the result of Rajapakse’s destructive handiwork in terms of his “chinthana” on achieving consensus.
This problem was discussed at length when the party leaders met on Feb 6th. The party leaders found to their embarassment that there was very little to bulid upon.
Therefore a decision was reached reluctantly to re- include those clauses that were struck down by President Rajapakse in his misguided zeal for consensus. What a reversal!
The other development is something that may affect Rajapakse’s plans to appoint an interim administration for the North.
Former Defence secretary Austin Fernando wrote an article headed “Checkmating devolution or genuine devolution” in the Special section of last week’s “Nation”.
It was essentially legalistic yet illuminating article with an interesting perspective. Mr. Austin Fernando himself says he is a layman and wants Constitutional lawyers to analyse the points raised in his article and enlighten us.
Therefore this writer does not want to delve deep into it .One hopes that Constitutional experts like HL de Silva or Rohan Edirisinha would clarify these issues.
But the salient point raised by Austin Fernando is that in the aftermath of the Supreme Court judgement that paved the way for the de – merger , there is no Northern Provincial Council to “act” .
What Mr. Fernando says is that the 13th amendment planned for a merged North – East . A Provincial council was constituted as such.
But after the de- merger there is no Northern Provincial Council argues Fernando. A PC can be constituted only after an election in terms of the Constitution.
After the de – merger a Northern Provincial Council area was established and a governor (acting) appointed but a Northern Province Council has not been constituted. Austin Fernando draws a distinction between a Northern PC area and the Northern PC.
If the crux of Austin Fernando’s argument is correct , then an interim advisory council or interim administration cannot be created for the North as it would be anti – constitutional in terms of certain clauses in section 154.
In that situation both provinces must be re- merged with retrospective effect to appoint an interim body. This is politically unpalatable to President Rajapakse.
The other choice is to hold elections. The third alternative is to appoint an interim advisory body that would have no power or authority and will be totally subservient to the Governor.
If this happens Kathiravelu Devananda alias Douglas will not get the”powerful” interim administration he wants for the North. Instead he will have to be content with a worthless interim body or face provincial hustings like his eastern counterpart Pillaiyan of the TMVP.
Provincial polls under the present environment will pose no problems for Devananda or Pillaiyan. The polls will be rigged and ballot boxes stuffed.If and when that happens both the North and East will be under two Tamil war lords.
The irony is that President Rajapakse wants to liberate Tamils from their self – styled sole representative and hand them over to self – imposed sole alternatives. It is not a case of someone being acceptable to the Tamil people but of being acceptable to President Mahinda Rajapakse.
February 9th, 2008