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Posts Tagged ‘13th Amendment’

There are two clear, unequivocal statements that President Mahinda Rajapaksa has made to Sri Lanka and Sri Lankans with respect to ‘political solution’. First, that the ‘solution’ he envisages will necessarily be ‘home grown’. Secondly, he advised all leaders of political parties in the ruling coalition to refrain from addressing the issue; in particular he asked them not to talk about the 13th Amendment.

Being the Executive President, being the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, being a man who enjoys unprecedented popularity, I believe one has to take serious note of these statements.

Dayan Jayatilleka is not talking ‘home grown’ these days. Perhaps it is because he is not (officially) a politician, but only a (key) diplomat that he enjoys the privileges that the President has denied party leaders of the coalition that he leads.

He has written much about my position regarding the 13th Amendment, responding to my comments in multiple publications with much use of the ‘copy and paste’ facility available in Microsoft Word. His latest (‘Politics and History’ in The Island of July 13, 2009) is a response to my article in the Sunday Island of the previous day ‘History is a cake you cannot have and eat at the same time’.

Reading it, I am reminded of Jehovah’s Witnesses. They are adept at jumping from one verse in the bible to another when queried, exiting context at will. So too, Dayan. He alleges that the traditions of all dead generations weigh like a nightmare on my brain, following Marx’s observation in the 18th Brumaire. Then he alludes to Lenin, as though history never mattered to Vladimir Ilyich. He talks as though what came before can be ditched in favour of ‘the fierce urgency of now’ (as per Martin Luther King and Barack Obama), ignoring that history informed the prerogatives pertaining to ‘The Now’ in both cases. Most seriously, he accuses me of a fixation with history (a crime, in his current ‘here-and-now’ mode of operation, I suppose), but favours a piece of legislation which assets not a fixation with history but a pathological fixation with myth.

He inserts an interesting quote, attributed to a former Israeli Minister of Justice Yossi Beilin “the extremist ideologues of every community make historical and archaeological claims for territory that derive from when their respective community was at the zenith of its power, which is of course hardly the whole story. If such claims were to the basis of political solutions and settlements the planet’s surface would have to expand at least several times.” Fine. In our case, we have Dayan pandering to one ideology’ which had hardly any historical or archaeological claim for territory.

According to Dayan, my ‘solution’, that of moving towards integration through full equality of citizenship, is impractical. Well, in that case, is he saying that the President is not committed to ‘full equality of citizenship’, that he (Mahinda Rajapaksa) is perhaps incapable and uninterested in ‘full equality of citizenship’? I wonder!

Dayan is absolutely correct when he says that we can’t afford to lose the peace after having won the war. His is a recipe for losing the peace because it is a celebration of inefficiency, it is a salute to everything antithetical to ‘home grown’ and it panders to a mindset that fanatically trashes the interests of the majority community.

The 13th Amendment does not have ‘nothing to do with Marxism-Leninism’ as Dayan asserts. It was a product of and a document celebrated and defended by Marxist-Leninists, their ideological hang-ups about ‘self-determination’ and their historical antipathy to the Sinhala Buddhists of this country.

A nation, at its moment of triumph must go for the optimal solution and hence my thesis on equality of citizenship. The LTTE was the most powerful expression of Tamil racism and Eelamist mythology (which is the foundation and spur for the 13th Amendment). The people of this country, especially the Sinhala Buddhist (if not for anything else by the sheer majority of numbers) suffered the most at the hands of the LTTE, and suffered the most to defeat it.

If ‘magnanimity’ is sought from this ‘victor’ (as some have sought to portray this victory, albeit in a bitter tone of voice), then the most generous ‘give’ would be ‘equality of citizenship’. I believe President Mahinda Rajapaksa has the sway to obtain this from the majority community and obtain agreement from all minorities. Asking the majority, instead, to concede the notion of ‘exclusive traditional homelands’ (unsupported and unsupportable by any history or historian) is asking it to lose the peace.

Those who are following my exchange with Dayan Jayatilleka may believe it is nothing more than an ideological debate, but let there be no mistake about this: Dayan is less interested in a chit-chat with me than he is in projecting a position (a ‘Government’ position, for he’s after all our Permanent Representative to the UN in Geneva) to the international community. Dayan Jayatilleka is, in unequivocal terms, painting President Mahinda Rajapaksa into a corner called ‘The Thirteenth Amendment’. The President as well as the general public would do well to take note.

Malinda Seneviratne is a freelance writer and can be contacted at malinsene@gmail.com.

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My friend Dayan Jayatilleka, who I believe should be more of the academic that he can be and less of the politician he is, after his excellent work in countering anti-Sri Lanka moves in the international arena, has now focused his entire energy to defending and justifying the 13th Amendment to the Constitution.

Dayan has not exactly written profusely on the 13th Amendment, for his articles in Sri Lankan newspapers of late are largely cannibalizations of each other; in other words he’s done a lot of cut-and-paste.

He has commented extensively on a piece I wrote in the paper two weeks ago. He has called it ‘The 13th Amendment, Indo-Lanka ties, Sovereignty’ .

I claimed that Dayan doesn’t tell us why our relations with India are predicated on the implementation of the 13th Amendment. Dayan responds by referring to a joint statement issued by the Government and a top-level Indian delegation on May 21st where the Government pledges to implement the 13th. One could say that is a tacit admission on the part of the Government that the 13th is in fact the bed rock on which Indo-Sri Lanka relations stand or will flounder. Governments, however, are not made of saints or the all-knowing (the regimes of Mahinda Rajapaksa’s predecessors are excellent examples).

As to the ‘why’ of it, Dayan points to Tamil Nadu and the 70 million Tamils in India, and tells us that the Indian ‘Centre’ will not risk alienating these people. Well, that kind of fear-mongering was quite evident in the last days of the LTTE. The Centre, it so happened, did not budge. Just two days ago, Karunanidhi was quoted as saying ‘we should not anger the Sinhalese’. So much for the compelling character of the Tamil Nadu factor! India made several mistakes with respect to Sri Lanka, beginning with training Tamil militants and ending with parippu droppings prior to the Indo-Lanka Accord. India paid a price.

Why India insists on the 13th I do not know, but if India is really interested in seeing Tamil grievances in Sri Lanka resolved, then India should understand that the 13th (or a ‘ 13th Plus’) does nothing in this regard. Perhaps it is partly the fault of successive Governments, for not having educated India on the real issues. This is understandable because politicians are politicians and will only think of power and of people only to the extent that they serve ambition. Politicians, for example, are fighting shy of setting up institutions that can correct general citizenship anomalies and capable of insulating citizen from themselves. Naturally. To assume that the anti-intellectualism this gives rise to amount to ‘the best we can have’ is to admit that we as a people are lazy, intellectually and otherwise.

Dayan claims that the 13th Amendment ‘is the concrete expression of the Indian concern balanced off with Sri Lanka’s sovereignty’. If this is the case, then the 13th is what Dayan says it is not (“the implementation of the 13th amendment is not the tithe or “protection money” (kappan) paid by the Sri Lankan state to Tamil separatism and/or our Western critics and adversaries” –www.groundviews.com of June 13, 2009). One can call tithe optimum given practicalities but it remains tithe.

He says that sovereignty should not only be asserted, it has to be defended and defensible. This is true. He says ‘If we lose India, we even lose the Non-Aligned Movement [and are] left naked’). That’s Dayan’s view. It is not necessarily true, though. I would hesitate to say that dumping the 13th where it should be dumped (trashcan) amounts to losing India or that losing India amounts to being undressed by the Non-Aligned Movement. I believe instead that a true examination of ‘Tamil grievance’ and meaningful inter-community reconciliation underwritten by democratic process can allow us to lose the 13th and retain India’s friendship, assuming of course that losing India amounts to national suicide.

Dayan’s views on Tamil grievances and aspirations are even less compelling. Yes, every civil group needs political and cultural space, but political and cultural space are obtainable without pinning it down to territory and especially a territory which cannot be justified given history, geography and demography. We know that Eelamist propaganda has tried to disguise interest as fact and this is why many in the international community believe that ‘political space’ has to have a geographical referent.

He argues that grievances not being solved by institutions do not warrant them to be dumped in the trashcan, citing Parliament and Presidency. He is correct. These institutions have other functions. The 13th however addresses interests and not grievances. It is a white elephant, a burden, and is a wasteful way of doing things. Just because no Tamil politician would ‘settle for anything less than the 13th’ it does not mean that we are stuck with the 13th or have to settle for it. No politician wants the 17th Amendment corrected or even implemented as is. Does this mean that we shut up and settle for ‘as is’? No. Tamil politicians have played the communal card. Interests clashed, the Eelam lobby lost. The Eelam lobby was in fact the worst enemy of the Tamil people. If reconciliation and a full flowering of inter-communal harmony is envisaged then we need to return to grievance and resolve these, democratically and based on fact, not fantasy.

Ask any student of politics what the defining feature of nations with devolved structures is and he/she will answer ‘a centralizing tendency’. This is true of the USA and it is true of Canada. The ‘Indian Moment’ of devolution has passed. Sri Lanka is not in devolution mode. We are in development mode. Reconciliation must happen in this context. Constitutional reform should reference the needs of development, of resettlement, rebuilding and recovery. Dayan’s India-fear or India-respect is out of sync with current realities. So too his fascination with the 13th Amendment.

The 13th, in other words, should be viewed in terms of what it does and does not do; whether or not it is in line with current realities and the stated objectives of the Government in terms of improving the overall quality of life of the citizenry. It is by no means an Engelsian ‘necessity’; it is ‘necessity’ only in terms of a mistaken assessment of India’s political wisdom/power and a politician’s self-interest. There is no earthly reason why we should continue to pay for Rajiv Gandhi’s whim. The man’s dead and so is his India.

It is a burden on the overall polity, a postponement of grievance-resolution, an affront to the democratic spirit (in both conception and practice) and all things considered an anachronism that is moreover an incongruent eyesore in terms of the overall institutional structure. All these things rebel against its implementation and agitate for its unceremonious dumping, sooner rather than later.

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