Feature Article

Clinton’s analogue contradicts political reality

[TamilNet, Thursday, 21 July 2011, 11:26 GMT]
Visiting Chennai and appreciating the Tamil Nadu state in India, the US Secretary of State Ms. Hilary Clinton on Wednesday said, "Every Sri Lankan deserves the same hope and opportunity." If Ms. Clinton implies an Indian-modeled federal solution to the chronic national crisis in the island then she is making a historic mistake in her analogy, writes TamilNet political commentator in Colombo. Federalism in India had an altogether different origin beginning from the days of the English East India Company compared to the vicious experiment of the British ‘Crown Colony’ in the island. Ms. Clinton should now delete the word ‘Sri Lanka’ if she means talking about Eezham Tamils or about ‘reconciliation’ in the island, he further writes.

Federalism was there at the very outset of British colonialism in the Indian subcontinent.

The separate territories of the English East India Company such as the Madras Presidency, Bombay Presidency and Calcutta Presidency as well as the principalities under the native rulers in the subcontinent were the foundation of Indian federalism for over two hundred years, which later evolved into linguistic federalism after independence.

Even the military of India originated in a federated way as Madras Regiment, Sikh Regiment, Rajput Regiment, Maratha Regiment, Gorkha Regiment etc., the identities of which survive to this day.

On the contrary, by making Ceylon a Crown Colony in 1802, the British for their strategic interests went into a vicious experiment of administrative unification of the former sovereign territories such as the Kingdom of Jaffna Patnam, Kingdom of Kandy and Kingdom of Kotte, in 1838.

The British rejected proposals for a federal set up in the 1840s and again at the introduction of universal suffrage in the late 1920s, paving way for majoritarian rule in the island. Independent Ceylon continued with denial to federalism.

The identity ‘Sri Lanka’ introduced by the 1972 Sinhala-Buddhist constitution, as far as the Eezham Tamils are concerned, is associated with memories of the call for Tamil Eelam in 1976 and the subsequent escalation of the genocide of them by state in the island.

It is now too late for anyone to think of domestic federal solution in the island and to talk about ‘every Sri Lankan having hope and opportunity’, while the Eezham Tamils psychologically cannot feel as Sri Lankans and the ‘Sri Lankans’ cannot accommodate Eezham Tamils as a nation of equal sovereignty in the island.

Even British India with its federal origins could not prevent the birth of India and Pakistan, and later Bangladesh.

The possible option for the island today is to think of the model of Straits Settlements becoming Singapore and Malaysia for their coexistence peacefully, coexistence of all communities in both the countries and their eventual participation in the ASEAN as equal partners.

The military of Sri Lanka is All-Sinhalese, motivated by genocidal perceptions, and it has acquired proportions pervading diplomacy to economy. This is not going to change in the near future. On the other hand, India and the USA have worked for the annihilation of the military balance of Eezham Tamils.

A domestic federal solution will not work under such reality. State in Sri Lanka is prepared with all arrangements to make any federal solution meaningless, militarily and administratively. Only an internationally guaranteed secession could bring in peace and stability in the island and reversion to democracy from militarism in the south of the island.

Politicians, academics and media in India, USA and elsewhere have to carefully look at the chronic realities in the island before enticing the public by making superficial analogies.



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