Feature Article

TNA's draft on constitutional reforms exposes dilution of fundamental principles

[TamilNet, Thursday, 30 July 2015, 00:21 GMT]
“In point of fact, if the territorial integrity of Sri Lanka is to be preserved from claims to the right of secession, it is a sine quo non that the right to self-determination of the Tamils is recognized and the nature of the state is restructured to enable meaningful exercise of internal self-determination,” concludes the draft introduction prepared by TNA in November 2009 to accompany its proposals of constitutional reforms. 5 years have elapsed since. The TNA, now claiming a final solution in 2016, is yet to educate the masses on what efforts it has undertaken to establish the sine quo non (“cause-in-fact”) and on how long it is going to cling to the explanation of re-inventing the wheel, getting voluntarily locked to a genocidal situation which is beyond any rectification. TamilNet is releasing the documents from November 2009 for the awareness of Eezham Tamils.

The main criticism being levelled against the draft is the self-denouncement of the fundamental principle of Tamil sovereignty and the abandoning of full-scale right to self-determination. The planted section within the TNA has adopted a deceptive terminology on the influence by external ‘peace builders’. The document has been kept confidential from public attention by the TNA.

The Eezham Tamil masses need to scientifically understand the underlying deviations and how these are being falsely projected as the mandate of Eezham Tamils in the election manifestos of the TNA after 2009.

The Tamil National Alliance (TNA) has systematically deviated from the political tradition of defining Eezham Tamils as a Nation since November 2009.

Instead, the deviating polity of the TNA has resorted to the terminology of defining Tamils as ‘a people’.

A careful scrutiny of TNA-authored post-2009 documents and election manifestos would reveal that the mentioning of the term ‘Nation’ occurring only in relation to the citations of pre-2009 Tamil national discourse, as in the historical explanations in the preamble section of the election manifestos.

But, when it comes to articulating the current political demands, the Sampanthan-Sumanthiran polity is particular in adopting the term ‘People’ instead of ‘Nation’.

The TNA is justifying the usage by citing a description (not a definition) from a 1989/1990 UNESCO document (SHS-89/CONF.602/7).

Similarly, the term ‘traditional homeland’ is diluted into ‘areas of historical habitation’ as if these were pockets of habitats of Eezham Tamils.

This dilution also intends to de-link the sovereignty claim from Eezham Tamils in their post-2009 political vocabulary.

In its election manifestos, the TNA has been repeatedly citing the 2002 ‘Oslo Communiqué’, which intends to negate the fullest scope of the right to self-determination of Eezham Tamils.

The Oslo Communiqué was an attempt to limit the scope of right to self-determination demand of Tamils within the already existing State-unit of ‘Sri Lanka’.

The deviation in terminology shows clear signs of external influence, especially of the ‘peace builders’, who have been seeking to inject new jargons into the political dictionary through the deviating sections of Eezham Tamils since the 2002 peace process. The Oslo Communiqué, as it was phrased, was rejected by LTTE Leader V. Pirapaharan.

In the December 2002 communiqué in Oslo, the external players working in tandem with Wickramasinghe's UNP, were injecting the terms of ‘areas of historical habitation’, ‘people’ and the so-called ‘internal right to self-determination’.

Another step in binding Eezham Tamils to the constitutional ‘Sri Lankan’ framework is the mentioning of the phrase that ‘the solution has to be acceptable to all communities’ in the island.

The genocidal Sri Lankan State has a constitutionalised formula for such ‘acceptability’ which is subject to two-third majority in the SL Parliament and an island-wide referendum, both of which are systemic hurdles in achieving any negotiated political solution within the domestic sphere of the SL State. Such is the design of the genocidal State.

Foreseeing this trend, the Tamil Sovereignty School of Thought came to the conclusion, already in 1969, that Tamils had no alternative other than basing their struggle firmly rooted in the concept of attaining their sovereignty through asserting it beyond the scope of the SL State and through creating de-facto situations outside the limiting parameters of the Sri Lankan Constitution.

S.J.V Chelvanayakam fully embraced the Navaratnam School of Thought between 1972 and 1976. Velupillai Pirapaharan who also had his political mentorship from the same school of thought emerged as the national leader through creating a de-facto situation and remained committed to it forever.

After the genocidal onslaught in 2009, the responsibility of creating, sustaining and strengthening a new de-facto situation without military, fell on the shoulders of the Tamil National Alliance in the island. But, the problem with the TNA is its violation of the Tamil Sovereignty School of Thought.

Instead of directly violating and denouncing the fundamentals, it could have advanced the cause without making space for a positional debate within the Tamil polity.

In the post-2009 context, the prime mission of the TNA should have been to expose the Sri Lankan State in the global arena and checkmate the external players through demonstrating and establishing the fact that the Sri Lankan State, by its design, is incapable of delivering a just political solution acceptable by Eezham Tamils. The time and space was available to the TNA to enact a de-facto situation in making the point.

The TNA could have spearheaded the move on creating the de-facto situation through dialectical confrontation of the members of IC through pointing out their failed responsibilities and the geo-political outlook favouring the genocidal nature of the SL State. Such leadership also demands statesmanship in orientating the people through telling the truth to them.

Instead, the hijacked sections clinging to power in the TNA hierarchy have resorted to a collaborative programme with the external players.

It is in this vacuum, Justice CV Wigneswaran's resolve, demonstrated in recent times, especially with regards to the call on international investigation on genocide, gains significance. However, the question remains whether the NPC Chief Minister would be able to course-correct the deviating sections of the TNA.

It also remains a test case how the alternative player, the Tamil National Peoples Front (TNPF), could bring about a positive change through SL Parliamentary politics, especially in course-correcting the deviating sections of the TNA and in creating a de-facto situation. The strength of the TNPF is Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam, who has demonstrated his ability in articulating the fundamentals of the Tamil struggle and the existing hurdles of the SL State. However, the challenge the TNPF is facing is establishing its institutional capability for which it has had five years already, since its inception in 2010.

The only way of advancing the Tamils struggle is through addressing the ultimate culprits and edifying the global community as well as its stakeholders. The ability to educate and convince the own masses is fundamental in this regard.

Facing a globally designed and powerfully executed genocide paradigm of the ultimate culprits, camouflaged as counter-insurgency, the LTTE that waged the armed struggle remained tight-lipped or abstract in revealing certain truths to the masses on the discourses it had with the members of the IC. Whatever the excuses might be, the failure in openly revealing certain facts, the knowledge and the political wisdom to its own people, even at the last juncture, was a grave political failure on the part of the LTTE.

But, in a political cause that needs to be advanced without a military, there cannot be any excuse or circumstantial justification of hiding the truth from the masses, as the truth, and the truth alone, is the powerful weapon of the civil struggle.

It is with this concern, the confidential draft document of the TNA has been brought out to the public in this article.

* * *

The controversial paragraph of the so-called Oslo Declaration of December 2002:

Responding to a proposal by the leadership of the LTTE, the parties agreed to explore a solution founded on the principle of internal self-determination in areas of historical habitation of the Tamil-speaking peoples, based on a federal structure within a united Sri Lanka. The parties acknowledged that the solution has to be acceptable to all communities. [Related story with full text]

* * *

The justification of TNA in reverting back to pre-1972 politics of Eezham Tamils as found in the introduction document of the constitutional reforms that were drafted in November 2009 (page 3):

The UNESCO meeting of Experts on further study of the Rights of Peoples (Paris 1990) proposed that the following criteria be used to determine "a people”:

  1. cultural homogeneity;
  2. linguistic unity;
  3. religious ideological affinity;
  4. common historical tradition;
  5. racial and ethnic identity;
  6. territorial connection;
  7. common economic existence or life.

If this test is applied to the Tamils in Sri Lanka, even the ardent objector to the granting of autonomy must admit that they would qualify as a ‘people’ in International Law and thus be entitled to at least the right to internal self-determination. But the claim of the Tamils to self-determination is also based on the fact that prior to colonization they were a nation, exercising sovereignty over a defined and separate territory. Consequently they claim that the right to independence form colonial rule was a separate right that vested with the Tamil people. However, it must be remembered that the Tamils in Sri Lanka did not demand a separate sovereign state at the time of independence from colonial rule. Within ten years of independence, the demand for state intensified. It was only after a series of repressive measures by successive governments and broken agreements that the demand for a separate state as an expression of their right to self-determination emerged. But another quarter century later, still the majority of the Tamils are ready to exercise their right to self-determination internally if only that right is recognized and meaningful autonomy is granted.

The main features of TNA's proposals to constitutional reforms in the draft documents from 2009:

  • Power sharing should be founded on principle of internal self determination in areas of historic habitation of the Tamil Speaking Peoples, based on a federal structure within a united Sri Lanka
  • A merged Northern and Eastern Provinces will be one such Federal State
  • The powers of the Centre and States must be distinct and separate
  • There must be meaningful devolution of powers over land, law and order, socio-economic development including health and education, resources and fiscal powers
  • There must be meaningful de-militarization resulting in the return to the pre-military conflict situation as it existed in 1983 by removal of armed forces, military apparatuses and High Security Zones from the Northern and Eastern Provinces

  • The State:
    1. Sri Lanka shall be a Federation of States.
    2. One of the said Sates shall be the “North-Eastern State” comprising the Northern and Eastern provinces as demarcated under the Constitution of 1978.
    3. Within the framework of the North-Eastern State as above constituted, provision shall be made encompassing arrangements in regard to the exercise of autonomous governance by the Tamil speaking Muslims.
    4. There shall be other States as maybe determined.
    5. Wherever Tamils of Recent Indian Origin are concentrated in substantial numbers, provision shall be made for the exercise by them of powers

  • Unit of Devolution:
    • Legislative power shall be exercised at the Centre by Parliament comprising of the lower house and the upper house or the Senate. The lower house shall be elected by the People. The members of the Senate shall be elected by the States, and the Sates will have equal representation. In the case of any legislation affecting a particular community, the majority of that community must assent to the passage of any such legislation in both houses of Parliament. The StatesLegislative power shall be exercised at the Centre by Parliament comprising of the lower house and the upper house or the Senate. The lower house shall be elected by the People. The members of the Senate shall be elected by the States, and the Sates will have equal representation. In the case of any legislation affecting a particular community, the majority of that community must assent to the passage of any such legislation in both houses of Parliament. The States’ legislative power shall be exercised by the State Legislative Assembly.

  • Distribution of Powers of Government between the Centre and the States:
    • The Reserved list shall consist of the following subjects and functions: National Defence, Foreign Affairs, National Fiscal Policy, Immigration/Emigration, Citizenship, Customs, Posts, Telecommunications, International Airports, Major Harbours, Railways, National Highways, Maritime Zones
    • All other powers shall be exercised by the States

  • Emergency powers:
    • Where the Head of the Centre is satisfied that the government of a State is seeking ot secede from the Centre and that the secession of that State from the Centre is imminent, he may declare a state of emergency and the Governor shall take over such executive functions and powers of the Chief Minister and the Council of Ministers as may be necessary in the circumstances.

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