By Rear Admiral (Rtd.) Dr. Sarath Weerasekera
There is a very interesting observation. Whenever I express myself against the Provincial Councils, Dayan Jayatilleka springs into action and starts jiggling without any rhyme or reason, just like the manner in which a rat snake reacts to kerosene oil.
In an opinion piece in Daily FT on 22 December 2020, Dayan Jayatilleka accuses what he terms the ‘ultranationalist Far Right’ and myself whom he calls ‘a notorious hawk,’ for expressing opposition to the 13th Amendment and the PC system.
Ignoring external intervention that led to Kosovo’s secession and genocide, Jayatilleka projects a frightening Bosnia and Kosovo like scenario for Sri Lanka if it abrogates the 13A and the PC system.
Equating opposition to 13A and the PC system as opposition to minorities and pointing the finger at the Sinhala nationalist organisations and the Civil Defence Force, Jayatilleka makes the outrageous claim, “Now the obvious personalities are auditioning for the roles of Radovan Karadzic and/or Ratko Mladic” with… ‘Sinhala Civil Defence Force to function as the equivalent of the Bosnia Serb militia…’! He forgets the genocide committed against the Sinhalese Tamils and Muslims by Prabhakaran and the LTTE!
At the Parliamentary elections held in August 2020, I was elected from the multicultural Colombo District which has a large proportion of voters from the minority communities. I gained the highest number of votes of any candidate, next to Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa. Today, I represent the views and interests of a wide constituency of people in the country.
In contrast, Dayan Jayatilleka stands for an unrepresentative, outmoded and good for nothing ideology. Jayatilleka has been an ardent proponent of 13A and PC system since his days as a militant of the separatist EPRLF. He served as the Minister of Planning and Youth in the North East Provincial Council under Chief Minister Varatharaja Perumal who declared Unilateral Declaration of Independence and fled to India.
At every opportunity since then, Dayan Jayatilleka has advocated for the widely unpopular 13A and the failed and financially burdensome PC system. While functioning as the Sri Lankan Ambassador in Geneva, he managed to include a clause in the UNHRC Resolution 11/1 adopted in 2009 calling for the full implementation of 13A. It provided a political framework for Tamil separatism after the military defeat of the LTTE.
The infamous 2015 UNHCR Resolution against Sri Lanka required of the ‘Sri Lanka Government to ensure that all Provincial Councils are able to operate effectively, in accordance with the thirteenth amendment to the Constitution of Sri Lanka’.
Resistance to 13A and PCs
The Indo-Lanka Accord was designed in secrecy and imposed without consultation of the Sri Lankan Parliament to create a Tamil homeland in the Northern and Eastern Provinces to appease Tamil separatism. The 13A overlooks historical and contemporary realities and justice needed by all communities. The Tamil homeland has no basis in history. The Northern and Eastern Provinces were created by the British colonialists carving out large areas of land from the pre-colonial Sinhala Kandyan kingdom.
The Accord, the 13th Amendment and the PC were resisted from the outset by the majority including the moderate SLFP and the Ultra Left JVP. Provincial autonomy was widely seen as the stepping stone to eventual secession and the strategy of the Federal Party’s founder, Chelvanayakam was, ‘a little now, more later’.
In 2019 President Gotabaya Rajapaksa was elected into office in a massive victory with a mandate to introduce a new constitution. The President’s election manifesto identifies deliberation on Provincial Councils as a requirement in the preparation of a new Constitution. It states
‘Rather than pandering to NGOs and certain interested foreign parties, we must promulgate a new constitution that reflects the aspirations of our people…’
Who are the internal and external forces demanding PC elections as soon as possible and why? Dayan Jayatilleka for one dismisses a whole range of local concerns pertaining to the matter, such as, the wisdom of demarcating regions along ethnic lines in a multicultural society and the presence of the majority of Tamils outside the Northern and Eastern Provinces.
Jayatilleka completely ignores gives the overwhelming concerns regarding local agency and sovereignty that brought President Gotabaya Rajapaksa into power in a landslide victory against the candidate that Jayatilleka supported.
With personal grudges against the victors, Jayatilleka casts aside national concerns of security and survival that pertain to all communities. For him, they signify the self-interests of a ‘hawkish Sinhala-Buddhist militarist regime’ and the ‘triumph of Gotabaya Rajapaksa with his Hard-Right team such as Sarath Weerasekara (‘Defeating the GR Regime Requires Peoplolising The Opposition,’ Colombo Telegraph.)
His pseudo-leftism and internationalism aside, Jayatilleka reveals his true colours as a stooge of external power. He asks:
‘How will India and the world community as a whole respond to the abolition of the PC system which grants a measure of provincial semi-autonomy to the Tamils? ... How would political elites and legislators in the USA and the Quad as a whole, view India’s capacity to manage China within the South Asian subsystem, traditionally India’s sphere of influence? India’s action/inaction could tilt the balance between appeasement and contention/containment’.
In trying to coax India into renewing intervention in Sri Lanka, Jayatilleka forgets India’s own fears over secession from the Indian Union. A former British colony that experienced the devastating partition upon independence, India is highly sensitive to external interests who would like to see the country broken into pieces like Yugoslavia. The break-up of Sri Lanka would undoubtedly facilitate the creation of Greater Eelam and the balkanisation of India. The massive threat posed by the Dravidasthan movement led to the adoption of the draconian anti-secession amendment to the Indian constitution in 1963. Since then, the interests of South Indian Tamil nationalism shifted to Sri Lanka.
In August 2019, the Modi Government in India stripped the contentious state of Jammu and Kashmir of autonomy after seven decades depicting it as a ‘historical blunder’. Likewise, it would serve India and other external powers well to correct the historical blunder of intervention in Sri Lanka and allow Sri Lanka to determine her mode of internal governance.
Cast aside the misleading and dangerous scenarios projected by political opportunists like Dayan Jayatilleka, let the popularly elected Sri Lankan Government deliberate on the PC system and a new Constitution and not be forced into hasty PC Elections. Let the Sri Lankan people hard stricken by the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic crises overcome those challenges before undergoing yet another round of election.
Dayan Jayatilleka should be reminded over and over again that ours is an independent sovereign country and our ancestors have scarified their lives in millions, throughout our history, to preserve the unitary character of the country.
We are situated in a strategically most important location in the Indian Ocean and that’s why many external forces tried to get a foothold in our motherland, starting from Chola, Pandya, Kalinga Maga from South India up to Portuguese, Dutch and English. In every such invasion there were treacherous and bootlicking elements inside the country to support the invaders purely for personal gains. Having that experience for the last 2,500 years, it is nothing to be surprised that the descendants of such elements are still haunting in society.