Ilankai Tamil Sangam

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Association of Tamils of Sri Lanka in the USA

Preserve the Core and Stimulate Progress

by Arvalan, June 15, 2008

The book offers some invaluable insights into the current impasse in the negotiations between the Tamil and the Sinhalese Nations.  These insights, if used effectively, may drive the parties concerned to an amicable settlement to bring prosperity to the people of the island...

“We’ve consciously selected the yin/yang symbol to represent a key aspect of highly visionary companies: They do not oppress themselves with what we call the 'Tyranny of the OR' – a rational view that cannot easily accept paradox, that cannot live with two seemingly contradictory forces at the same time."

The “Tyranny of the OR”, the authors state, pushes people to believe that things must be either A OR B, but cannot be both...

The Sinhalese Nation’s thinking is in the line of “The whole Island is Our Homeland OR the Tamil Peoples'” and “If you give them the North and East, they will then capture the South as well”. They have been bogged down with over cautiousness to Preserve their Core Ideology, resulting in less room to be flexible and make concessions at the negotiations.

“The pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity.
The optimist sees opportunity in every difficulty”
 

- Winston Churchill

In the book titled Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies, James Collins and Jerry Porras have examined eighteen exceptional and long lasting companies and compared each with one of its closest, but less successful competitors, in order to discover just what has given the edge over its rivals. The comparison includes Hewlett-Packard vs. Texas Instruments, Boeing vs. McDonnell Douglas, Ford vs. GM and 3M vs. Norton.

The book offers some invaluable insights into the current impasse in the negotiations between the Tamil and the Sinhalese Nations.  These insights, if used effectively, may drive the parties concerned to an amicable settlement to bring prosperity to the people of the island.

Throughout the book, the authors use the yin/yang symbol from the Chinese dualistic philosophy.  'Preserve the Core and Stimulate Progress' is the theme which runs throughout the book to distinguish visionary companies from their competitors. Collins and Porras assert that “We’ve consciously selected the yin/yang symbol to represent a key aspect of highly visionary companies: They do not oppress themselves with what we call the 'Tyranny of the OR' – a rational view that cannot easily accept paradox, that cannot live with two seemingly contradictory forces at the same time."

The “Tyranny of the OR”, the authors state, pushes people to believe that things must be either A OR B, but cannot be both.  It makes such proclamations as “You have change OR stability”. Instead of being oppressed by the “Tyranny of the OR,” highly visionary companies liberate themselves with the “Genius of the AND”- the ability to embrace both extremes of a number of dimensions at the same time.  Instead of choosing between A OR B, they figure out a way to have both A AND B.

The above logic and thinking pattern offers the Sinhalese and the Tamil Nations alike a platform to offer an innovative solution to the long running ethnic crisis in Sri Lanka.

Tamil Nation’s Core Ideology

The Tamil Nation has articulated its core ideology clearly in more than one occasion and that ideology has been endorsed by the people of the Tamil nation in many elections over the last 30 years.  The ideology is based on the three principles of Self-determination, Tamil Homeland and Tamil Nationality.

The LTTE’s head, Velupiillai Prabakaran, articulates the core ideology of the liberation struggle in his 2002 Heroes Day message.  He says, “Tamils constitute themselves as a people, or rather as a national formation, since they possess a distinct language, culture and history with a clearly defined homeland and a consciousness of their ethnic identity. As a distinct people, they are entitled to the right to self-determination.”

The Tamil Nation’s ideology has transcended time and individuals. These principles, called the Thimpu Principles, formed the basis of negotiations by all Tamil liberation movements in 1986, including the LTTE.  The Thimpu Principles are as follows:

  • That the Sri Lankan Tamils be recognised as a distinct nationality;
  • That an identified Tamil homeland and the guarantee of its territorial integrity be recognised;
  •  That the right of the Sri Lankan Tamils to self-determination be acknowledged.

Prabakaran’s definitions fit well with that of the experts in the field. A Nation is a group of people with a strong cultural and political identity that is both self-defined and acknowledged by others. Nations are defined as those groups who have exercised political control over their destinies at some point in the past and still see such control as a possible future strategy (J N Clay: 1989).

The LTTE has stuck to its positions right throughout the peace negotiations at Thimpu, the Indo-Lanka Accord, and talks with the Premadasa, Chandrika, Ranil and Mahinda governments.  The Tamil Nation’s clear consciousness about its core ideology provides it with an adequate advantage to make compromises and make progress in negotiations.  This is contrary to the view many people hold, those who believe that the LTTE is not flexible.

During the 3rd round of peace talks in Oslo in November 2005, the Government and the LTTE agreed to “explore” a federal model within the unitary framework of Sri Lanka as a final solution to the ethnic problem.  The decision was described as a major breakthrough in the negotiations. The global media portrayed this as a major concession made by the LTTE, which have been fighting for a separate country. The Sri Lankan government was able to gloat about this decision, which was welcomed by the US, the UK, Japan and Norway; all but India. However, they failed to take note that the LTTE was able to “Stimulate Progress” AND “Preserve the Core” at the same time.  Other examples of the LTTE’s attempts to stimulate progress include the SIHRN proposals and P-TOMS agreement, both of which were later declared null and void by the Sinhalese nation.

Another important feature of this core ideology is that the Tamil people have endorsed this ideology in three elections in the last 26 years.  The 1977 General election victory of the TULF is the endorsement for a separate Tamil Eelam.  The two recent election victories of the TNA, whose election manifesto explicitly stated that they endorse the LTTE as the sole representative of the Tamil Nation, is also a public endorsement of this core ideology.

It is tragic that the International community, which is so vociferous about warning and demanding the LTTE renounce violence and join mainstream democratic politics, has conveniently, ignored these three election mandates delivered by the people of the North-East.

It is therefore evident that the LTTE has adopted the “Genius of the AND” approach to negotiations in Stimulating Progress at the negotiations, whilst Preserving its Core ideologies.  This is a demonstration of the organisation’s commitment to the peace negotiations and its willingness to find a solution by non-violent means.

Sinhalese Nation and Ideology

The Sinhalese Nation never had an ideological movement with a core ideology, in the sense of a unified framework which is offered as a solution to the National Question.  The election manifestos of the two parties which have ruled Sri Lanka in the past 56 years are not the best place to find the core ideology as they have failed to transcend time and people. Therefore, I have sought asylum in the proposals offered by the Sinhalese nation to the consideration of the Tamil Nation over the last 50 years to find whether there was any traces of a core ideology.

1957 Bandaranaike-Chelvanayakam Pact for Regional Councils

In July 1957, the Bandaranaike - Chelvanayakam Pact made provision for direct election to Regional Councils and also provided that the subjects covered by Regional Councils shall include agriculture, cooperatives, lands and land development, colonization and education. The Pact, however, did not survive the opposition of sections of the Sinhalese community led by Buddhist priests and which included the opposition Sinhalese United National Party led by J.R.Jayawardene.

1965 Dudley Senanayake-Chelvanayakam Agreement for District Councils

Following upon the 1965 Dudley Senanayake-Chelvanayakam Agreement, the UNP government declared that it would give 'earnest consideration' to the establishment of District Councils. In 1968, a Draft Bill approved by the Dudley Senanayake Cabinet was presented as a White Paper and this Bill provided for the establishment of District Councils. This time around, the opposition to the Bill was spearheaded by the Sri Lanka Freedom Party which professed to follow the policies of the late S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike who himself had in 1940, 1947 and again in 1957, supported the establishment of Provincial/Regional Councils. Because of strong opposition, the Dudley Senanayake government withdrew the District Councils Bill in July 1968 and the Federal Party then withdrew from the government.

1979 Presidential Commission for District Development Councils

In August 1979, Sri Lanka President J.R.Jayawardene appointed a Presidential Commission to inquire and report on the creation of District Development Councils. The Commission included Mr. Neelan Thiruchelvam and Professor Alfred Jeyaratnam Wilson, who both had the support of the Tamil United Liberation Front. However, though the Presidential Commission had been touted as a body which would address the issues arising from the ethnic conflict, in the event the Commission concluded that the scheme that they had envisaged "would be applicable to all of the 24 districts in the Island irrespective of their ethnic composition" and was "not intended to provide a different political or administrative structure for any particular part of the country." The proposals were not implemented.

1983 Annexure C Proposals

The Jayewardene Government presented proposals in the form of a draft 10th Amendment to the Constitution and a draft District and Provincial Councils Development Bill. The Sri Lanka proposals merely extended the scheme of decentralization at the District level to the Provincial level with limited co-ordination. The TULF rejected these proposals and the All Party Conference collapsed.

1985 Thimpu Talks

At the Thimpu Talks, the Sri Lankan Government presented proposals which were, in substance, a repetition of the proposals by the Government to the aborted All Party Conference in Colombo in December 1984. These proposals had been rejected by the TULF and the action of the Sri Lankan government in placing similar proposals once again at the Thimpu talks called into question the good faith of the Government and its commitment to seek a just solution at these talks. The intent of the proposals that were presented by Sri Lanka at Thimpu was clear.

1987 Indo-Sri Lanka Peace Agreement

In August 1987, the Sri Lankan Parliament passed the 13th Amendment to the Constitution and the ancillary Provincial Councils Act and claimed that the enactment of these laws fulfilled the promises made in the 1987 Indo-Sri Lanka Accord, to 'devolve power' on the Tamil people.

One of the key provisions of these proposals was the merger of the North and East provinces. This provision was reneged on last year by the current Rajapakse regime.

1995 Devolution Package

On 3 August 1995, Sri Lanka President Kumaratunga released a 'Devolution' package with the stated objective of ending the ethnic conflict in the island. At the same time, she reaffirmed her intention to wage war against the LTTE and launched a genocidal attack on the Tamil homeland in the north of the island of Sri Lanka. The 'Devolution Package' appeared to be no more than a peace mask to Sri Lanka's war face.

The 'new' proposals, once again, refused to recognize the existence of the Tamil homeland, rejected an asymmetric approach, continued to treat all the provinces in the same way and insisted on a unitary state

2005 P-TOMS Agreement

The Post-Tsunami Operational Management Structure (P-TOMS) agreement signed between the government and the LTTE suffered the same fate as the above agreements.

A 'golden thread' runs through every single set of proposals from the 1957 Bandaranaike-Chelvanayakam Agreement to the 2005 P-TOMS agreements. It is the Sinhalese Nation’s rejection of an asymmetric approach to deal with the needs of the North East, and the insistence that whatever 'devolution' or 'decentralization' that is on offer is equally available to the Sinhalese provinces (which have never struggled or demanded 'devolution' or 'decentralization') and the Tamil areas in the North and East of the island.

The record of broken pacts, dishonoured agreements and evasive proposals reveals the Sinhalese Nation’s consistent refusal to recognize the existence of the Tamil people as a "people" with an historic homeland and the right to freely determine their political status - the right to freely determine the terms on which the Sinhalese people and the Tamil people may associate with each other in equality and in freedom.

Successive Sinhalese governments have sought to divide the Tamil people into smaller units and so eventually assimilate and 'integrate' them into a homogeneous Sinhalese nation - an assimilating path which has led to confrontation and which had culminated in the armed struggle of the Tamil people against that which they rightly regarded as genocide. This is evidenced by the recent provincial elections in the East and the appointment of Pillayan as the Chief Minister of the province.

This leads me to conclude, in the absence of any published documents, which specifically state the Core Ideology of the Sinhalese Nation, that the following is the Core Ideology of the Sinhalese Nation

  • Refusal to recognize the existence of the Tamil people as a “people” with an historic homeland,
  • Refusal to recognize the right for Self Determination for the Tamil people, and a symmetrical approach to the devolution of power, which encapsulates the whole nation and
  • A commitment to divide the Tamil people into smaller units and integrate them into a homogenous Sinhalese Nation.

It is these Core Ideologies of the Sinhalese Nation which are causing major roadblocks to peace and prosperity.  The Sinhalese Nation is struck with the ‘Tyranny of the OR”.  The Sinhalese Nation’s thinking is in the line of “The whole Island is Our Homeland OR the Tamil Peoples'” and “If you give them the North and East, they will then capture the South as well”. They have been bogged down with over cautiousness to Preserve their Core Ideology, resulting in less room to be flexible and make concessions at the negotiations.

The Sinhalese nation and its government have oppressed themselves by their addiction to their Core Ideology.  This addiction has denied them an opportunity to take a rational view of the ground situation and the legitimate concerns of the Tamil people.

Stimulate Progress: Onus on the International Community

Therefore, it is clear that the Core Ideologies of both the Tamil Nation and the Singhalese Nation are at loggerheads.  However, it is only the Tamil Nation which has made its Core Ideology public and is endeavouring to adhere to it.  The Singhalese nation has an implied Core Ideology, which is negative in outlook and is not acceptable in today’s civilized world.

The International Community had made it a habit to pressurize the LTTE to be flexible. Jayadeva Uyangoda, one of the negotiators in the 1995 Peace Talks, in his recent analysis called “Sri Lanka's peace process: from crisis to paradigm shift?” recalls the three concessions or acts of flexibility offered by the LTTE in the most recent negotiations with the Sri Lankan government.

Firstly, they signed a ceasefire agreement at a time when the Government had no resources to fund the war, due to economic bankruptcy. Secondly, they unilaterally announced, at the second round of negotiations, that they were seeking a settlement on the principle of internal self-determination. Thirdly, they entered into the 'Oslo Consensus' with the UNF Government committing them to explore a federalist framework within which to find a political settlement.

If the International Community is serious about solving the ethnic problem, they need to persuade the Sinhalese nation to abandon their negative, destructive Core Ideology and positively embrace the Tamil Nation’s Core Ideology.  The result will be rapid progress both at the negotiation table and at the ground level as well. That will also pave the way for an innovative interim administrative structure for the North East and a final solution within reach in the near future.

The International NGOs need to conduct Peace workshops not in Jaffna and Batticola, but in Hambantota and Kandy to change the attitude of the Sinhalese Nation’s grassroots to adopt a positive-looking core ideology along the following lines; which will then enable a progressive political party in the next general election to gain a two-thirds majority (of course, with the help of the Tamil and Muslim parties) and change the current constitution for prosperity

1. Tamil People are “a people’ with a distinct language, culture and history with a clearly defined homeland

2. Tamil People’s right to Self-determination is acknowledged.

3. The North East Provinces of the country are acknowledged as the Traditional homeland of the Tamil People.

“Do not dwell in the past, do not dwell in the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment” Lord Buddha