by M. Nadarajan
The much-awaited Proposals by the LTTE have been given to the government. Though the President had at one time offered to hand over an Interim Administration to the LTTE for a period of ten years, and the Prime Minister’s party had specified in its 2001 election manifesto that it would hand over the Interim Administration to the LTTE without specifying any time frame, and secured a mandate from the electorate to do so, and subsequently submitted its proposals for an IA to the LTTE, this is the first time that the LTTE has submitted its proposals.
The LTTE went about it in a very serious and careful manner, which exhibiting maturity and planning. It sent delegations to several countries to study different systems of federalism, and used experts and officials of some of those countries as resource persons.
The last two meetings of the LTTE’s Committee considering the proposals were distinguished by the presence of three University Professors and a retired Attorney General of Sri Lanka. Some foreign experts also addressed the meetings. The end result is a well-balanced, carefully thought-out document, giving the direction in which the final settlement is envisaged.
All Communities in the NorthEast Province should be happy to note the several features that show an intention to treat all occupants of the area on an equal basis.
1 The composition of the Interim Self-Governing Authority (ISGA) specifically provides for members being appointed by the Muslim Community, with the assumption that the government appointees would include the Sinhalese Community. The proposals specifically provide that Muslim and Sinhalese Communities will have representation in the ISGA.
2.There is provision for elections to be held at the end of five years if no final agreement is reached by that time. Such elections are to be conducted by an independent Election Commission and shall be free and fair, and under international observation. So much for the negative soothsayers who said that the LTTE would be fascist, and its government would be a one party government! This provision also proves that those who said the LTTE would go on dragging the proposals without any final solution were wrong.
3.The establishment of an independent Human Rights Commission to ensure that international human rights conventions are complied with, and the provision that every law, regulation, rule, order or decision shall conform to internationally accepted standards of human rights indicates the importance given to human rights. What have the detractors got to say?
4.No religion shall be given the foremost place, unlike in the Constitution of Sri Lanka.
5.Statement of determination not to permit Bribery and Corruption.
6.Provisions to ensure no discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, national or regional origins, age or gender, and the protection of all communities (in section 8 of the proposals) re-incorporates the safeguards provided under Section 29 of the Soulbury Constitution, which were excluded in the 1972 and the 1978 Constitutions, despite it being an entrenched clause in the Soulbury Constitution. All Communities, Tamil, Muslim and Sinhalese, should be very happy about its re-introduction. This exposes how negative the media and Sinhalese chauvinists have been thus far on their views about the LTTE.
7.Membership in District Committees will ensure representation of all ethnic communities.
8.There is provision for the appointment of an Auditor General and accounting and auditing will be in accordance with internationally accepted accounting and auditing standards. This should give confidence to the Government of Sri Lanka and the donors. Provision is also made for donors to appoint their own auditors to audit the expenditure of loans and grants thus ensuring transparency.
9.Like most civilized countries, provision is made to request the President of the International Court of Justice to appoint the chairman of the Arbitration Tribunal if there is disagreement between the two parties over the appointment.
The only disputes, if any, would arise in regard to Land, Finance and Revenue and, Law and Order arrangements, since the GOSL had indicated that it will not hand over powers over those subjects to the Interim Administration .
Let us examine these in more detail:-
Authority over land has been one of the major problems in this dispute. Land mostly in the whole of the erstwhile Eastern Province and parts of the erstwhile Northern Province (which provinces, as merged, is the acknowledged homeland of the Tamil Speaking people, as implied 1)in the Banda - Chelva and in the Dudley – Chelva pacts; 2)by sending Tamil refugees to North and East and sending Sinhalese refugees to the rest of the country when Sinhalese communal riots against Tamils took place; and as explicitly provided for in the Indo-Sri Lanka Accord signed by the Prime Minister of India and the President of Sri Lanka), has been used as a tool for exercising Sinhalese hegemony over Tamils.
Large scale government-sponsored colonization by Sinhalese took place using Taxpayers money; land given under the mammoth Gal Oya development scheme benefited the Sinhalese much more than any other community; Tamils have been driven away from innumerable villages either by the Sri Lankan armed forces, or by Sinhalese and Muslim home guards with the assistance of the armed forces; Manal Aru, re-named Weli Oya, which provided the contiguity of the erstwhile Northern and Eastern Provinces, was settled with Sinhalese after driving away Tamils. Place names have been changed from Tamil to Sinhalese and Buddhist temples built in those areas to complete the takeover. The driving away of Tamil families and settling of Sinhalese still takes place in Trincomalee, Batticaloa and Amparai districts. New government lands are still being issued by Sinhalese land officers to the Sinhalese today.
This colonization has resulted in serious changes in the demography, particularly in the erstwhile Eastern province. Sinhalese population in the East has increased from a little over 4% in 1924, to a little over 9% in 1947 (the year before independence), to nearly 25 % in 1981 and to 32% now. It is preposterous to expect Tamils to give up rights over land with this history. A number of Special Commissions should be established to examine this situation and land restored to the rightful owner with compensation for the loss of usage.
It was gratifying to note that in a recent speech Lands Minister Rajitha Senaratna criticized the land policies implemented by previous governments and stated that powers over land should be given to the LTTE.
Finance and Revenue
The ISGA will have to perform all the normal functions of a government. It has to incur all the expenditures that a government would incur in regard to education, health, social services, expenditure on law and order, maintaining of infrastructure, development, etc. Therefore just as any other government, it has to impose a system of taxes of various kinds. In addition, there should be an allocation from the Consolidated Fund of the entire country. The proposals suggest a realistic method of allocation by a proposed Finance Commission.
The amount of allocation from a consolidated fund would be in addition to grants or loans from donors or multilateral financial institutions for reconstruction, resettlement, rehabilitation, expenses for correcting the imbalance of development for over five decades, and normal poverty alleviation. The past pathetic record of Sri Lankan Governments’ utilization of international aid, which averaged a little over 14 % per year, due to mismanagement and corruption, makes it imperative that such funds be given to the ISGA to manage with efficiency, accountability and transparency.
Law and order
The LTTE has had a legal system, courts of law, including courts of appeal and a law college, for over ten years in areas under its control. These courts have adjudicated nearly 22,000 cases, of which only about 400 went for appeal. Decisions are made within short periods of time unlike in the courts under the Sri Lankan Government, which sometimes take years to conclude. The lawyer’s fees are controlled and other legal expenses are minimal compared to the rest of the country. Transferring the very effective law and order system so carefully built up over the years back to Sri Lankan Government control is a retrograde step.
Likewise, there has been a police system for a similar period. A Police Headquarters and several police stations have been built and the crime rate in areas controlled by the LTTE is much lower than in the rest of the country. Mainly Sinhalese police personnel, who man the government police stations, take statements from the members of the public in Sinhalese, which the the population in Tamil areas do not understand, but are required to sign without knowing what they are signing. Besides, over the last two decades there has been a culture of violence that developed amongst the Sinhalese police who harassed, assaulted, tortured raped and killed Tamils with impunity under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) and were very rarely charged for it, and at times even rewarded. The PTA permitted the police to arrest, kill and dispose of bodies without the accused being taken before a magistrate. Under the circumstances, the people would oppose going back to control under Sinhalese police.
There is a provision in the proposals that if at the end of four years no final agreement has been reached, both parties shall engage in negotiations in good faith (!!) for the purpose of adding, clarifying and strengthening the terms of this Agreement. I find this provision strange. Does this mean that for four years they will not negotiate in good faith (?) And that suddenly at a point of time, they would do so. One would hope that at all times, both parties would negotiate in good faith to solve this problem which has set the country back by decades in development and brought untold miseries to millions of people.
Posted November 3, 2003