Consequences of a Permanent Majority

by Wakeley Paul, Esq.

Sinhalese racist organizations conveniently choose to ignore the State Terror imposed on Tamils by successive Sinhalese governments since 1956.  Every non-violent protest against Sinhalese government acts of discrimination was met with gruesome state-sponsored violence through the use of thugs and vagrants and the government’s armed forces by the Bandaranaike and J R Jayawardena governments.  The Sinhalese, by their unceasing policy of discrimination against Tamils and every other community from the day we received Independence from Britain, have long forfeited their right to a rule a Unified Nation.

The Sinhalese assumed they could get away with hell because they controlled the only Legislature under the Unitary Constitution.  When the Tamil youth were denied equal access to Universities by Mrs Bandaranaike, the Sinhalese hit the last raw nerve of the Tamil youth.

This, along with many other acts of blatant discrimination, spurred the demand for Independence which led to the Vaddukottai Resolution in 1977.  This Resolution led to terrible anti-Tamil violence by the Jayawardena government, aggravated by the undemocratic powers vested in agents of the government under the Anti-Terrorism Act.

After years of non-violent protest being dealt with by unspeakable government violence, the LTTE decided that government violence would be countered by violence.  It was the emergence of the LTTE that caused the racial pogroms to cease after 1983.

Sinhala racist organizations had better look at their own unpalatable history before accusing the LTTE - who were initially responding to Sinhala government terror and have now become our freedom fighters - of being no more than heartless, unprincipled terrorists.

The LTTE is far more principled than any Sinhalese government ever has been.

The promise that no harm would be done to the minority communities, given by D.S. Senanayake in the State Council in 1947, was broken soon after Independence by denying one million Tamil plantation workers both citizenship and the right to vote.  Sri Lanka was the only nation in the world which demanded a 3 generation connection to become a citizen.  These Acts were passed with a view to deny the plantation workers, who had voted in elections held under British rule, the fundamental rights that they were entitled to.  This was followed by the Sinhala Only Act with all the discriminatory consequences that resulted therefrom.

The Sinhalese have forfeited all right to rule anybody but themselves.  It is time the Sinhalese took off their blinders and recognized their own history of villainy beginning with colonization of the NorthEast by Sinhalese thugs, forced upon the Tamils by imperial Sinhalese governments who permanently controlled the only Parliament that existed under the Unitary Constitution - that the Sinhalese are so determined to preserve.  Knowing that we are a permanent minority in such an Institution, the Sinhalese know they can ignore the concerns of regional majorities with impunity.  It is the existence of this permanent majority that prompted the initial demand for a Federal arrangement by the Federal Party.

The most dangerous phenomenon that the Tamils and other ethnic groups faced was dealing with a majority community with a minority complex.  Instead of being ashamed about being discriminatory, such a community justifies discrimination.  Claiming that they - the Sinhalese - were the exclusive victims of British discrimination, the Sinhalese audaciously claim that they have both a right and a duty to discriminate against everyone but themselves.  The way in which Sinhalese lawyers justified the illegal 1972 & 1978 Constitutions is a perfect example of this phenomenon of justifying every action of theirs, however illegal or reprehensible such action is.

Mrs Bandaranaike’s government realized that the Ceylon Parliament had no power to abolish Section 29 of the Soulbury Constitution, which guaranteed that no legislation could be passed which discriminated in favor of or against any racial or religious group. The British Privy Council had declared in Bribery Commissioner v Ranasinghe 1[194] 2 All England Reports, 785, that this was a condition upon which Ceylon accepted independence and was consequently an entrenched clause which could not be altered or abolished even by a 2/3 majority of the Ceylon Parliament.

To overcome this obstacle, Mrs. Banadaranaike's government formed an institution called a Constituent Assembly to overthrow the existing Soulbury Constitution and replace it with a new Constitution that contained no prohibitions against future Parliaments indulging in discriminatory legislation.  No one could ever again challenge discriminatory legislation if this new Constitution were accepted as legal.  The underlying fact is that, under the only valid Constitution yet in existence at the time, to wit the Soulbury Constitution, an institution called a Constituent Assembly had no power to legislate, leave alone the power to abolish and create a new Constitution without the protections contained in Section 29 of the Soulbury Constitution.

Did this obvious illegality bother Sinhalese legislators, Sinhalese lawyers or the Sinhalese public?  Of course not.  Nothing mattered as long as they could have their own way.

The 1978 Constitution came into being by abolishing the illegal, non-existent 1972 Constitution and is equally illegal.  Do the Sinhales care?  Of course not.  Will a Sri Lankan Supreme Court recognize this illegality?  Of course not.  And the Sinhalese want the Tamils to be subject to the laws of the Sri Lankan legislature and the interpretations of the Sri Lankan Supreme Court. The answer should be "Of course not," but who among the Sinhalese will have the courage or integrity to say so?

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Posted June 24, 2005