by Wakeley Paul, Esq.
Several recent articles reveal once more the cherished myths under which the Sinhala press continues to delude itself. These Sinhalese myths need to be punctured once and for all, since they are founded on three fundamental misconceptions.
1. That Sinhalese supremacy is the hump upon which national unity can be preserved
2. That there is no distinction between "Devolution" and "Federalism"
3. That the creation of a "self governing" regional authority is synonymous with Independence.
The writers fail to perceive that "Devolution" is based on a need to preserve the "Unitary Constitution," while Federalism is not. They cannot seem to comprehend that a "self governing" regional body is the base upon which a Federal Constitution is founded. They cling to need to spread the false gospel that "Regional Sovereignty" is synonymous with a grant of Independence.
The concept of having a Federal Constitution as a future possibility is fueled by the hope that the present Constitution will cease to be in operation at the end of the five years, when the I.S.G.A as an interim arrangement is expected to expire. It is to be expected, that by then, a way would be found to rid everyone of the Jayawardena Constitution, by hook or by crook. This millstone round every neck must be made to give way to the creation of a Federal Constitution. We cannot, as the writers seem to imply, sit silently like tombstones in the night, doing nothing to change the current status quo forever.
The XIII Amendment was found to be Constitutional by Chief Justice Sharwarnanda, in his incisive majority opinion, on the basis that " What the Parliament devolves, the Parliament can dissolve" [The dissenting opinions were founded on the spurious Sinhalese conviction that Sinhalese superiority was a God-given gift to the Sinhalese people]. As highlighted by the Chief Justice, the power of Parliament as the supreme legislative body under the Unitary Constitution is in no way damaged or downgraded by devolution, because what it concedes, it always has the power to tear up or change at will. It followed from this, that the 'Devolved" or 'regional' body is a nothing but mere parasite living off the sap of Parliament, forever subject to the whims and fancies of that supreme creation. It has no independent strength of its own. In short, "Devolution" is a meaningless concession to a regional majority. It is a false gift with a pocket full of strings that makes the regional majorities humble and helpless puppets of the national majority. Federalism is designed to avoid that evil.
A Federal government is intended to be independent of central control on a host of subjects to be specified. These powers once conceded by parliament, are like virginity, lost by Parliament for ever. What the Sinhala-dominated Parliament concedes, can never be withdrawn or amended. The regional unit is forever free of the overriding influence of this preying central monster, regarding the powers exclusively conceded to it. It is to use the words of the I.S.G.A "a self governing authority."
The problem with the Sinhalese press and the Sinhalese leaders, including Mr. Kadirgamar, is that they cling to the vision of creating regional units without sovereignty. Their idea of surrendering power is to surrender zilch. They equate the grant of 'sovereignty' to a 'self governing authority' as being synonymous with "Independence." They remain blind to the notion that a "self governing" regional authority is the very essence of the Federal system.
The question then is not where to draw the line, but whether or not there is a 'unifying factor' which ties the regional units to the central government. As I indicated in my last article on "Some thoughts about Federalism," that unifying factor will be the joint economic resources of the nation.
One should be appalled at the rationale of the Sinhala leaders like Kadirgamar, that Sinhalese supremacy is vital to the preservation of national unity. Sinhala supremacy is the root cause of our divisions. It is the evil that separates rather than unifies us. It is a false fiction that has to be eradicated from all our minds. There is no one bride in the firmament, there are several with equal desires and equal aspirations. Sinhalese supremacy must yield to regional supremacy, if unity and peace are to be realized. To fail to acknowledge the basic reality that Sinhalese supremacy is not the nation's unifying factor, will invariably initiate, once again, new cycles of repression and violence. That is already evident in those Tamil areas where the Sinhalese government insists on maintaining power with the sword. It is this unyielding focus on the desire to maintain Sinhala supremacy that sends chills through every effort at reform. In order for us to emerge from the doldrums, we have to shift our focus away from the assumption that the maintenance of Sinhala superiority is the factor that keeps the nation united, and recognize the reality that the very opposite is true. It keeps us eternally divided.
It is the false faith in the misconception that Sinhalese superiority is crucial to maintaining unity that causes the existing tensions to persist. It continues to fire the distrust between the communities. The overheated sense of good will exhibited by the Sinhalese rulers, that making fatuous concessions is a sign of their generosity, is nothing short of proof of their unwarranted Sinhalese arrogance. It does nothing to dent the outrage felt by the other ethnic entities. It is that arrogance that continues to inflame the passions that divide us.
The Sinhalese press and their leaders have lent credibility to the fairy tale falsehood that Sinhalese supremacy is the crucifix upon which unity is founded. It is time we put an end to this media-induced mirage and restart our efforts with a fresh approach, recognizing that the right to maintain Sinhalese superiority is the evil to be avoided and discarded from our thoughts forever. It is our only hope. Difficult as it may be for the Sinhalese to shed this false facelift, it is imperative that they do so and come down to earth. Our united goal and objective should be to start from the very simple proposition, that the tyranny of the majority must be buried forever and replaced by regional democratic ethnic leaders of our own choosing.
Posted September 1, 2004