Gajalakshmi Paramasivam – 17 January 2015
What Is the Tamil Problem?
The question was placed before a general forum – where Tamils as is the case at National level in Sri Lanka were in the minority. The question by a Sinhalese was:
[ONCE AGAIN.. I REPEAT...WHAT IS THE PROBLEM..
WHAT IS IT THAT TAMILS DONT HAVE THAT ONLY SINHALESE HAVE BEEN GIVEN??
WITHOUT MUMBO JUMBO... CAN SOMEONE PLEASE SPELL OUT WHAT IS THE PROBLEM.... SERIOUSLY WE SINHALESE WOULD LIKE TO KNOW WHAT IS IT THAT THE TAMILS DONT HAVE THAT ONLY WE ENJOY]
I – responded as a natural member of Tamil minority :
[As a Tamil – the problem is the same as I experienced in Australia as a migrant from Asian country. When government fails to rise to Administration after elections but continues to play politics – majority have greater power than minority to produce the outcomes they desire. Sinhala only is an extreme example. Diversity is needed by minorities to match this and keep the balance going. Otherwise to the extent minority groups have their own physical strengths they would continue to form rebel groups/separatists – so THEY could rule. This is what LTTE did as did JVP on your side. If you become JVP in your mind you will appreciate this. I learnt this about LTTE in 2003 when I lived with them while working on a UNDP project.
The way to become independent of these forces on both sides is for us to not interfere with them. The area where we live here in North – is a high risk area. You hear emotional outbursts practically every day in this area. But when we are around – they do not evolve into big fights. The other day after the kids and their parents completed their fighting over one child hitting another – I asked the one who was involved what had happened and then she said that she had hit one of the boys with the bat. I said to her to come to me when she has problems. She did and I went over and recognized the boy who was giving problem as a problem child from our classes. The parents do not look after him. I said to the boys to include him. They said he was disruptive. I said they still needed to include him if they were to use our equipment and premises. They included. Haven’t had a problem since then. But if I had interfered when they were fighting – I would have become part of them and could not have resolved the conflict. They are highly emotional. Tamils who are emotional need to be left to resolve their problems and encouraged to seek higher Administrative involvement through someone they trust . They do not understand the deeper common laws. They are driven by effects they can ‘see’. Language and Religion need to be not interfered with by those of other languages and religions because they are highly subjective. To the extent Sinhalese forming government are driven by votes – they would tend to feed their parallels of the above group and surface majority power to their advantage. THAT INTERFERENCE is the Tamil Problem. To the extent Tamils lost faith in Central Government due to the exercise of subjective powers – they are entitled to their own government in their areas. This must be recognized by the Administrative Structures formed by the new government.]
The discussion started with the statements by Mr. Wigneswaran forwarded by a Sinhalese member of the Diaspora who quoted from the report by The Hindu on 09 Jan 2015:
[Statement of the Hon. Chief Minister of the Northern Province on the results of the Presidential
My beloved Tamil Speaking brothers and sisters have made the appropriate decision at the Presidential Elections. Today we have voted decisively and elected a new President. Hon. Maithripala Sirisena has been selected by the majority and minority communities jointly as the leader of this country. I have complete confidence that democracy will be established under him. Moreover, I believe that the foundation for a just solution to the problems of the Tamil Speaking Peoples, which have remained unresolved for more than sixty years, will be laid under his regime. I wish to state that we remain committed to providing him with our co-operation and assistance in this regard.]
I saw many holes in the above. First of all Mr. Wigneswaran was speaking first as a Sri Lankan and next as a Tamil. This is ok if he did not have his portfolio as Chief Minister for Northern Province. As Elected member Mr. Wigneswaran has the responsibility at all times to represent the people who elected him first. The rest is policy contribution and should not be based on personal faith in an individual.
As a governing member of the Sri Lankan Judiciary, Mr. Wigneswaran needs to appreciate the importance of Doctrine of Separation of Powers between Politics and Administration. Therein lies the validity to our claim for devolution of powers.
A Tamil member of the Diaspora wrote in response to the question - Where are the mature Tamils? by another member (‘Ranil Wickremesinghe was very lucky this time with CBK (Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga) on his side, unexpectedly and strangely. Even Mahinda Rajapakse is stunned and the world at large. Even now Tamil politicos have taken a back seat while the Muslims have cashed in smartly.’)
The response by the Tamil member was:
[I too was very worried when I heard that TNA (Tamil National Alliance) was not going to accept any position in the cabinet. I was also of the opinion that they should be proactive in cabinet and play a constructive role! Hence, I spoke to few on my contacts in Colombo and through them was able to talk to one of the leading forefront TNA politicians in Colombo.
What he mentioned was that, if they accept any position then they will be accused of seeking power, then there are many coalition members who are jostling to get a cabinet position and finally until the constitution reform etc. are carried out main Tamil issue will not be taken up! But other administrative issues such as appointing new governor, withdrawing the army from N & E, resettlement of displaced Tamils to be settled back in their lands etc. will be considered. This politician mentioned that he has started work on the reform committee and are in regular consultation with MS on various issues. Few of what he mentioned are being carried out as we read in the recent past news.
I believe that only after the parliamentary elections this will firm up with cabinet positions and function properly. Now it seems to be solving so many of the administrative issues which you would have picked up from various news items. Even CW (C. Wigneswaran) is in regular touch with MS (President Maithreepala Sirisena) and getting the Northern Council issues sorted out.
I responded on that basis to the above message:
[Whether it is Wigneswaran or Rajapaksa – the common Tamil is capable of deciding whether or not her/his investment in government is being recognized. Tamils did demonstrate this capability during these elections also – to maintain their true place as Equal Opposition to majority race. That is the value of marginal power. To become Equal as an apparent minority community – we have had to sacrifice earned benefits. Every individual who did this, strengthened the force of the invisible powers that influenced the above outcome. These outcomes are in essence the same as the 1977 election outcomes for Tamils. In some ways Rajapaksa family replaced Bandaranaike family.
By not taking up ministerial position, TNA confirms the Diversity of Tamils in Politics. When I wrote to another forum member that there was no Muslim Portfolio that member responded that Muslims had Ministerial positions. I pointed out that those positions do not confirm diversity. TNA would have diluted the election outcomes if it had accepted ministerial positions.]
Mr. Wigneswaran is speaking as if he is part of the new Regime. If this represents the feelings of majority in Northern Province who voted for Mr. Sirisena – then we do not need devolution but only Reconciliation of differences towards Lessons Learnt which would then form the basis of more inclusive Administrative Policies . If that is the ultimate goal, then the issues relating to Northern Council must take second place as processes towards this ultimate goal.
The Tamil Problem is with Sinhalese is the use of subjective power where Administrative power through use of common principles and laws needs to be applied. This would be better understood by those of us who have a class system that is dysfunctional for example the use of subjective power by higher castes to reduce the status of lower castes – so they could be ‘told’ – as some members in the Tamil Community do. In democracy one needs to distance oneself so the two are equal at all times. The greater the differences the greater the distance needs to be. Hence devolution. Until higher caste Tamils distance themselves from lower castes to prevent abuse of powers from an obsolete structure – we have not earned devolution to distance ourselves from other communities.