Saturday 31 August 2019

Gajalakshmi Paramasivam

30 August  2019

When in Kandy – do as Buddhists; When in Jaffna do as Tamils ?

On 05 August ,  the day before I left Sydney for Nallur festival in Northern Sri Lanka, I wrote under the heading ‘Sri Lankan Constitution or Buddhist Constitution?’. There were many responses but due to my departure to Sri Lanka I did not read them with focus, leave alone respond to them. My mind had to become Sri Lankan and more particularly Jaffna and not Australian. As they say –‘When in Rome, do as the Romans do.’ The origin is presented as follows by Wikipedia:

[Saint Monica and her son, Saint Augustine, found out that Saturday was observed as a fast day in Rome, where they planned to visit. However, it was not a fast day where they lived in Milan. They consulted Saint Ambrose who said "When I am here (in Milan) I do not fast on Saturday, when in Rome I do fast on Saturday." That reply is said to have brought about the saying "When in Rome, do as the Romans do."]

On 15 August – the anniversary of  Indian Independence,  I revealed yet again that I was Sri Lankan through my article ‘Sri Lanka’s One God confirmed by the Elephant’  ( written from Jaffna’s North Gate by Jetwing hotel where I felt secure and looked after. I received from Australian Christian,  communication regarding Buddhism Foremost being part of the Sri Lankan Constitution.
Back in Sydney, my attention was drawn first to the article ‘The Constitutional Practice of Ethno-Religious Violence in Sri Lanka’ by Dr Gehan Gunatilleke of University of Oxford, United Kingdom. At the same time, I had communication regarding the Australian Government’s invitation to the Public in relation to proposed Religious Freedom Bills. Singapore also became part of the matter through communication headed ‘Singapore PM refers to Sri Lanka in speech on Religious Harmony’. I concluded that religious harmony is now a priority in all these nations and hence this sharing.

As an independent person  who has invested in democracy  - I carry the picture that Sri Lanka’s Constitution is Dual Constitution. It is fundamentally flawed due to the same principles that underpin  Dual Citizenship blockades to make laws in Sri Lanka. The eligibility of Mr Gotabhaya Rajapaksa to become Sri Lankan president has been questioned much more than the Duality in the  Constitution.  My response to parts of Dr Gunatilleke’s article would also be included in my submissions to the Australian Government – which usually publishes my policy contributions even though they may not include them in the policy itself. Such genuine independent contributors empower that policy from either side at People’s level.

The article by Dr Gunatilleke is largely academic – seeking an intellectual balance. Mine is bottom up through experiences in Australia and in Sri Lanka.  In essence, I find that Dr Gunatilleke’s article is intellectually balanced but does not include the influence of truth in the manifestations. One usually needs to experience true pain as a direct participant and / or part of the victims’ family / group sharing in the pain of the direct victims. My approach is through the truth that I have experienced directly and/or shared with others who had the direct experience of unjust discrimination. On this basis – I have chosen some parts of the subject matter and responded them on experience basis:
1.    “Ethno-religious violence in Sri Lanka is a chronic problem, and is sustained without the active support of a particular government.”
As per my experience – this is not a true statement at policy level. It is the democratically elected government that wrote the Constitution and therefore that government always participates in the effects it has on the people. Democracy requires People to elect government on the basis of their belief. Hence those who elected the government wrote the constitution. Common belief helps express the junior’s belief at the policy level – so wider world would read and know what majority Sri Lankans’ mind structure is/was. The Constitution therefore represents the Common mind structure of Sri Lankans.  In a Democratic Constitution – the juniors / minorities are represented automatically by the ‘other’ half – i.e. – Equal and Opposite forces. Without this balance – the structure disqualifies itself as being Democratic.

Ethno Religious violence is confirmation of serious damage to that connectivity – including within one ethnicity / religion – where the relationship is vertical. Laterally speaking - in lay language – the mind structures of various groups have little connection with each other.  Strong Belief is needed at the senior level,  to unite them at structural level. This need not be politicians – but could be academics strongly committed to order of thought as per stated priority. Any weakness in law developed by politicians would then be offset by the contribution by academics. Likewise, at People’s level – true practice of each diverse culture within its local boundaries would lead to higher levels of thought – ( as in meditation) - where Truth / God is One. The government has the duty to then become a facilitator and not administer such citizens.

As a causal force – the Government is the first participant in the ethno-religious violence in Sri Lanka.
2.    “Identity politics play a pivotal role in the persistence of violence in Sri Lanka. Sri Lankans identify themselves principally along ethnic and religious lines.”

Any relationship needs belief as its source/cause  and measurable outcome as its end/effect.  Those who believe in the makers of the Constitution – have to confirm their identity through that language. Hence to the extent we disapprove or approve of our elected representatives – we would oppose or agree respectively with internal compartments in the Constitutional structure. Hence one is entitled to conclude that the Sri Lankan Constitution does represent the mind structure of Sri Lankans.

Dr Gunatilleke confirms this as follows:

[Sri Lanka’s constitutional framework contains several ethno-religious dimensions. The most foundational constitutional provision in this regard is article 9 of the Sri Lankan Constitution of 1978. It provides:
The Republic of Sri Lanka shall give to Buddhism the foremost place and accordingly it
shall be the duty of the State to protect and foster the Buddha Sasana, while assuring to
all religions the rights granted by Articles 10 and 14(1)(e).]

As per the above – Buddhism is allocated ‘foremost’ place and the others are pooled together as juniors. In Democratic structure – those others become the Opposition of Buddhists. This was the 50:50 demand made by Tamil Political leader – the Hon G.G.Ponnambalam who was also a brilliant lawyer. Relatively speaking the immediate past Chief Minister of Northern Province reveals lack of insight into Governing structures – for example through the following:
[So the claim to merge the North and East is very reasonable and has been done at the time the 1987 Indo Sri Lanka Accord was signed. Just because over twenty countries joined together to defeat the Tamil Militants, it is no reason to go back on the merger mentioned in the Accord which in fact lasted for 18 years.
So merger is a request to bring together the traditional Tamil speaking areas under a single Province. Of course the Eastern Muslims who are also Tamil speaking need to be given a niche within the merged North and East even if it has to be asymmetrical in nature.]

The Indo Sri Lanka Accord – is for external purposes. Internally, we Sri Lankan Tamils also have our own compartments through Thesawalamai Law applicable to Northern Sri Lankan Tamils  and Mukuwa Law applicable to Eastern Sri Lankan Tamils. Fundamental to merger is the abolishment of both or one of them. By nature, the militants confirmed that the two would not merge and that East would rebel against North when it sought to show its diversity. This was in fact confirmed by the militants in relation to Health Service Administration. In 2003 – one of the more vocal militants in North said while we were in Batticaloa, that they would tell the East what to do. I was trying to help them develop a common structure – but ended up counselling this Northern guy who declared that they would lift the gun if they did not have their way. I said – he would not have a gun to lift if not for Diaspora support. That is the natural level of conflict that would happen if leaders foolishly merged the two – which would be the lateral version of Buddhism foremost article in the Constitution.

 North and East would fight together on Joint-Venture basis but no more. Having lived with Indigenous  Batticaloa Tamils as if I were one of them,  I believe that it would be unfair to bring  the two together which would be takeover and not merger. North traditionally has demonstrated strong head. East traditionally has demonstrated soft service. If we are to win in the Court of Natural Justice – we Northerners must first facilitate Easterners to merge with us. The statement ‘Of course the Eastern Muslims who are also Tamil speaking need to be given a niche within the merged North and East’ confirms that the problem of treating the land as inanimate substance is not restricted to Sinhala-Buddhists but also has been carried by some Tamils of our generation. Like Lord Muruga’s two wives – the Common Tamil also has two  wives – Jaffna Tamil  (Theivayanai ) and Batticaloa Tamil ( Valli). We also have Hill -Country Tamils who do not have their own law and are therefore not included in the above two groups.

The irony is that the only Tamil who held that position of Chief Minister of Northern Province, does not recognize that he has left out Hill -Country Tamils who are commonly known as Indian-Tamils – is using Indo-Sri Lanka agreement as his base. It’s a shame that confirms the junior-most position allocated to Indian Tamils by not only Jaffna Tamils but Indians themselves – to whom Jaffna militants became more important than their own sons and daughters.

Muslims have their own laws and hence to that extent they have earned their own space for self-governing purposes. Facilitating that is the duty of any government – be it national or regional.

The real Chief Minister of Minorities in Sri Lanka was the Hon G G Ponnambalam.

(To be continued…)

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