Friday 6 September 2019

Gajalakshmi Paramasivam

06 September  2019

Tamils Did Abolish the Executive Presidency

The day before yesterday, I said to my husband that we needed to think about staying at the cottage – in Thunaivi-Vaddukoddai when we next went to Northern Sri Lanka. Yesterday, I learnt from our staff in that area that the chain of Chellamani – a native of that area was snatched violently when she was returning home after selling peanuts at Jaffna Bus station. Chellamani was one who urged me to overlook the rowdy behavior of the youth in that village and stay at the cottage. That was also one of the reasons why I reconsidered my decision to stay in Jaffna town rather than in the toddy tapper village. The reason why our staff rang me was to inform me that temple lights were working again. But the real message needed by me was to continue to stay on in Jaffna and not to stay at the cottage in the nights.   
My service yesterday, is my natural protection today and tomorrow. I needed to consider the Energy value of that cottage and the security facilities that go with that cottage – which is benefitting the folks in that area. Chellamani’s chain was snatched in an area that is poorly lit. After learning about it – I made up my mind to invest in lighting for that area also. If I stayed there – history was likely to repeat itself  once the youth took me to be part of that village. But the way I would receive such ‘violence’ would be far more damaging to them than the way Chellamani would have received the violence. The natural punishment happens whether we recognize it or not. The Service Energy there is enough to motivate those who seek to improve their structures to be more reliable.
I identify with the UNP’s joint venture with SLFP to be for the parallel  purpose as to why we built the cottage. I am therefore not able to identify with the following by Mr Sumanthiran in relation to that joint venture:
[To start with, we backed a candidate in 2015 based on certain promises. Apart from the promise to solve the Tamil national issue, the primary promise given was that the executive presidency would be abolished. We sincerely believed that with the two main parties coming together, coupled with the fact that since 1994 the people of this country have clearly given a verdict to abolish executive presidency, it would be done this time. But that hasn’t happened, and we are in a situation where we have to support one candidate or another for the post of executive presidency that they promised to abolish. We are not amused by this turn of events. We will wait for all the parties to name their candidates and put out their manifestos. We will hold discussions with the candidates and take a decision. We are not in a hurry.]
By relying on a ‘promise’ , Mr Sumanthiran is confirming that he considers himself a junior to the person so promising. But the truth said that we were Equals. As an Equal – if Executive Presidency is/was  to be abolished -   TNA ought to have boycotted the Presidential elections. But that would have resulted in a win for Mr  Rajapaksa who thrives in that position. But reading between the lines – Tamils did effectively abolish the powers of Mr Rajapaksa by voting for Mr Sirisena who by character does not fit such a position.  
If devolution is likely to lead to dictatorship in the Tamil community – then Tamils need to vote against devolution. Right now – Tamils are investing in Democracy more through their community connections with the Diaspora than through their local politicians. The ultimate question for Tamils is whether we go global through or bypassing Sri Lankan political government.
Like our cottage, the investment we made in abolishing the Executive Presidency would support us in our endeavours to be Democratic. Mr Sumanthiran confirms this as follows:
[The 13th Amendment is a watershed: it was the first time that the governance structure was radically altered by the creation of provincial councils which had a measure of legislative power and some executive power through the governor.]
The 19th Amendment is also a watershed that separates those who prefer autocracy from those prefer democracy. The next presidential elections would confirm which section is more in numbers.   The side with lesser numbers would need to work harder to maintain harmony. The Easter bombings confirmed to minorities that they needed to take care of themselves – not by coalition with outsiders but by working harder and sacrificing more deeply. That was the real separation  of powers because devolution did not happen.

To my mind, Mr Sumanthiran lacks insight into the Northern community’s natural powers indicated through the following:

Question by Ms Meera Srinivasan of the Hindu: [The TNA is often criticised by some Tamils for consistently supporting this government despite its many failings. On the other hand, the TNA’s own performance in governing the Northern Provincial Council — to which it was elected in 2013 — also drew considerable flak from the community. It appears that you have a double incumbency disadvantage.]

Response from Mr Sumanthiran: [Vis-√†-vis the Northern Provincial Council, that was certainly a missed opportunity, a grave one at that because that has a lot of ramifications. In our call for devolution we can now be told that we squandered the opportunity given to us, albeit in a system that didn’t grant enough powers. The accusation is that we didn’t use even those limited powers and there is substance to that accusation. ]

The situation has not changed. TNA has failed to humbly seek the partnership of those who had democratic skills. Ironically it was the President’s nominee – Dr Ragavan who demonstrated the insight that Mr Wigneswaran lacked.

As in marriage, we may not have the skills needed but if we seek genuinely – we would facilitate those who do have the skills to join us. That to me is what democracy is all about.

The appointment of  Dr Ragavan is confirmation of Devolution that is possible in the current structure. Thank you President Sirisena. One who has insight – feels and is satisfied. Those who are still waiting to ‘see’ confirm lack of insight and they can never be satisfied. 

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