Wednesday 25 November 2020


Gajalakshmi Paramasivam

25 November  2020





Majority Lankan Tamils known to me said to me that Devolution through a federal structure would solve the ethnic problem. During the early days of the conflict between the government and rebels, I did not have an opinion either way. Then when I joined the University of NSW (UNSW) which was seeking to become more democratic in its management, I set out to structure the systems on the basis of activities that were controlled by the Medical Faculty to which I was assigned at the special request of the then Dean of Medicine. Like the current Lankan President, that Dean also had lived in USA for considerable time. I therefore had someone who appreciated my approach.  But eventually it failed due to those who were attached to the past through its weaknesses,  not wanting the change. When I tried to ‘educate’ and they had no time to learn – I performed a one-sided exit interview and eventually shared my experience through Naan Australian – confirming that the journey was more valuable than the destination.  

The journey becomes more valuable than the destination due to the ‘experience’. When we have the experience, it means that some of our input has become Energy. When we feel positive it means that we have caused at least partially, positive Energy that would spread  itself  in our home environments. When we feel negative – usually through pain – it means we do not have enough positive Energy to offset the negative in us and / or in our home environments. Back then, the UNSW central administrators merely said the words that they needed to improve,  and the faculties said ‘devolution’ . Neither felt the need to become more democratic. After I physically left , their negative karma/energy surfaced as allegations of scientific fraud through which the Vice Chancellor’s job came to an end. Through experience, all of them had the pain that I had felt. That to me was current manifestation of the Hindu ‘Puttukku Mann sumantha Legend reported as follows by Wikipedia:

[The Pandiya King ordered every household in Madurai to offer one person for putting sand on the banks of the river Vaigai to control floods. An old lady, who sold puttu (a kind of rice pasta) to make a living, had nobody to send for the flood control work. Lord Shiva disguised as a youth approached the old lady with a deal to do the work for the lady and in return she had to give him puttu every day and hence the name Puttukku Mann sumantha thiruthalam meaning - place (thiruthalam) where Shiva carried (sumantha) sand (mann) for puttu. The agreement was, she need not give him the puttu which is in good shape, but only the leftovers. The old lady agreed. But Lord Shiva, with his magical powers, made each of the puttu she cooked as shapeless unsellable leftover and ate everything. And worse, he didn't do any work in the river Vaigai either but he chose to sleep under a tree. The King, who was supervising the work, found the lazy man and beat him on the back with a cane. Everyone including the king felt the pain in their backs. Then the king realised that the lazy man was Lord Shiva and apologised. Even now, to mark this event, on September 4 of every year, a function is held in the riverbank of Arappalayam and puttu is cooked in every household.]

The way I interpret the above legend is that when the people are ordered to do the work that the government is responsible for – the work would not get done by those who lack the skills and if those who do the job they are trained for are punished, the punishment is experienced by all.

I was reminded of this when I read Ceylon Today report headed ‘Govt should grant us right to self-govern – Wiggy’:

[Wigneswaran said that all the Tamils want is the right to look after themselves in their traditional areas and to govern it the way they want. 

“Acknowledge you have committed immense wrongs to the Tamil community and try to mend your differences with us. All we want is the right to look after ourselves in our traditional areas and govern it the way we want. That is not separation. That is devolution. That gives meaning to the theory of subsidiarity. According to this theory, political decisions must be taken at a local level rather than by a central authority. We do not want outsiders to expropriate our assets and resources. We do not want our lands to be grabbed by outsiders. We want to govern our areas in accordance with our traditions and conventions. We want to do our fishing by ourselves in our traditional areas. We contributed up to 43% of the fish needed in 1983. Now our fishermen are constricted and curtailed from going out to sea by the Navy as well as fishermen from elsewhere,” he said. ]

Mr Wigneswaran was part of the judiciary of Sri Lanka before he became a politician.  He needed the destination of  ‘ Chief Minister’ to undertake that political journey. The milestone he reached though that journey was his position in National Parliament in Colombo. That confirms his motive of Centralized governance. But in words he is claiming devolution:

[That is devolution. That gives meaning to the theory of subsidiarity]

Pope Pius XI – the first Monarch of Vatican shared as follows his wisdom  in subsidiarity :

"Just as it is gravely wrong to take from individuals what they can accomplish by their own initiative and industry and give it to the community, so also it is an injustice and at the same time a grave evil and disturbance of right order to assign to a greater and higher association what lesser and subordinate organizations can do. For every social activity ought of its very nature to furnish help to the members of the body social, and never destroy and absorb them."

As per my lay interpretation, it is wrong to generalize that which could be managed locally by a sovereign group, as it is to attribute higher status to a part/body for doing the work that a part/body of lower order can accomplish independently.

During his tenure as Chief Minister of Northern Province, Mr Wigneswaran had the opportunity to identify such groups – for example fisheries activities . If he did so identify – he had the responsibility to submit a proper proposal with support data. This ought to have been tabled in Parliament as part of his budget response.

As per my experience, Thesawalamai law particular to Northern Tamils has become ‘obsolete’ in Jaffna Courts. Mr Wigneswaran did respond to one of my emails in this regard, but his silence thereafter confirmed that he did not have the solutions at common provincial level. To the extent we discuss and search through true experiences of participants  who feel that they have been let down by the system – we would identify with the ‘need’ of the system as if it were our personal need.

Jaffna may have once upon a time been deserving of ‘Devolution’ in certain areas. It certainly is NOT deserving of Judicial independence  in current environment. I believe that Mr Wigneswaran has the duty to Northern Province to write about the success or failure of devolution of Judicial Powers at the level of Provincial High Courts.  Towards this he needs to undertake the travel himself and then make the recommendations through his experience . Truth will then raise it to the power of the whole as if all of us had the experience.

Devolution without such need would result in transfer of abuse of power that Central Government is carrying at the moment.

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