Big Brother lectures again

The criminal and inhuman bombings this week across the Palk Straits - in Mumbai and Srinagar - by terrorists - not militants - deserve the unreserved condemnation of the whole world.

It is no secret that these were the acts of groups opposed to Indian Government rule in Jammu and Kashmir, the northern -western-most state of India bordering with Pakistan, a long-standing and outstanding geo-political issue of the sub-continent ever since the partition of 1947.

While we join in the condemnation of this barbaric act, there is a need to understand how easy it is to preach to your neighbours about how to tackle the menace of terrorism by the need for power-sharing etc., on the one hand, and the difficulty of stamping out terrorism and implementing such power-sharing methods at home.

Only last week, India's Foreign Secretary made a quick visit to Colombo to tell political leaders here of the urgent need to implement some power-sharing provisions in a bid to stem terrorism in this island-nation. Hardly had he got back, when these wicked bombs went off in his own country - clearly the work of those unhappy with India's power-sharing provisions in J&K.

We must keep reminding ourselves that Sri Lanka's "ethnic problem" was conceived, incubated and hatched in New Delhi. Almost 20 years ago, an Indian model of power-sharing was force-fed into the Sri Lankan Constitution by New Delhi's fiat. Few may now remember, that a South Indian gentleman named Mr. G. Parathasarathi, hand-picked by the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi for the task, lectured our leaders at the time about the virtues of Provincial Councils as being the panacea for Tamil separatism - the antidote for the monster Mrs. Gandhi herself created.

Today, two decades down the road, we have a white elephant in the name of Provincial Councils - a system of government that just does not work; sapping up money from the State's depleted coffers and doing sweet fanny nothing to check the separatist movement in the country.

Again and again, we have heard this mantra being repeated - that devolution is the answer to terrorism .The British praise the virtues of their devolution system; the Canadians want the Canadian system; the Swiss, the Swiss Canton system; the Indians their own federal system ; and the Australians, theirs. Political leaders in Sri Lanka are being lectured over and over the years - and the Indian Foreign Secretary did it again last week.

A new word has just entered the lexicon of devolution. Not 'Unitary'; not 'United', but 'Un-Divided'.

So, this then is the final solution - an Un-Divided Sri Lanka - they want us to be. Logically, this Un-Divided Sri Lanka is meant to be a kind of hybrid between Unitary and United , and the Sri Lankan polity is now supposed to come up with a Constitutional Amendment that would make a Unitary Sri Lanka , an Un-Divided Sri Lanka.

We have long advocated the re-introduction of the District Development Councils, or the existing District (with modifications to boundaries where necessary) as the unit of devolution. When the Prime Minister Dudley Senanayake government wanted to introduce the District Councils in or about 1968, the majority Nationalists opposed it, but the Federal Party then agreed to it. The move failed, but President J.R. Jayewardene managed to have it approved, attaching the Development tag to it to give it an economic flavour rather than an ethnic flavour, but events overtook its proper implementation.

In Sri Lanka, the District is a viable unit of devolution, but clearly, the rebels will not accept it, because they want not just a Province as the unit, but two provinces merged into one, the North and East as one unit, which defeats the very purpose of devolution. Power-sharing means to hand over the North and East provinces to them.

India, it would appear has got re-energised on the Sri Lanka issue, but instead of assisting its southern neighbour in what its Cabinet proclaims "its strong commitment to combat terrorism in all its forms. Nothing will deter us from our firm policy to fight this menace till it is wiped out " vis-a-vis its own problems, India has come up with another homily about a devolution package.

Political analysts here believe that this is a move to enter the Sri Lankan peace process as a facilitator rather than a one-sided player, and thereby to re-gain the lost leverage they had with the rebels. The Indian Prime Minister spoke in Mumbai after witnessing the ravages caused by terrorism and complained of the succour these terrorists have in neighbouring countries. It seems that the syndrome that hits big nations, to talk duplicitously, and probably not even know they are doing so, is a perennial problem smaller nations will have to cope with.

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