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30th May 1999

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Jaffna's new doctors complain of bad treatment

By Faraza Farook

Seventeen new medical interns who agreed to work in the war areas of Jaffna are complaining that the health ministry has let them down badly.

In a letter, they said previous interns had been given transport and risk allowances but they had so far fot nothing. They said the previous batch had got return air tickets which costs Rs. 6000, every three months, but the Health Ministry was unfairly denying it to the new batch.

In a letter, they said they had agreed to accept the postings to a war area with a high cost of living and no access by land but the Health ministry had now let them down after promising much.

Health Ministry Secretary C. Abeygunewardena said the previous batch was the first group of doctors to be posted to Jaffna after the recapture of the area. Therefore they were provided with transport.

It was a special arrangement for the then interns and also Lion Air which was then in operation carried them, he said.

The secretary said it was not practicable for the Army to transport these doctors and the army also was not keen to do it. However, the Health Minister had agreed to take up the matter with the cabinet.

A constitution closest to the ideal one

Excerpts from the 10th Dr. Colvin R. de Silva Memorial Lecture delivered by Minister Batty Weerakoon at the Colombo Public Library on May 22.

The 22nd of May was at one time celebrated as the Republic Day because it was on that day that the people of Sri Lanka adopted, enacted and gave to themselves the Constitution of 1972.

This day is now being marked as National Heroes' Day. The Lanka Samasamaja Party has resolved to mark this day as also the day of Dr. Colvin R de Silva, the chief architect of that Constitution. Among the nation's heroes remembered today, there is no other man who can rival Dr. de Silva on the closeness of his link to this day.

Dr. de Silva's contribution to constitution making had to be relied on by this country even in later years when those who too hurriedly replaced the 1972 Constitution with that of 1978 found themselves and the country virtually immobilized by the Constitution of their making.

This was in the face of the ethnic problem which, by 1984, had developed to crisis proportions. The 1978 Constitution had not only adopted the concept of the unitary state from the 1972 Constitution but had also made it an entrenched Article, requiring the consent of the people through a National Referendum for it to be dropped or replaced.

At the All Party Conference convened in 1984 by the UNP Government, it was Dr. de Silva, as spokesman for the Lanka Samasamaja Party, who first introduced the concept of devolution of political power as an instrument and a means of government by a unitary state.

When the 13th Amendment to the Constitution was brought before it, the majority opinion of the Supreme Court was that the devolution of political power provided for in it was capable of being accommodated within the unitary system of the 1978 Constitution. The minority opinion was however that the Amendment had provided for a federal or quasi-federal system. It is this latter view that is relied on by those who hold the view that no substantial devolution of political power can be had within a unitary state system. I do not intend to make an academic presentation of the subject of the unitary state. Nor do I intend making a value judgment on it. I wish to look at the subject very concretely in relation to the Amendment to the Constitution of Sri Lanka that has been proposed by the present Government. This Amendment is the result of three years of deliberations in the Parliamentary Select Committee that had been appointed by Parliament for the purpose of considering the set of proposals placed before the country by the President and now known as the "Peace Proposals".

Ending the War

Perhaps it is because of the name that it has earned that the question is often asked as to whether the Amendment, if accepted, could end the on-going war that has been the outcome of our ethnic conflict.

I do not think that, as far as the Amendment is conceded, this should be the decisive question. The war, as conducted by the LTTE, and which is virtually a separatist war, cannot be expected to end except on terms imposed by the warring party, the LTTE, or accepted by it. An imposition of terms by the LTTE can be done only where there is the certainty of success by the separatist force.

There can be no such certainty. The LTTE can be expected to accept terms, which is the second possibility, only through a process of negotiations between itself and the Government. I do not see the possibility of such negotiations. Wishful thinking cannot be turned into political fact.

The LTTE is well aware of the fact that, for meaningful negotiations, there has to be consensus between the two major political parties of the South, the UNP and the SLFP, on the LTTE's own demand. It is a fact that the LTTE has come down from its demand for separation to one that ensures, for the Tamil people, autonomy.

Moonesinghe Report

The Interim Report presented in 1992 by the Parliamentary Select Committee known as the Mangala Moonesinghe Select Committee that was appointed in 1991 has in it the consensus reached by several parties including the UNP and the SLFP.

Consensus had been reached on: (1) the establishment of two separate units of administration for the Northern and Eastern Provinces; (2) adoption of a scheme of devolution on lines similar to those obtaining in the Indian Constitution; and (3) devolving more subjects that are in the Concurrent List or dispensing with that List altogether.

What is provided for in the PA's Draft Amendment on these issues are well within the ambit of this same consensus. What the Draft Amendment has outside this consensus is the avoidance of the description of Sri Lanka as a 'unitary state'.

On the side of Sinhala opinion, this has become a very contentious issue. It has given rise to the fear that this is an attempt to put in place what is essentially a federal state. It can be expected that if an attempt is made to restore this provision to the Draft Amendment, Tamil opinion may well be that something important to the realization of Tamil aspirations is being taken away. It is in this context that I wish to briefly deal with the question as to whether there is in fact any significance in law in having or not having this provision in the new Constitution.

"Unitary" & "Federal" Concepts

Early in 1996 I published two studies titled 'The Unitary State and Comprehensive Distribution of Power', and 'The Federal Concept in Sri Lanka'. In the first of these, I pointed to the relevance of these perceptions which, though unjustified and misplaced, related to the device of devolution itself.

I pointed to the perception on the one side that there can be no substantial devolution of power in a unitary state, and its obverse, that if devolution of power is effected substantially, what would in effect be launched is a Federal State. From this discussion of the issues at the time, even though by academics, it was clear that there had been no sustained study of the nature of the changes that have taken place over a fairly long period of time within the so-called Unitary and Federal systems that have been known to us.

Today, what we see as happening especially in respect of Scotland, is the establishment of the devices of devolution within the avowedly unitary state of Great Britain. It was Dicey who, in the last century, described the unwritten British Constitution as having established a 'unitary state'.

Harold Laski in his 'Studies in the Problem of Sovereignty' saw no special virtue in the centralisation of powers in the unitary state in Britain in the first two decades of the 20th century. "In a democracy," he said, "the surest guarantee of civic responsibility seems to lie in the gift of genuine functions of government no less to the parts than to the whole."

He saw this virtue in the American system. For Britain he saw the need as essentially something that concerned the "units of local government". He said, "They will have to receive a sovereignty that is something more than an anaemic reflex of the central power."

Democratic practice

Concluding this brief reference to the unitary and federal concepts of the state, I would like to make the very categorical statement that these concepts no longer describe comprehensively or validly the nature of present day States.

The characteristics we had associated with the old meanings that had been given to these concepts have changed quite radically.

These kinds of states have experienced a mutual interpenetrating of what were characteristics that were at one time regarded as those distinctly and exclusively associated with these separate concepts.

Democratic practice which has in this century extended to vesting sovereignty not with Parliaments but in the people, and made inalienable, has in large measure contributed to this. Dr. Colvin R de Silva is one who had a deep faith in this same democracy. The 1972 Constitution declared; "In the Republic of Sri Lanka, sovereignty is in the People and is inalienable."

That sovereignty the people exercised through the National State Assembly which they had elected. They were free in that Assembly to change the Constitution to allow other bodies vested with equal or lesser sovereignty to attend to governance at different levels.

This was of course a development that was projected to occur through amicable and peaceful relations between the different communities be they racial or otherwise. It was recognized that a Constitution, only by virtue of the fact that it has been made, may not achieve this. It has to be achieved by the mutual respect of the different communities to the rights which they enjoy as fundamental to them as citizens.

A new Constitution too can succeed only to the extent we realize this fact. Such a Constitution has impressively to provide for peaceful life to be lived in amity. It cannot be regarded as a drawing of battle lines.

Closest to the ideal Constitution

The present draft Constitution referred to is possibly the closest one can get to the ideal Constitution for Sri Lanka. But Constitutions need to have consensus for their acceptance by the people. This will depend on the level of political consciousness reached by that people. On this I may repeat what Dr. Colvin R. de Silva said in 1986 in a presentation on the Constitution of 1972.

He said: "To begin with, I should like to make a general remark about Constitutions, that they are neither copied from nor varied according to something made up in some political heaven. On the contrary they are drafted by human societies in accordance with the circumstances of the time at which they were drawn up, expressing or reflecting, if you will permit me what you may call my own jargon, the existing class relation, etc."

Kumar for Eelam of LTTE 'darlings'

By Roshan Peiris

imageACTC leader Kumar Ponnambalam, after a seven week global tour promoting the Tamil national cause is back with a bang — describing the LTTE as darlings and reiterating that a separate Tamil state is the only solution.

The dark and burly Mr. Ponnambalam hit his chest with his hands as he said — there is no solution except Eelam. Heaping scorn on President Kumaratunga and her devolution proposals, he claimed she had little or no Tamil support except from token Tamils like Kadirgamars and Thiruchelvams.

Excerpts from the interview:

Q:. What was the purpose of your seven week global tour?

A: I was invited by various groups of the Tamil diaspora to address them on the Tamil issue. I attended the sessions of the UN Commission on Human Rights in Geneva, taking before it the Tamil case and lobbied various countries to support my view.

Q: What was the response to your lobbying?

A: Sri Lanka's envoy presented the government's version to the commission. When I addressed the commission, I challenged him point by point. Then I went to Denmark where I took part in a procession attended by some three thousand Tamils. MPs in Denmark have promised to call for a parliamentary hearing on the Sri Lanka issue. Then I visited France where I addressed various meetings and gave radio and TV interviews. My next stop was England where a mass rally was held at Alexandra Place with more than 5000 Tamils participating. Then in America I addressed various meetings at San Francisco and Los Angeles. In Washington I met officials of the State Department, human rights organisations and prestigious universities. I also met UN officials in New York. Then in Canada, I addressed various meetings and presented a paper in Ottawa on current political dynamics of the Tamil national conflict in Sri Lanka.

Q:. What was the response you received in Britain where recently tough legislation was passed to combat terrorism?

A: Why do you say terrorists. Do you say I am a terrorist or a rebel? I am neither but only a nonconformist and confrontationist.

Q: With all the drastic terrorist acts the LTTE has committed including the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi, don't you think that the LTTE is a terrorist organisation?

A: No not at all. The LTTE should not be called or considered a terrorist organisation. They are freedom fighters. One can appear to be a terrorist to President Kumaratunga but as far as the Tamil people, including me, are concerned, they are freedom fighters.

Going by world events, one can see that those people who branded freedom fighters as terrorists had to eat their own words and instead acclaim them as world leaders. Take for instance, Nelson Mandela and Yasser Arafat. Very soon history will acclaim Tamil freedom fighters also as world leaders. The LTTE is the darling of the Tamils and the pride of the Tamil nation.

Q: But your party members or you are not welcome in the LTTE dominated areas. The Tigers are hostile to you. Your comments?

A: I don't know why. I myself will like to know why they are so if they are hostile.

Q: How strong is the LTTE in Britain?

A: Ninety nine percent of the Tamils there back the LTTE. I deal at a higher level since I deal with the hierarchy of the LTTE or what you may term as the Tamil Liberation Movement. You see the LTTE is a Tamil liberation movement so I deal with the hierarchy.

Q: Whom do you so vaguely term the LTTE hierarchy? Are they Prabhakaran and his lieutenants.

A: That is not a fair question I most certainly won't mention names.

Q: In your travels did you not ask for financial support for the LTTE which according to recent reports seems to be drying up.

A: I did not ask for financial help because as Mr Thondaman has said god is helping the LTTE.

Q: How is that?

A: All I have to say is that god is most certainly helping.

Q: You are holding a brief for the LTTE when it is now being alleged that it is trying to assassinate Sonia Gandhi?

A: I don't want to comment on what I see as fanciful stories. If there is evidence, let the law take its course. We have a funny scenario today. Even when a cat gets run over on the road, they blame it on the LTTE.

Q: How strong is the Tamil movement in Canada after the LTTE was labelled by the Ottawa government as a terrorist organisation?

A: According to official figures, there are about 400,000 Tamils there— 150,000 in Montreal, 6,000 in Ottawa and 7,000 in Vancouver. Of them, I believe about 90 percent of them support the LTTE.

Q: So eventually, where do we stand on the ethnic conflict?

A: God only knows. As far as I am concerned my political position has taken a qualitative change. I feel there will be no resolution of the Tamil national conflict because the Sinhalese do not want it.

Therefore it is high time the Tamils reconsider their whole position. As far as I am concerned, the only solution is a separate state. (Hitting his chest with his hands)

That is why I have called for the repeal of the Sixth Amendment which makes it a criminal offence to espouse a separate State. If it is repealed there will be freedom of speech, association and assembly to espouse the merits of a separate state.

It is only in a third grade country not a Third world country that we have such draconian legislation. Today we see big countries breaking into smaller countries like in Soviet Union, Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia. One can imprison a person physically for espousing a separate state but one cannot imprison his mind and thoughts. I have hit so hard at President Kumaratunga that she could not get one Tamil to contest on her ticket in the Western Province.

There are of course the token Tamils, such as the Tiruchelvams and Kadirgamars who may have voted for her.

Otherwise, I believe most Tamils do not give two hoots for her devolution package.

When they met for Tamil cause

By Dushy Ranetunge

Every year the LTTE and its front organisations attempt to stage at least three "international conferences" around the world. These are normally staged in Britain, Canada and Australia. The objective of these "international conferences'' is to keep the flame of "Tamil liberation" alive and to raise its profile in the international arena.

These, together with various rallies and marches the LTTE and its supporters organise, attempt to portray the "Tamil people" unconditionally accepting the LTTE, as their sole "representatives".

This year, the ''international conference cum rally'' in London was held at the Alexandra Palace. The ''conference/rally'' was called ''Tamil Eelam, towards independence''.

This was followed by another ''international Conference" on May 21 and 22 at the Carleton Universities in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. It was on Tamil Nationhood and Search for Peace in Sri Lanka''. We were told that the conference was organised by the "Academic Society of Tamil Students (ASTS) of the Carleton University and the University of Ottawa" among several other groups. The true powers behind the "conference" become obvious later.

A similar "international conference" was held in early February last year at Concordia University in Montreal, Canada. Most of the participants at these "conferences" tend to be the same individuals. The LTTE and its supporters transport the "conference" participants from one country to another, in an annual circuit.

On May 20, I flew to Ottawa from London in a Canadian Airlines flight. Seated near me was Jayalath Jayawardene, a national list UNP member of parliament who was scheduled to address the "conference".

The programme committee comprised the following. Derck Thurairajah, President of ASTS and a student of Carleton University was in the Chair. Co-Chairs were Jeevachelvi Selvaratnam (student of the University of Ottawa), Sathi Nannithamby and Ravinthar Thomas (both, students from Carleton University). They were all presumably members of ASTS.

No Eelam song

The "international conference" kicked off slightly late with Canadian Gail Gavan singing the Canadian national anthem. This was in contrast to the "Tamil Eelam national anthem" which was sung at the London "conference''. Ms. Gavan and the professional conference "manager" Raj Rasalingam seemed minimally involved in the proceedings.

In the profile of Tamil Canadians, we were told that Tamils are distributed in Canada as follows. Vancouver 7000, Toronto 150,000, Ottawa 6000, and Montreal 20,000. I wondered if there were more Tamils now in Canada, than the Eastern Province of Sri Lanka. We were told that there were now two 24 hour Tamil radio stations, 500 software engineers, 20 medical specialists and 30 self-financing cultural organisations under the umbrella organisation called FACTS, Federation of the Association of Canadian Tamils. We were told that Tamils were supporting Canada since Canada helped Tamils in their hour of need.

Prof. Ethirveerasingham's son, Ethirveerasingham Arjunan made a presentation titled "Through the eyes of an American student. An impression about the life of young Tamils in the North-Eastern Province". He said he had visited Jaffna and Vanni with his father from February to July last year. It is alleged the then governor of the North-Eastern Province, Gamini Fonseka, had commissioned Prof. Ethirveerasingham to write a report relating to the refugee situation and to make recommendations.

Prof. Ethirveerasingham who is firmly in the "Eelam camp" seems to be using these facts, figures and photographs of bomb damaged sites, (taken by his son) to support what can only be described as pro-LTTE propaganda.

He spoke of the history of the "Tamil struggle", "Sinhala only", about the present chapter being the bloodiest in the conflict, about peace talks and of 43 letters which were exchanged between the two parties and how the government failed to meet LTTE deadlines.

He complained that the Tamil parties were beholden to this regime and how the peace package has not made any progress for 21 months. He complained that government pundits who said they know of ways to get around the two third majority are today silent. Thimpu principals were dragged out, hammered and nailed to the wall and its recognition demanded.

Kumar's piece

ACTC leader Kumar Ponnambalam said the international community was falling over each other to present themselves as third party mediators but that the government was not interested. We were told that the LTTE favours third party mediation at present and that Tamils could meet the Sinhalese on an equal footing.

He called it a conflict between two nations and that the Sinhala nation must be represented by the UNP, SLFP, LSSP, NSSP etc. and the Tamil nation by the LTTE.

There was applause from the audience. "The LTTE is the only true representatives of the Tamil people. LTTE is the only group which is sacrificing blood and fighting for the Tamils".

There was no mention that there was third party mediation in the past by the Indians and that when the LTTE, did not agree with the negotiator in the form of Rajiv Gandhi, the third party negotiator was assassinated by the use of a female LTTE human bomb.

Dr. Jayalath Jayawardene, the first Sinhalese to address the audience started with "Ayubowan, Vanakkam" and he went on to thank Prof. Elaguppillai for inviting him.

Mr. Jayawardene highlighted serious problems with refugees and accused the government of not preparing any reports about the refugee situation in the Vanni.

He pointed out the need for an honourable settlement to the conflict. He said the Sinhalese too suffered in the border villages. "I have no ethnic bar on my human rights activities."

Mr. Jayawardene said he was a frequent visitor to refugee camps in the Vanni and Medical camps organised by him were successful.

He said more than 50,000 people had been killed as a result of the conflict and more than a million rendered homeless.

Speaking of the psychological and social trauma of the people, he said women and teenage girls were vulnerable to sexual abuse.

As the conference was getting disrupted. Raj Rasalingam called for a vote. About 60% of the 150 or so participants in the "international conference" raised their hands. One, voted against. The rest kept their hands down. These included Dr. Jayalath Jayawardene.

To my astonishment Joseph Pararajasigham MP raised his hand in support. Mr. Pararajasingham had voted to introduce religion into the first Thimpu principle, delete the fourth Thimpu principle and he had accepted the LTTE as the political voice of the Tamil "nation" and approved the justification and legitimacy of the "armed struggle".

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