From the day of Sri Lanka’s independence on February 04, 1948, when the rule was handed over to the majority Sinhala community, the Sri Lankan governments launched a genocidal agenda against the minorities particularly the Tamils which also included the structural genocide and cultural genocide involving Sinhalization, discrimination, marginalization and Buddhisization. Several state legislations were passed to implement the said agenda in particular the main agenda of the governments is to change the demographic distribution and percentage of the communities particularly in the North and East which are the traditional and historical homelands of the Tamils.
Opposition to the genocidal agenda was initiated and launched by the Tamil political leaders in a non-violent manner but all of these were crushed ruthlessly by the successive governments employing violent methods with the assistance of the state security forces and thugs. Various state legislations passed to mitigate and / or soften the harshness failed to produce the desired results due to the Sinhala state machinery and majority administration. The cherished democratic concepts of “majority rule with the consent of the minority” was thrown overboard and discarded while majoritarianism trumpeted and prevailed ruling the roost. The several communal riots and the 40 years old non-violent and even violent resistance by the Tamils failed to deliver the desired goods to the Tamils except bitterness, hostility, frustration and disappointment. There was no dearth of hollow promises and undertakings which were made by various Sinhala leaders and governments to suit the occasion, time and place. The entry of the Buddhist clergy to politics further compounded the problems who became a powerful political force contributing to the escalation of the agonies, repression and sufferings of the Tamils.
In this respect, Martyn Day, a UK Member of Parliament in his recent speech on 05 December 2023 correctly summed up the position of the Tamils when he stated that “Generations of Oppression have been suffered by the Tamil people. Events which still have survivors. A cycle of violence and genocide is surging. This story has a long and fragile history”.
While President Ranil is speaking of his solutions to the Tamils, hatred and communal disharmony are also rearing their ugly heads. For instance, in his speech by Ambitiya Sumananatha Thero, the Batticaloa Viharathipathy vowed on October 12, 2023 stating that “every single Tamil person will be cut into pieces. They will be killed. All the Tamils in the South will be cut into pieces and beheaded”.
Here is a Buddhist Monk supposed to preach and practices Lord Buddha’s “Panchaseela” which included compassion, non-violence and love, has discarded these tenets and created his own version of violence and killings while desecrating the holy preachings of Lord Buddha. Sadly, the Ranil’s government and /or state authorities have so far ominously failed to take any legal action against the said racist Buddhist Monk for inciting and advocating racial hatred, violence and communal disharmony while the security forces do not spare a minute to pounce upon innocent Tamil civilians and / or students when they protest non-violently and peacefully against the atrocities demanding proper remedies including answers to the fate of disappeared persons besides other grievances like land grabs and Buddhisization including erecting of statutes of Lord Buddha and construction of Buddhist Viharas slyly in the prominent Tamils’ locations where there are hardly any Buddhists residing.
Ranil in his May Day speech in 2023
“Hoped to reach a mutually agreeable solution in the island’s long standing ethnic problem by the end of the year”. This is only a renewal of an earlier promise by him. He also promised that “a new constitution will ensure provisions of equality, non-discrimination and rights of minorities”. In short he promised to resolve the ethnic problem by February 2023 the 75th year of independence. This period has now gone without any steps by Ranil. In this respect, a draft constitution prepared earlier by a steering committee is lying in cold storage gathering rust and dust.
With Ranil focusing to secure and safeguard the office of the President, it will be only a day dream that a new constitution will be drafted and passed in parliament along with a possible referendum. However, international pressure particularly from India could force him to present a new constitution for Sri Lanka which seems unlikely.
However, it appears that the Ranil is focusing his attention to hold a parliamentary election in 2024 which is due only in 2025. Therefore, Ranil could be planning to dissolve the parliament to win a majority for his party to retain his seat virtually controlling the parliament including the appointment of the Prime Minister and the Ministers.
Besides, Ranil also “pledged to fully implement the 13th Amendment and hoping to move forward with a new constitution which reflects the sacred values and aspirations”. About the 13th Amendment, he stated “I must implement or someone has to abolish it”. In this matter it is to be noted that TNA has also expressed it’s skepticism over the promises of the Ranil viewing the bitter experiences and past records of breaches and partial compliances of various undertakings and commitments made to the UN, UNHRC, Commissioner, Human Rights Council particularly in respect of UN HRC Resolutions which commenced in 2015 and now ending in 54th Resolution in 2023.
To sum up, it is nothing but only a naïve and wishful thinking to hope and rely on Sri Lanka’s oral promises, undertakings and commitments made to all parties including Tamil political parties and leaders. To cite an example, the release of political prisoners has been an ongoing matter which has been subject to several promises by all the Sri Lankan governments and its rulers but never fully implemented including the North and East merger, resettlement of displaced persons and an internal investigative mechanism all of which so far remain untouched and kept frozen.
Thambu Kanagasabai LL. M (Lond), Former Lecturer of Law, University of Colombo Sri Lanka