The People’s Power Movement & The National Question

By Kumar David

Prof. Kumar David

These are early days and it is foolish to make rash predictions about elections but people are taking an interest in the PP option and the “Give PP your First-Preference” argument seems to be gaining ground. Therefore, it is not too early to raise key programmatic issues, in particular (a) abolishing the executive presidency (EP), that is enacting 20A; (b) prosecuting corrupt politicos, a job yahapalana to its great discredit has failed at; (c) a first draft of PP’s economic programme, and (d) the national question. On (a) both PP and the JVP are crystal clear – abolish it! Gota is against abolishing EP, Sajith says one thing today and another tomorrow. Regarding (b) the answer is “yes” but many system-type obstacles need to be removed. PP has to formulate concrete proposals on how to deflect these roadblocks and get corrupt leaders and Ministers lawfully imprisoned. (c) is a big question. An erudite advisory group is drafting PP’s programme; I will come back to it at another time.

The column today is about the National Question (NQ). The JVP is the largest and most influential entity in PP and does most of the ground work. Its views are important – otherwise it would not be good for the stability of the alliance. At the same time every organisation in PP need not be bound by the JVP’s track record on the NQ which is neither edifying nor consistent. It is good for all to make an input, now, so that a common position can be thrashed out. One should not insist on one’s “full” or ideal position but aim at an acceptable compromise acceptable to all 30 in PP (and future additions). I am going to have a bash at it as a starting point for discussion.

There is a bottom line that everybody from the devil himself to ardent Leninists will happily mouth – all races, religions and cultures should be respected, all citizens should be equal before the law, and such like platitudes – that’s all obvious so let’s not waste time. Mahinda, Gota, Wimal, Gamanayake, Sajith, Ranil and the man on the moon will repeat it all. Then there are real issues hypocrites will not touch; devolution, release of Tamil political prisoners held interminably under the dictatorial PTA, return of lands and houses occupied for decades by the military and NQ sensitive human rights issues such as the scuttled murder cases of five Tamil youth in Trinco and the murder of 13  medical workers.

My suggestion is that PP takes a stand on these issues in a way that will not bring shame on the left. “Yes” to maximum devolution with specifics to be worked out. Actually, the six sub-committees on the proposed new constitution did an excellent job and PP should endorse all reports. (Sub-Committee Report on Centre-Periphery Relations). The Draft Constitution tabled earlier this year is weaker on devolution.

“Repeal TPA and release of all political prisoners held for over 12 months” is an unconditional demand. PP must demand that private premises occupied by the military be returned forthwith and the bogus excuses made by the military be brushed aside. The travesty of justice in many murder cases is a scandal. Vigorous prosecution and stiff punishment of culprits is a must. It’s a shame that all over the world murders committed by the military and the police go unpunished. Sirisena’s racially motivated appointment of Shavendra Silva as army commander over the heads of a “few others” (quoting Sarath Fonseka) must be condemned.

You will observe that I have not mentioned the right to self-determination. In my view when no mass Tamil movement, that is a significant part of the Tamil people, are demanding a referendum on self-determination or the right to secede, it is unnecessary and reactionary to entice Tamils towards it. (In the LTTE period there was some broad support for the idea).

I am a strong believer in a secular state so Chapter 2 of the SL Constitution on Religion is in my view a relic of feudal ideology. However, I have no intention of mentioning this in PP discussions since most people desire the provision. To a significant extent Lanka is still trapped in pre-enlightenment ideology and prejudice and this cannot be wished away. At the same time, one has to put up firm and principled opposition to practices that may harm other communities. I hope PP can strike the right balance. 

Source:Colombo Telegraph