MORE THAN EQUAL OPPRTUNITIES FOR SOME
(1999 October 13)
The PA government is a single-issue government. It is true that the people voted for Ms. Chandrika Kumaratunga
and the PA. However Ms. Kumaratunga was made the leader of the PA not by the people but by the non-national forces.
Mrs. Sirimavo Bandaranaike was unceremoniously displaced from the leadership and Ms. Kumaratunga was installed
as the leader. The NGO's, the so-called free media people, the civil society gang, the tabloid (vikalpa) press
etc., were instrumental in creating a wave of support for the PA and Ms. Kumaratunga. The wave (the ralla) was
so much that even certain sections that worked in the national movement joined the "ralla". Some opportunists
who have nothing but dreams of coming to power told that the nation is a dead body left the nationalist forces
and joined the PA bandwagon and worked for the PA candidates in Ruhuna. These people who have now come back to
the nationalist movement saying that the "ralla" is now there and that there is a demand for "war"
are at present busy with forming so-called national movements for the protection of this and that. Even some of
the leading monks in the national movement when they were told in 1994 that if the PA comes to power they will
divide the country by abdicating power in the north and the east made the remark that when the "ralla"
is to the PA there is nothing that we could do but work for the PA.
The non-national forces that were instrumental in bringing the PA government to power were interested in only one issue. By early nineties they had come to the conclusion that the best way to establish a federal state was through the PA. They had reasoned out that if the UNP were to bring legislation to abdicate power in the north and the east the SLFP traditionally thought to be the party that represents the Sinhala Buddhist view would oppose it. However, they argued, that if a SLFP dominated government decided to abdicate power in the north and the east then the nationalist forces would keep quiet and the UNP would support such a move in the parliament. The non-national forces had decided in favour of Ms. Chandrika Kumaratunga solely on this issue and thus the PA became a single-issue government.
However the calculations of the non national forces turned out to be incorrect and the nationalist forces, which had anticipated that the PA government would bring legislation to divide the country, started a campaign as soon as the so-called political package was introduced in to the political vocabulary of this country. There was a "ralla" in the direction of the nationalist movement and even those who had worked for the PA, now for the same opportunistic reasons, decided to work against the "package". Even the UNP had to soft peddle the issue. The PA could not bring legislation to establish a federal state and the non-national forces after some time had decided to bring down the government.
The single-issue PA government has to go when it cannot satisfactorily carry out the only "duty" that they had been entrusted by the non-national forces. If not for the executive presidency by this time there would not have been a PA government. The PA cannot depend on the forces that supported them in 1994. Almost all of them have by now deserted the PA. Most of the media movements, the not so civil, civil society gangs, the humanitarians etc., are by now either with the UNP or are drifting towards it. Mr. Vasudeva Nanayakkara is siting in the opposition. Mr. Jeyaraj Fernandopulle is on his way to the UNP. Mr. Ashraaf is being lured into an alliance with the UNP. Already candidates are being sought to contest at the next presidential elections, who will poll some of the votes of Ms. Chandrika Kumaratunga. Mr. Vasudeva Nanayakkara could be one of them. The non-national forces have decided to support the candidature of Mr. Ranil Wickramasinghe.
Mr. Wickramasinghe now fits the bill of the non-national forces. Recently at a meeting of the fund managers conference in Colombo and at public meetings organised by the UNP he has reiterated his position on the Tamil racist problem. He has said that he would implement the Fox agreement, have talks with the LTTE, give an "interim government" for the northern and the eastern provinces, and devolve power asymmetrically. Having failed their experiment with the PA government under Ms. Chandrika Kumaratunga, the non-national forces have come back to their natural ally the UNP and the "natural" candidate for the presidency.
Mr. Wickramasinghe is not against third party mediation. How could he be when he is the candidate supported by those who aspire to be the third party? Anybody who wants to have talks with or without third party mediation and who wants to implement the Fox agreement has to offer something that is acceptable to the LTTE and their sponsors. The LTTE and their apologists on number of occasions have said that they are willing to give up an Eelam for a confederation. Dr. A. J. Wilson, the only son in law of Mr. Chelvanayakam has been very articulate in explaining this position of the LTTE. A confederation is only a nominal government over two de facto states and Prabhakaran knows that once he gets his confederation, establishing an Eelam is a mere formality. Now any government that will have talks with the LTTE cannot be expected to agree to a confederation of states. However the non-national forces that are behind third party mediations have come up with a "solution" to the problem. Mr. Ranil Wickramasinghe is promoting that solution at his meetings. He has been advocating asymmetrical devolution for some time. He justifies this by saying that only the north and the east asked for "devolution" of power and therefore those provinces have to be given more power.
With asymmetrical devolution the northern and the eastern provinces will get more power than the rest of the country. The provincial council or the regional council that will be established in those two provinces will have more power than the other seven such councils in the remaining provinces. This means that there will be two types of political entities in the country, which will be a stepping stone to a confederation that will in turn lead to an Eelam. Having failed with Dr. G. L. Peiris and his so-called political package his friends, as well as Mr. Wickramasinghe's, in the west are now backing the candidate who is going to offer their "solution" to the Tamil racist problem.
Dr. G. L. Peiris who was a sympathiser, if not a party member of the UNP until about February 1994, all of a sudden realised that the UNP had not been respecting human rights and joined the SLFP. From the day one in the SLFP Dr. Peiris has been formulating, drafting constitutions, amendments to the constitution etc., in order to solve the so-called ethnic problem. However he has been a failure in the eyes of the non-national forces, which were interested in getting the PA to "solve" the problem so that they could go back to their natural ally the UNP. The PA has come to the end of the term and those who are interested in bringing down the "failed government" as soon as possible would like to create more than equal opportunities for Mr. Ranil Wickramasinghe. Dr. Peiris's equal opportunities bill does that.
We have already discussed the bill and have seen how it makes less opportunities for the Sinhala people, especially for the Sinhala Buddhists. The bill is ostensibly to please the ethnic groups and to win their votes. However even Mr. Ashraaf is not happy with the bill and very likely the Sinhala people will be dissatisfied with what is happening. Over all the UNP will benefit by the deeds of Dr. Peiris. Ministers such as Messrs. Rathnasiri Wickramanayaka, Richard Pathirana have realised this and they have vehemently opposed the bill in the cabinet.
Opposition has been mounting against the bill. Many organisations have already protested and have held discussions. Some have met cabinet ministers and have been assured that the bill will not be presented to the parliament. However the nationalist forces have to be careful in their protests. While every effort should be made to demand that that government withdraw the bill, not merely amending certain clauses, the protests have to be organised with care.
On last Thursday I came across an ugly incident. I was at the Asoka Vidyalaya, Colombo on an invitation by the astronomical society. While I was addressing the students on the theme of Astronomy in a South Asian cultural context, giving examples from the Buddhist, Hindu and Jaina traditions a group of students (not from Asoka Vidyalaya) carrying placards by a so-called national movement for the protection of Buddhist schools barged into the lecture and demanded that the students in the hall join a protest to be held outside. The students at Asoka Vidyalaya resisted that and when I left the school finally, having given them a lecture on who is behind these activities they had not joined the protesters.
The bill was not presented that day due to other reasons, Dr. G. L. Peiris was not present in the Parliament and no other minister had presented the bill either, but the impression was created by certain media that the first reading of the bill was postponed due to the student protests. The nationalist forces have to be careful of a group of people among themselves who resort to JVP type politics. This is a very dangerous trend that has to be nipped in the bud. The school children should not be dragged into politics, especially violent politics, as Sri Lanka does not want to go through another 1987-90. There may be people who say that the student demonstration on Thursday was very peaceful. But my experience at the Asoka Vidyalaya tells me something else. Those who try to give the impression that the bill was not presented to the parliament because of the student agitation, give the students a feeling of some kind of power. We remember how those days shops were closed merely on a chit given to a mudalali by a teenager. The nationalist forces in 1987-90 failed to criticise the JVP at the beginning and eventually it was mainly the Sinhala Buddhist youth who made the supreme sacrifice. Are we going to do the same thing this time as well? Should the Buddhist students be sacrificed in order to protect the Buddhist schools?
Equal opportunities bill has created more than equal opportunities also for opportunists who have no interest in the welfare of the Buddhist schools. While the nationalist forces continue with their protests until the government withdraws the bill they have to see to it that the Buddhist school children are not made "disposable sacrifices". After all we have to have Buddhist children to send to the Buddhist schools that are protected.
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