(Editorial, New Democracy, Organ of the New Democratic Party of Sri Lanka, August 2009)


President Rajapakse of Sri Lanka had declared more than once that his war against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam  (LTTE) was aimed to safeguard the interest of Tamils. Developments since the victory against LTTE reveal an opposite scenario.


It is nearly three months since the government (of Sri Lanka) declared victory in its war against terrorism. The war was said to be one against the LTTE and not against the Tamils. It was even said that it was a humanitarian war to liberate the Tamils from the LTTE. But the Tamils who were entrapped by war are neither free nor treated with human dignity. Many, according to several estimates more than 20 000, have been killed. Nearly 300 000 people are behind barbed wire fences, and a large but unknown number held by the police for inquiries.


Failure to resolve the national question led to national oppression, its escalation into war, the killing of over two hundred thousand including killings relating to the JVP insurrection of 1987-89, and sending into internal and external exile many times that number. Resolving the national question is still not a priority for the government or the main opposition parties; and none of them have a clearly stated position addressing the just grievances of the oppressed nationalities.


Much has been said in recent months about a solution based the 13th Amendment to the Constitution introduced in 1978. Devolution of power to the Provincial Councils is part of that legislation, which recognizes Sri Lanka as a multi-ethnic society. The Amendment made Sinhala and Tamil the official languages of Sri Lanka. The struggles thus far have been about the inadequacies of that legislation by way of granting autonomy to the different nationalities, and about the failure to implement aspects of the amendment intended to address the national question.


President Rajapakse has not shown the political will to implement the 13th Amendment, and even less to go beyond it to address the national question. The UNP has retreated from the position that it arrived at during the peace talks with the LTTE and has jettisoned the federal solution which it proposed at the time, and now envisages a solution within the framework of a unitary state. The JVP, like its breakaway faction and the right-wing chauvinist JHU, rejects even the degree of devolution of power possible under the 13th Amendment. 


In summary, the government and the main opposition parties have been together in their support for the military action of the government since 2006, and are accomplices in the government’s

avoidance of finding a just solution to the national question. The Sinhala nationalist parties fall far behind even the much diluted political package of nine years ago offered by Chandrika Kumaratunga, and disgracefully sabotaged by the UNP opposition.


The principled position upheld by the New-Democratic Party on the national question stands in sharp contrast with those of the main political parties. It has consistently rejected secession as the solution to the national question and prescribed autonomy based on the principle of self determination as the way to address the national question. It was the first political party to recognize the Muslims and Hill Country Tamils as nationalities in their own right and to call for addressing their national aspirations based on autonomy and the principle of self-determination. It also urged the use of the principle of self determination in the widest possible sense to offer autonomy even to minorities without a territory to be identified with them.


The NDP has always rejected a military solution to the national question, irrespective of who had the upper hand during the quarter century of conflict. While it rejected the politics and the style of work of the JVP and Tamil militants, it held the oppressive reactionary state mainly responsible for the killing of innocent civilians and unarmed rebels during the JVP insurrections as well as the armed struggle by Tamil militants.


Today the country’s independence and sovereignty are at stake amid aggravation of the national question and a deepening economic crisis; and its democracy is under immense threat. Thus it is all the more urgent to build a powerful mass organization of left, progressive and democratic forces.

It is particularly important for the left, progressive and democratic forces among the Sinhalese to awaken to the reality and act, especially when the media are actively presenting one or another of Sinhala chauvinist agendas as the only political options for the Sinhalese. They need to pay particular attention to seeking a just solution to the national question so that they can win the confidence of the minority nationalities and thereby be able to unite the entire people in a struggle to restore democratic and human rights. It is only they who can save the country from impending disaster. Thus failure to act would be seen by future generations as a far greater betrayal than the failings of the old left. 

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