Feature Article

Unitary constitution imposing choice irrelevant to fundamentals needs rejection by Tamils

[TamilNet, Saturday, 21 October 2017, 21:46 GMT]
Imposing conditions on Eezham Tamils to denounce their sovereignty is denial of their right to self-determination. The Eezham Tamils are a distinct nation with sovereignty-based claim to exercise their right to Self-Determination. A framework for political solution should therefore recognise the nationhood of Eezham Tamils, their geographically contiguous homeland and their inalienable right of self-determination. The interim report of the Steering Committee of the Constitutional Assembly [of genocidal Sri Lanka] has not only denied the right of self-determination, but it also attempts to force upon Tamils the unitary system with a ‘Sri Lankan’ identity, both of which have been historically and democratically denounced by Tamils. Therefore Eezham Tamils should not hesitate to reject it, says Jaffna-based Tamil political analyst S.A. Jothilingam in an exclusive interview to TamilNet.



A reasonable and equitable political solution could be achieved only through recognising the right of Self-Determination.

The constitution is a social contract between the peoples. If a true federal solution is to be achieved, it must be like a contract of marriage, he said. “You can't tell your life partner before the marriage to denounce separation. That is not a contract. It is slavery. When making the constitution, there should be a similar approach. You have to recognise the right to self-determination of the nations that enter into the social contract,” Mr Jothilingam said.

Eezham Tamils have systematically and democratically denounced the two ‘Sri Lankan’ constitutions of 1972 and 1978, because those constitutions didn't recognise the parity of status.

This time, the SL system and its global backers, particularly the West and India, are bringing a false dichotomy as far as Eezham Tamils are concerned.

“They ask: Do you want the current system [and return of Rajapaksa] or do you want a new one [of Maithiripala and Wickramasinghe]. By bringing Tamils into the scenario of making a choice, they want to trap Tamils into democratically mandating a unitary system.”

The unfolding constitutional discourse is another attempt of strengthening the unitary system through the notion of so-called Ēkīya Rājyaya (ඒකීය රාජ්යය). Tamils should not hesitate to denounce and out rightly reject it if there is a referendum to be held on the subject, he said.

Bringing a negotiated political solution to the national question should be a responsibility of the international community as Eezham Tamils have been subjected to a protracted genocide in the island.

That responsibility gains more significance on the basis that the international community also has repeatedly failed to protect the nation of Eezham Tamils despite its interferences in the past, he added.

The European countries that tolerate people exercising their right to self-determination through plebiscites in their continent, take a different position when it comes to the case of Eezham Tamils in South Asia.

The European State actors openly advocate and manipulate Tamils to collaborate with those who committed genocide against the Tamils.

The Tamil diaspora should address this through involving and informing the larger civil societies in their respective host countries.

“The talk of taking us back to the situation of 1940s is a fallacy. Do you want the genocide to proceed unchecked once again,” he asked.

“You can't resolve the national question by conceiving just another upgrade of a unitary system which is fundamentally a Sinhala-Buddhist majoritarian ‘central government’ in Colombo.”

Mr Jothilingam named four essential elements of any framework to be qualified as a solution model to resolve the national question: 1) recognise Eezham Tamils as a nation 2) recognise their distinct sovereignty for self-governance 3) recognise that Eezham Tamils are entitled to exercise their right to self-determination without any compromise and 4) propose a model of governance ensuring their parity on the above three fundamentals.

A unitary system will never be able to satisfy the above four elements, particularly in the case of the island given the complexity and the past trajectory, Mr Jothilingam implied.

He was also touching on the responsibility of the international community in ensuring remedial justice through a political framework, which makes Tamils to protect their rights and interests with international guarantees [of non-recurrence of genocide].

Ensuring the territorial integrity of the historical homeland of Eezham Tamils from not being altered by the Colombo-centric unitary State system is a central issue, he further said.

Explaining why the right to self-determination coupled with the claim of historical sovereignty is inalienable to the nation of Eezham Tamils, Mr Jothilingam emphasised that the political struggle should be carried out from the four domains, the homeland, the diaspora, Tamil Nadu and the rights oriented global community.

There should be a common understanding of advancing the struggle in a compatible manner particularly among the three of the four domains that involve Tamils.

The Tamil polities in the homeland, diaspora and Tamil Nadu should be in sync with regards to the target [ilakku] of the nation of Eezham Tamils and a policy [ko'lkai] without ambiguity to achieve that target, he said.

The Tamil national discourse should be advanced with progressive goals such as social and gender equality.

The paradigm of struggle has changed in post-2009 context. The modus operandi of Tamil activism should be conceived to fit the new paradigm, he said.

Not only the States, the nations fighting for liberation should also have a clearly conceived foreign policy, he said.

For example, this foreign policy, if properly conceived, will have necessary approaches to address the State systems that engage in military to military relationship with the SL State that committed genocide against Eezham Tamils in their occupied homeland, he said.

Tamils should remember to address the common concerns of the four main pillars necessary for their existence as a nation: the homeland (Nilam), the language (Mozhi), the common economic life (Poru'laathaaram) and the People (Makka'l kooddam).

The wide-ranging interview also focused on the destructive role being played by ITAK duo R. Sampanthan and M.A. Sumanthiran, the contribution of Tamil National Peoples Front (TNPF) and its limitations, the success and failure of the discourse through the Tamil Peoples’ Council (TPC) so far and the future scenario of evolving a Tamil national mass movement beyond electoral, party and elitist politics.


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