Feature Article

Indian model ill-suited to address Tamil demands- Gajendrakumar

[TamilNet, Tuesday, 31 October 2006, 03:44 GMT]
While the Sri Lanka Government negotiators in Geneva II heralded the All Party Representative Committee (APRC) as key to formulating “a political and constitutional framework for the resolution of the national question,” an APRC delegation has been touring India to study India's “federal” setup. Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam, Tamil National Alliance (TNA) parliamentarian and Member of the Parliamentary Consultative Committees for Constitutional affairs, said that the post-partition constitution of India was not required to address any sovereignty issues similar to those that lie at the core of Tamil struggle, and therefore, is ill-suited for Sri Lanka.

Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam
Mr. Ponnambalam said: “The current Indian constitutional model can be termed a quasi-federal one. It has federal as well as strong unitary characteristics as exemplified by Article 356, which vests the President with powers to dismiss state legislature and Executive. This model came into existence in India after Pakistan, and the Bangladesh of today, separated from India. Therefore, the present Indian constitutional model did not have to address strong secessionist sentiments, and serves mainly to unite non-fissiparous ethnolinguistic regions.

“The conflict resolution process in Sri Lanka, on the other hand will have to address the strong secessionist desires of the Tamil People. In other words, whatever model that is being mooted will have to be attractive enough for the Tamils to consider it as a viable alternative to the creation of a separate state," Mr Ponnambalam said.

He added: “The Tamils have consistently stated that if a viable alternative to separation is to be considered, such an alternative will have to recognize the Tamils as a distinct Nation of people, recognize the areas of historical habitation of the Tamil speaking people, and the right to self-determination of the Tamil Nation. In giving expression to these aspirations, one will also have to accept certain ground-realities namely, the existence of a de-facto parallel state.

EthnoLinguistic map of India
India's ethnolinguistic regions
“Therefore, how relevant the current Indian constitutional model is to Sri Lanka, is a question that has to be seriously asked if it is to be considered as a basis for conflict resolution to the Tamil National question in Sri Lanka."

"There has been some talk about the SLFP-UNP understanding paving the way for an agreement to look at the Indian constitutional model as the basis for a solution to the Tamil National question. To say that one should look at the Indian model is one thing, but to say that the Indian model should form the basis for a solution to the Tamil National question is another thing all together,” Mr. Ponnambalam said.

Recently there have been media reports indicating that APRC's work focused on the village-level Panchayat as the “ray of hope” to solve Sri Lanka’s “domestic problems.” Leader of the study group, and Minister of Science and Technology, Tissa Vitarana, is of the view that the Panchayat concept “could become the central piece of Sri Lanka’s future framework to tackle issues such as the LTTE problem,” Hindustan Times reported.

PDF IconEuropean Institute on Panchayat
India 3-tier admin
Panchayat: Third tier of governance in India

Mr Ponnambalam, when asked to comment on these reports, said: Panchayat Raj is a local-council level administrative mechanism adopted as 73rd/74th amendments to the Indian constitution. It was enacted mainly to promote grass-root level democracy, to empower poor women, and to enable feudally-strapped residents of rural India to participate in the world's largest democracy.

"It is foolish to think Panchayat scheme will satisfy Tamil people.

“Sri Lanka's attempt to introduce this third-tier administrative model into devolution debate appears to be deliberate, and exposes the deep-rooted disdain Sinhala political leaders have towards the basic Tamil demand for “self-governance."

"It also raises troubling questions on the objectives of APRC's constitutional re-engineering exercise," the MP said.

Related Articles:
07.10.06   Political package to be prepared before GoSL-LTTE peace talk..
19.07.06   APC, a political drama to dress-up unitary constitution - LT..

External Links:
NE: Indian model will be ‘too little too late’
EJCL: Article 356 Of The Constitution Of India
HT: Lanka sees hope in India’s Panchayati Raj
EIAS: New Panchayati Raj
Hindu:  Panchayati raj useful to Sri Lanka: Aiyar


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