TPC And ITAK In Talks As Draft Proposals Come Out

The Tamil People’s Council (TPC) and the Illangai Tamil Arasu Katchi (ITAK) have had talks in what is speculated as being part of an attempt to settle differences between both sides.

The talks took place last week after the TPC made public a set of draft proposals for a political solution to the Tamil issue.

However the talks between the TPC and ITAK were kept low key, and full details of the discussion were not made available to the media.

TPC member and former parliamentarian Suresh Premachandran said a group of TPC members had met ITAK General Secretary Mavai Senathirajah following an invitation extended by Senathirajah.

Premachandran said he was made to understand the talks were held to discuss the latest political developments in the North and East and the country.

ITAK is the main coalition partner of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) but Premachandran said the TPC met Senathirajah as he was the ITAK General Secretary and not as a TNA member.

He said the draft proposals of the TPC made public last week were also discussed at the meeting with Senathirajah.

The TPC chaired by Northern Province Chief Minister C.V. Wigneswaran has been growing in popularity and has been seen as a threat to moves by the Government and the TNA to push forward with the reconciliation process.

Premachandran said the TPC will be having public meetings today in Batticaloa, and it will also have similar meetings in Trincomalee and in the Wanni.

He said the public will be briefed on the draft proposal of the TPC, and public input will also be sought and amendments made accordingly. Once the final draft is agreed on, it will be presented to the government, the TNA, and diplomats based in Colombo. The Tamil People’s Council appointed a sub-committee in December 2015 mandating it to present a report based on which public consultations for an acceptable political solution could be initiated. The Sub-Committee comprised of representatives of political parties and civil society organisations represented in the Council.

Following several sittings, the Sub-Committee produced the draft report for consideration by the Tamil People’s Council and for subsequent consultation with the people.

The draft proposal which was handed over to Wigneswaran last week notes that the finding of a political solution cannot be a mere constitution writing exercise.

It notes that the root cause of the national conflict is Sri Lanka being a Sinhala-Buddhist Nation State – a State that is identified with a single nation and demos and has a hierarchical structure with the Sinhala Buddhist Nation that sits on the top of the hierarchy. “This hierarchy is represented in the unitary character of the State. Both major parties in the South (SLFP and UNP) stand by a Sinhala Buddhist unitary State which is unacceptable to all shades of Tamil public opinion. It would not be possible to engage in a constitution making exercise without agreeing to the basic vision of the State. For Sri Lanka to become a secular non-hierarchical State, the Sinhala Buddhist polity will have to recognize that there needs to be a new social contract drawn between the Tamil People and the Sinhala People in Sri Lanka through which would emerge a new State – a new plurinational Sri Lanka. This would mean recognizing the Tamil People’s uniqueness and their right to self-determination and recognition of the political aspirations of the Muslims and Up Country Tamils,” the draft proposal states. It also says the 13th amendment to the present Constitution failed not just by the fact that it was set within a unitary framework and because of its flawed institutional design but also because of a conception of a hierarchical state with Sinhala Buddhist Nation at its helm. Even a federal constitution would not be workable unless the hierarchical conception of the State is altered. Hence the TPC is insisting on the pre-constitutional recognition of the Tamil People’s uniqueness and self-determination in a new constitutional scheme. The TPC says it is from such a political vision that a new constitution can be enacted and in the absence of such an understanding, a constitutional process will, like in all previous instances, be majoritarian and unilateral and bound to fail.

The TPC Sub-Committee feels a pre-constitutional agreement in the form of a treaty (like the Dayton Agreement and the Good Friday Agreement) is necessary prior to the constitution making process.

It says the treaty should inter alia recognize the Tamil Peoples’ right to self-determination, its sovereignty and constituent power and its traditional homeland in the areas of historical habitation of the Tamil people.

“The treaty should provide that in the event of the arrangements being unilaterally abrogated by the numerically larger Sinhala Buddhist majority and its political representatives and in the absence of any other alternatives, the Tamil people may decide to hold a referendum to further determine their political status. This treaty which we think should be underwritten by a third party (foreign governments such as the US/India, or the UN) will help to bring international/external guarantee to the durability of the solution arrived at, beyond the contours of a constitution that otherwise rests within the domain of domestic law. This agreement should also spell out inter alia measures to be taken for accountability and justice, address issues relating to disappearances, release of political prisoners, release of land occupied by the Armed forces in the North-East, demilitarization, State-sponsored colonization, security sector reforms, and contain guarantees of non-recurrence,” the draft proposal ads.

The proposal says it would be impossible to create a safe and open environment for the discussion of the political and constitutional issues without creating suitable conditions in the North-East as proposed in the draft by the TPC Sub-Committee.