Does Gotabhaya Rajapaksa Think His “Economic Empowerment” Solution Will Result in the Sri Lankan Tamils Giving Up Their Long Struggle For Political Equality and Rights?
A leading English-language newspaper reported on Saturday, July 28, in a story entitled ‘Prez polls 2019’ that:
“Gotabhaya Rajapaksa on Thursday (July 26) told Colombo-based senior Tamil print and electronic journalists that countrywide economic empowerment was the key to post-war stability…Rajapaksa said so when the Tamil media sought his views on a gamut of issues, ranging from the status of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution enacted consequent to the Indo-Lanka Peace Accord to the government responsibility in respect of squatters…V. Thanabalasingam, former chief editor of a popular Tamil Daily and currently consultant at another reputed Tamil language newspaper, tweeted on Thursday evening that Gotabhaya said that economic empowerment of all the communities was his vision for a political solution.”
If country-wide economic empowerment was the key to post-war stability, how come the opening up of the economy and an initial 8% growth rate under President Jayewardene did not lead to political stability and could not prevent a descent into extreme conflict?
In a speech to the Inter-Religious Forum on the 35th anniversary of the anti-Tamil violence of Black July ’83, former President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga made an impassioned plea for either a new Constitution or a Constitutional Amendment to resolve the long-standing ethno-national question. The enterprise is flawed and fraught.
1. Even if one assumes for the sake of argument that a new Constitution may be desirable or even ideal, this does not prove it is necessary, still less imperative.
2. It is almost certainly not the case that what CBK deems desirable or necessary is in fact politically feasible.
3. In her effort to achieve the ideal or the desirable, she may counter-productively reinforce the political, social and ideological tendencies she is seeking to combat, and wreck the laudable goal she is striving to achieve.
CBK’s ‘The Package Reloaded’ will give rise to a far more virulently nationalist regime than that of her immediate successor.
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The Feasible Political Solution to the Tamil Question Already Exists and Has Been in Place Since the Indo-Lanka Accord of 1987.
Here’s a news flash; the political solution to the Tamil question exists and has been around for a while. Thousands died in two civil wars to proclaim and defend that solution. Vijaya Kumaratunga and K Pathmanabha were martyrs to that cause. And yet, those who should cherish the cause they were martyred for and the survival and entrenchment of that democratic reform act as if it didn’t happen.
While the political solution exists, Sri Lankan politics is increasingly divided into two camps:
- One camp consists of those, mainly neoliberals and liberal-leftists who ignore the existing solution for which rivers of blood flowed, and try to leap over it to something they regard as more advanced—and in so doing, run the risk of effacing what has been achieved.
- The other camp consists of neoconservative and ultranationalists who seek to ignore, bypass and bury the existing solution—thereby running the risk of opening the gates to a far looser and more radical restructuring of the state.
There were two civil wars that swirled around the political solution. Northern extremism lost that war but are still trying to fight it by other means, vaulting over the existing reform and making for a loose federalism transitional to separation. Southern ultra-nationalism which lost the civil war is trying to reopen it and paralyze and dismantle the reformist solution that exists.
Why is there so much aversion to the existing reform? The secret lies in two contending ideas of Sri Lanka; of what Sri Lanka is or should be.
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