The Politics of Demonizing Federalism and Depicting It as Separatism

In spite of the Aug 4 ruling by the Supreme court the anti-federalism camp continues to tar brush federalism as separatism. 

By D.B.S.Jeyaraj

The year was 1985. Junius Richard Jayawardene was the Sri Lankan President while Rajiv Gandhi was Prime minister of India. The New Delhi facilitated talks between an official Sri Lankan Govt delegation and six entities representing the Sri Lankan Tamils were going on in the Bhutanese capital of Thimphu during the months of July and August. The Sri Lankan delegation was led by President Jayewardene’s brother H.W.Jayawardene. The Tamil side comprised the then premier Tamil political party the TULF and five Tamil armed organizations namely the PLOTE,LTTE, TELO, EPRLF and EROS.

There was much excitement in the country and the Thimphu talks was the talk of the town. There were many discussions about a viable alternative being formulated to replace the separatist Tamil Eelam demand. Much of the debate centered around a power sharing settlement on federal lines. I was then working on “The Island” and wrote a weekly column on Tamil affairs titled “Behind the Cadjan Curtain”. I had also returned from India after meeting with many Tamil political and militant leaders based in Tamil Nadu. The well-known media personality Richard de Zoysa was then trying to work out a special feature for “Rupavahini” on reactions of the “common man”to the Thimphu talks in Sri Lanka. If I remember correctly the Rupavahini chairman then was M.J.Perera while the Director-General was Anura Gunasekera. Richard wanted me to help out with the feature and I readily agreed. One day Richard asked me to drop in at the TV studio to view some footage relating to the project. These were random, man in the street type of interviews. The interviewees from different walks of life were asked questions about the ethnic conflict, separate state,division of the country, political solution, devolution and a federal arrangement etc. Most of the answers were in the affirmative. There was also a visible authenticity about the opinions expressed.
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