The ethnic issue and fear of power devolution – By Oscar E.V. Fernando
Communities in this country consisting of Sinhalese, Tamils, Muslims and Burghers that stood together for the cause of independence in the thirties, became estranged and some of the disgruntled, left out shores.
What put them apart? History, that is often opinionated with probable views, was the probable cause for parting of ways-and history will not bring rice to the table!
Some say this, pointing out to reams of papers – and some say that, by pointing out another set of papers. We may argue and debate this history till the cows come home – but if both sides stick to their guns, it will only end in fisticuffs – or more likely gun battles – for hate will not cease with hatred-only love and forgiveness will conquer!
Bowing to the majority views, some left the shores peacefully for greener pastures and some have remained to fight another day – and so they fought: they are sure to fight till end times – for hope springs eternal in the human breast!
It can be said that the shadow of a majority inevitably falls on any minority of a country; that is an unstoppable and, unavoidable occurrence.
But jeopardising the rights of a minority will only increase the animosity of a minority or a set minorities, and the shadow of this animosity will fall upon the majority in more ways than one-as we see now happening – from inside the country and out!
It is possible that a boat load of people, settled in foreign soil, may face onslaughts on their rights – for a limited time. But eventually with increase of the progeny, they get used to birth rights on this soil. It can be conjectured that in this island two sets of peoples began to grow in large numbers on two sides of the divide. One side grew into a majority and the other became a minority.
With reams of disputes both communities claim this island as their motherland – leaving the indigenous Veddhas in apparent slumber!
There were amply coded papers of power devolution pacts, agreed upon by Parliament over the years – but we know these papers were torn to pieces in public, due to the influence of extremists, that swayed political voters!
Can the worth of a human being be reduced to a piece of paper? Isn’t their human dignity a point to be considered? Bur however;
It significant to note that there was a call for devolution of power named Tamil Arasakatchu in the good old friendly State Council of the thirties: this call was certainly not due to the grievances subsequent to euphoria fifties nor was it due to abrogated power devolution pacts of the fifties, sixties and seventies!
Why then, this call for an Arasakatchu in the thirties? Was it not the proximity of Tamil Nadu to our northern shores that spurred such a call? Was it not a clear prospect for a future demand for a wider Tamil Eelam by the then latent Tamil extremists!?
Is it not this very same proximity that is at the bottom of the southern psyche to fear power devolution? A genuine fear that the south will become a regional minority!
Without proper discussion of these fears and taking suitable steps to eliminate such fears objectively, aren’t we not just shadow boxing over pieces of paper?
Yes: there was intense crisscrossing on this patch of sea between our north and TN, during LTTE gunrunning and, in a lighter vein, even before that – with the northerners taking a boat ride of an evening to see a film in TN and returning for a good night’s sleep!
However, we see that countries geographically smaller than ours like, Belgium and Switzerland having power devolution: what prevents us from this exercise, other that the fear of being a regional minority?
Much waters have flown under the bridge subsequent to such sordid operations down this stretch of the Red Sea, while some southerners were blissfully unaware!
Now the Navy is guarding the island’s border right round. There should be more vigilance over the Red Sea border – adding the Army and Air Force too – and perhaps also get the assistance of New Delhi as in the Indian Peace Force exercise of yore – until the ‘umbilical cord’ over the Red Sea is finally cut; or will it need eternal vigilance for a wider scope for peace?
With this behind us, is it not time to forget the pre-global era Elara battle and also the grievances over the years, to consider cautious power sharing – in a unitary state – where power once devolved can be revoked by the Central Government, as per this writer’s understanding: it is also conjectured that flimsy revocations may not be feasible under the present global vigilance!
With both political forces in the country now in a common objective, this may be the last chance to open our eyes!
None so blind as those who stubbornly refuse to see – but keep on clasping ethnic prejudice – a dangerous game to play in this global era!
When will both sides ever learn to shed pride for Nelson Mandela-styled love and forgiveness!?