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Deadline for Devolution - I - Page 2

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Deadline for Devolution - I
Page 2
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The proposed constitutional reform has three major components, with power-devolution being only one of them. This is core to the Tamil political existence, both as a community and as a polity. In comparison, for the ‘majority Sinhala’ political view, reforms to the Executive Presidency and the electoral system assume as much importance, if not more. Rather, an inter-ethnic consensus is possible on these two areas and power-devolution alone would remain to be negotiated among the parties concerned.

The likes of TNA and EPDP, not to leave out other political parties of the ‘Sri Lankan Tamils’ also need to remember that the concerns of the community constitutes only one of the three components – or, it could be four, if one were to look at the ‘Eastern Tamils’ as a separate political entity – the other two being Upcountry Tamils and the Muslims.

As far back as the late Forties, when the Upcountry Tamils, or Indian-origin Tamils (IOTs) were at the receiving end of the post-Independence State of Ceylon, their leader, the late Soumiyamurthi Thondaman, had asked the Sri Lankan Tamil leadership of the late S J V Chelvanayagam to stay away. The situation remains unaltered till date, with even the militant LTTE only wanting to recruit cadres from the Upcountry Tamils, particularly from the migrant population in the Vanni area.

The LTTE did not interfere with, seek to destroy the Upcountry Tamil polity, however divided the latter was, as it had done with the political leadership of the ‘Sri Lankan Tamil community’. While Elections-2010 may have proved that the entrenched leaderships of Upcountry Tamil parties may have begun losing their grip than they may have estimated, there is nothing on the ground that their population is ready to acknowledge the leadership of the ‘Sri Lankan Tamil polity’ in the foreseeable future.

The less said about the Muslim polity and community, the better. Their set of political demands, if at all, is a fall-out of such demands by the Sri Lankan Tamil community, particularly in the East. Their voices grew shrill at the hands of the LTTE, particularly after the forced exodus of the community from the North by the LTTE, and incidents like the Kathankudy mosque massacre in the East, both in 1990. Otherwise, their limited demands are confined to religion and religion-centric institutions, including those in the education sector.

It is in this background that the TNA has to interpret the ‘Eastern vote’ and polity in the affairs of Tamil community. It cannot over-estimate its reach to automatically include the Eastern Tamils. Polling figures in the parliamentary elections, from the East, and even in the North, have shown that the TNA at best represents a section of the ‘Sri Lankan Tamil’ political aspirations.

If one were to accept the argument that a majority of the Tamil voters had stayed away owing to their lack of faith in the Sri Lankan State system, then it would flow that they do not have faith even in the TNA – and that its seat-share does not convey anything. The earlier the TNA discouraged arguments of the kind, better would it be for its claims to ‘representative’ status. ‘Sole representative’ status is another thing, however.


~ ~ N.Sathiya Moorthy


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