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No move yet towards genuine reconciliation and lasting peace

May 27, 2010 9:28:08 PM- transcurrents.com

By Dr. S. Narapalasingam

A year has passed since the Sri Lanka military eliminated the LTTE (18 May 2009) in the Eelam war IV that was started confidently by the Tamil Tigers. Their supreme leader Velupillai Prabhakaran, his family and the LTTE's entire top brass were cornered and killed.

Prabhakaran’s body was found near the Nanthikadal lagoon in the Mullaitivu district, north-east Sri Lanka. Following the military victory, the governing party led by President Mahinda Rajapaksa, acclaimed widely in Sri Lanka as a remarkable hero, gained impressive victories in the political contest at both the provincial and national levels. In the April 2010 parliamentary election, the ruling UPFA secured 144 seats out of the total 225 seats under the proportional representation scheme. Thus, the SLFP-led coalition failed to get the crucial two-thirds majority by just 6 seats. But, this is not an obstacle for effecting the constitutional changes needed for promoting unity and creating favourable conditions for lasting peace and socio-economic development. Sri Lanka has been one sovereign state for several decades but not a fully integrated nation.

Peculiar post-war priorities

N. Shanmugaratnam in his analysis of the post-war activities has pointedly drawn attention to the peculiar priorities of the government, which are inconsistent with the aim of ‘winning the peace’ (From ‘Post-war’ to Political Solution and Development in Sri Lanka posted by transCurrents on May 8, 2010). He has quite rightly said: “The transition from a state of absence of war towards an environment of durable peace is a politically governed process that involves structural changes aimed at transforming the conflict that led to the war while concurrently addressing the latter’s consequences. ‘Post-war’ and ‘post-conflict’, therefore, are not synonymous”. Certainly, the people residing in Sri Lanka “are in a post-war but not yet in a post-conflict situation”. Genuine reconciliation also requires positive actions on the political front. These should address the grievances of the ethnic minorities, caused by decades of discrimination, neglect and intimidation, which are associated with the lopsided governing system exploited by the main political parties in their struggle for power.

The subtle plan to safeguard the integrity of the state without weakening the existing Sinhala majority rule is evident from the reluctance even to implement fully the 13th Amendment to the Constitution that entails the devolution of the formally approved powers to the provinces. Soon after the war ended Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa promised to go beyond the 13th Amendment (13A+) for settling the political problem that led to the vicious war. This was presumed to be via substantial devolution and sharing of powers. But no move was made to fulfil the promise. Even after the demerger of the North-East Province on legal grounds, there is reluctance to accept province as the unit of devolution. There is much confusion here, which is apparent from the alternatives proposed by some Sinhala majoritarians in the present UPFA government.

From a countrywide perspective, the disturbing thing is that although the post-war government had no problem in going for meaningful national reconciliation and winning the real peace, it opted to give importance to development. Development per se and that too decided centrally as in the past cannot bring about lasting peace. Suitable actions to undo the damages done in the past by previous regimes that divided the nation and denied peace and prosperity to the masses in all parts of the island will help immensely to put the past behind and inspire the people to be confident of their future.

In ‘The Sunday Times’ article (Posted by transCurrents 16 May 2010) the influential Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa said that it would be “foolish” to relax military control given the possibility that the LTTE might regroup. His article conveys the real plan of the government headed by his elder brother Mahinda Rajapaksa for sustaining the present centralised system that guarantees Sinhala majority rule all over the island with the assistance of the armed forces. There are plans to keep them permanently in the former LTTE-controlled areas in the North. The exclusive emphasis on development is also expected to quash the demand for devolution.

The Defence Secretary did not deny that there was a case for political reform. He said: “I hear a clamour for political reforms in the North and East and I understand and appreciate that. But I do also sincerely believe that priority should be given not to political reforms but to infrastructure development and attending to the other basic social needs of the people. .. The people of the war-ravaged areas now need roads, electricity, drinking water, schools, hospitals and jobs, much more than they need amendments to the constitution.” The clever way the latter is dealt with not ruling out completely the long overdue political reforms is seen from the announcement these would follow after the people of the war-ravaged areas have rebuilt their lives. It is amazing the government that secured near two-thirds majority in the April parliamentary election cannot proceed with political reforms and infrastructure development simultaneously.

Hindering developments

The grand plan to celebrate the first anniversary of the resounding victory in the war against the LTTE was marred by the heavy monsoon floods and the clamour of international organizations, particularly the International Crisis Group (ICG), Amnesty International (AI) and Human Rights Watch (HRW) as well as the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon for impartial international investigation on the methods of warfare during the final stage that destroyed many innocent lives in violation of international law. The ICG’s disturbing report on ‘War Crimes in Sri Lanka’ issued on 17 May 2010 continues to resonate. Moreover, the alarming report filed by Channel 4 News reporter Jonathan Miller based on the interview with a Sri Lankan senior army commander and a frontline soldier that was televised on 18 May 2010 augmented the resonance. The print and electronic media in several countries also gave importance promptly to the contents in Jonathan Miller’s report. Apart from the alleged atrocities like indiscriminate killings and torture before execution, the other striking allegation is that these horrid acts were carried out by the soldiers on the orders from the top. Apparently, the soldiers were told not to bother about differentiating between combatants and non-combatants. The earlier controversy over the killing of those surrendering with white flags remains unresolved.

The following are excerpts from Jonathan Miller’s report posted by transCurrents on 18 May 2010 with video footages:

“A senior Sri Lankan army commander and frontline soldier tell Channel 4 News that point-blank executions of Tamils at the end of the Sri Lankan civil war were carried out under orders”. One frontline soldier said: "Yes, our commander ordered us to kill everyone. We killed everyone." And a senior Sri Lankan army commander said: "Definitely, the order would have been to kill everybody and finish them off”.

"I don't think we wanted to keep any hardcore elements, so they were done away with. It is clear that such orders were, in fact, received from the top."

The May 18th Channel 4 News also recalled its earlier broadcast: “In August 2009 Channel 4 News obtained video evidence, later authenticated by the United Nations, purporting to show point-blank executions of Tamils by uniformed Sri Lankan soldiers. Now a senior army commander and a frontline soldier have told Channel 4 News that such killings were indeed ordered from the top”.

The disclosures by the Sri Lankan army personnel also support the allegations in the latest (17 May 2010) report of the ICG, which has drawn worldwide attention. As usual, Sri Lankan government dismissed these reports on the shocking happenings during the final phase of the war as baseless and a conspiracy to discredit its grand victory by the LTTE sympathizers and foreign elements keen on destabilising the government that is popular with Sinhala patriots. Ironically, the allegation of international conspiracy against Sri Lanka is also helping to deflect the attention of many humble Sri Lankans away from the pressing economic problems.

Ms Louise Arbour current president of the ICG and former chief prosecutor in international war crimes trials also condemned vociferously the inhuman acts of both the warring parties and the Sri Lankan efforts to prevent independent international investigations on deliberate violations of human rights and international law. She appeared live on Channel 4 News to outline options available to the international community to prevent the "Sri Lanka option" gaining currency. The ICG report defines this option as "unrestrained military action, refusal to negotiate, disregard for humanitarian issues, keeping out international observers including press and humanitarian workers".

On the eight-member panel appointed recently by President Mahinda Rajapaksa to glean lessons learned from the war, Louise Arbour said, "There’s no reason to expect from the government's past record that it's got any intention to investigate or put in place an appropriate accountability mechanism." Apparently with no legal power to investigate the alleged abuses, this panel like the previous highly publicised commissions of inquiry is not taken seriously by discerning persons.

Human Rights Watch, a global human rights monitor, said on May 21 that it had examined over 200 photos taken on the front lines in early 2009 by a soldier from the Sri Lankan Air Mobile Brigade and had new witness accounts of troops shelling civilians. Witnesses had told HRW of government forces shelling civilians, mainly women and children, who were standing in food distribution lines in late April and early May 2009. HRW said, all these confirm the need for a full impartial investigation of the happenings during the final stages of the war. It also accused Sri Lanka of consistently failing to probe allegations of rights abuses. The culture of impunity is responsible for the failure to bring to justice many offenders involved in abductions, involuntary disappearances and even killings of civilians outside the North and East.

The fact that Sinhalese too are victims of this culture is indicative of the extent of the damage to the society as a whole. Although the war ended conclusively a year ago, the government does not want to give up the special powers exercised under the Emergency Regulations and the Prevention of Terrorism Act. The country is still under the state of emergency. The leaders anxious to continue the military-style rule will seize any thing, real or imaginary, to justify the pseudo democratic rule. This happened earlier when the presence of over 6o million Tamils in South India was cited as a possible threat to justify the consolidation of the Sinhala majority rule.

The full report of HRW including some distressing photos was posted by transCurrents on 20 May 2010. On the formation of the ‘Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission’ (LLRC) May 17, 2010 it said: “the latest in a long line of ad hoc bodies in Sri Lanka that seem designed to deflect international criticism rather than to uncover the facts. The mandated focus of the commission - on the failure of the 2002 ceasefire - is largely unrelated to the massive abuses by both government forces and the LTTE in the last months of hostilities. Nor does the commission appear to have been designed to uncover new information: the commission's terms of reference do not provide for adequate victim and witness protection”.

On the appointment of C. R. de Silva as chairman of the commission (LLRC), the report noted: “Chitta Ranjan de Silva, is a former attorney general who came under serious criticism for his office's alleged interference in the work of the 2006 Presidential Commission of Inquiry. The attorney general's role was one of the main reasons why a group of 10 international experts, the International Independent Group of Eminent Persons (IIGEP), withdrew from monitoring the commission's work. The IIGEP stated that it had "not been able to conclude...that the proceedings of the Commission have been transparent or have satisfied basic international norms and standards."

Besides, Elaine Pearson, acting Asia Director at Human Rights Watch is reported to have said: "Yet another feckless commission is a grossly inadequate response to the numerous credible allegations of war crimes. Damning new evidence of abuses shows why the UN should not let Sri Lanka sweep these abuses under the carpet." The fact that the LTTE used civilians as human shields during the height of the war is well known. Many other dreadful actions such as forcible conscription of children, the deployment of child soldiers in the frontline, suicide bombing that caused many civilian casualties and brutal punishing, including summary killings of dissidents are well known.

It is obvious the LTTE leader believed there was no choice other than absolute violence using methods that were condemned internationally as reign of terror to achieve his political objective. Unlike previous governments, the government under the leadership of Executive President Rajapaksa decided that the LTTE can be defeated only by unconventional methods, similar to those used earlier by the LTTE. Strangely, there is also some similarity in the methods of seeking the political goal. An in-depth study on the reasons for abandoning Mahatma Ghandi’s non-violent approach and embracing violence to achieve a risky political goal is useful for a genuine reconciliation process.

The Daily Mirror on 22 May in its editorial column lamented no commander, senior officer or even soldier, who took part in the decisive battle, had ventured “to tell the story how the forces defeated the world’s most sophisticated terrorist group”. “In any other country after a war victory of the nature and magnitude of that of Sri Lanka’s recent one, there would have been dozens and dozens of books written by those who took part in the battle”. The numerous queries about violations of human rights and international law raised by various international organizations provide the simple answer. In the present fearful situation, who will have the guts to chronicle the war victory honestly reporting the inhuman actions of both the warring parties? Not surprisingly, only some sketchy reports have appeared so far.

In conflict or connivance with UN?

(Col.) R. Hariharan, a retired Indian Military Intelligence specialist on South Asia, who served with the Indian Peace Keeping Force in Sri Lanka as Head of Intelligence, currently associated with the Chennai Centre for China Studies and the South Asia Analysis Group has also commented on the appointment of the ‘Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) - (Blog: www.colhariharan.org; Also posted by transCurrents on 23 May 2010). He has said:” Apparently, Sri Lanka after trying other methods to ward off the flak at the UN on the issue of Sri Lanka’s human rights violations during the war for more than a year has adopted the face saving way of appointing the LLRC. Things came to a boil when the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon persisted with his proposal to appoint a panel of experts to look at the issue. Of course, Sri Lanka had tried all means including a botched attempt at getting the NAM representatives to pass a resolution against the UN Secretary General’s move. Significantly, India -Sri Lanka’s closest ally in the sub continent – did not vote for Sri Lanka at the NAM representatives meeting.” The veteran analyst also thinks Sri Lanka is not taking seriously the responses of her traditional allies to the disappointing post-war developments that ignore the long-term national interests.

Sri Lanka has been successful in sidelining moves by the UN to investigate the many abuses alleged by international rights groups. Their demand for an impartial international investigation into alleged atrocities contrasts sharply with the failure of the UN to demand accountability from the Sri Lankan government. Last year, the Sri Lankan president promised the UN Secretary General that he would look into the question of accountability. The latter has so far not appointed the promised committee of international experts to investigate the alleged crimes by both sides though not abandoning the promise given last year. Apparently, Amnesty International and the Crisis Group have taken the UN to task for its failure to act decisively to push for accountability. The latter went so far as to recommend that the UN should open an inquiry into its own conduct in Sri Lanka. The ICG head, Louise Arbour even talked of the UN's "silence – verging on complicity" with the Rajapaksa regime. During a press conference at the U.N. headquarters in New York on May 25, before meeting with Sri Lanka’s Minister of External Affairs Prof. G.L. Peiris, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon rejected claims that the United Nations in any way abetted possible war crimes taking place in Sri Lanka during the final phases. He made this statement answering a question from a journalist. Sri Lanka is recently in the forefront on several newsworthy subjects. UN never had to publicly defend its conduct on grave charges as in the present Sri Lankan case.

A PTI report posted by ‘infolanka’ on May 24 stated, G. L. Peiris the new External Affairs Minister of sovereign Sri Lanka would ask UN chief Ban Ki-Moon not to interfere in its internal affairs and not to go ahead with the probe into alleged war crimes. On the eve of his maiden meeting with Ban Ki-Moon he is reported to have said: "...There is no justification legal or moral for this step (UN probe) to be taken at this time" and not “complicate matters at this stage. It's not going to do any good. It has the potential of doing real harm in a situation where the government of Sri Lanka, against overwhelming odds, is trying to move the processes forward."

The missing moves

The telling report of the Inter University Students Federation on the post-war situation is an eye-opener to those playing the protector of the nation. The report at the very outset dramatically states: “War is over, war is over, war is over. That is the chant moaned by the government and its associates through the last 11 months. But we would like to ask one question. Is it all right now? Or is it comfortable now? The simple meaning of this is ‘you think it’s all over after the war is over?’ We clearly remind you about one thing. Though the war is over, the problem is not over. It’s in its primary stage, or it is worse than that” The conclusion is plain and timely. “The people should be given rights. The people should be given democracy. The people should be given freedom. That is the way to build real national harmony”.

Many independent analysts have said reconciliation is difficult unless both sides admit their mistakes. This is the basic link between truth and reconciliation. Some have mistakenly termed the ‘Lessons learnt and Reconciliation Commission’ as Truth and Reconciliation Commission Unity and peace are being sought via undemocratic means intended to give the powerless ethnic minorities no choice other than accepting the dominant rule of the ethnic Sinhalese. The subtle move to convince the ethnic minorities that this system will be non-discriminatory is unlikely to succeed, particularly when the government failed to act resolutely on the rehabilitation and reconciliation processes. Moreover, the callous ways the Tamil war victims were treated are unhelpful. 300,000 were incarcerated in military camps under harsh conditions. They were denied basic facilities for the sin of living in the LTTE-controlled Vanni. In the excessive desire to continue exploiting last year’s military victory for political advantage, the first anniversary of the military victory was planned to be observed triumphantly on a grand scale ignoring the feelings of fellow Tamil citizens. The memorials erected by the Tamil Tigers for their fallen cadres were systematically destroyed after the war by the government soldiers. It is amazing the powerful leaders are behaving contrary to the wishes of their own supporters.

Desmond Tutu and Lakhdar Brahimi, members of the Elders, a group of eminent global leaders brought together by Nelson Mandela in 2007 in their article that first appeared in the Guardian, UK and posted by transCurrents on May 22, 2010 while acknowledging the government’s effort to repair the war-damaged structures and resettle the displaced persons have drawn attention to other work required for building trust and unity. To quote: “Repairing the physical environment can be easier than rebuilding trust, however. Without trust, peace will remain fragile and a return to violence, which no one wants, will always be a threat. Here the Elders want to express deep concern about the lack of progress. It is a failure that risks increasing the sense of Tamil grievance and resentment, deepening the suspicions of the Muslim community and squandering the benefits of the military victory, even for the Sinhalese majority. If Sri Lanka is to build a more inclusive and democratic state for all its ethnic communities, there is an urgent need for far-sighted political leadership, able to reach out to all communities and serve all its citizens”. Many politicians seem to be focussing on the near and not the long-term future of the people and the nation as it existed before the disintegration. Respect for democracy, human rights, recognized rights of minorities in plural society, equality and justice are vital for Sri Lanka’s future.

People and politicians

The findings of recent opinion surveys on the proposals of the All Party Representative Committee (APRC) to settle the national problem vital for lasting peace and well-being of the entire nation revealed by Dr Colin Irwin of Liverpool University are very interesting. He made an important contribution to the Northern Ireland peace process and his recent survey findings are very relevant to the present confusion about the way forward towards a stable, united and prosperous Sri Lanka. Padraig Colman in the article (18 May 2010) titled, ‘Sri Lanka’s way forward’ has said: “Irwin’s latest survey (3) found the proposals are acceptable to Sinhalese, Northern and Eastern Tamils, Up-Country Tamils and Muslims. Even the ‘significant minority of Tamils from the Northern Province’ who still want to keep the ‘right to secession’ will give this up for the complete package of APRC reforms”.

According to Dr. Irwin: “The results for the test of the APRC proposals in Sri Lanka are certainly as good as, if not better than the results for the Belfast Agreement poll, and in Northern Ireland the people were able to make peace on the strength of those results”. But the APRC proposals are not the “home grown” variety President Rajapaksa and his clique want.

Padraig Colman has also drawn attention to the willingness of the majority of Tamils in Sri Lanka to live amicably with the Sinhalese in undivided Sri Lanka. In this regard, the comment of DBS Jeyaraj has been cited. The latter wrote: “The future and well- being of the Tamil people are inextricably intertwined with that of Sri Lanka and its people. All future efforts to secure rights and share power have to be within the unity, territorial integrity, and sovereignty of Sri Lanka.” It is also important to stress under the present conditions given the necessity to be friendly not only with neighbouring India but also other traditional donor countries, the future and well-being of the Sinhalese too depend on the way the ethnic minorities are treated by the central government in Colombo. In this regard, it is significant that the setting up of a “Provisional Transnational Government of Tamil Eelam” by some Eelam seekers in the Tamil Diaspora has been strongly condemned by all Tamil political parties currently functioning in Sri Lanka.

Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka’s analysis of the way forward for the war-torn island - (“The big Sri Lankan story” The Sunday Island 16 May 2010 and also “Political solution: People are ready now but are politicians?” posted by transCurrents 16 May) - is also based on the findings of the study conducted by the University of Liverpool under the direction of Dr Colin Irwin, entitled ‘War and Peace’ and the APRC Proposals” (www.peacepolls.org).

He has emphasized: “there is a remarkable convergence and consensus between all communities, in accepting the proposals as a whole as well as in its component parts. As Colin Irwin’s summary registers, probably for the first time there are almost equal levels of acceptance among Sinhalese, Tamils and Muslims, of reform proposals. What I consider most dramatic though, is the above 80% agreement between Sinhalese and Tamils on enhanced and streamlined power sharing with the provinces within a unitary framework”.

The point this writer too made earlier that the Rajapaksa regime had no problem in going for a political settlement based on sensible power-sharing arrangement with all ethnic communities, particularly after the annihilation of the LTTE is buttressed by Dr. Jayatilleka’s comments. He has come to the conclusion that the high degree of agreement between the Sinhalese and Tamils means the following:

1. It gives the lie to the thesis of an intractable ethnic conflict; an ethnic zero-sum game.

2. It proves the existence of a moderate majority in each ethnic community.

3. It demonstrates the presence of an overwhelming majority, cross cutting ethnic lines, for moderate reforms based on devolution and power sharing, within a unitary state.

4. If the APRC proposals are accepted as the final settlement, President Rajapaksa gives the lead, and the move is made without delay, the vast majority of the country will readily agree, and a decades-long problem can be resolved, enabling sustainable economic takeoff, the shift of world opinion in our favour and the defeat of externally based plots against us.

Successive governments have claimed they acted in the national interest. The concept itself is in conflict with the collective interests of all peace-loving citizens, who want secure and amiable living conditions for the well-being of present and future generations. The presumed ‘national interest’ of politicians is influenced by their own political aspirations. Moreover, there is no consensus on the concept of nation. There cannot be common national interest when there are two or more concepts of nation within the society.

Many countries with multi-ethnic communities and different traditions associated with some regions within each state are stable and free from internal conflicts because their political system accommodates the interests of all the main communities. For example, the English, Scots and Welsh co-exist peacefully as equal citizens of Great Britain, while upholding their regional interests because of the devolved system. The belief that centralised majoritarian rule safeguards the unity and territorial integrity of the sovereign island is baseless. This is the stark lesson learnt from the tragic developments that occurred since independence that resulted in the separatist war. The governing structure in both the 1972 and 1978 Constitutions ignored the need to protect the legitimate freedoms and rights of all ethnic communities and the cohesion of the single multi-ethnic nation. The way the unitary system functioned presumed the existence of one exclusive Sinhala nation.

The exclusion of the ethnic minorities in the decision-making process, especially on matters concerning their safety, security, rights and general well-being is central to the present crisis.

Unwilling to accept established facts

Although many reasonable persons consider the post-war time to be opportune for settling the national problem logically, the problem is there are powerful leaders who for some reason are averse to the real facts. Promising rhetoric without corresponding actions have misled those awaiting a permanent political settlement to the national problem that culminated in the separatist war. The reason for dodging the structural changes known to many within and outside Sri Lanka is the unwillingness to recognize the true formation of the island State, especially the diverse demographic features of the provinces. As indicated in the previous article, the advocates of Sinhala nation do not want to accept any proposal that recognizes the traditional settlement pattern of the ethnic communities. For centuries, the settlers in the North and East were mainly Tamils and Muslims. The mother tongue of the latter too is Tamil. The two communities interacted harmoniously, respecting the religion and customs of others in the two provinces. The rise in Sinhala and Tamil nationalism did some damage to this relationship. Nevertheless, it was a reckless and costly decision of the LTTE leader to forcibly evict the resident Muslims from their habitats. The present Muslim and Tamil leaders recognise the importance of reconciliation and building trust.

Michael Roberts in his recent article on Sri Lanka – ‘Challenges Today: Weevils in the Mind’, posted by groundviews on May 22, 2010 has said that “the infrastructural projects must be supplemented by genuine hearts and minds work. The first principle here is to treat Tamils as human beings. This means space for their ‘Tamilness’ and recognition of the fact that they are a nationality or nation. Following and amending Seton-Watson, a “nation” can be said to exist as a force whenever “an [articulate and politically significant] section of its members are convinced that it exists.” This position was reached by the Sri Lanka Tamils between 1949 and 1956; but has since developed deep roots through the crucibles of war and suffering”.

The fact that the Tamils were not part of the Sinhala nation is obvious from the traditional law of the Tamil country of northern Sri Lanka, codified under Dutch colonial rule in 1707. The Dutch, to facilitate the administration of their colonial territories in Ceylon, established there an elaborate system of justice based on Roman-Dutch law and the customary law of the land. According to Encyclopaedia Britannica, a Dutch official spent three years in the Tamil country collecting their traditional law; this collection, after a revision by a group of prominent Tamils, was promulgated as authoritative in 1707. Although partially outdated, much of the Thesavalamai is still observed today as law in parts of Sri Lanka.

In his well researched article captioned: “The Malvana Convention of 1598, and other historical conventions” (Daily Mirror, 15 February 2010), Anthony Hensman wrote: “Let us turn with relief to the hard, testable, provable, empirical world of scientific historical theses. Here we have the benefit of three historical documents of immense weight and indisputable authority and veracity i.e. the Malvana Convention of 1598, the Nallur Convention of 1616 and the Kandyan Convention of 1815. The first was signed in 1598, on the one hand, by King Philip 11 of Spain [ of Armada fame] as king Philip 1 of Portugal, in his capacity as king of Portugal and , on the other, by the nobility of Kotte assembled in Malvana.

In like manner the second was signed in 1616, on the one hand, by King Philip 111 of Spain[son of the former] as King Philip 11 of Portugal in his capacity as king of Portugal, and on the other, by the nobility of the kingdom of Jaffna, assembled in Nallur, whereby the latter freely acknowledged the sovereignty of King Philip and swore fealty to him as King of Jaffna, by virtue of the conquest of the kingdom by the Portuguese forces in 1616. Here again, it may be noted that the contracting parties are the King of Spain, as king of Portugal, and the representatives of the people of the kingdom of Jaffna, an independent, legally constituted, diplomatically recognized, political entity – a sovereign state. There is no mention of a state of Ceylon or Lanka or any other name.

By these two treaties the Crown of Portugal came into possession of the two separate states of Kotte and Jaffna, and they were so governed by the Portuguese crown as two territories”.

So what is the problem in accepting the Tamils in Sri Lanka as a separate community entitled to political rights like those possessed by the Sinhalese in the South within one undivided state?

[The writer is Former Additional Deputy Secretary to the Treasury, Sri Lanka and UN Advisor, Development Economics/Planning]