Harim Peiris

Political and Reconciliation perspectives from Sri Lanka

  • October 2020
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An Agenda to Centralize Power

Posted by harimpeiris on July 16, 2020

By Harim Peiris

(Published in Groundviews on 15th July 2020)

The ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) handsomely won November’s presidential election with 52% of the popular vote and is accordingly the clear favorite and front runner to secure victory at the forthcoming general elections to Parliament. Further politically consolidating its premier position has been the post-election development where the political opposition has badly fragmented. A United National Party (UNP) faction led by former PM Ranil Wickramasinghe grabbed the party name and symbol and decamped from the new opposition alliance, the Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) led by Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa and is contesting the elections independently, with political nonentities similar to the sorry plight of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) sans the Rajapakses . This development has seen the UNP more critical of the SJB, rather than of the Government and seemingly being more allied with the Rajapakse led SLPP. In a continuation of the disastrous politics of 2015-2019, where both Prime Minster Wickramasinghe and President Sirisena, competed to woo the Rajapakses as political allies, only to see the politically shrewd Rajapakses, besting them both and winning the presidential poll in 2019. Now former president Sirisena is merely a candidate, not even the district leader, from his native Polonnaruwa district on the SLPP ticket and Mr. Wickremasinghe’s UNP is running a campaign as an appendage of the SLPP. Consider for instance, in contrast, the strident independent critique of the SLPP government and governance, articulated by the JVP and the UNP’s own lackluster campaign is one of seeking to further undermine and divide the opposition vote from within. Consequently, the UNP is badly trailing the SJB in the polls and likely to end a distant fifth place finish in Parliament behind the SLPP, the SJB, the TNA and the JVP, with a few seats mainly from the Western Province and the national list.

A political not a constitutional problem

The governing SLPP has certainly not been shy about its intentions, post-election and has been busy trying to secure a two third majority in parliament to repeal the 19th amendment to our constitution. The democratic reforms enhancing, independent institution creating and checks and balances strengthening component of our constitution. Which was probably the signature achievement of the previous government. Enacted early in its term and actually while it was a minority in Parliament. The leading lights of the SLPP government were all in Parliament at that time and the amendment passed near unanimously. To justify their volte face and the sudden desire to repeal the amendment, the Government is making some simplistic arguments which nonetheless warrant serious attention, because it is the policy of a government in office, who are favorites to win the election.

The main argument used by the SLPP in favor of repealing the 19th amendment is that the said amendment was the cause of the disfunction within the previous government, which was a coalition. Further that it caused friction between the President and the Prime Minister. Firstly, and most importantly, the friction between former President Sirisena and Prime Minister Wickramasinghe, was not a constitutional problem but a political one. They were political allies, whose natural political rivalry was mutually, so completely mismanaged that they became political opponents. The SLPP has argued that to prevent such a friction between the President and the Prime Minister, the first and second citizens of the State, must both be from the same party and ideally from the same family. Since the Rajapakse family is currently ruling, as president and prime minister and is indeed seeking a renewed mandate, this writer has no intention of publicly speculating about the political unity or otherwise of the current rulers.

Unifying through common values

We can examine this thesis, of party and family political unity, from recent Sri Lankan political history. Ranil Wickramasinghe and Sajith Premadasa were from the same political party, the UNP, and in fact generationally so but this did not prevent them, latterly in government and now in opposition, of going their separate political ways. Ranil loyalists did not support Sajith’s presidential candidacy or campaign and are now contesting elections separately. A bit further down memory lane, the most notable political siblings in the past were Chandrika and Anura Bandaranaike and their own political divergence, witnessed the two siblings on rival political platforms on many occasions. The Gandhi’s of India and the Bhutto’s in Pakistan, also demonstrate that having the same last (family) name and being part of the clan, does not necessarily lead to the absence of political rivalry. Sri Lanka’s ancient monarchial history also dictates that ruling families more often than not fought each other rather than stayed cohesively together.  Centralized power has been the solution proposed by the SLPP, because they define Sri Lanka’s problem as one of politically weak leadership and non-professional governance, which has not been able to implement a political program. A serious problem with the SLPP vision of course, is its desire to strengthen and solidify what LTTE suicide bomb victim, constitutional lawyer and former MP late Neelen Tiruchelvam described as the “anomaly of imposing a mono-ethnic state on a multi ethnic (religious) society’. The alternate definition of Sri Lanka’s problem and our lack of progress and indeed decline since our most promising economic situation at independence, was a mismanagement of ethnoreligious relations, together with shrinking the democratic space and freedoms along with the desire to internally divide and thereby rule, which witnessed armed rebellions against the state, in both the Sinhala South and the Tamil speaking North, the former with a leftist ideology and the latter with a separatist one. The post war return, from conflict and emergency rule, to a decency and common prosperity for all, lies much more in a moderate, democratic, pluralist and tolerant government and governance under the rule of law, rather than a jackboot, militaristic, authoritarian and majoritarian ethno-religious political program being proposed through centralization and concentration of power, with impunity. As the old African proverb says ‘if you want to go quickly go alone, if you want to go far, go together”.

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Did Expert Committee use similar standards evaluating MCC and Port City loans?

Posted by harimpeiris on July 8, 2020

By Harim Peiris

(Published in The Island on 08th July 2020)

Sri Lanka has at least US Dollars one and a half billion (USD $1.5B) debt repayment due later this year and both the status of the global economy in the Covid-19 environment and our own vulnerabilities caused through the pandemic, namely the total curtailment of foreign tourism, the drastic drop in expatriate worker earnings and reduced earnings from exports such as apparel, together with fiscal slippage, has downgraded our international credit ratings and made access to international financial markets prohibitively expensive.  Though our trade balance has been assisted in no small measure by the curtailment of vehicle imports and historically low global crude oil prices, (not passed on to the Sri Lankan public), we still have serious economic challenge ahead, especially with regards our foreign reserves, balance of payments and exchange rate. Pending subsequent confirmation through Central Bank numbers, in all probability, we are in a period of negative economic growth, increasing unemployment and rising inflation, or stagflation. Stagnant growth with inflation.  

It is in this context, that with much fanfare, an “Expert Committee”  was tasked by the SLPP Administration, to examine the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) grant compact, which had drawn heavy fire from the SLPP even while in Opposition and rather predictably, last week the  Expert Committee, gave in their report, which is to be first given to the Cabinet of Ministers and then made publicly available. Predictably the Government’s experts have determined that the MCC grant compact had clauses which were “detrimental to the sovereignty of Sri Lanka and in violation of her constitution” and on those grounds it is to be rejected. 

The issue that arises is whether the SLPP and the its experts use the same criteria and standards when evaluating the MCC grant with the Port City loans and project. The SLPP, or its predecessor the UPFA Administration of 2010-2014, never saw a Chinese project with high priced loans, during that era, which it did not like and as experience has shown continues to be of very limited public or economic value. From the Port City to the Hambanthota Harbor, including the Mattala Airport, these white elephants are costly and unused. 

Firstly, the Expert Committee seemed to have come to a conclusion on “sovereignty” and “constitutionality” of the MCC grant compact (agreement), though the expertise of the committee was more economics and specifically public transportation rather than law and especially constitutional law. Generally speaking, all international agreements are run through the Attorney General’s department, which is the appropriate place for examination of constitutionality. There were no AG Dept seniors or constitutional lawyers among the experts, so one wonders how they came to conclusions on matters of constitutional law and sovereignty, which rather like justice is a challenging concept to be dealing with at the best of times. Conversely the Experts seemed to have made not much comment on their field of expertise, which is public transportation, a prime focus of the MCC grant.

The MCC grant compact did try and cut through some bureaucratic red tape, as does any foreign investment, in a concept similar to a Free Trade Zone, or through the BOI for fast tracked approvals. Sri Lanka has not significantly reformed our colonial era, pre-computerization bureaucratic procedures despite all the nationalistic rhetoric from our political platforms. This red tape is a serious constraint for the local SME sector, foreign investment and overall economic growth. 

Evaluating between the Port City and all Chinese projects and the MCC grant, the biggest difference, in that the MCC is a grant, a gift if you like, that is non repayable. A half a billion, dollar grant is no joke. In contrast, all the Chinese projects have been loans, generally at interest rates of about six percent and or higher, at a considerable premium to the international benchmark of LIBOR for US dollars. So, the experts of the SLPP actually prefer in practice, high priced loans to free money.  

The Chinese projects of the previous Rajapakse Administration’s era, were also all infrastructure related, a port, an airport and in the Port City, high priced apartments, hotels and office space. Looking around Colombo, we certainly don’t seem short of either high priced apartments or office space, hardly the priority. In fact, we are dangerously close to an asset bubble and Colombo is full of empty apartments. What we are short of though and do have a serious problem with is, transportation and traffic management, with the estimates of GDP lost or foregone due to congestion caused productivity losses being as high as one and a half to two percent annually or about one and a half billion dollars a year. A significant part of the MCC grant or about USD $350 million out of the total of $500 million, was all about addressing this issue or improving inter-provincial roads, improving access to markets, reducing transportation related losses on agriculture and lowering transport time and hence costs for industry. 

Another developmental constraint for Sri Lanka is efficient land usage. The solution is not reclaiming a few hectares of land from the sea at billions of dollars, while causing serious environmental damage, down the coast. It is efficient use of the land we do have. The MCC grant was to enable the government to compile a complete inventory of all state lands and to improve the evaluation system of all lands. Also, to build on the Government’s e-Land Registry initiative and to improve the Deeds Registry by digitizing existing records. Additionally, to improve tenure security for all land holders by moving properties from the archaic deeds system to a title registration system and while funding research to improve land administration policies. These are all international best practice in public administration of land.  Of course, efficient use of land, has a lot of opponents, from politically connected land grabbers to the use of state land through patronage, to the lucrative but archaic legal practice of writing deeds, which is open to fraud, as we regularly see and is also costly.The reality is we have looked a gift horse in the mouth, in a highly visible demonstration of double standards and given up the opportunity to increase our GDP growth by perhaps 1.5% annually, through an investment, which is a gift rather than a loan. We should all hope, that post-election sanity will prevail. 

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The SJB and UNP defend independent institutions

Posted by harimpeiris on June 25, 2020

By Harim Peiris

(Published in The Island on 24th June 2020)

Former State Finance Minister, Eran Wickramaratne, at a Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) press conference recently, and UNP leader Ranil Wickramasinghe last week at a meeting of UNP lawyers at the party headquarters, staunchly defended the 19th Amendment to the constitution and independent institutions, even as the ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) sought to achieve a two-thirds majority to amend the Constitution, at the upcoming general election. The political lines and governing philosophies are on open display during this election period as the governing party makes little secret of its desire to consolidate power and centralise control, even as all the opposition alliances and parties, namely the SJB led by Opposition leader Sajith Premadasa, its now estranged parent party the UNP and other opposition parties, such as the JVP, the TNA and the SLMC all staunchly defend the reforms brought about by the 19th Amendment to Sri Lanka’s constitution.

Wickramaratne took particular issue at the public dressing down given to the Governor of the Central Bank and the monetary board recently, on the rather well-established grounds that Central Banks the world over are independent institutions, which govern monetary policy, independent of the executive, which manages fiscal policy. The independence of Central Banks, evolved in the post second world war era, as the global economy developed, financial markets became more complex and countries dropped the gold standard for their currencies and replaced it with the full faith and credit of the issuing state. The post dressing down solutions proposed by our Central Bank, of ever cheaper money or demand stimulation, as in the West, Wickramaratne contended may not work in Sri Lanka, where the bottlenecks are more likely on the production or supply side, rather than on the demand side.

The rationale for consultation and consensus

It was political theorist Lord Action, who famously wrote that “power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely”. While French political philosopher Montesquieu, articulated the principle of the separation of powers, which forms the bedrock of modern democratic governments the world over, namely the separation of the executive, legislative and judicial functions of the state. Closer to home, it was former President Ranasinghe Premadasa who on inaugurating his own all parties conference, argued that democratic governance was about “consultation, compromise and consensus”. A study of the 1978 Constitution of Sri Lanka and especially its practice over the past four decades since its introduction has demonstrated that Sri Lanka’s head of state and government enjoyed significant executive and discretionary powers, far in excess of those enjoyed by his or her peers than say even the British Prime Minister or the American President. Both these countries have second chambers, the House of Lords in the UK and the Senate in the US, with which the executive needs to work.

A particular peeve of the ruling SLPP has been the check on key state appointments by the Constitutional Council. This is a body that comprises the State’s key leaders, including the Prime Minister, the Speaker and the Leader of the Opposition as well as some eminent persons. Even in the United States, key Administration appointments, including even political appointments and judicial appointments, is with Senate ratification and some ratifications don’t occur.

The 19th Amendment to the Constitution, which was passed by consensus, barring a sole dissenter and all the leading lights of the SLPP being in Parliament as members of the then Joint Opposition (JO) and not opposing the same, seeks to bring about checks and balances to ensure that the President is accountable to parliament. It also depoliticised key state functions such as elections and police oversight. A basic objective of most constitutional orders. The efficacy of which was tested out in October 2018 and held up in Court.

The argument for centralizing control

The ruling SLPP and its fellow political travellers propose a further centralizing of state power, their argument being that what Sri Lanka lacks has been “strong” leadership. The argument of strong leadership, whether of the Hitler variety as proposed pre-election by some, is essentially the need for despotic absolute power so that every whim and fancy of a ruler could be done without any check or balance. Within that context, it is worth taking note of the two presidential task forces appointed recently, both headed by the Defence Secretary, one to safeguard archeological sites in the Eastern Province and the other to establish a disciplined society. Numerous commentators have dealt with at length on the various ramifications of the PTFs, the lack of clarity of their legal status and powers, not least being their chairperson himself, who felt obliged due to intense criticism by opposition political leaders to defend his PTFs arguing that they would seemingly be mostly advisory as opposed to executive and work with the relevant line ministries.

The SLPP government leaders seek to discredit the 19th Amendment by linking it to the absolute non-functioning and non-delivery of the previous Sirisena / Wickr-emesinghe Administration. But this non-delivery was a political problem and not a constitutional one. A problem of coalition governance and co-habitation of political allies, who mishandled being political competitors and became political opponents. This can always arise even in the future and even when it’s a single political party.

It is indeed well argued that since the 1978 Sri Lankan Constitution has given vast powers to our executive, that our political challenges, have been exacerbated by an over-centralization and consolidation of power in the executive and rather than by the absence of executive power and hence what is needed is less not greater centralization and at a minimum the retention of the 19th Amendment and the democratic reforms they introduced.

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Black Lives Matter: Sri Lankan Style

Posted by harimpeiris on June 15, 2020

By Harim Peiris

(Published in Groundviews on 13th June 2020)

A single death, triggers a worldwide conflict. In 1914, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the heir to the throne of the Austro-Hungarian empire was assassinated in Serbia and his death triggered the first world war, which resulted in over twenty million deaths, almost half of them military personnel.  The death of leaders triggering conflict is both more common and understandable, because they are national and state leaders and the affected states get activated. In the case of the Archduke, the Austro-Hungarian empire declared war on the Kingdom of Serbia. Over a hundred years later, a single death of an ordinary black man at the hands of a white police officer in Minneapolis, Minnesota, triggers protest across the United States and spreads to being a worldwide protest movement against injustice. The spontaneous nature of the protests is all the more remarkable, because the incident occurred at the most inhospitable time for any public activity, namely the social distancing requirements of the Covid-19 global pandemic. Nonetheless, the death of George Floyd, caused by a white police officer kneeling nonchalantly on Mr. Floyd’s neck, one hand in his pocket with an arrogant, near sadistic look on his face, while Mr. Floyd, as well as bystanders pleaded with him that the man could not breath,  all of which was captured on phone cameras and subsequently beamed around the world, just struck a chord globally that there was something very wrong with that picture and the situation.

The Sri Lankan protests – FSP style

In Sri Lanka, the black lives matter protests earlier this week were not spontaneous, not least because we were just coming out of a lockdown. Also, because Sri Lankans don’t really take to the streets spontaneously. Our protests are almost always organized whether by trade unions, the government or the opposition. In this instance, it took the belated efforts of a minor party, the Frontline Socialist Party (FSP), to try and organize a protest in front of the US Embassy. Once courts block a protest at a specific venue on the basis of public nuisance or order, most protest organizers have taken to testing the grey area of the law, by shifting the venue of their protests and thereby claiming (with considerable merit) that they are not violating the order of court. This position generally holds good in a court of law, which of course is only proved upon production before a magistrate. The rather heavy-handed police response to the rather youthful and entirely peaceful protesters, resulted in the responsible police officers requiring quarantining, the unusual statement of support for the right of peace protests against it, by the US Embassy in Colombo and even a protest from the young Namal Rajapakse, mindful that a parliamentary election campaign is just beginning and the youth vote is an important demographic voter segment.

The systemic nature of the offence

The death of George Floyd, was not an isolated incident done by a rogue officer or officers, but the latest in a long list of black people, mostly adult black males, who meet violent death at the hands of law enforcement in the United States. While policing, except for the FBI, is a local and state responsibility in the United States, the head of the US military, General Mark Milley said that he was outraged at the “senseless and brutal killing” of George Floyd and further stated that “the protests that have ensued not only speak to his killing but also for centuries of injustice toward African Americans”.

The incident has also sparked a renewed national debate in the United States, about racial injustice and the centuries of oppression of African Americans, the legacy of slavery and the unfinished tasks of the civil rights movement of the 1960s. It has also sparked debate in other countries, where conservative majorities, largely unaffected by past injustice have refused to engage in any meaningful conversations on such issues. Such as in Australia, where Prime Minister Scott Morrison recently apologized for stating that Australia had no slavery in its past and where the black lives matter protests also have the local twist of better treatment for Australia’s indigenous people. One notable feature about the protests have been the ability of democratic political systems and societies to absorb the pressure and engage in some meaningful dialogue already yielding some symbolic fruit. In the US, confederate and pro slavery symbols and statues, especially in the southern states, have been coming down, the National Football League (NFL) reversed its earlier decision and allowed players to kneel in protest, during the singing of the national anthem and most importantly perhaps the concession that the problem exists.

The other aspect of the protests has been to highlight the role of social media and the smart phone in disintermediating the news and information industry. The murder of George Floyd was captured on video by bystanders, storefront CCTV cameras provides further information and social media allows activists and citizens to communicate, discuss and share ideas, views and plans instantly and in a manner unthinkable before the smartphone. It also makes managing the narrative that much harder for political leaders, who now compete in the information space, rather than monopolize it. A feature that was strongly experienced in Sri Lanka during the 2015 presidential election, when the then challenger was crowded out by the formal media in favor of the larger than life incumbent, only to be carried through to victory, aided not least, by social media.

Ending impunity

The protests sweeping across the United States, has also resulted in some immediate policing reforms including the attempts to establish national standards for recruiting and training police personnel, as well as making illegal the chock holds and other uses of potentially deadly force against unarmed suspects. Minnesota State’s Attorney General Keith Ellison has already charged the four officers concerned with second degree murder and aiding and abetting that murder.

Sri Lanka, also witnessed our own dealing of killings done in uniform. At the start of our lockdown Army Staff Sergeant Sunil Ratnayake, the perpetrator of the “Mirisuvil massacre” in 2000, who was found guilty by the High Court after a thirteen year trial and whose appeal was rejected by the Supreme Court, received a presidential pardon, under the seeming rationale that if you wear a uniform, you can do no wrong. A thesis which is now being popularly debunked globally. It is perhaps the counter-argument once made by former Army Commander Mahesh Senanayake and indeed others, that killers in uniform are a disgrace to their service and must be held accountable for their criminal conduct, which will uphold the dignity of the service and justice of the nation they represent.

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The Challenge of the Second Decade of Post War Reconciliation

Posted by harimpeiris on May 27, 2020

By Harim Peiris

(Published in Groundviews on 27th May 2020)

May 19th 2020, marked the eleventh year of the end of the fighting in Sri Lanka’s civil war. A protracted long drawn out conflict, which when it ended in 2009 was the world’s second longest running civil conflict after Lebanon’s. As a nation as we enter the second decade after the end of the war, there is a need to continue the process of reconciliation, which made slow progress during the first decade after the war. There is a continuing need to address both the effects and the causes of the war, to ensure a durable and just peace as well as heal the ethnic polarizations in our society.

The effects of the conflict are still around and visible, mostly in the Northern Province and the Vanni, much more than in the Eastern province. Especially in the districts of Killinochchi and Mullaitivu which bore the brunt of the fighting and the scene of the final existential battles of the LTTE. In the first decade after the war, the former Rajapaksa Government, rapidly rebuilt the physical infrastructure, especially the roads and government administrative buildings and structures, while its successor, the Sirisena / Wickramasinghe Administration followed up with land release, smaller scale community infrastructure and perhaps most importantly opening up and creating the space for civil society and the non-governmental sector to address the needs of the conflict affected. Especially those of the most vulnerable sectors of those communities, women and children, the war widows, the orphans and the injured, including many suffering from post-traumatic stress and other mental distress. A generous Indian housing project, granting as aid not loans, fifty thousand housing units, ensured that housing stock in the North and East was also rebuilt. However, as yet an unaddressed and continuing post war need, is the sustainable livelihoods for women headed households as well as rehabilitated ex-combatants.

The challenge of reconciliation under the SLPP

The election of the first Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) administration in November last year and the foregone conclusion of a comfortable victory for the SLPP, in the forthcoming parliamentary elections, once the Covid-19 threat in epidemic proportions is over, means that reconciliation for the next five years is going to be under the policy framework of the SLPP. While there has been no clear articulation of a reconciliation policy by the administration, the statements by the Foreign Minister at the UNHRC at the end of February, the appointment of ideological hardliners to key positions in the Administration among other insights into thinking demonstrate at the minimum, that the Government elected solely on the votes of the majority ethno-religious community, is disinclined at best to move forward a process of reconciliation or the famous home grown solutions it refers to with international audiences.

This absence of a drive for reconciliation, at the high levels of the new government means that reconciliation would need to be advanced through other actors and stakeholders, including minority political leaders, provincial and local government institutions, community leaders and civil society. Where ever Sri Lanka has done well, be it in the apparel or IT industry or cricket, we have done well with minimum government involvement and progress has generally stalled once politicians got involved. It is also useful to learn of reconciliation processes of non-western and non-European experiences, particularly from Africa like Rwanda and South Africa and even from South America, like in Colombia, all countries which suffered political violence, loss of life and property and collective community trauma.

In that context, the abysmal non performance of the first TNA controlled Northern Provincial Council was both a disappointment and complete let down for the Tamil people of the Northern Province. Led by former supreme court Justice CV Wigneswaran, his administration seemed inept and incompetent. In it’s first year, it even had to return money sent from the center for projects due to non-completion and subsequently only refrained from doing so, by diverting the funds elsewhere in a manner which stretched Government financial regulations. It ended its term in internecine squabbles, where the ITAK resigned from his administration and the Chief Minister ended up in court over his provincial ministerial appointments.  On the contrary, the performance of the SLMC-TNA Coalition Administration in the Eastern Province under an SLMC business minded chief minister, performed much better. The provincial administration, assisted in resettlement, worked in harmony with the center and generally managed the delicate Tamil-Muslim relations in the East in a manner which makes another joint SLMC-TNA provincial administration in that province, a distinct possibility.

Having a go at M.A. Sumanthiran  

With parliamentary elections called and the date pending a Supreme Court determination, the preference vote battle in the Jaffna District heated up and distinctly discarded the Queensbury rules, when the political competitors of the former Jaffna District Parliamentarian, president’s counsel and TNA Spokesman, MA Sumanthiran launched an unprecedented personal and political attack against him. Their weapon of choice was comments Sumanthiran had made in a Sinhala language interview, “Truth with Chamuditha” and specifically his reiteration that he never accepted or condoned armed struggle as a political project. An overarching well known pacifist philosophy, he subscribes to, is best known by its global champion from our region, India’s founding father, Mahatma Gandhi, after whom it is named, as Gandhian non violence philosophy.

There were strange comments in social media, that Sumanthiran and the TNA had achieved nothing through eleven years of democratic politics. This from clear LTTE sympathizers, who are never willing to honestly explore what exactly the Tamil people achieved through twenty-five years of the armed struggle. An armed struggle whose self-harm to the Tamil community included, the conscription of their children as child soldiers, universally accepted as an international war crime and the political murders of Tamil democratic political leaders like Alfred Duraiappa, Appaapilai Amirthalingam, Neelan Tiruchelvam, Sam Thambimutthu and Joseph Pararajasingham, who never actually opposed the LTTE, but either did not dance to their tune or were competitors for political power. Certainly, the Tamil community had made no strategic gains, when the LTTE’s armed struggle ended. Indeed, the LTTE were left with few friends internationally and banned in most countries of the world.

Suren Surendiran, the de facto head and articulate spokesman for the Global Tamil Forum (GTF), best sums up a most rationale and principled approach in this manner. Writing to the Colombo Telegraph on May 26th, he states “More than a decade has passed since the war ended, and the Tamil community must embark upon honest self- reflection and learn valuable lessons from its successes and failures of the past. In this journey inclusivity of different political viewpoints is fundamental”. Surendiran begins his essay with the observation that resolving the issues of the Tamil people, requires engagement with the Sinhala and Muslim communities and endorses Sumanthiran thus “We always found Sumanthiran highly knowledgeable, articulate, hard working and honest and we reiterate our utmost confidence in him”.

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