New Delhi that had wanted the LTTE to commit on federal solution as condition to bring in ceasefire, started arrogantly imposing the unitary 13 Amendment once the war ended in genocide, Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam exposes, bringing out the roles played by new Delhi’s National Security Advisor, M.K. Narayanan, and the former Foreign Secretary and the present NSA, Shivshankar Menon. When some of the TNA members attempted to explain that the 13th Amendment couldn’t be the way to find a political solution to the national question, Mr Narayanan responded in an angry tone stating that India knew what was good for Tamils much better than the Tamils themselves. The Indian delegation categorically told us that the 13th Amendment was the solution, Mr Gajendrakumar said.
Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam, the leader of the Tamil National Peoples Front (TNPF) held a press conference on Tuesday at the Jaffna Press Club.
The exposure raises serious questions on the trustworthiness of New Delhi that is keen only on getting public commitments of subjugation from Eezham Tamils. The story of deception should also enlighten the Tamils on why they should not depend on behind the screen manoeuvrings but should insist on transparent commitment from India and the IC, on the right to exercise the self-determination of the genocide-affected nation of Eezham Tamils, commented activists for alternative politics in Jaffna, responding to Gajendrakumar’s revelations on Tuesday.
Following are translated excerpts of his address in Tamil:
Within 2-3 days after the end of war on 18 May 2009, a high level delegation from India visited the island, on 20th and 21st May 2009.
Indian National Security Advisor (NSA) at that time Mr M.K. Narayanan and the then Foreign Secretary and the incumbent NSA Mr Shivshankar Menon were the key members of this delegation, which met the Tamil National Alliance (TNA).
As the General Secretary of All Ceylon Tamil Congress, which was in the TNA, I took part in the meeting between the Indian delegation and the TNA.
The Tamil people should accept the 13th Amendment, as a solution to the ethnic question, was a direct message passed by the Indian delegation at that meeting.
When some of the TNA members attempted to explain that the 13th Amendment couldn’t be the way to find a political solution to the national question, Mr Narayanan, the then national security advisor of India, responded in an angry tone stating that India knew what was good for Tamils much better than the Tamils themselves. The Indian delegation categorically told us that the 13th Amendment was the solution.
At a critical juncture in the history of the Tamil struggle, I was a witnessing a paradigm-shifting exercise at that meeting.
That meeting was seeking to cause a fundamental shift in the direction of the Tamil national politics, which has evolved through the last 65 years.
The press conference by the TNPF has been called today with the intention of bringing into the public record the above-mentioned episode and the underlying factors explaining the attitudinal changes we witness today in the sections of [TNA’s] Tamil national politics.
It is in the backdrop of this meeting, which came after the end of war, we should view the political somersaults and the deviations taking place in the Tamil national politics today.
Mr Selvarajah Kajendren, who was an elected parliamentarian of the TNA and the incumbent General Secretary of the TNPF, met the Parliamentary Group Leader of the TNA Mr R. Sampanthan in early October 2008 at the height of the war, even before he went to Vanni and met the leader of the LTTE Mr V. Pirapaharan.
Already, in his meeting with Mr Sampanthan, Kajendren urged him to categorically state the political stand of the TNA as being firmly committed to the Tamil national fundamental principles expressing that there would be no deviation on the Right to Self-Determination of Tamil Nation.
Mr Kajendren further urged Mr Sampanthan at the meeting held inside the parliamentary complex to categorically declare that even if the LTTE were to be militarily crushed, there would be no change or deviation in the underlying political struggle of the Tamil Nation. Kajendren argued that it would be the only way to stop the war as the international community was also viewing the military solution as a way forward. If the IC realized that the Tamil people would remain firm in their political fundamentals even if the LTTE was to be crushed, they would refrain from allowing the genocidal onslaught to take its toll not only on the movement but on the Tamil people as a whole, Kajendren urged Sampanthan.
Mr Sampanthan in his response to Mr Kajendren said that he had sent a letter to leader Pirapaharan stating that India had conveyed a message to the TNA that if LTTE agreed to publicly state that it would respect the Oslo declaration to find a Federal solution and if he [Mr Pirapaharan] agreed to have the TNA to frame such a proposal, it would be possible [for India] to impose a ceasefire with immediate effect and form a merged unit of North and East. But, the LTTE leader had not responded to the request, Mr Sampanthan has told Kajendren at that time.
There was a condition laid to stop the genocidal onslaught on Tamils.
It was the message not only from India, but also from the International Community.
But, in the meeting held within the two days after the end of war, Indian delegation didn’t talk about federalism.
On the contrary, they were talking of the 13th Amendment within the unitary constitution, even at the stage of divided North and East.
We personally witnessed these two historic episodes. They should give clarity to those who are not aware of these events till now, especially to understand the prevailing confusions and deviations today.
We have raised these issues also in the meeting held under the patronage of Mannaar Bishop on 11th May. Now, we bring this to the public record.
During the times of the LTTE, in an attempt to isolate the movement from the people, not only India, but also the International Community at that time, exerted pressure for a public commitment on federalism within a united Sri Lanka.
Even in the decision on crushing the movement and in imposing a ban on the movement, they used the same logic [during the times of peace].
Today, the LTTE is crushed.
Now, they are only talking about the 13th Amendment, which has been denounced by the Tamil people for the past 26 years as something that cannot even bring any devolution of powers within the unitary structure of the Sri Lankan State.
Some tend to think that it was the LTTE that didn’t understand diplomacy. These sections think that Tamils would have obtained a federal solution if the LTTE had been ‘diplomatic’ in publicly stating [something as stipulated by India and the IC].
But, what about now? Now there is no LTTE. You [the IC] have those [TNA] whom you preferred as the candidates and as elected representatives. But, are you talking about federalism with them now? No. What you have in the cards is only the 13th Amendment within the unitary constitution. This 13th Amendment has been rejected by Tamils at every stage in the past 26 years.
To substantiate what I have said, I have given you a letter written by the TULF on 28 October 1987. This English letter was issued by the TULF a few months after the Indo-Lanka accord and while the 13th Amendment bill had been tabled at the parliament. The letter was addressed to Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and was signed by the TULF President Mr M Sivasithamparam, General Secretary Mr Appapillai Amirthalingam and Vice President Mr R Sampanthan.
The letter talks about the 13th Amendment and Provincial Councils bill and reject both the bills as not meeting the aspirations of the Tamil people.
To quote some texts from the letter:
“We feel it our duty to also express our disappointment with the proposals to solve the Tamil problem contained in the two Bills – the 13th Amendment to the constitution and the Provincial Councils Bill – presented to Parliament by the Sri Lanka Government. These proposals do not meet the aspirations of the Tamil people nor are in any way commensurate with the loss of life, sufferings and privations suffered by the Tamil people.”
“The TULF regrets it cannot recommend the contents of these Bills to the Tamil people as being satisfactory, just and durable.”
On Land and Land Settlement issue, the letter categorically declares: “The above are clearly directed towards reducing the Provincial Council to the position of a Non-entity in respect of State Land even though Land is a devolved subject, and enabling the Central Government to have dominant power over State Land.”
In the concluding part, the letter states: “In view of the above we earnestly request you to ask President Jayewardene not to proceed with the two Bills in Parliament in the present form till the matters referred to herein, are discussed and resolved to the satisfaction of the Tamil people.”
Today, things are turned upside down.
Now they [TNA] talk about 13th Amendment as a starting point and they hold the view that Tamils should not denounce the 13th Amendment.
The leaders of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) have stooped down to a point that they have even gone on record claiming that calling for the implementation of 13th Amendment is a God-Given opportunity.
As far as we are concerned, we remain clear in our stand that 13th Amendment is not a solution and not a starting point.
Before proposing the 13th Amendment as a Bill to the Sri Lankan Parliament, the then President Jayawardene had sent the draft of the Bill to Sri Lankan Supreme Court to hear the judgement of the 9 judges in the panel of the SC on whether the Bill was compatible with the Sri Lankan Constitution.
The majority of the SC judges, numbering five, had initially opined that the Bill was not compatible with the SL Constitution. If the Bill had to pass, not only a two third majority of the Parliament, but it should be subjected to a referendum, they said. The remaining four judges said that the Bill didn’t violate the SL Constitution.
However, one of the five judges in majority had pointed out that if some changes were made to the Bill, he would consider it as not violating the unitary constitution.
So, the SL government at that time made the changes and passed it in the parliament.
However, the critical part of the judgement given by the Supreme Court was that the 13th Amendment had reached the maximum limit of devolving power within the unitary Constitution and that if it was to be strengthened it would clearly violate the unitary Constitution.
Tamil people have completely rejected the 13th Amendment for 26 years. Even the EPRLF, the only group that opted to cooperate with India on implementing this, chose to denounce it at the end.
Then the talk of 13th Amendment remained dead for years till some started to talk about it in year 2008. Even at this juncture, Mr Sampanthan of the TNA went on record in the SL Parliament that this 13th Amendment was as dead as a dodo. He had also gone on record stating that it was not only dead, but last funeral rites had also been observed.
Now, they are attempting to give false hope to the people that this could be a starting point or something that could constitute a step in an incremental process.
We urge the people to understand the attitudinal change in the TNA.
Today, Sinhala racism is again on the rise. Even the UNP, which earlier said it was prepared for a federal solution, has now come up with its draft for its future Constitution of unitary character.
Tamils should not be waylaid to think that since Sinhala extremist forces are against the 13th Amendment, there is something in it for Tamils.
We should not think in a reactive way and conclude that since those who are opposed to us are uncomfortable with something, there is something positive in it.
There was a similar tendency among Tamils with regards to the two resolutions that have been passed in Geneva.
Tamils should not allow themselves to be deceived.
We urge Tamils to read and logically analyse the source material without being carried away by a reactionary impulse.