I think a multi-ethnic Sri Lanka under a functional constitution would be a nice place to live. The Constitution defines certain fundamental rights, but there are also responsibilities. One is the sovereignty and very existence of a Sri Lankan state. Basically, to get the benefits of a Sri Lankan nation, you need to be loyal to it. Amidst the talk of power sharing under the 13th amendment people forget the 6th. That explicitly makes it illegal to even advocate for a separate state. It’s a bit harsh, but I don’t think you can have one without the other. Rights come with responsibilities.
I don’t support Tamil Nationalism any more than I support Sinhala Chauvinism. I am a Sri Lankan with friends and family of different races and religions and I don’t have any interest in a living situation based on race. Furthermore, many of the people I see advocating for a Tamil nation are comfortable ensconced in Colombo or abroad whereas Tamil people I meet in the north just want to travel freely, including to Colombo.
I support a national civil rights movement for all Sri Lankans, and I think Tamils are the ones getting disproportionately hammered under current Emergency Law. However, I don’t think a Tamil Nation is the answer to this. I think it just deflects the fundamental human questions into ones of racial rancor and pride. Borders and cleansing may separate people but it’s a small island and we ultimately have to live together. To that end, I think we need to strengthen Sri Lanka, and it’s Constitution. That means, on one hand, granting our Fundamental Rights to all Sri Lankans (including IDPs). These rights include the right to travel, to get government service in a national language, etc.
On the other hand, however, people also have the responsibility to accept the Sri Lankan government. Not this particular government, but just the fact that we do have an elected government and a legitimate state. And then to work through the government to address grievances and vote it out whenever possible and necessary. But I think that basic acceptance of Sri Lanka is a prerequisite to actual positive change.
Saying that the whole thing sucks and these guys are assholes (as I have said) is not especially mature nor productive. I mean, OK, then what? Personally, I think we need to work this thing out as united Sri Lankans through mutual respect and whatever institutions we have. To that end, I really wish Neelan Tiruchelvam was alive, that the LTTE hadn’t assassinated him. Because I think he’s the kind of clear-headed compassionate thinking we need today. To quote Radhika Coomaraswamy after his death:
His idealistic belief that he could persuade Machiavellian governments to do the right thing was often criticised and ridiculed. Only those closest to him knew that such an attitude stemmed from his belief that moral persuasion and dialogue were the only way forward, not rancour, bitterness or armed conflict.