The island has a great interview with Arun Tambimuttu. His father was killed by the LTTE but he’s got the guts to come back to Sri Lankan, and participate in politics again. He gives a very interesting interview, though the Island inexplicably leaves out his name.
On Diasporals Lobbying Western Governments
Why should the West understand Sri Lanka? Why do you think the UK for example takes an interest in Sri Lanka? There is a large Tamil population in UK who are immigrants and the British government or the British politicians try to win their votes. That is influencing the Western governments because many of the Western nations have a considerable Tamil population and a significant proportion of them are hell bent with a view to see the separation of Sri Lanka. So, the Western governments are influenced by these people. You also have INGOs and lobbyists who have their own interests in influencing these governments. You are right. In fact the West has not understood, but my opinion is we as a nation cannot expect others to understand rather we need to start thinking about our future.
What is the core issue in Sri Lanka? The core issue will give us an understanding of the 13th Amendment. The core issue was what should, or do all, communities in Sri Lanka require to ensure a society in which they feel in harmony with each other. To achieve that all you require is a belief among Sri Lankans that they are equal and they are treated equally and they feel they are part of the national fabric and they have the opportunity to improve their lives and play a part according to their own merit. That should be the fundamental. Now, does the 13th Amendment to the Constitution enable us to have that? I think it doesn’t because the 13th Amendment even though it does not refer to it in terms is creating divisions and homelands.
Instead, if you try to ensure there is equity between communities you create an Equal Opportunity Commission or introduce an Equal Opportunity Amendment to the Constitution. It is already there in my opinion and it only needs to be fine tuned and all citizens treated equally.
My question is how would one guarantee that a provincial system with powers over land and police will treat the people of Sri Lanka equally? Instead of that what you need is to move forward to a system where the communities whether Sinhala, Tamil, Muslim or Burgher do not feel that they are different. There are no homelands and in fact my opinion is that the opposition has come historically in Sri Lanka since 1958 after successive governments have failed to agree to a devolution system, whatever it may be, devolving power to districts or provinces they all failed because the majority of Sri Lankans do not want to see that happen because it is not politically feasible. What the majority wants is to see that the country’s unitary structure is preserved. I have no problem with that and I too agree. Why? Within a unitary state if you want equality that’s good. Now Tamil and Sinhala languages should have equality. The two languages should be made compulsory for all children. That is the only answer. A young child growing up, whether he is a Sinhala or Tamil should feel like a Sri Lankan.
My question is what does the separation lead to? Are you happy just having that particular area. But if most people really deeply think they will agree they would like to travel across Sri Lanka. They would like to go to Colombo or Kataragama, but the problem is these vicious politicians are with outdated ideologies, even though the world has changed. They are still clinging on to old concepts. That is where we need to make a change.
He challenges a lot sacred cows, but I think Mr. Tambimuttu makes a lot of sense. Whatever he says, he’s doing it from the ground, and he’s putting his body where his mouth is. Welcome back.