Orumitta (Tamil) Nadu – Ranil’s new name for old Eelam !
Ranil Wickremesinghe’s biggest ever deal in his entire political career, with which he hoped to win the Nobel Peace Prize, was his Cease-fire Agreement (CFA) with Velupillai Prabhakaran. Irrespective of the disastrous consequences of his delusional peace deal, he signed it guaranteeing the handing over of powers and institutions of the Centre to make Prabhakaran the king of his Eelam state, which has been renamed now as “Orumitta (Tamil) Nadu”. (Please note, Ranil and Sampanthan of TNA have dropped Eelam, for the moment, to market “Orumitta (Tamil) Nadu” as a toothless, powerless, non-federal provincial council in the new Draft Constitution drawn up by Ranil’s expert nominee Jayampathy Wickremaratne and R. Sampanthan’s expert nominee, Abraham Sumanthiram). If Ranil’s deal with Prabhakaran went through, with the full blessings of the international community, Sri Lanka would have been divided into two by now. Fortunately for Sri Lankans, Prabhakaran scuttled it by running rings round Ranil and throwing him like a rotten banana under the wheels of a ten on truck.
Now he is at it again. What Ranil failed to achieve in the CFA he is now hoping to achieve through the new Draft Constitution by creating “Orumitta (Tamil) Nadu”. In the CFA, thanks to Prabhakaran, he failed to give all the powers and institutions contained in the Constitution to the Eelamists. Now he proposes to create Orumitta (Tamil) Nadu “consisting of the institutions of the Centre and of the provinces which shall exercise powers as laid down in the Constitution’’. This is worse than exchanging “hotu ghani” with “kahi ghani”.
His pathetic attempts at constitution-making, has confirmed that he has neither the vision nor the political nous to find a way out of the mess in which he is in. The creation of Orumitta (Tamil) Nadu is a move which no one except the reincarnated avatars of Prabhakaran, the neo-colonial NGOs, and Ranil want. Of late, the Jaathiya Vanasana Peramuna (JVP) too has joined them. That is another story for another day. But Ranil’s constitution-making is not a strategic move to save the nation. It is patently a desperate move to keep the TNA votes in Parliament on his side to fill the numerical gap that props him up as Prime Minister. The TNA has the numbers to pull the rug under him and topple him. So he has no compunction in selling the nation and its heritage for a fistful of votes.
His Draft Constitution, drawn up to appease his Tamil vote bank, has all the hall marks of his failed CFA written by anti-national agents abroad. The CFA was drafted to appease the insatiable political appetites of Tamil extremism. The latest constitutional draft is a rewrite of the CFA aimed at dismantling the nation. Take for instance Article 2 which is a straightforward, well- defined statement, with no ambiguity leading to controversial interpretations. It states: “The Republic of Sri Lanka is a Unitary State”. Period. The operative phrase is “Unitary State”. In “a Unitary State” there can be no division of power. Or devolution of powers from the Centre. In a “unitary state” there is only one source of power and that is the Centre. Power allocated to all three branches of the state – the legislature, executive and the judiciary — flows from this definition.
In political science “unitary state” is the antithesis of devolution of power in any form, starting from federalism. This explains why the powers devolved to the provinces under Indo-Ceylon Agreement are under the supervision and control of the Centre. For instance, the Governor, the judiciary and the Police derive their power from the Centre. Centralizing powers of the state is the fundamental requirement of a unitary state. This is the essence of “a unitary state”.
In the Draft Constitution presented to Parliament by Ranil the supremacy of the Centre encapsulated in the English phrase “Unitary State” is taken away and replaced with a vernacular terminology purporting to be same. This is a deliberate attempt by Ranil and his ministers to deceive and lie to make the people believe that it has the same meaning as the “Unitary State”. Incidentally, he and his deceiving ministers dodge responsibility by attributing the making of the Draft Constitution to a committee of experts and proclaim that nothing has been changed. Then what made his experts remove the phrase “Unitary State” and decide to vest the institutions and powers of the Constitution / Centre in the proposed “Orumitta (Tamil ) Nadu? Though they say that nothing has changed the critical phrase “unitary state” has been removed and substituted with “aekiya rajyaya/orumitta nadu” with one aim: to hand over powers of the Centre to “Orumitta (Tamil) Nadu”. There are also two other reasons for using the vernacular: 1.there is no synonym in English to replace the term “unitary state” and (2) to anesthetize the electorate with lies and lull them into a sense of security in the hope of winning their votes in the coming elections.
The original text was simple and short. It said: “The Republic of Sri Lanka is a Unitary State”. But Ranil’s draft says that Orumitta (Tamil) Nadu “….. shall exercise powers as laid down in the Constitution / (Centre)’’. Well, if Orumitta (Tamil) Nadu can “exercise powers as laid down in the Constitution (i.e., the Centre) ’’ what more do the mono-ethnic extremists of the North need to run their separate state? As usual Ranil’s smart tactics have pushed him into a corner from which he cannot get out. The experts’ report reflect his hidden political agenda. In his heart of hearts he is for handing over the institutions and powers of the Centre to “Orumitta (Tamil) Nadu”. But that is a suicidal course of action that will guarantee his defeat in the coming elections. For his survival in Parliament he has to offer R. Sampanthan and Abraham Sumanthiram what Prabhakaran could not get with his entire might. So he is struggling to market “Orumitta (Tamil) Nadu” as the benign alternative to “Unitary State. This. in short, is verbal gimmicry to mislead the people. To make it worse, Ranil and his parroting ministers go round saying that “the unitary state” remains unchanged. If he knows his political science Ranil should know that in “a unitary state” the provinces cannot “exercise the powers of the Constitution” which is the Centre of the nation.
By definition, it would be ultra vires in “a unitary state” for the provinces to exercise the powers of the Centre. It is also a legal and political contradiction for the provinces to be on par with the centre in a unitary state. It is the incontrovertible logic contained in the meaning of “unitary state” that forced Abraham Sumanthiram and Jayamapthy Wickremaratne, the UNP nominee in the Expert Committee, to drop the all-important phrase of “unitary state”. Only by targeting “unitary state” can they devolve powers and allow the provinces to “exercise the powers of the Centre”. Not knowing how to overcome the restraining definition in the English term “unitary state” the experts were aiming to get round it by substituting the vernacular “aekiya rajyaya/orumitta nadu”. So they decided to hide behind the vernacular which can be left vague without the same connotation as “the unitary state”.
What is more, the Draft Constitution goes further to define its ultimate political goal by defining “orumitta nadu” as a political instrument consisting of the institutions of the Centre and of the provinces “which shall exercise powers as laid down in the Constitution’’. This opens up legal space for the Orumitta (Tamil) Nadu to exercise powers of running institutions like the police, judiciary, gubernatorial, and other administrative units which can defy the Centre by asserting its own rights as an independent state. The cutting and chopping in the new Draft is to provide legal space for Orumitta (Tamil) Nadu to run a state within a state, before it moves to the next level of a separate state.
The new phraseology legitimises the foundations for federalism/separatism by another name: “Orumitta Nadu”. Ironically, “Orumitta (Tamil) Nadu” will be a mono-ethnic unitary state “which shall exercise powers as laid down in the Constitution “ – i.e., the Centre. The overall objective of peninsular politics historically has been to establish a Tamil unitary state. This will be achieved if “Orumitta (Tamil) Nadu” is established. It will reign supreme in the North and the East with untrammelled powers embedded in the critical administrative institutions, free from any interventions from the Centre. Arming the Orumitta (Tamil) Nadu with the institutions and powers of the Centre will enable it to go as far as the border of having a considerable degree of legitimacy and power to sever links with the Centre and declare unilateral independence at a time of their choosing. All what they will have to do is sever links and ask India recognise the “Orumitta (Tamil) Nadu” as an independent state. And if at that time Ranil happens to be the President he will fold his arms and announce on TV that it is perfectly acceptable because that “Orumitta (Tamil) Nadu” is only stretch of useless sea sand covering only two thirds of the nation’s coastline! Remember how he pooh-poohed the capture of Toppigala as the acquisition of a useless piece of rock!
The removal of the phrase “unitary state” and replacing it with “orumitta nadu” is the most divisive move to break-up the nation not only on ethnic lines but also on regional lines in the south. The right to exercise powers of the Centre can split the south into independent political units. Demarcating and devolving the powers of the Centre to the periphery is like scooping the innards of a wood apple and devouring it, until there is nothing left in the empty, outer shell. This would be the beginning of legalising the borders that would separate the north from the south as two separate entities. It is like sitting on the branch and severing it from the main tree. Or to be more realistic, imagine, for instance, the Centre run by Mahinda Rajapakse and eight other independent provinces run by Ranil Wickremesinghe! This is a recipe for chaos, not for peace and progress.
From the time S. J. V. Chelvanayakam launched his separatist politics, disguised as federalism, the sole aim of separatists / federalists has been to dismantle the “unitary State” for them to grab as much power as they can from the Centre. The North-South inter-ethnic relations had gone from bad to worse fundamentally on this issue of power-sharing. Therefore, removing the phrase “unitary state” is in effect to remove “Orumitta (Tamil) Nadu” from the Centre. This is the meaning and purpose of the Draft Constitution. The new draft is a decisive victory for Chelvanayakam. Ranil has made his dream come true. It has given in to all of Chelvanayakam’s demands. If implemented it can “exercise (all) powers as laid down in the Constitution’’. And since the Orumitta (Tamil) Nadu is due to inherit the institutions and the powers of the Centre under the Draft Constitution it would facilitate the laying the foundations for separate units of power which can act independently of the Centre as in a federated structure. In other words, the Draft Constitution defines and legitimises the division and the handing over of powers from the ”indivisible” Centre to the peripheral provinces which is the basic meaning of federalism.
It should also be noted that all power in a state is exercised through institutions. So when the Centre which was vested with all powers hands over power to institutions in “Orimuttu (Tamil) Nadu it surrenders the unitary powers it had earlier, thereby dividing the nation into separate and independent centres of power. Geographical boundaries of the provinces are merely a peripheral delineation of the territorial limits of power of each province. What is most material is the power vested in the institutions through which the provinces can defy the Centre and assert its independence.
The decisive means of dividing the nation is by derogating the power vested in the Centre and handing it over to provinces. The revised Article 2 does just that: divide the nation into nine centres of power which the Centre cannot oversee or control. The critical legal and political force will be with the institutions of the provinces which “shall exercise powers as laid down in the Constitution’’(meaning the Centre). And once Orumitta (Tamil) Nadu inherits the powers and the institutions in the Constitution not even the judiciary can change those powers. The next step will be for Orumitta (Tamil) Nadu to break away under one or the other pretext.
The removal of the phrase “the Unitary State”, therefore, is a legal and political necessity to provide “Orumitta (Tamil) Nadu” with powers to act independently of the Centre. Ranil proclaims that as Buddhists the Opposition should not go round temples telling lies about the proposed Draft. But, as shown above, his Draft Constitution is wrapped in deception and lies.
As they say in Sinhalese: “Miniha, kolay wahala gahan-die hadan-nay, nay-the?”
H. L. D. Mahindapala