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Sri Lankan Conflicts and the Way Ahead

By Bernard Wijedoru

An Open Letter to the Select Committee studying possible solutions to the armed conflicts in Sri Lanka

August 1996


Sri Lankan Conflicts and the Way Ahead

This is further to my open letter to the Managala Moonesinghe Committee appointed by the late President Premadasa and several letters addressed to previous Presidents and Prime Ministers on the armed conflicts in Sri Lanka.

No doubt there would perhaps be a sense of media generated euphoria in the country following reports of revesting administrative control over the areas previously under effective control of the LTTE. It would however be very shortsighted to believe that the armed conflict originating in the North would end as a result of the claimed victories on the military front. It would be equally shortsighted to believe that the similarly caused armed uprising in the South has been buried even in the medium term. In fact the chances of the next phase of the armed conflicts being on the basis of a united front between the non-English speaking sections in the North and the South do not appear to be too low. This is particularly so since employment opportunities, except in the bottom rungs of the military, are now becoming available primarily to those fluent in English. This would increasingly leave the desperate vernacular youths in the North and the South with no hopes of salvation other than through renewed armed struggle.

In this connection it has been regrettable that local, regional and western vested interests have been able to successfully categorise the armed conflicts in Sri Lanka to be of `Ethnic' and `Terrorist' in nature through the `Goebles' formula of repeated misinformation and hate campaigns. The intended results have enabled successive Administrators to try and eliminate the "symptoms" rather than in providing a cure for the actual "cause". It also helped to divert the interests of most people from all races and creeds from the various policies detriment to the country which have been blatantly implemented.

In actual fact no identifiable ethnic problem existed then, nor does it exist now. There is indeed greater harmony amongst the anglicized and other priviledged Sinhalese and Tamils than ever before. Such harmony and unity began to be particularly consolidated after the commencement of the armed conflicts in the North and the South which threatenned their common vested interests.

If any ethnic problem did exist at all, it was the oppression of the underpriviledged sections of the majority race by the priviledged and pampered sections of the minorities. Such policies which were a legacy of the colonial masters involved placing greater trust in and consequently granting disproprtionate priviledges to those from minority classes, races and religions. This continued to be consolidated via the conspicuously high proportion of the budgets for education, welfare services and infrastructure development being apportioned to the Provinces where these priviledged sections lived and the other Provinces being merely afforded "step-motherly" attention.

This policy continued to be perpetrated on the common people by the ruling classes from all races. They were supported in their task, particularly by those who had acquired allegiances to and served foreign vested interests well and who were disproportionately entrenched in the Professions and the Administration which in fact wielded the real power while politicians were kept busy with their defacto "acting" and PR roles.

The actual causes of the current crises have been economic in nature and the result of the justifiable grievences of the repective non-English speaking sections in the North and the South being not adequately addressed. This was amply demonstrated by the results of the 1956 elections whereat the defeat of the representatives of the ruling elite was even more prominent in the North than those in the South.

Lip service has been paid ever since to addressing the causes of the severe social problem arising primarily from using English as the medium of instruction, administration and consequent oppression. However, the only palpable attempt at addressing at least some of the issues was indeed the Bandaranaike-Chelvanayagam pact. This was naturally sabotaged by the representatives of foreign and local vested interests who have successfully adopted and implemented the `divide and rule' policies which they had learnt so well from the colonial masters.

The country was acordingly fortunate that the current President had duly noted the vernacular rather than ethnic nature of the two wars by recognizing the LTT as the only representative of the vernacular sections of the North. It is they who have had a justifiable grievance and been driven to despair as indeed were their counterparts in the South. It was a welcome change from the oft recurring attempts to negotiate with those who have been using the LTT as a mere cat's paw to retain or regain the priviledges that they have had under the colonial masters and their obedient successors.

However, her failure to commence parralel negotiations with the corresponding representatives of the vernacular sections of the South has been one of the main causes of the failure to arrive at a reasonable end to the conflicts.

Another cause has clearly been the fact that the Administration has been lured into addressing less relevant issues related to the conflict in the North under pressure from those who are directly interested in perpetuating one war or the other in Sri Lanka. They include regional and Western vested interests who are the actual pay-masters of the NGO's and alleged "human rights" do-gooders who fuel the conflicts. Their ultimate objective has clearly been to prolong the wars and thus turn Sri Lanka also to `beggar' status. This would ensure the country's dependence and consequent subservience to them, as clearly demonstrated in many other countries too.

Pre-requisites for a sustainable end to the two conflicts to the benefit of the indigenous population rather than according to the wishes and dictates of Western countries, their media and their NGO's appear to include :

  1. Ignoring the relevance to the country's current social, political and economic issues, of provincial and district boundaries marked by Britain, and moving on post haste to establish new boundaries on the basis of river catchments or other meaningful criteria related to development rather than to mere revenue collection and perpetuation of the `Divide and rule' policies.

  2. Recognizing that there are not TWO parties to the conflicts, as erroneously claimed, but THREE parties amely vernacular Sinhalese, vernacular Tamils and the perrenially ruling anglicized and other priviledged Sinhalese and Tamil elite who have almost perrenially ruled the country.

  3. Commencing CONCURRENT talks with duly recognised representatives of the vernacular youth both amongst the Sinhalese and the Tamils .

A proposal in the above context for a lasting non-military solution to the two armed conflicts in Sri Lanka between the ruling elite and the underpriviledged vernacular youth in the South on the one hand and the youth in similar plight in the North on the other. is forwarded herewith for your favourable consideration. I have taken into primary consideration the NEEDS of all sectors of the community rather than their respective WANTS and GREEDS. The pursuit of such wants and greeds has no doubt been the primary cause for the prolongation of the military conflicts.

I would be glad to furnish further details on the above proposal if invited to do so by your committee or any other duly constituted body entrusted with the task of making suggestions to bring about a sustainable end to the armed conflicts that the country has had to suffer for the last 25 years.

Your's faithfully,

Bernard Wijedoru
Sri Lanka ppt No.K0636060

Proposal for a sustanable solution to the armed conflicts in Sri Lanka

  1. Abolish the current provincial and district boundaries which are an anachronistic legacy of the Colonial administration.
  2. Appoint a Presidential Commission constituted of reknowed geographers, historians and engineers who have consistently researched and published papers calling for the redemarcation of the Provincial and District boundaries to redemarcate new boundaries based possibly on river catchments or other development related criterea.
  3. The members of such a commission to be as multi-ethnic as practicable and should be able to be co-opted to the team negotiating a political settlement to the current crises.
  4. Mark out a large area around Trincomalee harbour and its hinterland as a Special Administrative Region (SAR) of the country to be administered as a completely free port and developed as a Regional business hub possibly modelled on a `One Country Two Systems' basis as Hong Kong would be after 1997. English should be the medium of Instruction and Administration of the Region.
  5. Mark out one CONTIGUOUS geographical area where Tamil is the predominant anguage of the INDIGENOUS population of the area. Tamil would be the medium of instruction and administration of the Region.
  6. The remaining area would have Sinhalese as the medium of instruction and administration of the Region.
  7. There would be thus be THREE seperate Administrative Regions of the Sovereign state of Sri Lanka. Sinhalese, Tamil and English would be the ONLY mediums of instruction & administration of the RESPECTIVE Regions.
  8. English, which would become the link language, would however be a compulsory second language from the kindergarten onwards outside the Trincomalee Region too.
  9. Every Sri Lankan would be free to remain in or move to any of the three Regions subject to them recognizing that they would have to conduct their business with the Regional Administration and have their children's education in the l language of the Region.
  10. The Capital of the Sovereign state of Sri Lanka to be restored in Anuradhapura.
  11. The current President to continue as the Head of the state for the remaining period of her six year tenure subject to an entrenched provision in the new constitution that the current term of the Executive Presidency be the last.
  12. The President to call upon the UNP to nominate their representative to form the government of the Region which would be admistered in Sinhala only and have Colombo as its capital.
  13. The President to call upon the LTTE to nominate their representative to form the government of the Region which would be administered inTamil only and have Jaffna as its capital.
  14. The President to appoint a Chief Executive and an Executive Council for the Trincomallee Special Administrative Region which would be administered in English with reasonable use of Sinhalese and Tamil.
  15. All elected members of Parliament, PC's and local governments to continue in office for the remaining period of their mandates.
  16. The respective Regional Governments thus formed would seek a vote of confidence from the Regional legislatures.
  17. The provision in the current constitution preventing elected representative to cross-over be deleted.
Bernard Wijedoru
Contracts Consultant
PRC Appointed Hong Kong District Affairs Adviser

PO Box : 90866 TST, Hong Kong
Tel : ( 852)23671221 Fax : (852)2369493

12 September 1996

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