The Sunday Leader

If Parliament Breaks The Constitution, Should Tamils Do So Too?

By Prof S. Ratnajeevan H. Hoole

He that Steals an Egg will Steal an Ox.
By the time this piece appears in print on Sunday 13th, Parliament would have decided on the CJ issue; to either vote for her impeachment or obey the courts’ determination that the Parliamentary Select Committee’s finding is null and void.
If Parliament chooses to impeach the CJ, it would be a brazen violation of the Constitution and will kill any semblance of democracy the country has maintained despite the curtailment of the press, buying of MPs, election violence, and many cabinet members being implicated in murder.
The Sixth Amendment fiasco of 1983 that disfranchised Tamils and provoked Tamil militancy seems unnecessary if we dismember the Constitution now.
President Rajapaksa’s main plank was that he had saved the country from Tamil separatism. If the impeachment happens as predicted, it would do exactly what Rajapaksa claims he prevented. For if Parliament does not obey the Constitution, why would Tamils want to obey the Constitution that prohibits separatism in Article 20.157(2)? The present crisis, with the ill treatment that the Rajapaksas give Tamils, is a strong argument against the Rajapaksa legacy, which really makes Tamils want to separate. It should give pause to the Rajapaksas as they think of over-turning the Constitution on the road to the anarchy they have charted in reaching for unlimited power.

Float or Sink Together

People do well and do good when living collectively with other people. The right thing must be done this weekend; but I have little hope. The Tamils and Sinhalese will float or sink together, depending on the outcome.
In 2008/9 the Sinhalese broadly seemed to have lost all democratic values and were ready to allow the government a free hand. The BASL resolution against the UN Report to Ban Ki-moon was a symptom of that time. Few sane voices were heard. That margin given to the Rajapaksas to do anything to defeat the LTTE led us to this current impasse. Like most people, they could not help arrogating more power when they were given carte blanche.


This present moment holds the potential for change. The Sinhalese polity is now more cognizant of the dangers of the blank cheque it gave the Rajapaksa to fill. Suddenly almost every commentator is in agreement on the enormity of the current situation and the regime ruling over us. Even the few intellectuals who were working with the Rajapaksas like Dayan Jayatilleke and Rajiva Wijesinghe have publicly come out against the impeachment, the former calling it “a Perfect Blunder”. Although the impeachment of the CJ would be yet another nail in the coffin of Sri Lanka’s democracy, it may yet be an important step in the long-term as it has coalesced an understanding that reasserts the integrity of the Constitution and Rule of Law.

R. Sampanthan: Jaffna Development

Mr. R. Sampanthan is firmly entrenched as a Tamil leader. He is not a separatist and his leadership is wise. He does not object to the reasonable presence of the army and his views are widely accepted by Tamils in Sri Lanka. However, there is some criticism that the TNA is like an Elders’ Home, for example, or that no parliamentarian has visited the detained university students. But generally Sampanthan can carry the Tamil people with him in any agreement.
Occasional signs of development are seen in Jaffna because the government has crafted its entire Tamil policy believing that economic tidbits are an acceptable substitute for political dignity. Only a few Tamil entrepreneurs have had the confidence to return – Gnanam’s Studio and Subash Hotel for example. Without dignity, even good things fail to satisfy. The magnificent 4-storey Tilko Hotel has come up next to the Post Office. But people think the Sinhalese are colonizing and ask why multi-storey buildings are refused for the university as impracticable and, according to S.B. Dissanayake, too expensive in terms of electricity bills for elevators. Planned high-rise flats in Chundikuli at some Rs. 14 million each are also seen as colonization. The raised plush roads are blocking the free flow of water, and people are forced to pay spot fines for mosquito breeding if they are to drink the water in their compounds. The hurried repairs to Hospital Road and the extension of Palaly Road from Ariyakulam to Vembadi are dismissed as political stunts for the opening of a new 4-storey block at the hospital on Pongal by the President – an event suddenly cancelled because of the political and physical climate.

Showing Muscle at the Jaffna University

Instead of reaching a political settlement with Sampanthan, the government is on the foolhardy mission of demonstrating power with economic crumbs. Higher Education’s S.B. Dissanayake has threatened their own EPDP VC, boasting to the Sunday Times, “I have told the university authorities that, willingly or unwillingly, we will have to close the university, even for one year, if campus activities are not normalized”.
On Monday the harassed VC promised Deans that she had been privately assured by Dissanayake that if they reopened he would get the students released by Pongal.  She added pressure threatening to resign if the university is not reopened, and then repeated it to the media. She started off on the wrong foot on her first day when she castigated students for disrespecting her, the VC, by coming in T-shirts. Moreover anyone with EPDP associations like her is viewed with disdain in Jaffna. Thus students have adamantly refused to attend classes, issuing caustic comments against her in private.
But the Deans were persuaded and the university reopened for classes on January 8. A few students came and went off seeing few others there. The authorities hope that once students from outside Jaffna see the newspaper notices announcing the reopening, some would report, and more would return if examinations are held on January16.
To defuse matters a meeting was held on January 10 at the university between the Council and the parents of those arrested and then released. Indicating where government lawlessness is leading, a heated argument arose between two EPDP Councillors – while Shereen Xavier spoke of law and order, Sripathy countered that when there is neither justice nor law and order in the country, there is no need for the university to observe rules and regulations. The parents were lost.

Army in Peacetime

The army in the meantime is reportedly visiting some Kilinochchi students in their homes, persuading them to report, thereby visibly interfering in civilian matters. A mentally disabled woman escaped from the Thellippalai hospital, and the police and GS took her to Moolai where she was refused admission. She was then dropped off at the junction of the Vaddukoddai and Moolai Roads, an isolated area except for soldiers. She disappeared on December 8 and a few days later her body was recovered from a well. A judicial report declared her to have been raped.
Following adverse publicity from a four-year-old’s rape and murder in Mandaitivu, the EPDP made a charade of demanding why the culprit had not been caught and then, as if to pacify their protectors, tried to change the Jaffna Municipality’s lyric by inserting a section praising Buddhism.
The EPDP’s detractor, Uthayan newspaper, on January 10 had two employees delivering newspapers to agents attacked. One escaped riding into a police station but the other had his bones broken and motorbike burnt.
As the bumbling army denies it is occupying civilian lands and injecting itself into civilian matters, its prevarication was bared when French Ambassador Christine Robichon and her delegation testified this week that they personally observed the army’s intrusive dealings.

Holding to Promises

On Friday, Parliament will have an opportunity to do the wise and right thing on the impeachment. Failing that, as likely, their resolution will go to Rajapaksa. In 2010, he pledged a co mmitment to human rights, peace, pluralism and equality. He must read his old speeches as he plays Solomon for the Rule of Law is fundamental to all these things.

22 Comments for “If Parliament Breaks The Constitution, Should Tamils Do So Too?”

  1. singing fish

    Too much of anything is good for nothing.The goverment and the soldiers must realize that by carrying out atrocities against the tamils will make
    harm to the country.Most of the tamils now not ready for reconciliation.If this trend continues,oneday tamils will not accpt to coexist with the sinhalese.

  2. Lucky Weeramantry

    Road To Hell. Nowhere To Go.

  3. kudson

    death to all rapists

  4. the comment is ok but i do not think that this comment implicating the Tamils is not relevant at this juncture. The tamils enjoyed at the beginning and suffered in the past and sufferings now. Now they want to live peacefully for which they are prepared to lose or sacrifice their dignity that is the base for the fundamental rights.

  5. I agree with all what you have wrtten except forwhat is wrtten about Sampathan.

  6. asanka de silva

    Your are a real joker Prof. Hoole! You lived here with a canadian passport thinking that you can change this country. In fact you made things more difficult for tamils who demanded their rights. Now they are facing the music and you will leave them in lurch and fly over to Canada.

  7. Don Quixote

    Why only the Tamils ? Are the only people governed by the constitution of Sri Lanka Tamils ?

    Understand even now that ” united we stand devided we fall” !

    Very disappointed in you Prof Hoole.

    • Thinakaran

      You should convey your disappointment to SL president the favourite Dutagamini of current Sinhalese people(some) first who is still spearheading further opression of Eelam Tamils even after the War.

  8. Nilanka

    Who said the Govt won the LTTE war? The powerful Tamil disapora are stronger than ever. The country was better off when the LTTE was running it. Now it is worse.

    • The Rights of humans

      Their power is money ,(recived from govts, org. and collections.( But not much money now t hire specialists etc now . money is contacts in western countries now. Diaspora is strong(man power, honesty, dedication) now but short of money. But honesty is running the campaign.

    • Suresh

      LTTE never ran any country and never will, terrorisam has no place

  9. Wombat

    From what I can see SL is now the worst under develped country to live in or visit.

  10. Zuhri

    Prof. Hoole, you have rises a good argument in your writing. you have presented a justified argument of “For if Parliament does not obey the Constitution, why would Tamils want to obey the Constitution that prohibits separatism in Article 20.157(2)?”

    As he wisely pointed out the present government has created a precedence of to disobey the constitution in this piece of writing.

  11. sangaralingham

    justice is failing in SriLanka. across the nation why what society is doing what elected representative doing. are they insecure media insecure society insecure or ALL THESE FACTIONS DO NOT CARE.

  12. sangaralingham

    freightened insecure minds rampant across the nation.

  13. The constitution of Sri Lanka(SL) was flawed from its first republican constitution, declared unilaterally and illegally by the Sinhalese in 1972. Further, there was no referendum as it is a “Must” for any constitution of any country. This deliberate action made the constitution null and void.

    So, what is that we have in SL now? Obviously, it is not a constitution but a “Mandate” given by the Sinhalese to rule themselves and the people of Tamil Eelam, but erroneously called a “constitution” and accepted by the world, because SL convinced the International Community fraudulently.

    Therefore, the present constitution is a fraud perpetrated on all the citizens, by the political elite in Colombo.

    This action was allowed to pass by the citizens and the politicos felt that with this ‘political coup de tat” they could make the legislature Supreme, even above the judiciary.

    Judiciary, which should have been allowed to act independently was threatened and policised. If we look at the Chief Justices who were impeached or confronted to make them go of their own will, proves my position ..

    The licence to kill the JVP supporters in 1971 and thereafter, the killing of the LTTE combatants and the licence to kill about 70,000 Tamil civilians were all exercised under the same “constitution” which I call a “Mandate”.

    This Mandate, which the GOSL calls a constitution, is a murderer and not for the people and by the people.

    Therefore, let us all draft a constitution, at least now, to overcome the genuine and evidenced fears of Tamils against genocide and grant them at least a semi autonomous state as in Hong Kong under China, and live peacefully and unitedly in the island.

  14. Suresh

    Hoole, Tamils have a vote, which they always had, all you can do is to elect a new parliment when the time come. Your idea is laughable, joke.

  15. The Rights of humans

    Are you professor of ..? what did you say..? stupidity

  16. sangaralingham

    constitution should be there and the basis of civilised democratic society where all are equal under the eyes of the law with lot of intelligene commonsense should be drafted by intellectuals of l the society

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