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Federalism? Do not forget the Kandyans

“It, by a collective decision, we are pushed into a Federal System it should be based on consideration of natural resources. Ethnic factors should be taboo. Every province should be considered a federating unit. The long-standing Kandyan claim would then be given legitimate recognition.”

by A. P. S. Galapata

(March 18, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) Sri Lanka turned into the 21st Century and we note a complexity of problem viz. ethnic, economic, social and constitutional. We are a confirmed unitary state by all connotations. Like a bolt from the blue, we have turned 180 degrees and are running in the direction of FEDERALISM. Our politicians are exceptionally clever to change position overnight and argue with beautiful oratory "THEIR" new thinking. Constitutions could change as we go on, according to needs. Greek Thinkers — pioneers of political thought — too were ready to adapt their views. However there are natural, first principles which do not change e.g. JUSTICE; TRUTH; giving each man his due while he contributes the best for his society. To Aristotle, man needs the state, otherwise he is beast or a God. To Plato, virtue is knowledge. Sri Lanka has a long way ahead to learn and practise those virtues.
We are a unitary state under the Constitutions of 1972 and 1978. I do not think the International community, however powerful they are, could convert us to a federal state with their International Ballistic Missile Diplomacy or Gunboat Diplomacy.

Constitutions, Federal and Unitary are in operation successfully the world over. They vary in shape, size and composition. Hence the merits of either type cannot be presented in Theses or Textbooks. In Sri Lanka we are on a "cart before the horse" solution. A few have decided that the Federal System is an elixir. Next they look for the arguments to support it. The sovereign people have only to say "Yes Your Excellencies" Sri Lankans must keep their spinal cord and mental faculty in working order and not allow the belly and the heart to rule them!!

The first proposal for a Federal System was presented before the Donoughmore Commission in 1929 by the Kandyan National Assembly. The claim was "strongly and skilfully supported with evidence" for the restoration of their independence and their cultural heritage — lost on 2nd March 1815, the darkest day in our history. The liberal promises made to protect the Kandyan traditions did not reach the people. The Kandyans submitted that —;

(1) They were overrun politically, socially and economically by other groups

(2) Non-Kandyans exploited the unsophisticated Kandyans Peasantry

(3) Representation in governance was being increasingly appropriated by the Low-Country Sinhalese.

To this day we see the ceremonial and nominal "Protection" promised to Buddhism remaining on statute, while exploitation in real terms continues.

As Plato remarked the rich and the poor "states" exist. Strangely, the King of England became the protector of Buddhism, while being the protector of Anglicanism too. Moves in the 1840s to withdraw from this involvement in Buddhist administration did not succeed. Under Sinhala Social organisation properties were allocated for the upkeep of the Temples and Dewalas. Today, temple properties are the private property of monks, protected by man made law standing above Therawada Dhamma.

The Donoughmore Commissioners accepted the validity of the Kandyan claim but persuaded them to accept the Unitary system. They said, the Unitary system had worked so well to bring about unity among diverse groups and therefore should not be disturbed. "It is our confident hope that their pride in their ancient kingdom and historic institutions will form part of the larger national protagonism and that the Kandyan identity will best be preserved and receive the noblest fulfilment in the growth and final emergence of a strong united Ceylonese nation". As to why these noble aspirations should be rejected today for an alien Federalism is not clear.

The Donoughmore Commissioners emphasised that the people should know how they are governed. Hence they recommended universal adult franchise. As a concession to the Kandyan claim, they recommended that sessions of the State Council should occasionally be held in Kandy and in Jaffna.

The current idea of Federalism has to be examined in depth as the Sri Lankan State is to consist of TWO federating units. We should not get carried away by synthetic jargon or enticing oratory dressed up to look like government. What criteria would be used to demarcate the character/composition for harmonious survival have to be determined at the outset. Our Unitary system has not failed. The turbulence we saw in the past emanated from causes far different from unitarism. The various groups of the post-independence era were pushing hard to pick the lion’s share of public assets through administrative manipulation very successfully causing ethnic / student unrest and social inequality.

Adding to the existent maldistribution of resources islandwide, a merged North-East, against a multi-faceted seven province unit would be an economic disaster.

It, by a collective decision, we are pushed into a Federal System it should be based on consideration of natural resources. Ethnic factors should be taboo. Every province should be considered a federating unit. The long-standing Kandyan claim would then be given legitimate recognition.

Sri Lanka had embraced the gospel of Internationalism and today at this very hour it is being tested severely for honesty as well as for efficacy. Hence we have do some re-thinking on our foreign relations. Sri Lanka has been intoxicated by heavy doses of foreign aid. It is time we explode that myth and stand on our own feet. Sri Lanka, blessed with sufficient resources, the need is to manage them properly and not allow outsiders to tell us how to manage them. Our survival depends on this change to simple life, self-reliance and above all maintaining our self respect.

The Third World is at a critical point of history when the World Government system is showing cracks. The League of Nations closed shop in 1924, and 80 years on the better accoutred UN, has few items which the poor nations could buy.

Therefore the Third World has to embark on a determined course of national self-reliance.
- Sri Lanka Guardian

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