Amid claymores and human bombs,it is time to take stock the peace building strategies

-Sudarshana Gunawardana

The life of a young woman living in Mannar, in Northern Sri Lanka, is insecure. She lives amidst the fighting between the GoSL security forces and the LTTE. A young man in Buttala, Southern Sri Lanka, cannot apprehend the agonies and miseries that she goes through. Put another way, young Sumanasiri in Buttala cannot imagine the sufferings of young Sellama in Mannar.

Activities aimed at building peace are identified in three tracks:

  • Track one – Activities focused on engaging the protagonists to the conflict
  • Track two – Activities focused on engaging the intelligentsia and artists belonging to the different sides of the conflict
  • Track three – Activities focused on engaging the communities that represent the different sides of the conflict

During the heyday of the peace process between the Sri Lankan government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), we saw multiple activities in all three tracks. Especially under the track three initiatives, the main emphasis was on making southern people aware of the miserable plight of the people live in the war torn North and East of the island as a result of the protracted armed conflict.

People to people exchange programmes, peace marches, workshops, discussions, peace concerts and numerous other activities were held in order to achieve these objectives. These activities focused on raising awareness. Massive amounts of information were disseminated among the people after translation from foreign languages. At least interpreters and printers benefited from these activities.

Now, however, with the shaky ceasefire now over, war has returned as the typhoon follows the wind. Peace activists who came from abroad have left the country and local doves now associate with hawks.

If we were to ask young Senehelatha, who lives in Southern Sri Lanka, her opinion about the present life of Nadarajah, who lives in the North, we might hear the following: “Yes, I know Nadarajah is suffering. The cause of his suffering is war. To save him from the scourge of the war, we must work to end the war. To end the war, one has to address the root cause of the war, which is Prabhakaran and the Tigers. So we must annihilate the Tigers to bring an honourable peace for Nadarajah and the rest of the citizens.” As war is imminent, it is also inevitable that Nadarajah’s elder brother, who was forcibly recruited as an LTTE foot soldier, will be killed; that Nadarjah’s brother-in-law who has moved to Colombo will be detained indefinitely and that Nadarajah’s family will have to live in a camp designated for IDPs.

We now live in a reality that is more terrible than our worst nightmare. Young Sumanasiri from the South has infiltrated the jungles of the Vanni in the North, in order to set up claymore bombs. Sellama from the North has arrived in south, wandering the streets of Colombo in the South, with explosives tied to her belly, waiting to become a suicide bomb.

Even in remote villages, small cooperative shops close its operations once a month for stock taking. In the present circumstances, isn’t it time for civil society to take stock of the strategies they have pursued for building peace in the country?

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One Response

  1. Everyone talks that peace must prevail. But no one has come out with a rational solution. It is true that people must be made AWARE of the need for a peaceful living in serenity but at the same time they must also be given a solution for them to consider.
    I give below some suggestions that would lead to a solution

    Please read.

    Respected Sir,

    Please accept my Salutations, Greetings and best wishes for the dawn of a bright future to everyone.

    In my humble opinion, Peace is neither elusive nor evading us, but on the contrary we are evading Peace by not viewing the problems sincerely in the correct perspective and with the correct attitude that will automatically take us on the correct track to reach Peace.

    Please consider the view, attitude and the track pointed out in the extract given below – not thought earlier by any of us as being available – for its ability to lead us on to the correct track to peace. I am sure we will be able to meet peace in double-quick time since no sooner we get on the correct track towards Peace; Peace too would automatically start traveling towards us on this track.

    An unprecedented concept in
    Modifying the System of Governance

    It is not the impossible which gives cause for despair
    but the failure to achieve the possible

    The conflict arose, in my humble opinion, due to the turmoil in the country. This conflict is often portrayed as a bi-polar conflict between the Sinhalese majority and the Tamil minority by-passing the substantial minorities like Upcountry Tamil and Muslim. This sad state of affairs has to be changed. This mindset of ‘dividing’ the people as “Majorities” and “Minorities” has to be changed not by words but by deeds. It is a well-known fact that all these “majorities” and “minorities” are living together in many parts of the country as kith and kin, helping each other in times of need. So it is the duty of every right thinking citizen to concentrate and converge this idea and integrate the nation if we are to forge ahead as a nation and end the turmoil in the country.

    Everyone agrees that the ongoing turmoil and its byproduct, the conflict, must be brought to an end by sharing power. But they differ in deciding the way. The various opinions centre on a system with a central government and other governments under it, with the centre holding wide powers.

    It is to be noted that we have diverse and mixed people living together in many parts pf the country with excellent rapport among them. These people should be empowered at gramasevaka area level so that even a small area will be able to project its needs without going through others. It is to this extent that we should go, if sustainable peace, solidarity and development with a pleasant living to all inhabitants, is our goal.

    Therefore, a suitable system of democratic governance that is acceptable to all rationale minded people (or one that cannot be rejected by these people), must replace the present system of governance.

    “My notion of democracy is that under it, the weakest should have the same opportunity as the strongest” so said Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela for his part said, “For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others”

    With the above in view, a democratic system of governance that is rationale and based on equality of all has been developed on the basis that all powers flow from the sovereignty of the people. The concept in this system is an unprecedented mode of sharing power –horizontal and not vertical – developed in the true sprit of democracy. This system would unite all the divided communities and resurrect the “Paradise Isle” that existed some time back.

    @ @ @ @ @ @ @ @

    In the present system, one set of representatives are elected and empowered to govern the country. The proposed system enables the people to elect and empower different sets of representatives
    from different extent of areas (village and villages grouped) to perform the different, defined and distinct functions of the same parliament through different segments of that parliament like the different organs of our body – brain, heart, lungs, kidneys, eyes, nose, ears etc – performing different functions to keep us alive. To be more explicit the concept is as follows:

    1. Segment A – a group entrusted to enact laws for – good governance, collection of revenue and other connected affairs – with the concurrence of all the groups in Segment C, but excluding implementation (at National level and consisting of 10 members elected from each district area, 100 members elected nationally on trade basis and 50 members elected nationally on ideological basis).

    2. Segment B – a group entrusted with coordinating the activities of all the groups in Segment C, the fiscal management of the country including collection and disbursement of revenue, foreign affairs, national planning (in consultation and with the concurrence of the concerned groups in Segment F) and the like and implementing through concerned groups in Segment D by directly providing the necessary funds (at National level and consisting of 15 members elected from each regional area).

    3. Segment C – Groups entrusted to administer different regions of the country based on the laws enacted by Segment A with its concurrence, maintain law and order, approve project proposals submitted by the concerned groups in Segment D and to obtain the necessary funds for expenditure from Segment B (at Regional area level and consisting of 04 members elected from each divisional area within that regional area).

    4. Segment D – Groups entrusted to implement all project proposals approved by Segment B or by concerned group in Segment C and with funds provided by them (at District area level and consisting of 03 members elected from each sub-divisional area within that district area).

    5. Segment E – Groups entrusted to coordinate and confirm project proposals submitted by concerned groups in Segment F and forward them for approval to concerned group in Segment C (at Sub-divisional area level and consisting of 03 members elected from each village area within that sub-divisional area).

    6. Segment F – Groups entrusted to prepare project proposals for their area and approving concerned proposals submitted by Segment B and submit all proposals to concerned Segment E for confirmation. They would naturally oversee the implementation of their proposals. (at Village level and consisting of 05 members elected from within that village area).

    7. Segment G – Groups entrusted to monitor the functions of all the Segments for transparency, accountability, and take necessary action to curtail irregularities with an eye on the elimination of corruption (at Divisional level and consisting of 02 members elected from each village area within that divisional area)

    (Presently all the above functions are performed by one group of party representatives –not people’s representatives – without sufficient checks, the cause for the present turmoil in the country.)

    In these proposals, gramasevaka (G.S.) area is the smallest unit and G.S. areas are grouped to form sub-divisions, sub-divisions are grouped to form divisions, divisions are grouped to form districts, districts are grouped to form regions and the regions grouped to form the country.

    There would be only one institution – the Parliament with seven segments –that would satisfactorily govern the entire country. Presently we have the presidential secretariat, a central government, 9 provincial governments and a large number of local governments, in attending to matters of governing the country with their functions overlapping. In the proposed system there is only one establishment attending to matters of governing the country thus reducing the financial burden and cumbersome bureaucracy, while increasing all round efficiency coupled with streamlined speedy development, resulting in the reawakening of the country as a Paradise Isle for a pleasant living to all its inhabitants.

    Other details connected to the above unique concept

    01 Functions of the above Segments: The functions of the various Segments shall not overlap but linked in a chain by well defined regulations with the limits specified. Broad outlines of the functions of these Segments include amongst others:

    Segment A would enact Legislations and lay down policies (foreign and internal) and all connected there-with in the interest of good governance and forward these to all the groups in Segment C for their concurrence, so as to evolve a just and fair administration with transparency and accountability to maintain a clean and democratic society in this country where law and order with natural justice would prevail.

    Segment B would be responsible for the proper execution of the functions conferred on it by the Segment A adhering to the legislations enacted and policies approved by Segment A. But the implementation of these functions must be through the administrative set-up that is functioning in the regions concerned and through Segment D of that Region without a different administrative set-up of its own. The prior approval of Segment F concerned has to be obtained directly before taking action for the implementation of any proposal within the area concerned of that Segment F.

    The Head with the concurrence of the Deputy Head would appoint the National Council of Ministers from among its members. All actions of the Head would be in consultation with the Deputy. The National Ministers – in equal numbers for each Region and not exceeding five for a Region – shall be fairly distributed among the Regions. The Ministers for the different ministries shall be changed every year and be filled by members of another Region, in rotation. The Head and in his/her absence the Deputy would preside at all meetings of the Segment B and the Council of National Ministers.

    The responsibilities, function and duties of Segment B would be defined as those that cannot be properly distributed exclusively to any particular region such as Postal, Railway, Currency, National Budget, Import, Export, Immigration and Emigration, Foreign, Affairs etc, etc,. The administration of all other functions such as education, police, land, ports of entry etc., etc., shall be entrusted to the groups in Segment C. In addition, Segment B would act as a coordinator and help the groups in Segment C in the formulation of a uniform policy wherever possible.

    Segment C groups would be responsible for the proper administration and development of the region, lay down the policies specific and special to the region, such as preparing the regional budget, making byelaws and such other matters and directing the groups in Segment D within that region for the proper execution of all works within the district for which funds have been allocated by it or provided for by Segment B. In addition its most important duty would be to evaluate and where necessary suggest amendments and on acceptance, convey its concurrence of the legislative enactments forwarded to it by the Legislative Council.

    The Head in consultation with the Deputy Head and Assistant Head would appoint the Regional Council of Ministers – minimum of one and a maximum of two from a district area – from among its members of that Region. All actions of the Head would be in consultation with the Deputy Head and Assistant Head.

    Any group in this Segment shall not be permitted to obtain loans except from Segment B, but be permitted to negotiate directly with internal and external institutions to obtain aids and grants for the development of their Regions.

    The groups in this Segment would be responsible for the submissions of proposals for the development of their Region to Segment B for approval and to obtain allocations or stating the source of funds available (allocations, internal and external aid and grants, and loans from Segment B as the case may be) through which the proposal is intended to be executed.

    Segment D groups would be responsible for initiating the necessary planning for the proper execution of all works within the district initiated either by Segment F or B and other functions allocated to it by Segment C concerned. The groups in this Segment would function as the executive wings of Segment C

    Segment E groups would be responsible for coordinating with the groups in Segment F within its area, in the preparation and evaluation of all proposals for the development of its area and for submission to Segment C concerned for approval and implementation.

    Segment F groups would be responsible for the preparation of proposals for the development of its area and evaluating any proposal submitted by any other body for the development of its area and submitting these to Segment E concerned for further scrutiny, acceptance and onward transmission for necessary action. All development proposals that have an impact in respect of its area must have its approval.

    Segment G groups would be responsible for the supervision and monitoring the administration and progress of all works being implemented within its area by Segment D and where necessary even outside its area and monitor the functions of all the Segments for transparency, accountability and take necessary action to curtail irregularities with an eye on the elimination of corruption and other connected functions.

    02 Election and Composition of members of the various Segments would be from among those residing within that area on “first passed the post” basis subject to gender and age group conditions being fulfilled and where necessary and possible trade, political ideologies and ethnicity being considered. The number of members elected from any one area shall have a minimum of 20% of any one gender or age group out of the total to be elected from that area and at least one member from an ethnic minority if they form more than 10% of the eligible voters. The members so elected would be considered as independents even if nominated or supported by a political party. The number of elected members in any group in a given Segment – other than in Segments A and B – would vary from Region to Region depending on the number of sub-administrative areas in that region.

    Segment A would consist of ten members elected from each district area, plus hundred members elected nationally on trade basis from among those who are in and practicing that trade. (one member for each trade or group of trades, to be defined) plus fifty members elected nationally on ideological basis making a total of four hundred members.

    Segment B would consist of not more than fifteen members from a Region (groups in Segment C) elected collectively by the members of the various Segments within that Regional area from among those residing within that area and not having stood for election to any Segments. (Assuming there are four Regions the total number of members to Segment B would be (4 x 15) sixty).

    Segment C groups would consist of four members elected from each divisional area within that Regional area.

    Segment D groups would consist of three members elected from each of the sub-divisional areas within that district area.

    Segment E groups would consist of three members elected from each Gramasevaka area within that sub-divisional area.

    Segment F groups would consist of five members elected from among those residing within its area.

    Segment G groups would consist of two members elected from each of the Gramasevaka areas within that divisional area.

    03 The Heads and Deputy Heads of the various groups in each Segment to be elected as described below. The Head and the Deputy Head shall not be of the same gender, age or ethnic group in any group of any Segment provided there are more than 10% of eligible voters of any one ethnic group within that area. The Deputy Head has to be assigned sufficient powers and duties to make that office meaningful and would act for the Head in his/her absence. They shall act with the prior approval of the respective groups.

    Segment A: by the members of the Segment from among themselves.

    Segment B: by the members of the Segment from among themselves.

    Segment C: collectively elected by the members of the various groups in all the Segments in that Region together with the members elected to Segment A and B from within that Region. An Assistant Head has to be elected to act for the Deputy Head in his/her absence and who shall not belong to the same ethnic group as that of the Deputy Head and where possible, different from the ethnicity of the Head as well.

    Segment D: collectively by the members elected directly to that group of the Segment and members elected to Segments A and C from that district area.

    Segment E: collectively by the members elected directly to that group and the members who have been elected to Segment D from that sub-divisional area.

    Segment F: directly by the voters of that Grama Sevaka area in addition to the members of that Council.

    Segment G: collectively by the members elected directly to that group of the Segment and members elected to Segment C from that divisional area.

    04 The Head of State: The Head of one Region will act as the Head of State with the Deputy Head of another Region as the Deputy Head of State for a period one year with the Head’s and Deputy/Assistant Head’s of the other Regions taking their turns in rotation. If the Deputy Head of one Region happens to belong to the same ethnic group as that of the Head of one Region who is acting as the Head of State then the Assistant Head of that Region would act as the Deputy Head of State. The Head of State and his/her Deputy would be guided by Segment B in their actions and would have the powers and responsibilities similar to that of a Head of State of a country where the Parliament is supreme. (India and Malaysia might be quoted as examples.). The Head of State is accountable to Segment B.

    05 Salaries/ Allowances to the members elected to the various Councils

    From the above it would be seen that there would be

    01 No. group in Segment A with 250 + 100 + 50 = 400 Members
    01 No. group in Segment B with 4 × 15 = 60 Members
    04 Nos. groups in Segment C with 4 x 326 = 1304 Members
    25 Nos. groups in Segment D with about 7500+ members and in addition a further number of groups in Segments E, F and G – with a large number of members (168,000), the grand total of which would be a staggering figure (about 177,000+), which would naturally raise the question of the need of a large sum of money by way of salary, allowances etc. considering the present payments to M.PP. It is suggested that these members be not paid any salary since they had volunteered to serve the people. They may be reimbursed the actual expenditure incurred by them monthly, but the amount reimbursed shall not exceed the maximum salary drawn by a SLAS Class 1 officer for the National Minister, and the others lesser amounts. In the case of the Heads and Deputy Heads of the Segments, the amount reimbursed shall not exceed the salary of a Class 1 officer in the judicial service for the Head of Segment A, and others lesser amounts. No traveling allowances are payable except the actual ordinary bus-fares, if there are no train services available. Foreign trips, if it becomes absolutely necessary, only economy class airfare on the national carrier plus 50% of the most economical travel fare that might have been actually incurred within the foreign country, shall be provided. All other expenses including board and lodging shall be borne by the persons concerned. (With Video conferencing being available, the need for traveling would not be necessary)

    06 Eligibility: No person shall be eligible to contest or to become a member of a group in any Segment if he had been a member of that group within the last two years immediately preceding the date of election. However he shall be eligible to contest to any other Segment. This clause shall apply to all members of his/her immediate family and only one member of a family can seek election to any Segment at any one time.

    A person while holding a ‘post’ in the government or government controlled institutions or public limited liability companies quoted in the Colombo Stock Exchange shall not be eligible to seek election to any Segment.

    07 The term (period) of all Segments shall be four years and elections should be held only once in every four years with dates to be fixed in the constitution itself as in the U.S.A. It is suggested that nominations be called in the month of August and elections be held in the month of September, and the new members assuming office in the month of October as there are no significant religious events in these months. The period for transition of power to the newly elected persons shall be a minimum of seven days and a maximum of fourteen days. A line of succession shall be formulated as in the U.S.A. to fill in any vacancies in the offices of the Head and Deputy Head of State, Head’s or Deputy head’s of Segments or Assistant Head’s of Segment C that might occur in between election dates. The person who was next in line in the last election shall fill in the vacancies caused by persons directly elected by the voters.

    08 Any person or group of groups of persons violating the constitution shall be held personally responsible for same and dealt with suitably.

    09 To preserve the continuity of the Segments, a system of retiring by rotation, as is practiced in the Board of Directors of limited liability companies may be considered, as that system might be more beneficial to the country.

    Other suggestions for consideration

    10 Articles for the following purposes have to be incorporated into the Constitution (a) that the environment is the foundation of economic growth and poverty reduction, and that the government is legally responsible for providing a clean and healthy environment for its citizens, (b) provision for public interest litigations on the lines that is available in India against any institution or personally against any official of an institution for actions taken or not taken or delay in taking action that would adversely affect the interest of any individual or group of persons, during the course of his/her duty, even if done in good faith, if it could have been avoided had he/she taken an alternative course of action (c) a “Right to information Act” similar to what is available in India be enacted to enable the ordinary person to obtain any information that he/she wants which shall include photo copies of minute sheets or the like provided such information will not hamper the security of the country (d) discrimination on any grounds by anyone shall be made a punishable penal offence similar to what is available in Canada and a greater punishment if that person happens to be a public servant (e) for controlling the exploitation of our natural resources including fishing on the high seas within our boundary, by the multinational companies as is being done in China (f) devolving the decision-making powers over the use and management of natural resources to the local communities (to Segment F) – as it would create greater food security and more equal power relationship, (g) civil society organizations that represent public interest be given their due place in legislative and budget policy debates and where necessary in other matters as well.

    11 No Law shall be initiated, amended or repealed by Segment A until a 2/3 majority in each of the groups in Segment C have ratified it.

    No laws, motions, byelaws, regulations that affect its minority shall be deemed to have been accepted by any group in Segment C unless a three-fourth majority of the minority members in that group in Segment C supports it.

    No loan can be negotiated by Segment B for any purpose without the prior approval of all the groups in Segment C.

    12 Three months before the date fixed for election in the constitution, canvassing in any form shall be forbidden including the announcement of any beneficial programs and the incumbents in any Segment shall not in any way assist the contestants for any Segments or in the alternative if the date of election is not fixed in the constitution and the incumbents are permitted to contest, then a caretaker government shall be in office on the Pakistan and Bangladesh model – consisting of persons not directly involved in partisan politics, with the Chief Justice as the Head of the State and elections be concluded within a period of six months at the maximum

    13 Independent Commissions: shall be appointed for the proper administration and control of the various services that have to function independently according to laid down procedures. These commissions are accountable and answerable to the Head of State. No interference of any kind by anyone including the Head of State, Heads of Segments or any member of any Segment shall be permitted.

    14 Composition of the commissions shall be on the basis of one member from each of the Regions elected jointly by the members of all Segments within each Region. The members of Segments A and B shall jointly elect one member of any Commission, who shall be the Chairman.

    15 The administrative set-up would be region-wise in all matters save and except those that cannot be entrusted to regions due to their particular national character and are of concern to the entire country – e.g. postal, railway etc. and these would come under the control of Segment B but any development activity connected to these institutions should be entrusted to the concerned group in Segment D.

    16 Groups in all Segments would have the freedom to interact and formulate policies on matters assigned to the Segments or for any other purpose they deem necessary thus preserving the indivisible character of the country.

    17 When a voter becomes ineligible to contest an election by having been a member of a Segment during the preceding two years or for any other reason then that ineligibility shall also apply to his/her immediate family, his/her parents immediate family including their grand parents and grand children.

    It is earnestly requested that the learned persons who are advising the government in drafting amendments to the constitution, take into consideration the basic suggestions contained herein and build on it in the wider interest of the country at large. It is accepted that many other important issues have not been given thought to or mentioned herein due to the length of these suggestions and my limited capacity.

    Due to the fratricidal violence that we are now embroiled in, it is far too easy to lose sight of these matters, so much to rob us of the very ideas that can be our salvation.

    For further details, clarifications, objections, comments, constructive criticisms of any short-comings or defects in these proposals, and where possible suggesting suitable remedies to overcome them, are most welcome and may please be addressed to:

    endingturmoil@yahoo.co.uk or sie.kathieravelu@gmail.co.uk

    @ @ @ @ @ @ @

    If your good self is of opinion that this system merits consideration, please be good enough to render moral assistance in promoting the idea among those interested in finding a solution to our problems.

    In promoting and discussing these ideas, it is my humble opinion that we use the email in addition to the print and electronic media in that it would save money, time, and the environment and reduce the workload on the postal department.

    Thanking your good self in advance in anticipation of an early response,

    Yours in Service,

    Sie.Kathieravelu

    I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything but I can do something.
    And because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do the something I can do.
    What I can do, I should do. And what I should do, by the Grace of God, I will do.

    – Edward Everett Hale (1822 – 1909)

    You never change things by fighting the existing reality.
    To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.

    – R. Buckminster Fuller

    IF THERE IS A WILL THERE IS A WAY

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