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Glimpses of Sri Lanka’s struggle for liberation

Emancipation is any effort to procure economic and social rights, political rights or equality, often for a specifically disenfranchised group, or more generally, in discussion of such matters. Emancipation is freedom from the condition of slavery, oppression and exploitation etc. As much as power can be exercised to enslave others, that oppressive power can also be resisted by the power of the oppressed to obtain freedom. The story of politics in human history is not only about it being used for oppression and domination but it is also about resistance to domination and oppression to seeking freedom.

In Sri Lanka we can see that the rising of Liberation Tigers of Tamil Ellam (LTTE) and the Youth uprisings of People’s Liberation Front “Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna” (JVP). The Constitution of the country was also paved a path for these uprising and the crucial war. Since the rights of the people have been violated and there was a clear separation for the rights of the minority comparing to the majority. When British were leaving the country the difference was not there according to the 2nd constitution of Sri Lanka in 1947 Soulbury Constitution. But when J. R. Jayawardene was presenting his constitution in 1978 there have been already a division created among the people in the country though the 1972 constitution and people have been waiting for a better solution. Unfortunately, the minority was being surprised and they have been not given equal rights and the war broke out in the country. But the 13th amendment and 18th amendment of the 1978 J. R. Jayawadne’s constitution in Sri Lanka has created a controversy in Sri Lankan politics. When these amendments are preceded, there had been historically significant busts.

We can see the idea of resistance against domination, and reformulate the idea of politics as political resistance, against the politics of domination. Mahathma Ghandi in India, Martin Luther King in United States of America, Ho Chi Minh in Vietnam, Che Guevara in Cuba, Nelson Mandela in South Africa are known as ironic political figures in the history who against political resistance.

The Constitution is the supreme law of Sri Lanka. Any act or conduct inconsistent with the Constitution is void. Sri Lanka has had 4 constitutions since 1931 to 1978 though there had been reforms from 1833. 1978 Constitution has gone through 19 amendments. It shows the demand of a new constitution. The former constitutions 1972 & 1978 are also root cause for the war in the country. Since Sri Lanka is in transitional process after 3 decades of crucial war. Now the state can take measures to avoid such destructions in future by assuring the rights of all citizens equally and respected through a new constitution. There is a vast difference in the country and among the people comparing to 1978 (39 years)


The emerge of the 13th Amendment of the 1978 constitution was mainly infused with the pressure of government of India. The former Prime Minister of India Rajeev Gandhi took the Sri Lankan problem or issue as an issue that happened in one of his state and tried hi maximum to solve it out with his interferences which have been highly appreciated by the Tamil Nadu state people who really wanted a solution to the Sri Lankan problem. The Former Indian Prime Minister Rajeev Ghandi did not consider the international laws, rules and regulation and sent the Indian army to Sri Lanka. Sri Lankan government and people were in fear whether India would invade Sri Lanka because of their patterns of behavior. Even though at that time the actions and behaviours of Indian government was not condemned or questioned by the United Nations (UN) or the World Countries.

When we look back to the history and recall the incidents that occurred we can clearly identify the voices raised in all over India especially in Tamil Nadu, to pressure a political solution and power devolution for the Tamils in Sri Lanka. India thought that to create a system that prevails in India like to give power to the states or provinces and to appoint a prime minister so that the problem will be solved in Sri Lanka. Then the borders for the provinces were established throughout the country and provincial councils were created. Tamil language was made equal to Sinhala language and was declared as an official language in the country. The governor will be appointed by the government of Sri Lanka and provinces will come under the governor. This is the 13th Amendment of the Sri Lankan Constitution. This was the change was historical and was made in the country due to the influence of another country. This amendment is an amendment which was not properly implemented. The Provincial councils are being in operation. Since 1988 onwards the provincial council elections were held.  But the powers of land and police were not given the provincial councils. There is no possibility to give it to the provincial councils. In overall the 13th constitutional amendment is ended up in a controversy.

Then once the government was changed in 1994, President Chandrika Bandaranayake Kumaratunga (1994-2001) was not having the power in the parliament as like the former government had. She had the majority to rule the country but not the majority to make changes in the constitution. Especially when she wanted to bring the 17th amendment to the 1978 Constitution she was supported by other minor parties. In 2001 the 17th amendment is that opens for the independent commissions or institutions which have the powers of the state leader partly. The Election Commission, The Public Service Commission, The National Police Commission, The Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka, The Permanent Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption, The Finance Commission and the Delimitation commission. Though these bills had passed in the parliament there have been hidden agendas when it comes to the implementation.

And the change of government or else known as the regime of Mahinda Rajapakshe was a one of the significant era to the country since there had been changes occurred both for the development of the country and for the human rights violations in the war was conducted. What so ever the victory against the LTTE brought the former president Mahinda Rajapakshe as a hero among the Sinhalese in the South and made the world countries in amaze because of a single government that won over a world famous terrorist group. The war victory and the publicity and the respect he had among the Sinhalese in the South created a mammoth courage to Mahinda Rajapakshe imagine that he will be the king of the country for the rest of his life since people were paying homage to him for the war victory as well as for the way he made the country develop after war in the South. And the war hero Mahinada Rajapakshe won the presidential election at ease against the common candidate Sarath Fonseka and put him in prison due to political influence and for his safety. Then Mahinda Rajapakshe dismissed the parliament and called for the general election with his massive victory in the presidential election. His main focus was bringing the 18th constitutional amendment.

The 18th amendment further strengthens the power of the executive and made Mahinda Rajapakshe equal to a king rather than president and the government as regime. Till then a president can stay in his office twice by election. But the 18th amendment made it as a president can contest in the election lifelong. All the amendments that have come up in the 17th Amendment were vanished including independent commissions. The executive has given all the powers. It’s like one-man show. The world and the international community turned to be so angry towards the rule of the Mahinda Rajapakshe since he was not observing the common law that is being accepted by the world countries. But as fate Mahinda Rajapakshe was defeated in 2015 Presidential election to the Maithripala Sirisena the Common Opposition Candidate. And all his dreams were vanished. The present government made the 19th amendment and abolished the 18th amendment. It is obvious in today’s context the 19th amendment was unable to find a proper place to be placed.    

In this manner LTTE aroused against the Sri Lankan government since the rights of the Tamils who are minorities in the country. It is obvious that they wanted to be equal as citizens of the nation as like the majority. Since, it is being not promised through the constitution. They never wanted to be treated as slaves anymore. At the same time the JVP youth uprising also was a cause of the suppress that the people in Sri Lanka were at that time, fear due to the intervention of Indian government to the Sri Lankan political issue unnecessarily guided for the youth uprising. The new constitution at least should pay attention to Principles of Devolution, State Land, Community Councils, Electoral system, Second Chamber and Executive in order to make better living conditions to the people in the country. People in the country are being driven by the political ideology of the politicians and political parties whereas they were unable to identify the reality of country’s current situation. Hope the new constitution will never allow such things to be repeated in the country again.

By: Anthony Vinoth



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