Monday, January 11, 2016

[Editorial # 38] Sri Lanka’s historic opportunity : The Hindu

[Following editorial has been published in The Hindu on 11th January 2016. Read through it and try to answer the questions that follow. Please do not copy and paste answers. The objective of this exercise is to get you in the groove of answer -writing. Try to write in your own words. Don't hesitate to write in a bulleted-format, if you are uncomfortable in writing in paragraph form.]
It is a moment of great hope and some fear in Sri Lanka. As it takes the first step towards drafting a new Constitution, there is renewed hope that the island nation will be able to reinvent itself as a modern state, one that brings economic prosperity and national unity. At the same time, it is also difficult to ignore the fear that yet another opportunity presented by history may fail owing to political opposition, ethnic extremism and an entrenched, if not systemic, resistance to change. President Maithripala Sirisena’s address to Parliament on the occasion of the tabling of a motion to create a Constitutional Assembly was bold in its invocation of past failures. His candid reference to the failure to implement past agreements as the origin of the protracted civil war showed deep understanding of his country’s situation. Laced with justified apprehensions about the likely impediments, Mr. Sirisena has warned his countrymen against attempts to raise the bogey of external pressure and an alleged threat to the special status of Buddhism in Sri Lanka. He is aware of the presence of extremists on both sides of the ethnic divide. He has asserted that a constitutional solution will be indigenous. The process of constituting the entire membership of the current Parliament as a Constitutional Assembly has begun. A steering committee will be tasked with drafting a new Constitution while inputs from outside the parliamentary structure will be in the form of a ‘Public Representation Commission’.

For those familiar with the peace and reform processes of the last quarter century, it may appear that all talk of national unity and a non-discriminatory system is not new. It is a measure of how much the events of the recent years had turned the clock back on the discourse to resolve the national question that each time an incumbent President or Prime Minister spells out a new vision, it is accompanied by new hopes and fears. The broad contours of an alternative constitutional framework are known. To many, it lies in abolishing the executive presidency and reforming the electoral system. In recent years, promoting good governance by strengthening democratic institutions, a comprehensive rights regime and substantive power-sharing arrangements involving all ethnic minorities have been understood to be necessary elements. The path is clear, and the pitfalls are known. The process may be long and the effort to secure a two-thirds majority in the Assembly, followed by a similar special majority in Parliament and approval in a referendum, will require political will and hard work. The emergence of a new order since 2015 under President Sirisena and Prime Minister Wickremesinghe provides a setting conducive for positive change, after the first few years in the post-conflict phase were lost in triumphalist and nationalistic rhetoric. It is a historic opportunity for all stake-holders, including Tamils, Muslims and plantation Tamils, to participate in the process. It is time all sides left their nationalist rhetoric of the past behind.
1. Explain the following terms/expressions: (50 words)
  • Ethnic extremism
  • Civil War
  • Referendum
  • Constitution
2. Where is Sri Lanka located? Locate the country on a map and identify the water bodies around the country? How far is Sri Lanka from India? If you have to go to Sri Lanka how would you travel? 
3. Write a short note on the history of Sri Lanka? What connection has this country with the mythical city of Lanka as mentioned in the epic Ramayana?
4. What is LTTE? What did they want and what was their mode of achieving their objectives?
5. Should India be concerned about the political disturbances and instability in Sri Lanka? Why or why not?
6. What are the cultural links between India and Sri Lanka?
7. What are 13th Amendment and Rajiv-Jayawardene Accord?
8. What are the current issues prevailing in Sri Lanka?
9. Why is Sri Lanka trying to draft a new Constitution? 
10. Sri Lanka ia all set to start drafting a new Constitution. Should India be concerned about such developments in Sri Lanka? Evaluate the pros and cons. (200 words)


  1. ETHNIC: It refers to the group of people belonging to one culture, group of people caused mainly due to mugration of people from one place to another
    EXTREMISM:- takinig extreme political or religious views
    Hence ethnic extremism means, one who takes the extremist views with regards to ethnic issues.
    CIVIL WAR:- the war between citizens of same country
    Referendum:-The vote that an electorate has to exercise on general issue to seek his opinion. The outcome of the refernedun is not mandatory to implement .
    constitution:- constitution is a well laid-down principles according to which the state has to be governed.

  2. 2. Where is Sri Lanka located? Locate the country on a map and identify the water bodies around the country? How far is Sri Lanka from India? If you have to go to Sri Lanka how would you travel?
    A. sri lanka lies to the south of india connected through palkstrait.It is just 32 km apart. air india users sets 2 columbo flights once a week.There was a mannar line planned on both sides and completed but however the international rail route connecting both was not yet constructed.The general travel route was boat between two countries.

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  4. 3. Write a short note on the history of Sri Lanka? What connection has this country with the mythical city of Lanka as mentioned in the epic Ramayana?
    A.In the 5th C BC indo aryans precipitated into present sri lanka. they are called as sinhalese. From the beginning of 3C BC , people from Tamil Nadu started moving into sri lanka and this got many fold when the british took the entire island under its command and control. This is because the britishers picked people from india to the lanka for tea plantation. Hence they are the ethnic community in the srilanka.
    Sri lanka became independent on 1948 and the resourse crunch sri lanka became the boiling point for sinhalese nationalism as the tea planters who are in majority of the N and E were dienfranchise. When budhism became state religion in 1972, it further rubbed salt to the wounds.The broke out of 2 Eelam wars and the assassination of PM of india were the fallout ot this effect.Rebel leader Velupillai Prabhakaran was killed in 2009 after a life-time fighting for a Tamil state was paradigm shift in srilanka. After the rise and fall of Mahinda Rajapaksa the current government has been performing well in delivering its duties.

    When Ravana took sita to lanka on his flying machine now it was the turn of Lord Rama to cross the ocean and fight with Ravana and save sita. To wage a war he need an army which has to be taken to the lanka through indian ocean.Hence he constructed a bridge with the support of army and could able to get back sita to the palace. This bridge was now called as ramsethu which is in news for the construction of channel through the bridge for shipping .

  5. 4. What is LTTE? What did they want and what was their mode of achieving their objectives?
    A. liberation tigers of tamil Elam was acronymed as LTTE was a militant organisation estalished for the creation of TAMIL EALAM an independent country for native tamils in 1976.
    The following are the means of achieeving their obj:
    2.arms smuggling
    3. people smuggling
    5. money laundering
    6. sea piracy
    all these became a source of funding to the LTTE.

  6. 5. Should India be concerned about the political disturbances and instability in Sri Lanka? Why or why not?
    1. india aspiring to become superpower mush have bonhomie relations the neighbouring countries
    2. to make SAARC initiative successful the cooperation of our neighbours is important curtail the string of pearls of china ,there should be stability in the nation which inturn promotes peace in the country and in its neighbours also i.e. india.
    3.major trade flows through indian ocean where almost 80% of seaborne oil transit through indian ocean and keeping it stable is strategically important.
    4.with a chunk of diaspora in along run sri lanka can be made to play a vital role for india to invest when the country was ready to get off the ground.
    1. It facilitates the healthy movement of people and goods with limited restrictions
    2.compensation and rehabilitation and resettlement of victims of war on both sides can be done.
    3. better employment oppurtunities along with considerable thrust on socio and economic development can be targetted in ture with the SDGs.
    4.wise use of natural resources without compromising the needs of fishermen can be addressed.
    To achieve the above objectives the stability and democracy is the bedrock which has to be calibrated over a period of time.

  7. Ethnic extremism - It is a sense of collective belonging or a group identity on the basis of multifarious reasons such as common descent, historical events, fictional and non-fictional past and their attachment to historic homeland. Extremism on the other hand is resorting to beliefs and practice which are extreme in nature and often radical.It also highlights their intention to resort to violence and separatism. So any person or say an entity have beliefs or practice of extremism on the grounds of ethnicity will be referred as an ethnic extremist.
    Civil war- Doyle and Sambanis laid down certain criteria as to ascertain whether a war is a civil war or not those criteria are as follow:
    1) it was an armed conflict
    2)resulted in more than 1,000 battle deaths
    3) it posed threat and challenge to the sovereignty of an internationally
    recognized state
    4) it occurred within the recognized boundary of that state
    5) it also saw the concerned state as one of the active and principal combatants
    6) it also saw rebels could organize an organized military opposition on the
    state to inflict significant casualties on the state.

    1. good information about the criteria

    2. good information about the criteria

  8. 6. What are the cultural links between India and Sri Lanka?
    A. Both had the friendly relations during the reigh of ASHOKA. It is said that Ashoka had sent his son outside countries like srilanka for the spread of budhism. His son Mahinda along with a bodhi tree entered lanka.Many monastries and budhist monumnets became the ambassadors of cultural relations across the nations that follow budhism.
    ISURUMUNI and VESSAGIRIA became the important places of worship.
    In 2012 both the countries celebrated 2600th year of attainment of enlightenment by Lord Buddha – Sambuddhatva Jayanti.

  9. 7. What are 13th Amendment and Rajiv-Jayawardene Accord?
    A. India Lanka accord notably known as rajeev gandhi-Jayawadene accord was signed between the PM and President of Sri Lanka to end the civil war in lanka.
    According to the accord, lankan military will pull back its army from the north while the rebels would surrender their arms. As the LTTE was not invited to the table for solution the IPKF forces have to open a fierce battle on the rebels which further added fuel to the fire. The 13th amendment which was enacted in 4 months provided provisions to form provincial councils. it also added for making sinhalese and tamil to make national and english as link language.

  10. 8. What are the current issues prevailing in Sri Lanka?
    A. After the period of elam war followed by raise and fall of rajapaksha government the sirisena government is leaving no stone unturned to bring peace to the land.With the SC verdict of making the indo-srilanka accord unconstitutional, fresh constitution making body is formed to address the loopholes of the early constitution. Recently the 19th amendment act was passsed to reduce the power of the president and to make it more like parliamentary form of government.

  11. 9. Why is Sri Lanka trying to draft a new Constitution?
    A. The earlier constitution failed to address the needs of the society which lead to the Elam war where the lankan government could successfully able to boot out the anti nationalists.In order not to face similar issues and to fulfill the objectives of the rajeev gandhi-Jayavardeni accord of providing provincial autonomy to the provinces by establishing autonomous councils and also to take the minority muslims to the table the new constitution is being drafted.

  12. 10. Sri Lanka is all set to start drafting a new Constitution. Should India be concerned about such developments in Sri Lanka? Evaluate the pros and cons. (200 words)
    A. India has to be concerned as the lankan government is drafting the new constitution due to the following reasons. The SC of sri lanka declared the 13 amendment was unconstitutional. Hence the fundamental rights of the tamil people residing in north and northeast has to be guaranteed along with muslim minority population .
    1. democracy with parliamentary setup would be formed
    2.fundamental rights of the all people may be addressed
    3.can futher improve relations with respect to resettlement and rehabilitation on both sides
    4. can futher boost trade and servies
    5. stability in the region can be achieved
    CONS:- issues will again sparks up in the future as the geography is considered.
    2.delays in procedures will be a common as the decision has to satisfy everone on stake which was not the case in the earlier presidential system.
    katchattvu will remained as bone of contention.
    psychological apprehension towards minorities atleast for few generatinos.

  13. 10. One of the major reasons for India’s concerns is the presence of Tamils as an ethnic minority in the region. Objections from the majority Sinhala community regarding power sharing with their Tamilian counterparts led to years of war and bitterness, including the formation of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.
    Moreover, involvement of Indian Peacekeeping Forces in the region to quell the Civil War in pursuance of the Indo-Sri Lankan Accord of 1987 defined India’s role in its neighbor’s conflicts. Also, India accommodated nearly 23, 356 Sri Lankan Tamils made stateless by their government and still does, thus making it a stakeholder in Sri Lankan Constitution.
    Despite several reasons for India to be concerned about developments in the Sri Lankan Constitution, the Government would do good not to repeat the Nepal fiasco where being overly ‘concerned’ led to frigid relations with the State.
    Moreover, Sri Lanka’s slight proximity with China may work against Indian interests if it rubs the Government the wrong way
    Hence, India’s foreign policy towards Sri Lanka should be minimalist and supportive at best while encouraging the Constituent Assembly to be sensitive to the rights of the ethnic minorities as well.

  14. 9. The Sri Lankan Government is trying to eliminate causes that contributed to quarter century of Civil war in the island nations between the minority Sri Lankan Tamils and the majority Sinhalese. By drafting a Constitution that combines the demands of both communities and promotes harmony in the island nation.

    1. so, prior to this constitution was not drafted?????? even i'm not sure. what i feel is that if there exists any constitution elsewhere, the demand of the question is the reasons for the failure of 1st constitution.
      i'm not sure.

    2. I meant the reason for drafting a new Constitution is that the previous Constitutions have failed to address the ethnic tensions between the Sinhalas and the Sri Lankan Tamils.

  15. 8. Currently, the issues in limelight in the island nation are:
    i) Concerns regarding the status of minority Tamils and Muslims with reference to distribution of power, national identity, etc.
    ii) Northern Sri Lanka which bore a majority of brunt of the conflict suffers from poverty, at twice the national rate of 6.7%.
    iii) Unemployment in the region is also at an all time high.
    iv) Rampant corruption and bureaucratic snail pace in the re-settlement and rehabilitation of displaced population.

  16. 7. The 13th Amendment to the Constitution was passed in pursuance of the Rajiv-Jayewardene Accord signed between the then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and Sri Lankan President J.R. Jayewardene regarding devolution of powers to the Provincial Councils in 1987. Hence the 13th Amendment passed in 1987 led to the creation of Provincial Councils in Sri Lanka and made Sinhala and Tamil the official languages of the State while preserving English.

  17. Referendum- It refers to the popular vote which is given by the electorate on a subject which is referred to them, generally to answer in positive or negative.
    Constitution- "The Constitution is not an instrument for the government to restrain the people, it is an instrument for the people to restrain the government."(Patrick Henry)It is the Grundnorm of any country. It is a document from where the various organs of the state derives its legality. There can be various chapters in the constitution to deal with the functioning of these organs. It is the Fundamental document from where all the laws derives its legality any laws or action ultra vires of the constitution is void.

    1. it would have been nice if you add regarding the profession of patrick Henry.-lawyer/doctor/chief justice???

    2. Patrick Henry was a Lawyer and was greatly responsible for passing of the Bill of Rights.He was a brilliant orator and one of the most prominent figure of the American Revolution, and is best known for his words "Give me liberty or give me death!"

  18. Sri Lanka is located in the continent of Asia. It lies in South Asia and the latitude and longitude for the country are 7.5653° N, 80.4303° E. It is an island country so it is surrounded by water bodies on all the side. Park Strait lies on the northern border and it separates Sri Lanka from India. It has Gulf of Mannar on the west, India Ocean on the south and Bay of Bengal in North west.
    Sri Lanka is approximately 30 to 32 km far from India.
    If I have to travel to Sri Lanka from India I would prefer a flight from Bangalore itself.