The search for innovative and creative ideas
Posted on July 26th, 2011

By Neville Ladduwahetty

The US Secretary of State during her visit to Chennai is reported to have stated that the US is looking at “some innovative and creative ideas to break the impasse over the Sri Lankan Tamil issue”. The idea explored thus far to break the impasse over the Sri Lankan Tamil issue since 1987 has been a political arrangement based on the Indian model in the form of the 13th Amendment. Since this arrangement was brokered by India and advocated for Sri Lanka, it may be correct to conclude that this model has served India well. On the other hand, IF this is not so, Sri Lanka should not be faulted for exploring fresh approaches that are innovative and creative” as stated by the US Secretary of State.

For instance, the situation regarding Education and Health under the Indian model is contained in an article titled “The Indian model” by Gurchran Das in the journal “Foreign Affairs” of July/August 2006. Despite the lapse of 5 years since this article was published the basic situation is not much different today.

EDUCATION under the Indian Model

Das states: “In the midst of a booming private economy, Indians despair over the lack of the simplest public goods. It used to be the opposite: during India’s socialist days, Indians worried about economic growth but were proud of their world-class judiciary, bureaucracy, and police force. But now, the old centralised bureaucratic Indian state is in steady decline. Where it is desperately needed – in providing basic education, health care, and drinking water – it has performed appallingly””¦.”Considering one particularly telling statistic: according to a recent study by Harvard University’s Michael Kremer, one out of four teachers in India’s government elementary schools is absent and one out of two present is not teaching at any given time. Even as the famed Indian Institutes of Technology have acquired global reputation, less than half of the children in fourth-level classes in Mumbai can do first-level math. It has gotten so bad that even poor Indians have begun to pull their kids out of government schools and enroll them in private schools, which charge $1 to $3 a month in fees and which spreading rapidly in slums and villages across India”.

HEALTH under the Indian Model

Continuing, Das states: “The same dismal story is being repeated in health and water services, which as also de facto privatized. The share of private spending in health care in India is double that in the United States. Private wells account for nearly all new irrigation capacity in the country. In a city like New Delhi, private citizens cope with an irregular water supply by privately contributing more than half the total cost of the city’s water supply. At government health centres, meanwhile, 40 percent of doctors and a third of the nurses are absent at any given time. According to a study by Jishnu Das and Jeffry Hammer, of the World Bank, there is a 50 percent chance that a doctor at such a centre will recommend a positively harmful therapy”.

In a recent article titled “Is India Ending its Strategic Restraint Doctrine?” by Sunil Dasgupts and Stephan P. Cohen in the Washington Quarterly (Spring 2011, Vol. 34, issue 2 the situation pertaining to security under the Indian model where law and order are devolved to the states is dealt with.

SECURITY under Indian model

Dasgupta and Cohen state: “Rajiv’s second act of strategic assertion came in 1987, when he sent the Indian Army to police a peacekeeping deal he had forced on the Sri Lankan government and the Tamil Tigers. Both sides rejected the argument, and the Indian Army was caught between an insurgency on one side and an unhelpful host Sri Lankan government on the other. India’s only campaign of peace enforcement was a chastening experience. The conflict came to be seen as India’s Vietnam”.

Continuing they state: “Meanwhile, India’s primary security concern continues to be combating insurgency and terrorism. After the Mumbai attacks, the Indian government and the people of India are said to have resolved to tackle the problem head-on”¦ Endemically weak police organisation and a constitutional grant of law and order to the states (not the Union government) makes police modernisation, which would better prepare the country for terror threats, nearly impossible to achieve”.

SITUATION in Sri Lanka

Although the situation in Sri Lanka may not be as dismal as in India in respect of Education and Health services, it is a close approximation to India under the 13th Amendment. Despite this situation, advocacy for the Indian model has not abated. On the other hand, the central government in Sri Lanka is responsible for providing water for drinking and irrigation. In regard to this services India cannot hold a candle to Sri Lanka.

As for the security situation, India devolved police powers to the states. This has prevented the Union government from dealing more effectively with insurgencies and terrorism because of organisational constraints imposed by the states. Consequently, internal security remains India’s primary concern; a fact publicly admitted by India’s Prime Minister Man Mohan Singh. Fortunately, Sri Lanka has been able to resist demands to devolve police powers to provinces despite considerable pressure to do so. If the situation in Sri Lanka was as it is in India today where police powers are devolved, it would not have been possible to end the conflict in Sri Lanka due to conflicts of interest between provincial loyalties and the central government. Even in the United States Homeland Security after 9/11 (20001) terrorist attack is under the Federal Government. Sri Lanka’s internal security requires that police powers are always retained at the Centre.

This concept applies to land powers as well. India has devolved power over land to the states. This power is used by the states to impede Union government from implementing major infrastructure projects relating to energy, transportation etc. that are essential for reasons of national interest and required by the demands of an expanding economy. The constant tussle between the interests of the states and the Union government are a fact of life under devolution. The situation in Sri Lanka would be no different if land powers are devolved to the provinces. The Indian model at its operational level should be studied by those who advocate it.

CONCLUSION

The Indian model is not working for the people of India. The reason for this state of affairs according to Gurcharan Das cited above is that “”¦they did not anticipate that politicians in India’s democracy would “ƒ”¹…”capture’ the bureaucracy and use the system to create jobs and revenue for friends and supporters. The Indian state no longer generates public goods. Instead, it creates private benefits for those who control it”. This tendency exists at the central level both in India and Sri Lanka and perhaps cannot be avoided, but to repeat it at the provincial level under the 13th Amendment is absolute folly. All it would do is to make elected representatives at the provincial level “create jobs and revenues for (their) friends and supporters” causing others to seek alternative arrangements to fulfil their needs as in India; a reason attributed to the popularity of the Maoist movement in nearly a third of India’s states. What the outcome would be in Sri Lanka’s newly created Eastern Provincial Council and the yet to be created Northern Provincial Council only time would tell.

An innovative and creative idea would be a political arrangement at the centre for all major communities to collectively participate in the processes of governance thereby fostering the concept of a unified inclusive Sri Lankan nation. Such an arrangement could be created by constitutionally assuring that a certain percentage of Ministerial and Deputy Ministerial positions are shared between the majority and minority communities, or on a regional basis. This would also assure that a similar proportion of positions are provided for as Chairpersons of Parliamentary Committees as well. Thus the Executive and the Legislature would reflect the national character of the Sri Lankan nation. As for the periphery, the arrangement should be for District coordinating committees made up of representatives of Pradeshiya Sabhas and elected Parliamentary representatives to determine priorities and monitor the performance of Line Ministries at the District level and below. Such an arrangement would eliminate the wastage of resources that are currently expended to maintain a dysfunctional Provincial system and create a framework that is capable of serving the needs of the people more effectively.

An opportunity has been presented and a space granted that Sri Lanka cannot afford to miss. The question that needs to be asked is whether Central Power Sharing arrangements in contrast to regional arrangements that underscore separateness would be more conducive to foster the idea of a unified Sri Lankan nation. Creating unity through a second chamber is not only disingenuous but also farcical because issues of consequence are in the Executive and in the Legislature, and it here that communities need to participate and commit to a Sri Lankan nation.

This opportunity presented and the space granted may be because India has realised that current arrangements in India are contributing to issues of poor governance and increasing internal insecurity. The US is less dogmatic in its pronouncements as to what is best for Sri Lanka because it has ceded to India its role as the regional power. In addition, there is a convergence of Indian and US interests relating to terrorism, promoting democracy and ensuring maritime security. These developments have created the space for Sri Lanka to define its own destiny unencumbered by external influences. Therefore, Sri Lanka has to seize the moment if it is to consolidate its hard won peace.

6 Responses to “The search for innovative and creative ideas”

  1. AsokaK Says:

    Hillary should try to house the homeless Americans living in the culverts of Las Vegas before the next flood instead of worrying about Tamils who are better off in Sri Lanka than smelly Tamil Nad.

  2. Susantha Wijesinghe Says:

    MOTHER OF ALL INNOVATIONS AND CREATIVE IDEAS ? YES, IT IS THE HILARIOUSLY HILARIOUS HILLARY.

  3. Fran Diaz Says:

    An excellent analysis for which we thank Mr Ladduwahetty. If Indian leaders have now realised the need for change in their mode of governance, then indeed the time is opportune for Sri Lankan leaders & lawmakers to do the same according to our needs. The public should be encouraged to send in ideas suitable for Sri Lanka, and changes made without much delay.

  4. Vis8 Says:

    Hi Hillary,
    Did one of your “inventions” include trying to stop “aid” to Sri Lanka by citing a totally fabricated video made by Tamil Terrorists, also known as “Tamils for Obama”?

  5. Rohan8 Says:

    Hilarious Clinton a nasty piece of work. Very much an imperialist as bad as the Milibands and Kouchner. Sri Lanka would be wise to not take any notice of this Clinton.

  6. gamunu6 Says:

    A very impressive response by you..Neville Laduahetty!

    This is how we must respond to people who criticize others, while living in glass houses. They should put their pathetic lives in order in Tamil Nadu. If India is so good, WHY DO THEYCOME TO OUR LAND ILLEGALY.

    Going through the per capita income of both countries.. OURS IS very much better. Beggars , stray dogs, cattle, roam their streets, while some rich gets richer. Corruption is at highest level. One after other they prosecute, BUT still there is no end to corruption there.

    Nobody talks the evil of, so called largest democracy. I for one WILL NEVER visit any part of that country even on pilgrimage to visit Buddhist shrines.

    Thanks again Sir, for valuable contribution. Please keep us informed. ~ Gamunu

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