Problems in devolving powers to the provinces
Posted on January 20th, 2012
Haris de Silva-Courtesy The Island
TNA Parlimentarians on the proposed devolution of powers to Provincial Councils
I wish to refer to the imbroglio between the GoSL (Government of Sri Lanka) and the TNA (Tamil National Alliance) on the proposed devolution of powers to Provincial Councils. It has apparently got stuck on a sticky wicket on the question of devolving Police and Land powers. They are not new or recent demands on the part of Tamil politicians.
The present demand for Police and Land powers for Provincial Councils is based on the 13th Amendment to the 1978 Constitution passed in November 1987. As it is well known, from the time the 13th Amendment became a part of the 1978 Constitution, that Amendment was agreed upon and was signed under duress, by Mr. J. R .Jayewardene, the first Executive President. It was also the only such Amendment out of the 16 amendments passed during his tenure of office. Similarly, Ranil Wickremasinghe, the then Prime Minister, too seems to have agreed to a CFA (Ceasefire Agreement) which was put up to him by Norway, on behalf of the LTTE and was signed by him, apparently in good-faith, in February 2002, perhaps under the impression that it will give a respite to the fighting between the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) and the GoSL and would lead to peaceful co-existence between them. But what happened thereafter, is now history.
The demands made by the then LTTE and now by the TNA, are no doubt based on the Tamil homeland theory, which has been effectively demolished by many, including historians like, now Emeritus, Prof. K. M. de Silva. Only those who refuse to see the truth of irrefutable historical evidence continue to hold that theory. We refer to that long refuted claim, mainly because the TNA is seeking a re-merger of the Northern and the Eastern provinces, apparently on the basis that those two provinces were the ‘homeland’ of the Tamil people. Sebastian Rasalingam (from Toronto, Canada) had said in his article published in ‘The Island’ of 7th January, 2012, that Bishop Rayappu Joseph had said in an article published in the Sri Lanka Guardian of 4th January  (which I have not seen) that Tamils should reassert that they are a nation and fight for nothing less than self-determination. It seems doubly certain, that two necessary administrative and political powers for such a determination would certainly be to have Police and Land powers.
Rasalingam has also said that the LTTE, who fought on the basis of a Tamil nation, had reduced the Tamil population to 8%, sacrificing young people as cannon fodder. He, and also an article entitled ‘An Appeal to the Tamil Community and its civil and political representatives’ signed by 68 Tamil persons and published in ‘The Island’ of 6th January 2012, also says the LTTE gave two hours notice to the Muslims in Jaffna and in the Eastern Province to evacuate the areas in which they were residing in, within two days and 80,000 were made to flee their residences in a barbaric act of ethnic cleansing. Also, in the LLRC (Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission) Report (2011), Chapter 6.22 says Sinhalese families were evicted in 1977, 1980 and 1987, and in 6.16 and 6.42 it says about 150,000 Sinhalese residents in the coastal belt from Ottamvady to Panama were displaced in the 1980s.
The grabbing of individuals lands in Jaffna, displacing such original owners and redistributing such lands among the LTTE favourites and such matters have also been documented in the LLRC Report .
In Chapter 6, and particularly, 6.9, 6.14-15, 6.17, 6.40, and 6.78-80 have made references to such matters. That report, in the eyes of certain individuals, may have its defects, in not having being able to properly address the war-crimes in the final days of the war against the LTTE, but that is not a question we are addressing in this presentation.
What we are primarily concerned is in peaceful co-existence among all communities in this island, with whatever devolution of powers the GoSL and the TNA can come into, including on the contentious Police and Land powers. In the same breath, it has also to be mentioned that the GoSL should invite the Muslims to whatever discussions on devolution they will have with the TNA, because they and the Sinhalese who lived in Jaffna and in the Eastern Province, were the other two most affected communities due to LTTE ethnic cleansing in 1990 and earlier, as said before. It will be most unreasonable for the GoSL to come to any agreement on devolution, only with the TNA, even as far as the Northern Province or Jaffna is concerned, because the Muslims and the Sinhalese were equally affected in the ethnic cleansing done by the LTTE, as stated earlier.
I am neither a political motivated nor an extremist in the views I hold on this question and I believe, such co-existential views are held by most Sri Lankans. What we earnestly desire as Sri Lankans is to live in peace, and to let the generations to come, share with all communities, without hindrance, the riches of this country. Once again, as Rasalingam has said, let the multi-lingual, multi-religious and multi-cultural society seen in Colombo, be the ideal to follow. Creating of ethnic enclaves is a sure recipe for the disintegration of the territorial integrity of this country and for eternal warfare. Would any right thinking person want to inherit such a calamity?
Haris de Silva