Call to hold a National Referendum to Withdraw the 13th Amendment to abolish Provincial Councils and instead Grant Adequate Decentralized Powers to Districts
Posted on September 15th, 2012

Media Release  -GLOBAL ALLIANCE FOR PEACE AND UNITY IN SRI LANKA

1. Remembering that the three decade long threat to the break-up of Sri Lanka was averted following the military defeat of the heavily armed Tamil Tigers (LTTE) by the brave men and women of the security forces of the Nation under the able leadership and wholehearted commitment given by His Excellency, Mahinda Rajapakse and the National Government, through a concerted military action which was successfully concluded on May 19, 2009. 

2. Recalling with gratitude the immense sacrifices made by each and every member of the security forces and the fortitude shown by the Nation’s Leaders in safeguarding our Beloved Motherland and regaining the country, and ushering in a new era of peace and prosperity for all our people.
  
3. Being aware of other dangers to the security of the country, her territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence, in the wake of the recent Resolution adopted in the UNHRC at its 19th sessions in March 2012 requiring Sri Lanka to submit to international pressures in respect of matters pertaining to domestic issues, although Sri Lanka has clearly undertaken to fulfill these to the best of her abilities wherever deemed necessary in the national interest.

4. India’s stance in supporting the Resolution and the Indian Prime Minister’s statement wherein he stated that India was joining the western powers, ” to advance their objective of achieving a future for the Tamil community in Sri Lanka that is marked by equality, dignity, justice and self-respect”, is a cause for concern.

Whereas India and the western powers seek special treatment for the Tamil community, Sri Lanka does not and cannot provide for special treatment for any individual community but seeks to ensure the fullest participation of all communities as equal citizens with all the rights guaranteed by the Nation’s Constitution.

India’s unfriendly acts in the 1980’s which gave rise to Tamil terrorism and highly coercive non-neighbourly strategies adopted by her in imposing an unequal Accord in 1987, and in forcing Sri Lanka to devolve wide powers to provinces in terms of the 13th Amendment, have proven to be an impediment to peace and progress in the island. Retaining large provinces leaves room for unwarranted interference by Tamilnadu politicians to repeatedly ignite the separatist flames among the Tamils living across the Palk Strait in Sri Lanka, such as the holding of a convention recently in Chennai on August 12, 2012 to establish a separate state of “Eelam” comprising the northern and eastern provinces of the island. 
           
5. Pro-Tamil Tiger groups within the expatriate Tamils have recently sought US and international support for a Resolution that seeks to establish the Tamil community’s presumed Right to Self-Determination by holding a Referendum in the Tamil majority regions of the northern and eastern provinces to establish a separate state to be called North-East Sri Lanka, similar to that adopted in the creation of the new state of South Sudan.

In the light of moves by extremist members of the Tamils living overseas and separatist elements represented by the TNA, the proxy party of the LTTE, we are firmly of the opinion that these avenues available through the 13th Amendment to enhanced autonomy based on ethnicity and future separation which is bound to create friction and new violence should be forthwith withdrawn from the Statute Book.  It is well to remember that the Indo-Lanka Accord was signed during a 24 hour curfew imposed throughout the island and that the 13th amendment was passed in violation of Sri Lanka’s normal democratic processes. We also need to find a better way to reduce the annually recurring expense of Rs.132 billion (US $1.32 billion) and replace it with a more affordable and efficient system of regional governance. 

6. We wish to stress that the window of opportunity that has presented itself following the events in Geneva should be acted upon without delay.  We should immediately begin a process in consultation with the people of Sri Lanka who were earlier denied the opportunity to voice their opinion on the creation of Provincial Councils, by seeking their views through a Special National Referendum to determine the withdrawal of the 13th Amendment and replacing it with decentralized powers to the Districts without the right of merger of two or more districts. We are confident the people will opt to transfer powers to the Districts, that would result in the setting up of more focussed units similar to the Development Councils established per Act No. 35 of 1980, along with considerable savings to the national purse.  This move could be accompanied by some power sharing at the Centre thereby giving an equitable voice to the minority communities whilst enhancing powers of Pradeshiya Sabhas which directly serve the people at the grassroots.

7.  Sri Lanka should embark on the important exercise of making necessary changes to her Constitution not for the purpose of pleasing India or other outside powers by merely tinkering with it to include ad-hoc revisions sought or tentatively taken up at such bi-lateral meetings, but with the primary intent of determining the will of the people and complying with their decision freely taken at a National Referendum. 

We need to determine the people’s will in respect of revoking the highly controversial 13th Amendment which was introduced under the previously discussed Indo-Lanka Accord of 1987, and seeking an alternative arrangement acceptable to the people.  This of necessity involves the framing of TWO questions to be put to the people in order to ascertain their preferred positions in this regard:
 
The TWO Questions to be posed to the voters may be phrased in English (with translations in Sinhala and Tamil) as follows:
1st:  Do you agree that the 13th Amendment establishing Provincial Councils should be revoked?  Yes / No
2nd: Do you agree that decentralized powers of governance be granted instead to Districts without right of merger of two or more districts?  Yes / No
                                                       
A simple majority vote in the affirmative on the above two questions given in the Referendum will enable the legislators to uphold the people’s verdict by withdrawing the 13th Amendment and at the same time granting requisite Decentralized Powers to Districts to be headed by an Executive Chairman as determined by the relevant authority.

 8. Our intention is to assist the legislators and the general public in finding the best alternative to the present Provincial Council system of government which is out of favour with the vast majority of the people.  We wish to add our voices to those of the Organization of Professional Associations (OPA) and the Federation of National Organizations which have already declared their opposition to the retention of the Thirteenth Amendment and seek its withdrawal in the national interest.

We are a group of concerned Sri Lankans living both overseas and within the country who have throughout the past three decades actively defended the good name of our motherland in the respective countries in which we reside.

Signed:
Australia: Ranjith Soysa, Dr.Gamani Goonetilleke, Kithsiri de Silva, Rohan Bandarage,
                  Lal Dassanayake, Dilrook Kannangara, H.L.D. Mahindapala, Nimal Liyanage,
                  Harsha Perera,  C.I.Galapathi, Dr. Priyanka Bandara, Pium Attanayake.

Canada:    Mahinda Gunasekera, Asoka Weerasinghe, Asoka Yapa, Ira de Silva,
                   Rohan Basnayake, Chitra Mendis, Cyril Weeratunge, Albert Fernando
                   Bandu Madanayake, Mahendra Wijayasinghe

Middle East: Ajantha Premaratne, Sunil Chandrakumara, Hemantha Piyasena,                  
                       Ranjan Domminigae

New Zealand: Dr. Chula Rajapaksa, Mahinda Attanayake

Sri Lanka:  Gamini Gunawardana, Dick Perera, D.L.O. Mendis, Sugath Kulatunge,       
                     Lt. Col. Anil Amarasekera, Dimuth Gunawardena, Shenali Waduge,
                     Senaka Weeraratne, Retd.Maj Gen Lalin Fernando, Jayantha Liyanage

UK :          Douglas Wickramaratne, Channa Lokuliyanage, Devsiri Hewavidana
                  Anoma Silva, Dhammika Mawella, Dr. Sarath de Alwis-Seneviratne,
                  Rashantha de Alwis-Seneviratne, Sacha de Alwis-Seneviratne

USA :        Dr. Mahes Laduwahetty, Neville Laduwahetty,  Sumith de Silva,                    
                  W.B. Damayanthi, Jivinda de Silva, Chulani Wickremasinghe,
                  Dr. Mohan Kumaratne, Dr. Sarath Hemachandra, Ranjith de Silva,
                  Thilani de Silva, Anjalika I Silva, Dr. Chanaka Seneviratne,
                  Lakmal Boteju, Kithsiri Athulathmudali
 
Dated:  September 12 , 2012
 
Reply to:  84 Tambrook Drive, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M1W 3L9 (Tel.416-498-0783)  

6 Responses to “Call to hold a National Referendum to Withdraw the 13th Amendment to abolish Provincial Councils and instead Grant Adequate Decentralized Powers to Districts”

  1. mario_perera Says:

    Let Lankaweb initiate the proceedings. I take the honour of exercising my voting rights first.

    1st: Do you agree that the 13th Amendment establishing Provincial Councils should be revoked? – YES

    2nd: Do you agree that decentralized powers of governance be granted instead to Districts without right of merger of two or more districts? – YES

    Mario Perera, Kadawata

  2. Sirih Says:

    This is good and hope we get this referendum off the ground…

  3. Lorenzo Says:

    1st: Do you agree that the 13th Amendment establishing Provincial Councils should be revoked?

    YES.

    2nd: Do you agree that decentralized powers of governance be granted instead to Districts without right of merger of two or more districts?

    Unsure (no vote)

    Why do it anyway? There is no need.

  4. Vijendra Says:

    Here is my 2 cents worth.

    IMHO, there should be a single and clear question with a “YES” or “NO” answer in the referendum May be something along the following lines.

    “Are you in support of getting rid of the 13th amendment, which was forcibly imposed on Sri Lanka by India and going back to the District based governance structure it replaced ?”

    Good luck with this initiative.

  5. Manjula Says:

    Good initiative. However, I think the 2nd question is not technically a single question to have a single “yes” or “no” answer. That is because the 2nd question has 2 issues in it requiring 2 answers which are independant to each other. Therefore the 2nd question has to be split into 2 questions like how I suggest below.

    2nd: Do you agree that decentralized powers of governance be granted instead to Districts? Yes/No
    3rd: If Yes, should they have right of merger of two or more districts? Yes / No

    Therefore still it would be 2 main questions, while 3rd question becomes a sub question depending on the answer to the 2nd. If the answer to the 2nd question is “No”, then there is no need to answer the 3rd.

    The other option is to eliminate the issue in the suggested 3rd question altogether from the 2nd question and leave it to the parliment to decide, based on the outcome of the referrendum.

    Due to the limitation of “yes” or “no” answers, referendum questions that involves a whole nation MUST be 100% clear, concise and extreamly direct and straight forward so that the answers/results cannot be interpritted in ambigious ways.

    If the results can be interpritted in different ways and becomes a matter for the courts to decide, then the whole referrendum will become a waste of time and money.

    Good luck

  6. Fran Diaz Says:

    Here’s a suggestion:

    There should be NO ‘Right to Merge’ any unit, District or Provincial. ‘Right to merge’ should NOT be an Option open to public opinion. For the Safety and Security of the Nation, all ‘Rights to Merge’ any unit of governance, should be removed.

    The Question #1 here is to ask the public whether to remove the 13 A. That is : Do you agree that the 13th Amendment establishing Provincial Councils should be revoked? Yes / No

    Next, Parliament should decide what the unit of governance ought to be : District or Province. ‘No Right to Merge’ should be passed as Unconstitutional, at the same time.

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