13th AMENDMENT: DO NOT LET HISTORY REPEAT ITSELF
Posted on June 21st, 2013

By Don Wijewardana

 A striking feature of the recent history of Sri Lanka is that our political leaders had been queuing up to hand over the north and east of Sri Lanka to the LTTE.  Their greed for power had surpassed the cost of surrendering national sovereignty. Sometimes the offer had come from outsiders too. First it was Rajiv Gandhi prior to the signing of the Indo-Lanka Accord in 1987. He was trying to persuade a reluctant Prabhakaran to accept the Provincial Council offer.   According to Anton Balasingham, who was at the meeting, Gandhi told the LTTE supremo,  “Even though there were deficiencies in the provincial council scheme don’t you think that we can hold further talks in the future and enhance autonomous powers for the Tamils? Also it is not possible to implement this provincial council scheme immediately. We need some time. Prior to that, we can set up an interim administration for the north and east, and your organisation can be given the major role in that. I am prepared to enter into a secret agreement with you regarding that interim government”. But all that pleading fell on deaf ears.

 Then it was JR Jayawardene’s turn when he wanted to implement the Accord.  Jayawardene offered to make Prabhakaran the chief administrator of the north-eastern provinces. But once again the terrorist leader refused. Even after that, Jayawardene was happy to proceed with a LTTE nominee. To spite JR, Prabhakaran offered the name of an assistant government agent from Batticaloa, Padhmanathan for the position. But Padhmanathan had a notorious record helping a large number of Tamil militants escape from jail. Jayawardene refused to appoint a person who had violated his own oath of loyalty to the government. His nomination was most likely a deliberate move by Prabhakaran to scuttle the deal.

 The next President also offered a similar arrangement. Ranasinghe Premadasa presented Prabhakaran with power sharing opportunities with loads of arms and money. He was followed in 1994 by the next head of state Chandrika Kumaratunga who offered the entire Northern Province to him without elections for a period of ten years. Prabhakaran spurned that suggestion too. Then in 2000, even after the LTTE tried to assassinate her, Kumaratunga offered Prabhakaran Regional Councils, which went beyond the Provincial Councils in terms of devolution. Prabhakaran once again, rejected it entirely.

 Perhaps the best opportunity to gain the territory and the power on which he could have built an alternative future to the one he aspired was given to Prabhakaran by Ranil Wickramasinghe, with international guarantees, through the 2002 Ceasefire Agreement. But once again, Prabhakaran shot it to pieces and used the lull to build up his armed forces.

 If Prabhakaran had accepted any of these offers, by now he would be reigning over a de facto Eelam in North and East of Sri Lanka. With the promised secret agreement of Gandhi he could have even made major inroads to the south. But he, quite foolishly, would not settle for anything less than Eelam. So the nation was saved for another day: not by the foresight and astuteness of Sri Lanka’s leaders but by the stupidity of Prabhakaran. Ultimately it was left to a bold and far-sighted leader, with sacrifices by 6,150 armed personnel who lost their lives, and another 18,782 living with constant reminders of the horrors of war in their daily lives, to put a permanent end to the horse-trading.

 But for India, Gandhi did not die in vain. He had set the trap in the 13th amendment that emerged from the Indo-Lanka Accord to snare Sri Lanka once more. Western nations along with our closest neighbour, INGOs and NGOs, and some of our own politicians, within and outside the government, are all urging Sri Lanka relentlessly towards the noose. It is all on the basis of a mistaken (more a contrived) notion that Northern PC elections will lead to reconciliation. Will the leadership that rescued the nation once, fall for the ambush, or exercise foresight to save the country once again to cement the gains made in 2009?

 Devolution of power in Sri Lanka has to be made in such a way as to address the problems particular to the country and not by adopting a system that has been thrust upon us by India.  As Archbishop Desmond Tutu who headed South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission noted, “Reconciliation cannot be imposed from outside, nor can someone else’s map get us to our destination. Each society must discover its own route to reconciliation; it must be our own solution”.  

 We do not need to look far to find our own solution. Sri Lanka already has its own truth and reconciliation commission in the LLRC. Both the international and the domestic communities have accepted the Commission’s recommendations as a sound basis for reconciliation. Not only that, they are urging the government to implement them speedily. In fact the UN Human Rights Council has found fault with the administration for the delay in actioning them. LLRC has enunciated a number of key principles in relation to devolution that could guide us to a win: win solution.

 LLRC proposals

 The gist of LLRC proposals in relation to devolution includes the following.

a.         Devolution should essentially promote greater harmony and unity and not disharmony and disunity among the people of the country. The promotion of this “ƒ”¹…”oneness’ and a common identity should be the principal aim of any form of devolution while protecting and appreciating rich diversity.

b.         Devolution of power should not privilege or disadvantage any ethnic community, and should not be discriminatory or seen to be discriminatory by the people belonging to any ethnic community within the country.

c.         Empowering the Local Government institutions to ensure greater peoples’ participation at the grass roots level.

d.         Provide for safeguarding the territorial integrity and unity of Sri Lanka whilst fostering its rich diversity.

e.         Any power sharing arrangement needs to have inbuilt mechanisms that would effectively address and discourage secessionist tendencies and safeguard the sovereignty and integrity of the State.

Conclusion

Holding Northern PC elections under existing rules conflicts with the principles enunciated by LLRC especially in relation to the areas highlighted above. Devolving police and land powers will exacerbate the problems considerably. They have been discussed in detail in these columns in the past. In addition there are a few critical points that need to be noted:

i)                   Maximising economic growth to achieve the objectives of Mahinda Chintana will need free flow of labour, capital and technology within the country. For instance as the 1012 census of population shows currently Mullative , Mannar, Moneragla, Vavuniya and Kilinochchi districts  are the least populated in that order. And their growth is hampered by the labour shortage. If land powers are allocated to PCs it is unlikely that a free flow of people to these districts will be allowed to take place thus thwarting the aims of the government to achieve national objectives.

ii)                 Holding PC elections will not address reconciliation of the Tamil community, for according to the 2012 census only 43 per cent of  Sri Lankan Tamils are living in the north. Majority live among the Sinhalese and other communities in the south. Issues related to them would be quite different.

iii)               The area covered by the northern PC is the same entity Prabhakaran claimed as the home of Eelam. Electing a group that could officially represent it amounts to setting up a formidable adversary who is empowered to pursue the LTTE agenda. Such a group would be a gift to opponents of Sri Lanka including the Diaspora and will be the focal point for their agitation.  Rajiv Gandhi’s comment to Prabhakaran, “Even though there were deficiencies in the provincial council scheme don’t you think that we can hold further talks in the future and enhance autonomous powers for the Tamils?” is an ominous note of the possibilities in the future.  As the Defence Secretary rightly noted, “Having paid a heavy price in the battlefield to eradicate the LTTE, it would be foolish on our part to create conditions for a new war”.

iv)               There is a way to devolve power on the basis of LLRC recommendations both to empower people at the grassroots level and in a way acceptable to critics while at the same time avoid the pitfalls of creating a powerful opponent. That is to make the District as the basis for devolution.

There are two options before the government. One is to hold the PC elections and satisfy the critics (for the time being) and hope the CHOGM will pass smoothly into history. The other option is to take a considered decision to adopt a solution that will benefit the nation in the long term. The impact of the first option will be to negate the gains made in 2009 and create the potential for a future generation to relive its horrors. At the end of the day it is the voting public that determines whether the government has taken the right decision.

 Courtsey: Ceylon Daily News

 Don Wijewardana is an economist and freelance writer. He can be contacted at [email protected]

7 Responses to “13th AMENDMENT: DO NOT LET HISTORY REPEAT ITSELF”

  1. Lorenzo Says:

    At least now the govt. should decide to make Tamils a MINORITY in the north.

    That is the ONLY solution.

  2. Susantha Wijesinghe Says:

    WHY IS THE GOVERNMENT PUSSY-FOOTING TO RE-HABILITATE THOSE SINHALES AND MUSLIMS WHO WERE ETHNICALLY CLEANSED AND CHASED OUT FROM THE NORTH, BY THE TERRORISTS ?

    IN THIS DIRECTION, THE GOVERNMENT IS BACKWARD IN GOING FORWARD.

  3. Ananda-USA Says:

    JAYAWEWA! This is something I had STRONGLY advocated in the past to PROTECT the native people of Sri Lanka from foreign predators.

    Given the huge DISPARITY IN WEALTH between Sri Lankan citizens and those in developed countries, there is a DISTINCT POSSIBILITY that Sri Lankans would be converted from landowners into renters … in their own Motherland … just like the Hawaiins today.

    Citizenship is MEANINGLESS if the land belongs to foreigners!

    Today they would be owner-investors, tomorrow they will DEMAND citizenship as well, creating another route to citizenship dispossessing the native people!

    …………….
    Sri Lanka bans sale of state or private lands to foreigners

    ColomboPage News Desk, Sri Lanka.

    June 22, Colombo: the Sri Lankan government will prepare legislation banning the further sale of state or private land to non-citizens.

    Sri Lanka President in his capacity as the Minister of Finance and Planning has forwarded a proposal to the Cabinet of Ministers seeking approval to instruct the Legal Draftsman to draft legislation to impose restrictions on transfer of lands to foreigners.

    Accordion to the President’s proposal, transfer of state or private land by way of a sale, donation, gift, or by any other disposition to a person who is not a citizen of Sri Lanka will be prohibited.

    Further a sale cannot be sold or transferred to a company incorporated in Sri Lanka where any foreign shareholding of such Company is 50 % or above to a Foreign Company, unless exemption is granted in terms of the proposed Act.

    Under the proposed act, the state or private lands could be leased out subject to stipulations to non-citizens for a maximum period of 99 years, instead of outright sale.

    The Cabinet has given its approval to the proposed legislation.

  4. Mr. Bernard Wijeyasingha Says:

    Great article but it does not justify the devolution of power. Sri Lanka has only had four years of peace since the 30 year war ended. Compare that with the US civil war where it took decades before any normalcy was returned to the defeated Confederate South. In the meantime a strong centralized power is needed. Take a lesson from history. The Roman republic would function as a Republic during peace times but when war was eminent a Dictator took the place of the Senate and ran Rome for either two years or till the conflict was fully resolved. Then the Republic is restored to the people. Sri Lanka cannot afford to dally with a Democratic system as forces for Eelam continue to grow around her. A strong centralized power backed up with a military need to stand vigilant till all vestiges of the movement of Eelam are gone.

  5. Ananda-USA Says:

    I hope these GOSL appointees to the PSC will have the BACKBONE to recommend the REPEALING of the 13th Amendment, and NOT FINE TUNING IT to please India and ENABLE the SEPARATISTS of the Tiger Nominated Agents (TNA).

    ………………………….
    Sri Lanka appoints parliamentary committee to study the 13th Amendment issue

    ColomboPage News Desk, Sri Lanka.

    June 22, Colombo: The Speaker of Sri Lanka’s parliament, Chamal Rajapaksa Friday appointed the members of the ruling party to the proposed parliamentary select committee (PSC) to study the issue of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution.

    The Speaker appointed 19 members from the ruling United People’s freedom Alliance (UPFA) and asked the opposition political parties also to name their representatives.

    Irrigation & Water Resources Management Minister Nimal Siripala De Silva was appointed as the Chairman of the Committee.

    Other ruling party members appointed to the PSC are Ministers Prof. G L Peiris, Maithripala Sirisena, W D J Seneviratne, Anura Priyadarshana Yapa, Dinesh Gunawardena, Susil Premajayantha, Douglas Devananda, A L M Athaullah, D E W Gunasekara, Rishad Bathiyutheen, Patali Champika Ranawaka, Wimal Weerawansa, Basil Rajapaksa, Lakshman Seneviratne, Vasudeva Nanayakkara, and Janaka Bandara Tennakoon Deputy Minister Muthu Sivalingam, and MP Sudarshani Fernandopulle.

    Sri Lanka’s Cabinet last week decided to appoint a PSC to discuss revisions to the 13th Amendment due to the divergent views of the coalition members over the 13th Amendment.

    The Cabinet was of the view that a PSC would give an opportunity for all parties to express their views on the 13th Amendment.

    Meanwhile Indian media reports say India’s National Security Adviser, Shivshankar Menon will arrive in Sri Lanka on July 8 to discuss the 13th Amendment introduced to Sri Lanka’s Constitution.

    However Sri Lanka says Menon will be here on an earlier scheduled visit to participate in the Trilateral Maritime Security Conference.

  6. Ananda-USA Says:

    WONDERFUL! The British Tamil Forum is one of the main Eelamist Tamil Diaspora organizations. If they don’t want Power Devolved under the 13th Amendment, then the GOSL will NEVER satisfy the Eelamist Tamil DEMANDS with it, because it is the Eelamist Tamil Diaspora that is driving the pressure brought to bear on Sri Lanka by Western countries to do devolve power.

    It is JUST AS WE HAVE SAID ALL ALONG: No reasonable accommodation can be achieved with the Eelamists; they want outright secession, just as the late unlamented Velupillai Prabhakaran wanted all along. He fought when he felt powerful, and talked when he was on the ropes, but NEVER BUDGED from his goal of an INDEPENDENT EELAM STATE. So it is with the Eelamists of today.

    Therefore, AT LEAST NOW, dear Mr. President, TAKE A STAND and set an EARLY DATE for a NATIONWIDE REFERENDUM to REPEAL the 13th Amendment and DISSOLVE the Provincial Council System, and LET THE SOVEREIGN PEOPLE OF Sri Lanka DECIDE the ISSUE!

    The RIGHT TO ELECT one’s candidates to the National Parliament is FRANCHISE ENOUGH for any Law Abiding Citizen. Only SEPARATISTS and Provincial Council Bureaucrats with CUSHY JOBS paid by the Sri Lankan Taxpayer want Provincial Councils. GET RID OF THEM, they are a source of ABUSE & WASTE, and are a RAVE THREAT to the INTEGRITY OF THE COUNTRY. Tiny Sri Lana DOES NOT NEED another layer of EXPENSIVE & UNNECESSARY BUREAUCRACY …. it makes Sri Lanka NON_COMPETITIVE in the Global Marketplace!

    NEVER …. NEVER ….. NEVER let the UNREPENTANT SEPARATISTS Control Provincial Councils, or we will have COMMUNAL WARFARE AGAIN in Sri Lanka!

    ………………….
    British Tamils Forum Rejects Any Political Solution Based On The 13th Amendment

    ColomboTelegraph.com
    June 16, 2013

    “Tamils reject any political solution based on the 13th amendment – it neither addresses the root cause of the conflict nor safeguards the Tamil national interest on the island.” says the British Tamils Forum.
    Issuing a statement the British Tamils Forum says it insists that any political solution to the Tamil National Question has to be conducted through an internationally mediated referendum – only this can lay the foundation for a lasting peace and satisfy the socio-political and economic aspirations of the Tamils in the island of Sri Lanka.

    We publish below the statement in full;

    Tamils reject any political solution based on the 13th amendment – it neither addresses the root cause of the conflict nor safeguards the Tamil national interest on the island.

    The 13th Amendment to the constitution, entrenched in the unitary state-centric model, cannot address the legitimate aspirations of the Tamil speaking people in Sri Lanka.

    This amendment to the constitution is not in any way a starting point, an interim or a final solution to the conflict and it prevents any lasting negotiated settlement, reached with the support of the International Community. The British Tamils Forum strongly denounces any efforts to impose this unsupported and failed political response, which was reached for the benefit and interest of two countries – India and Sri Lanka – without consulting the Tamil Nation.

    The 13th Amendment has several flaws: executive power will be exercised by a Provincial Governor appointed by the President; public services in the province will be controlled by the Governor; the President has the power to dissolve the Provincial Council; the Governor is not duty bound to the advice or instructions of the Chief Minister; the executive power of the Governor is subject to the control of the President; the Provincial Council cannot access the Provincial Fund without the sanction of the Governor; power over the police and public order is retained by the President; and the Disposition of State Land is also in the hands of the President; among many others.

    Due to these flaws and inadequate provisions, it has been consistently rejected by the Tamil people and political leadership at several democratic stages, in the past and at present, ever since this bilateral agreement was signed between India and Sri Lanka.

    The genocidal actions – pogroms, massacres, colonisation, land dispossession – committed by the Sri Lankan state in the Tamil homelands even under the current provincial council system foreshadow the realities of life following the 13th amendment.

    All those who seek a genuine solution to the Tamil question must remain vigilant against falling into the traps that have been set by the Sri Lankan state and certain external forces to impose the 13th Amendment or a watered-down version of 13th Amendment upon the Tamils.

    The Sri Lankan state, through its hard-line allies and ultra nationalist forces, has initiated a political campaign encouraging hard-line views and xenophobic sentiments on the 13th Amendment, with a view to diluting the amendment even further to its interest, before thrusting it upon the Tamils. This is clearly visible to observers of contemporary southern politics.

    In the contrast, certain external actors who aspire to play the role of ‘saviour’ in the Tamil-Sinhalese political arena are pushing for implementation of the 13th Amendment in its entirety, in the pretext of rescuing the Tamils in Sri Lanka.

    On these grounds, the British Tamils Forum stands in solidarity with our people in our Tamil Homeland and state that any political initiatives grounded in the 13th Amendment cannot be feasible and will not create an enduring peace in Sri Lanka.

    The British Tamils Forum insists that any political solution to the Tamil National Question has to be conducted through an internationally mediated referendum – only this can lay the foundation for a lasting peace and satisfy the socio-political and economic aspirations of the Tamils in the island of Sri Lanka.

  7. Ananda-USA Says:

    Adele Balasingham, War Crimes And Hypocrisy
    By S. V. Kirubaharan
    ColomboTelegraph.com
    June 19, 2013

    My Comment:
    ……………….
    In the second video, a jaundiced “journalist” says that the GOSL is “sharing” the language of the US war on terror …. implying that it is without justification.

    I would say to this blind and deaf self-styled “journalist” that in the last 30 years no other country has been subjected to more terrorism than Sri Lanka.

    When the US World Trade Center was attacked and 3,000 odd innocents are killed … that was held up as the ultimate act of terror … and the US launched a Global War on Terror in response, fabricating a FAKE WMD accusation to invade and kill over 1.5 million people (British “Lancet” report)in Iraq. Forgotten in this rhetoric is that the First World Trade Center bombing took place in Colombo, Sri Lanka. The truck bombing of the ATF HQ in Oklahoma was preceded by the truck bombing of the Bank of Ceylon building in Colombo. The train and bus bombings in London were preceded by the murder of hundreds of Sri Lankans in trains (e.g., Dehiwala) and in buses and bus stops all over Sri Lanka.

    In a population of over 300 million, US citizens suffered just over 3,000 dead, whereas in a population of approximately 21 million, Sri Lankan citizens suffered over 150,000 dead and countless injured and orphaned.

    With the possible exception of Iraq, Sri Lanka has a much greater claim to sympathy and support in its war against terror, than any other country I know.

    Whisper to me softly, dear blind and deaf “journalist” offering fig leaves to hide the nakedness of Eelamist terrorists, if my lips do not speak the truth!

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