Constitution Reforms and the 13th Amendment
Posted on July 16th, 2018

Prof. N.A.de S. Amaratunga 

Constitution making is serious business. Even amendments to it must be made after careful consideration and with consensus among representatives of the people and if possible in consultation with the people. This government formed of an assorted mix of political interests and opportunist groups had not collectively received a mandate to tamper with the constitution. But it has already brought in far reaching amendments and seems to be determined to bring in radical changes or an entirely new constitution which would in the opinion of experts have critical bearing on the sovereignty and territorial integrity. The claim that this is done in consultation with the people does not hold water for the response received by the committee that went before the people  was not from a cross section that could be considered representative of the population. More importantly the views on this matter of the people’s representatives that form the present parliament are so divergent that consensus would be almost impossible unless ministerial posts, luxury car permits, penthouse comfort, Tamil votes and such assume greater value than sovereignty of the people and territorial integrity of the country.

The so called Tamil problem or Ethnic problem assume centre stage in any discussion on constitution reforms in Sri Lanka for several reasons. The Tamils have been demanding a separate state from times before independence. The 13th Amendment was imposed on us by India for geopolitical and hegemonic reasons than as a solution for the Tamil problem. LTTE terrorism continued despite the 13th A until the LTTE was defeated, but its surrogate and remnants, regional and Western hegemonic powers continue to pressure the government for the establishment of a separate state or a stepping stone to it. It is via the 13th A and its full implementation with land and police powers that separatists backed by the western powers could achieve their goal. Hence the proxy of the LTTE the TNA and the CM of the NPC ask for a federal state. The opportunist anti-national high-ups in the government try their utmost to give federalism while avoiding the word federal and also pretending to accommodate all views. If land and police powers are granted to the NPC in the present circumstances it would be the stepping stone the Tamil separatists want.  The police powers in the hands of an antagonistic centrifugal NPC could be used for the development of an armed insurgent force that would bid its time to strike and all that our armed forces had achieved at great sacrifice would be negated and the country would be back at war. Then the regional and western powers would swiftly move in and carve out a separate state for the Long Suffering Oppressed Tamils”. Thus the 13th A  hangs over us like the Sword of Damocles.

Therefore it is the 13th A and its full implementation that is crucial in the discourse on constitutional reform in Sri Lanka. Those who hold the view that 13th A should be repealed are deeply concerned of the possible consequences of its full implementation. To treat 13th A as sacrosanct and its detractors as out dated” is tantamount to being separatist unless those who say so have a  hidden personal agenda. If 13th A is inimical and could be shown to be so with clarity and if there are better and safer alternatives why cannot these matters be discussed when the Constitution is being revised. The ills of the provincial councils as they function today are innumerable and for this reason alone the matter should be reviewed in depth and not accepted as something irrevocable. Even at present the NPC is not used as a means for development of that Province but as a political platform for agitation and separation to say the least. Ironically the people of the country have to bear the financial burden of a mechanism that is striving to divide their country. Elsewhere the PCs are a barrier rather than a facilitator for the people. These PCS provide for another set of corrupt politicians that people have to cope with. The money that could be saved by the dismantling of these PCs could be utilized for the amelioration of the suffering masses.

Proponents of the 13th A  say that the so called Tamil problem arises out of the need for political space for the Tamils to manage their own affairs and develop their land and culture. Political space could be provided at the centre of the state, where it matters more than at the periphery, which could facilitate the development of Tamil areas more efficiently than at present. Political power which really is what Tamils must be interested in could be provided at the centre which the Tamils could exercise via the franchise which all citizens have. In this regard there have been several proposals and in depth discussion. When such a mechanism is combined with an administrative devolution at the periphery by means of small manageable units Tamils would have more political clout than any minority anywhere in the world. Only thing they will not have is something the Tamil on the street does not need or want but what the Tamil separatist politicians want; a political arrangement with opportunity for secession. Further political space does not correspond to land extent, in the sense political space could be provided without a corresponding extent of land coming under the purview of the peripheral body. On the contrary power at the centre is more important and valuable for a minority community who likes to live in harmony with other communities. The fact that they could have a stronger say and participate in the decision making process in a more meaningful and decisive role on matters pertaining to the entire country would give the Tamil minority a feeling of belonging to this country and  stronger loyalty to their motherland. On the other hand a stronger provincial or regional council would make them feel less of a Sri Lankan and less responsible for the whole country and would not mind separating and going their own way. Mr.Neville Laduwahetti, late Mr H.L.de Silva and other eminent intellectuals have discussed these matters and proposed how power could be shared at the centre in a more meaningful way than at the periphery.

Proponents of the 13th A and its full implementation consider the Indian factor in this regard to be very strong. True it is India who imposed it on us and who persistently have been asking the government to implement it in full. However there may be ways and means of overcoming this obstacle if the people of this country are determined to revoke the 13th A. One would remember that India wanted the war against the LTTE to be stopped during it final stages. With courageous determined political leadership we were able to resist not only the objections of the regional power but also the obstacles thrown by the western powers. These heroic deeds have proved beyond any doubt that India could be manged to our advantage and that there is no need to be servile to any of these world powers. It must be remembered that world powers are also divided and there is no consensus among them on any issue. We have to manage our foreign policies to our advantage on the basis of power rivalry and polarization. Moreover there is no reason for India to object to power sharing at the centre when they could see the advantages that could accrue to them as well. Separatism in this country could have a bearing on India too and by controlling the trend we would be helping them too.

It is time the people of this country took a good look at the 13th Amendment which hangs over them like a Sword of Damocles and which is sharpened and dangled at regular intervals by the Tamil separatists and their ilk. The land and police powers though not granted at present could be granted at any time when the pressure is overwhelming on a weak government. Further the North and the East could similarly be merged. These two killer punches are packed in the 13th A and waiting like two time bombs. This threat would remain to haunt us as long as the 13th A is part of our Constitution. The threat could be removed only by repealing the clauses regarding land and  police powers and the provision for merging the North and the East. The proponents of the 13th A are inexplicably against the amputation of the 13th A.  What is good for this country and its people Sinhala, Tamil and Muslim is the total abolition of the dangerous 13th A and replace it with a suitable power sharing arrangement at the centre and combine it with a mechanism to devolve administrative power to  small units which would be more efficient, closer to the people and less costly and less corrupt.

Prof. N.A.de S. Amaratunga

2 Responses to “Constitution Reforms and the 13th Amendment”

  1. Hiranthe Says:

    “What is good for this country and its people Sinhala, Tamil and Muslim is the total abolition of the dangerous 13th A and replace it with a suitable power sharing arrangement at the centre and combine it with a mechanism to devolve administrative power to small units which would be more efficient, closer to the people and less costly and less corrupt”

    Well Said Prof. Amaratunga.

    This is the only way Mother Lanka will feel secure!!

    Probably the Grama Sabha model proposed by Dinesh and various other people would be suitable!!!

  2. Randeniyage Says:

    Dinesh or any other politician is not proposing removal of 13A.
    Some Lankaweb commentators also think it is not practical.
    It is only apolitical patriots who still insist of removal of 13A completely. There is no “devolution” or “reconciliation” is required.

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