Genealogy of Concept and Genesis of 13th Amendment – A Reply
Posted on September 23rd, 2020

N.A.de S. Amaratunga

Prof. Gamini Keerawella (GK) in an article titled Genealogy of Concept and Genesis of 13th Amendment” (The Island 16th & 17th Sept. 2020) attempts to show that the 13th A was not something forced on us by India, that it was a concept discussed by political leaders starting before independence and that India had to intervene as a midwife due to the failure of our political leaders to deliver their own baby. He says It must be noted that at the outset the Provincial councils have to carry a certificate of illegitimate birth due to Indian intervention. However, the Indian role was just a midwifery role. The politically and ideologically weak ruling class of Sri Lanka failed to give it a natural birth”. He further says It is important to note that even in 1940s the Tamil leadership had not taken the issue of Regional Council and devolution of power to regions into their hands”.

It could be shown that the discourse among the political leaders about Regional Councils that GK refers to was a direct consequence of the intransigence of the Tamil leadership which occurred when the Donoughmore Report had recommended a population based franchise which would effectively make Tamils who hitherto had enjoyed parity with the Sinhalese in the State Council, a minority in the government thereafter. This intransigence was quite clear in the attitude of Ponnambalam Ramanathan who was considered the leader of the Educated Ceylonese” in the State Council.

From as far back as 1916 Ramanathan was against the appointment of a majority into the State Council by a popular vote. He together with Ambalavanar Kanagasabe had been for some time engaged in communal politics (see K M de Silva, A History of Sri Lanka p 393). They did not like the idea of the Sinhalese assuming their rightful place in the government as the majority in the country. The Donoughmore Report had recommended universal franchise, and in a last minute attempt to scuttle it, Ramanathan had even gone to London to request British authorities not to implement it. T B Jayah the leader of the Muslims too submitted a memorandum against the implementation of the Report.

If this is not communal politics what is, one may ask. This was the genesis of communal politics in Sri Lanka. Tamil leadership was not prepared to accept that the Sinhalese have to be given their due place in the governing body of the country. GK on the other hand attempts to make it appear that Tamil leaders had no causative role in the genesis of the idea of Regional Councils or devolution of power. Obviously Donoughmore Commission and Sinhalese leaders  started talking about regional councils in response to the blatant presence of communal politics among the Tamil leaders.

GK has at length traced the genealogy of the concept and the genesis of the 13th  Amendment beginning from the time of the Donoughmore Commission to the time of  Rajiv Gandhi’s parippu diplomacy”.  However, when one discusses the  genesis of anything one must begin from the beginning and analyse the cause also quite thoroughly. Else the analysis is totally inadequate, incomplete and lacking in conviction, particular when one goes to the length that GK has gone in this instance. When one talks about the genesis of a child for instance one doesn’t begin from the pregnancy, one begins from the physical union of the father and mother which is the first cause. GK has conveniently omitted to mention the first cause because that does not fit into his argument.

GK has described in detail the several attempts made by political leaders to introduce regional/provincial councils and how they failed. He has not considered why they failed. Why did SWRD withdraw the proposals of the BC pact.  Because he knew he has no chance of political survival if he disregarded the protests mounted by the priests. Same could be said about Dudley / Chelvanayagam pact. Why did JRJ withdraw the 10th Amendment ?  All these politicians knew they cannot survive if they antagonized the majority community.  They cannot do something that is unfair by the majority, something that would compromise the single sovereignty and the territorial integrity.

Why have the people given a 2/3rd majority to this government and in the process kept out of the parliament those who were responsible for the treacherous betrayals? They were concerned about the survival of the country as a single entity due to the antinational activity of the previous government, its many treacherous deeds that impinged on the sovereignty of the people. People want a permanent solution to this problem, they cannot live in fear for ever. Same fate would befall any politician who attempts to tamper with the people’s sovereignty and the territorial integrity of their country. SWRD, Dudley, JRJ had realized the possibility of this fate but the leaders of the previous government had not and they are now in the political wilderness.

Rajiv Gandhi knew why JRJ would not implement what was agreed upon during their discussions. He knew he had only one option and that is to use force. Vadamarachchi operation gave him the opportunity he wanted. This is why it is often said 13th A is something that was forced on us by India. Therefore it is not quite correct to say as GK does;  The politically and ideologically weak ruling class of Sri Lanka failed to give it a natural birth”. The child would have been the death of the parents had they attempted it.   

GK strongly endorses the 13th A as an arrangement that strengthens democracy and thereby solves the ethnic issue.   He says The dominance of centralized political culture of the country has negated the true potential of the provincial council system as another tier of democratic governance”. He has not explained why the country needs another tier of democratic governance”.  Cannot he think of some other method to satisfy the Tamil demand for political power sharing and solve the ethnic problem.  Isn’t Sri Lanka too small to be divided into nine political and administrative  provincial areas. Aren’t four tiers of democratic governance” too many, redundant, costly and corruptible. Is it fair to ask the poor people to carry this burden which is not of their making. If the political aspirations of the minority communities could be accomodated at the centre 13th A and the PCs could be done away with. Administrative decentralisation is possible at grassroot level. This is what the people want and why they have given a 2/3rd majority to this government.

N.A.de S. Amaratunga

2 Responses to “Genealogy of Concept and Genesis of 13th Amendment – A Reply”

  1. aloy Says:

    Just like those leaders who attempts more for minorities disregriding the majority this GK too must be thinking he can get favours (crumbs from the high table of colonials) from western powers. Clearly a congenial idiot.

  2. Vaisrawana Says:

    A well informed answer to a fake intellectual. GK pandered to treacherous birdbrained Chandrika in putting an end to the teaching of history in schools during her time as prez. Their argument was that it hurt the feelings of minorities!

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