Urgent need of the day – an island wide Referendum is needed to test the 13th Amendment
Posted on March 28th, 2013

Sri Lanka Support Group, Canberra

The recent Geneva Resolutions against Sri Lanka, instigated by the US and India, have been designed to enforce the 13th amendment fully.

The 13th amendment was enacted in 1987 by the then President, JR Jayewardene; at that time he failed to hold a referendum to seek the consensus of the masses – as required by the Constitution. The learned Supreme Court judge, the late Justice, Raja Wanasundera, in his judgment about the enactment stated that it was an unlawful act. ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ 

The then government still ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ passed legislation, with the legal advice given to it by the ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ then Attorney General (who is today a leading figure in the international Tamil Diaspora and works against the Government).

In 1987, there was no popular support for the 13th amendment. The Indo-Sri Lanka pact that prescribed the enactment was signed when the populous was vehemently demonstrating against it, all round the country. It is reported that closer 1000 public owned buses alone were burnt down by the angry citizens (not a single Tamil was harmed). Many innocent protestors were shot dead by the security forces. An island wide curfew was imposed prior to signing of the pact. The then Prime Minister and the Deputy Defence Minister boycotted the pact signing ceremony. A disgruntled naval officer, ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ tried to assault the visiting Indian Prime Minister ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢¢”š¬…” ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ some say his (stupid) action was a personification ofƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  the dissatisfaction ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ of the whole nation.

Even today, more than 26 years after the enactment, it seems majority of ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ the Sri LankansƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  still detest the 13th amendment. The provincial council system has become a monstrousƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  white elephant. It has rendered ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ no service to the country, but has imposed ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ many burdens on the public, including heavy taxes. Very little of the central governmentƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s allocated funds go to the people, this is because most are spent on maintaining the provincial government machinery.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ 

The works of the provincial governments can be effectively done by the central government (this was the case until 1987).ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  Having separate governments for such small units like Wayamba, Sabaragamuwa, etc giving them wide legislative powers is nothing but a big joke (some provinces do notƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  even have more than 300,000 voters and the land mass for some ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ provincial councils is too small).

Previously the people had to put up with corruption by the centralised government only. After 1987, corruption spreadƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  like wildfire to the provincial levels. The countryƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s bureaucracy increased tremendously, today it cannot sustain such an array of legislatures and bureaucrats (most of who are unsuitable for the jobs and cause so much law and order problems to the country).

Thanks to the 13th Amendment, Sri Lanka today is one of the most highly governed and inefficient countries of the world.

To put simply, the provincial government system has made Sri Lanka poorer.

Recent surveys have shown majority of the people believe giving Land and Police powers to the Provinces (as stipulated by the 13th amendment), especially to a TNA led Northern provincial government is ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ not a wise move. This will lead to secession. Some of the adverse scenarios to the country can also be as follows:

Under a TNA led provincial government, it would ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ be easy for enemies of Sri Lanka in Tamilnadu to set up para military style camps in Sri Lanka, so that a new Elam war can be mounted (note the US demand that Sri Lanka should demilitarize the North!).ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  Given the vesting of Police powers with the Northern ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ provincial government, boatloads of illegal immigrants can freely sail from India to Sri Lanka. Some (like now) will come in the guise of fishermen. The illegal migration of ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ South Indian Tamils into Sri Lanka is not a new phenomenon, it has happened for many centuries. This activity can flourish under the new Land and Police powers given to a future TNA led Northern provincial government.

Therefore, it is very important for Sri Lanka to test its peopleƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s consent about the 13th amendment.

The best and only way to do this is by way of a nationwide referendum. This is what is prescribed by the Constitution, something that JR Jayawardane failed to carry out in 1987.

But, it is still not too late to hold the referendum. The question to ask should be ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢¢”š¬…” ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”Do you wish to maintain the 13th amendment to the Constitution that was enacted in 1987, that has created the present provincial government system?

If the majority states ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”YesƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢ the Government should take steps to ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ abolish the 13th amendment. If the majority states ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”NoƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢ the Government should keep the 13th amendment, albeit, we believe it is extremely harmful to Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka being a vibrant democracy, it should swing into election mood soon ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢¢”š¬…” so that the peopleƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s will can be tested at a nationwide referendum.

Let us wait and see what the outcome would be. The West, including the US and India ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢¢”š¬…” all democracies – will have to accept it – ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ the real verdict of the Sri Lankan people.

Until the nationwide referendum is held soon the Northern Provincial Government election should not be held (the Elections Commissioner himself has stated he is not ready to hold such an election in September this year ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢¢”š¬…” even the electoral list has not been prepared). In any case, thousands of the displaced people of all the three communities (majority being the Tamils) need to be fully re-settled in their lands in the North. Fundamentally, the conditions are not conducive enough to hold a provincial council election in the NorthƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  this year.


Sri Lanka Support Group, Canberra


3 Responses to “Urgent need of the day – an island wide Referendum is needed to test the 13th Amendment”

  1. Lorenzo Says:


    GOSL should do this BEFORE NPC election.

  2. S de Silva Says:

    Thank you Sri Lanka Support Group, Canberra. While a Referendum will enable the scrapping of 13A, is that quite necessary? Instead, can the GoSL with the current parliamentaty majority scrap it anyway giving the reasons that it was done under dures from threats by India – which may be simpler and more economical? – S de Silva – London

  3. jay-ran Says:

    Thank you very much PATRIOTIC Sri Lanka Support Group, Canberra for this worthy comment.Yes, SL GOVT SHOULD HAVE AREFERENDUM and get avote on this issueof ABOLOSHING THE USELESS 13th AMMENDMENT and prevent a great DISSASTER TO SRI LANKA.

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