Posted on June 17th, 2013

Don Wijewardana

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ When the Indo-Sri Lanka Peace Accord was signed in July 1987 it was hailed as ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-New Delhi’s biggest diplomatic coup, which had immense strategic valueƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚[i]. Indeed. The conditions imposed on Sri Lanka were intended to end the freedom it enjoyed in having independent defence, foreign affairs and regional administration policies.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ A significant outcome of the Accord was the establishment of the provincial council for North and East. Couched as a means for nurturing the distinct cultural and linguistic identity in the northern and eastern provinces, which were “areas of historical habitation of Tamil speaking peopleƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚, it was Rajiv GandhiƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s answer to the separation demanded by the LTTE.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ It was in spite of experiencing persistent problems with its state system ever since independence[ii] that India forced the 13th amendment on Sri Lanka.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  Growing pressure to reorganize states on ethnic and linguistic lines had grown to such an extent that not long after independence, in 1953, it was forced to create the state of Andhra for Telegu speaking people. And now there are signs of further disintegration with the Talangana region clamouring to break off from Andhra Pradesh. There is also mounting pressure in the tribal areas of Bihar, Malayalam speaking areas of southern and western parts and Tamil Nadu and others. A movement also persists to this day within Tamil Nadu to secede from the union.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ In Sri Lanka, even before the ink was dry, the Accord was getting unravelled. With severe dissention within the government and outside it was passed by parliament with a curfew in force. While Rajiv Gandhi knew that JR did not have much choice in it, his greatest fear was Prabhakaran rejecting it. It was strange that Gandhi was entertaining such concerns when he portrayed the PC as the way to meet aspirations of the Tamils people. However, to prevent any embarrassment by a display of resentment Gandhi sent an Air Force Helicopter to Jaffna to fetch Prabhakaran and his political adviser Anton Balasingham, to New Delhi, on 28 July 1987. That was the night before the accord was to be signed. They were held at the Ashok Hotel before being ushered to a meeting with Gandhi.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ Prabhakaran was indeed outraged by the proposal. He rejected the idea of PCs in place of Eelam. But for Gandhi this was the furthest he could go. With the persistent threat from Tamil Nadu to break off, a separate Tamil state next door was the last thing India needed.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  Gandhi coaxed and bribed the LTTE supremo with the promise of new arms and ongoing funding. When none of it worked he appealed to Prabhakaran to remain silent at least till the agreement came into force. ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ For India there was a lot at stake.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ But Prabhakaran could not contain his anger for long at GandhiƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s audacity to undermine his long cherished dream. ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ Before the week was out he called a public meeting in Jaffna and told the people this was not what he wanted but what has been thrust upon him. ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-When a big power decided this was the way things happen, there was nothing we could doƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚, Prabhakaran lamented. And that was the day Rajiv Gandhi became a marked man.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ The fact that the Northern provincial council remained confined to the statue book for 26 years shows that it was not a deal wanted by any one, other than India.


ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ The forthcoming CHOGM has forced the issue once again. There is growing pressure from many quarters for elections to the northern provincial council as a key step in reconciliation. Foremost among them is India, along with some major powers and NGOs.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ There are different reasons for different groups to push for elections but for all of them any measure that discredits the government and ties it up in knots was an achievement. For India it is unfinished business, which has become even more critical after China entered the scene in recent years. Besides that, is the need to satisfy the demands of Tamil Nadu politicians especially in the lead up to a general election next year. ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ At the same time the Diaspora, through its funding and promise of electoral support, is manipulating several western governments. The clearest example of this is Canada, which preferred to paint itself into a corner without attending CHOGM. It was prepared to forego the opportunity to display its muscle as a founding member of the Commonwealth in preference to wooing its Tamil electorate.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ 

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ The other prominent groups include NGOs whose livelihood depends on ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”discoveringƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢ human rights abuses and this group also includes sections of the United Nations. ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ They have to keep the pot boiling to ensure the continued flow of backhanders from foreign regimes to destabilise vulnerable governments. The current legal spat between an NGO and the Norwegian government when such a deal went sour, shows how the system involving big money, works. Then of course there are a number of opposition parties within the country for whom this issue is bread and butter.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ These ongoing manoeuvres make one thing clear: it does not mean that once the elections are held the pressure will cease. By definition all these interlocutors have to move on to another, since that is the only way to justify their existence.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ Should the government simply yield to these demands and hold elections or consider the issue carefully to implement an option that serves the best long-term interest of the country?

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ There are enough reasons to show that Sri Lanka will be greatly disadvantaged if the provincial council system is perpetuated with an election to the Northern PC.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ For geographically large countries such as the United States, India and Australia establishing decentralised systems of government is not only desirable but also essential.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  In most of these countries administering the periphery from the centre is difficult and inefficient. Reaching some distant places from the centre in an emergency will take several hours. By comparison Sri Lanka is minute. For instance in terms of area it is only 0.002 per cent of India and in relation to population it is only 0.02 per cent. There is no place in the country that cannot be reached by air within one hour.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  In recent years new technology and a good roading network have made the country even smaller.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ In this situation another layer of provincial government only adds inefficiencies and works as an unnecessary drain on public resources. The government currently provides Rs 130 billion of direct funding to provincial councils each year, while the councils themselves collect another Rs 38 billion in local taxes. Without a comparable return such a large-scale burden on taxpayer funds only tends to divert valuable resources away from productive uses. Apart from the waste of funds the more invidious cost to the country is the red tape, corruption and the delays that such a system generates.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ Apart from increased wastefulness there is another fundamental economic issue involved here. Achieving high rates of growth is a major national objective of the Rajapaksa government. That requires the optimum use of available resources, land, labour, technology and capital.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  While the last three are mobile and can be moved around and supplemented with imports, the first, land resource, has a finite limit and is immovable. Hence the best way to gain optimum output from land is to take the other resources, in particular labour, to where land is available.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ The critical requirement here is land availability. The 2012 census shows the distribution of population by district and the population densities of each. (Table 1).

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  Table 1: POPULATION DENSITY BY DISTRICT, 2012


Area (kmƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚²)

Census of 1981












































Nuwara Eliya















Sri Lanka











































































Source: Department of Census and Statistics

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ It shows more than half the districts have population densities less than the average for the country of 309/kmƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚². Population density in Moneragala, for instance, is 79 which is 25 per cent of the average.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  Mullativu with 35/kmƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚² has the lowest density of 11 per cent of the average. In other words Mullativu has almost four times the land area of the Colombo district but only 0.04 per cent of its population. The effect of this divergence is that districts such as Colombo are so densely populated that people tend to get in each otherƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s way while places such as Moneragala and Mullativu are crying out for more labour, for their growth is hampered by the shortage. Of course the availability of other resources is critical but all those can be brought in from outside unlike land.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ If the objective of high economic growth is to be achieved the central government should be able to move resources around the country to help maximise national gains. Provincial Councils, on the other hand will not be seeing land under their control from the same national viewpoint. By definition what they will want is to protect their patch. Land and police powers will further reinforce that trend.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ In this regard it is worth noting that in Paragraph 6.104 of its report the LLRC makes a far-reaching recommendation:

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-Any citizen of Sri Lanka has the inalienable right to acquire land in any part of the country, in accordance with its laws and regulations, and reside in any area of his/her choice without any restrictions or limitations imposed in any manner whatsoever. The land policy of the Government should not be an instrument to effect unnatural changes in the demographic pattern of a given Province. In the case of inter provincial irrigation or land settlement schemes, distribution of State land should continue to be as provided for in the Constitution of Sri LankaƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ The most important advantage of a unitary administration is that its decisions, by very nature, are to promote national interest and not parochial advantage. Even without granting land and police powers devolution could hamper government management of the country. This is clear from IndiaƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s experience. ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ For instance the Indian central government has been forced to make compromises due to the need to maintain state government political support for the centre. In some instances the centre may be made completely impotent by a regional administration by injudicious use of authority. As a recent example of this it has been said that during the last Indian general election the plane carrying Congress Party leader, Sonia Gandhi was not given permission to land in Uttar Pradesh, a state under the control of the opposition.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ Does not address issues

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ There is a perception abroad that giving greater autonomy to the northern province will lead to reconciliation. This is not a realistic expectation.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ The reason is that only a minority of Tamils live in the northern province. The latest census data on population for 2012 shows the total Sri Lankan Tamil population in Sri Lanka as 2.27 million or 11 per cent of the total population.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  Out of this the Tamil population in the Northern Province is 0.98 million or 43 per cent. In other words less than half the Tamil population live in the five administrative districts comprising the Northern province and the rest live among the Sinhalese and Muslims and other communities in other parts of the country.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ 

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ The Indo-Sri Lanka Accord indirectly recognised the dispersion of the Tamil population by declaring as the rationale for setting up the provincial administration the facilitation of the return of Tamils living in other areas to these enclaves. But what has happened is quite the opposite. The 2012 census data confirms this (Table 2). In all but four districts the number of Sri Lankan Tamils living in the south increased significantly between 1981 and 2012. This was in spite of having a Tamil administration under the LTTE and despite declaring the region as Tamils only by Prabhakaran by ousting all Muslims and Sinhalese.











Per cent



Per cent


























Nuwara Eliya

































































ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  Source: Dept of Statistics, Census of population, 1981 and 2012

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ There are a number of implications of the movement of Tamils to other areas in increasing numbers.

a)ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  The needs of those living in the north and those dispersed elsewhere are different. Addressing reconciliation on the basis of the situation of a minority of Tamils who live in the north will therefore be ineffective;

b)ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  Restricting the Council territory to Tamils would invariably be the stance with the representatives of the PC after the elections. This is evident even without granting land powers, from TNA MPs currently campaigning against return of the Sinhalese and Muslims ousted by Prabhakaran.

c)ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  When Tamil citizens of the country use their democratic right to live anywhere in the country it would be inequitable to artificially restrict non-Tamil citizens settling in the northern province.

d)ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  Elections will be counter to the recommendations of the LLRC, which was intended to provide a sound basis for reconciliation. One of the conditions it proposed was that ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-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 countryƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚. As noted earlier it also reiterated that any citizen of Sri Lanka has the inalienable right to acquire land and live in any part of the country.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ Recommendations of the LLRC

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ The LLRC recommendations are widely recognised, within the country as well as by the international community, as a suitable basis to bring about reconciliation. ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ The Commission had far reaching proposals relating to devolution of power in the eight paragraphs 9.229 to 9.237. They include the following:

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ a.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  Devolution should essentially promote greater harmony and unity and not disharmony and disunity among the people of the country. The promotion of this ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”onenessƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢ and a common identity should be the principal aim of any form of devolution while protecting and appreciating rich diversity.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ b.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  Need to ensure that the people belonging to all communities are empowered at every level.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ c.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  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.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ d.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  Empowerment of the people should take place within the broader framework of the promotion and protection of human rights.

e.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  Empowering the Local Government institutions to ensure greater peoplesƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢ participation at the grass roots level.

f.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  The lessons learnt from the shortcomings in the functioning of the Provincial Councils system should be taken into account.

g.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  Provide for safeguarding the territorial integrity and unity of Sri Lanka whilst fostering its rich diversity.

h.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  An additional mechanism to be considered is the possibility of establishing a Second Chamber comprising Representatives from the Provinces.

i.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  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.

LLRC also cautioned that all parties must commit themselves to finding solutions internally through negotiation with each other. The report noted that the Tamil leaders should take account of the unnecessary internationalization of the ethnic issue and the external pressures exercised by the Diaspora and its impact on the negotiations for a political settlement. The perceptions of external threat and intervention, the Commission noted, can create a sense of insecurity that can seriously impede the progress towards an acceptable solution. It also reiterated the need to launch a good faith effort to develop a consensus on devolution, building on what exists ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢¢”š¬…” both, for maximum possible devolution to the periphery especially at the grass roots level, as well as power sharing at the centre. This consensus should be one that will enable peoplesƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢ participation in governance decisions affecting them and avoid costly and unnecessary duplication of political, bureaucratic and other institutional structures that hamper efficient, cost-effective and transparent governance.

Four important considerations relating to provincial councils emerge from the recommendations of LLRC:

1. ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  Safeguarding the territorial integrity and unity of Sri Lanka whilst fostering its rich diversity.

2. ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  Ensure that any power sharing arrangement has inbuilt mechanisms that would effectively address and discourage secessionist tendencies and safeguard the sovereignty and integrity of the State.

3.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  Build on what exists ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢¢”š¬…” both, a) for maximum possible devolution to the periphery especially at the grass roots level and to ensure greater peoplesƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢ participation, b) as well as power sharing at the centre.

4.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  To accommodate provincial viewpoint in legislative decision-making consider the possibility of establishing a Second Chamber comprising Representatives from the Provinces.

What is evident from these is the incompatibility of the 13th Amendment with LLRC recommendations. For instance 13A does not allow for maximum devolution of power to the periphery – the grass roots level. The peripheral unit it defines is the Province. Nor does it accommodate power sharing with the centre. Neville Ladduwahetty has provided more details in a recent article. It is important that the government takes note of the LRCC recommendations for they are seen, both within and outside Sri Lanka, as the key to reconciliation.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ 

The President has echoed many of the views expressed by LLRC. In the 2013 budget speech he underlined the need for ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-A change in the prevailing Provincial Council system to make devolution more meaningful to our people. Devolution should not be a political reform that will lead us to separation but instead it should be one that unifies all of us. It should not involve high spending and complex governance structures that will impose further burden on people.ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ The President also identified the issues that people are concerned with. ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-Everybody who met me from all corners of Sri Lanka whether they were Tamils, Muslims or Sinhalese, asked for greater access to education, health, employment opportunities, better living and equal standards across the nation. The elimination of provincial disparities using national standards is the main weapon through which national reconciliation can be promoted. This Government remains committed to ensure that these aspirations of our people will be fulfilledƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚. The point to note is that the delivery of these expectations of the pubic is best undertaken by the central government and not any regional administration.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ The significance of the Northern PC Elections

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ The particular significance of the Northern Provincial Council elections is that the area covered is the same territory the LTTE was claiming as the base for Eelam, a separate state.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  During the three decades of confrontations the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) represented the terrorist group in parliament. Since its defeat there has been no official group representing the LTTE although its agenda continues to be promoted by the TNA. If the group wins the forthcoming elections, as it has been predicted, it would amount to giving official recognition to continue the LTTE agenda. It would turn out to be the rallying point for all the countryƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s enemies. That is why the Defence SecretaryƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s recent warning thatƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-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 warƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚, resonates with the public.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ Is there a better way?

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ We are in a bind right now. International pressure to hold northern elections has come to a head with several forces bent on cashing in on the vulnerability of the government leading up to the CHOGM. IndiaƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s leaning on Sri Lanka resembles somewhat the pressure applied on JR Jayawardene prior to signing of the Accord in 1987. But the present government is not in a similar sticky situation since it has other options.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ There are some key points that need to be recognised in any decision the government takes. The first is whatever the choice, it has far reaching implications for the country in the long term. Hence it is important to base it on maximising the nationƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s benefit rather than as an expedient to respond to external pressure. Secondly a measure that satisfies the critics will only create a temporary lull in interference, for by very nature they will move on to another issue.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  Thirdly, President Rajapaksa has the rare capability to make the change since he has the vision and commands the support of the parliament and the public. The crisis offers the opportunity to make the gains made in 2009 enduring.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ Although there has been considerable criticism of devolving power to Provincial Councils and holding elections no one has disagreed on the principle of devolution. In fact the LLRC has underlined the need for devolution as a means of helping in the reconciliation. But what it recommends is that power should be devolved to the grassroots level in a way that ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-discourages secessionist tendencies and safeguard the sovereignty and integrity of the StateƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚. The Northern Province will be a competing entity as it was coveted by the LTTE as their base for Eelam.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ Devolving power to the District will meet both conditions laid out by LLRC: giving power to the grassroots level and discouraging secessionist tendencies and safeguard the sovereignty and integrity of the state.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ The LLRC also suggested considering the possibility of a second chamber to involve the people at the periphery in decision making. This is debatable for there is already such representation in parliament through the existing electoral system. LLRC itself did not put forward the idea as a recommendation but as a matter for consideration. What is required in devolving power to grassroots level is a clear definition of the role and responsibilities of District Councils and to ensure that no amalgamation of District Councils is possible. They could be empowered to meet the expectations of the public in relation to health, education and other services as the President identified in the budget speech.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ This is the revised version of an article published earlier in the Ceylon Daily News.

[i] [i] M R Narayan Swamy, ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-India-Sri Lanka Accord: Does It Still Flicker?ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚, IPCS, August 2007.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ [ii] Myron Weiner, India’s Political Problems: The Longer View, The Western Political Quarterly, Vol. 9, No. 2 (Jun., 1956), pp. 283-292

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ Don Wijewardana is an economist and freelance writer. He can be contacted at




  1. Lorenzo Says:

    For that to happen 13 amendment must be SCRAPPED first.

  2. Ananda-USA Says:

    Patriots are caught between the DEVIL and the DEEP BLUE SEA:

    1. The DEVIL: If the JHU stays in the GOSL …. NPC elections may go ahead without the 13A being REPEALED or SIGNIFICANTLY modified to protect the Nation.

    2. THE DEEP BLUE SEA: If the JHU withdraws from the GOSL, the SLMC and other Anti-National Elements now straddling the fence within the UPFA may withdraw too, if that would BRING DOWN the UPFA GOSL. That would be disastrous and lead to the UNP cheered on by its Anti-National allies taking over the GOSL, and IMMEDIATELY GIFTING the Northern and Eastern Provinces to the Eelamists!

    I am PUZZLED why our Patriotic President has STILL NOT DONE THE RIGHT THING and called for a simple UP or DOWN vote in a NATIONWIDE REFERENDUM to REPEAL the 13th Amendment. That seems to be the most OBVIOUS & SAFEST route to take.

    Does he have DEMOGRAPHIC DATA that shows beyond reasonable doubt that such a NATIONWIDE REFERENDUM to REPEAL the 13th Amendment may LOSE? I VERY MUCH DOUBT THAT WOULD HAPPEN!

    Coalition party of Sri Lankan government warns of outcome of Northern PC election

    ColomboPage News Desk, Sri Lanka.

    June 17, Colombo: The Sinhala Buddhist coalition party of the Sri Lankan government Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU) today warned of a possible outcome detrimental to the country’s unity from the Northern Provincial Council election.

    Layman leader of JHU, Minister Patali Champika Ranawaka said that all who were loyal to the 13th Amendment to the Constitution would be answerable to the situation that might arise in case the Northern Provincial Council election is held without amending the Constitution.

    Addressing a press conference, he said that the Tamil separatists might use this election as a referendum for their cause.

    Ranawaka focused his argument on police and land powers vested in the Provincial Councils.

    However, he declined to comment the actions the JHU would take if the Northern Provincial Council election is held without amending the Constitution.

    When a journalist inquired if the JHU would withdraw the support to the government, Minister Ranawaka said in a subdued tone that political context could change at any moment.

    Meanwhile, the Western Provincial Council JHU Minister Udaya Gammanpila challenged Minister Rajitha Senaratne for a debate in regard of the police and land powers of Provincial Councils. He said that he would prove the danger of granting land and police powers to the Provincial Councils.

  3. Sunil Vijayapala Says:

    power is a word being used so often in forums like ours. devolution is another. just imagine how this power has being mis-used by this current regime? imagine bestowing power to terrorists posing as tna politicians? the impotency of the leader is the root cause of all problems in sri lanka. bbs, jhu and the rest of real patriots (not the card board ones who appear on bill boards at every corner in sri lanka) must take bold actions and instigate the masses to come on to streets to protest. protest against the elections in npc, protest against the dilly dallying on 13a, protest against the failure to implement 6a to the letter and jail all who mentions the word separatism etc. omg when will we have a leader who can lead this country out of this mess? most locals have lost faith in the leader and i am still surprised why our expats still have faith in him. it’s mindboggling.

  4. Fran Diaz Says:

    Mr Wijewardana has placed in his article all the salient points that needs to be considered to take a educated decision on the 13-A plus solutions on governance of the country. We thank him for his efforts.

    The President has to now move forward through all the ‘morass & minefields’ to the clear and only solution, whilst keeping to the Constitution and the Laws of proper procedure.

    What is required by the masses of Lanka is patience, understanding of the real situation and that the solution is a win-win one for almost every citizen of Lanka. After all, hasn’t eliminating the ltte yielded the necessary peace to all, even to those who opposed going to war with the ltte, for whatever reason ? It is the same with the 13-A. In the end, all will benefit by the elimination of the 13-A and putting in better systems of governance.

  5. Ananda-USA Says:

    A Petition to STRIP LAND & POLICE POWERS from the PCS is GOOD, but a Petition to STRIP the 13th Amendment from Sri Lanka’s Constitution is ESSENTIAL & MUCH BETTER!
    Petition with million signatures to strip land and police powers to PCs handed over to Sri Lankan President

    ColomboPage News Desk, Sri Lanka.

    June 18, Colombo: A petition with signatures of million people against holding the Northern Provincial Council election without amending the land and police powers was handed over to the Sri Lankan President today.

    The National Freedom Front led by Minister Wimal Weerawansa earlier this month launched an island wide campaign to collect million signatures against vesting land and police powers to the provincial councils under the 13th Amendment to the Constitution.

    The campaign began in Anuradhapura on June 6th and traversed the country collecting signatures.

    Minister Wimal Weerawansa, Deputy Minister Weerakumara Dissanayake, Politburo Member Piyasiri Wijenayake and other members of the NFF were present at the occasion.

    (Photos by Sudath Silva)

  6. Fran Diaz Says:

    Yes, a Petition to strip the 13-A is very much the best !

  7. Ananda-USA Says:

    PATRIOTS! …. HERE it is …..JHU’s PETITION to REPEAL the 13th Amendment!


    Ratna Deepa, Janma Bhumi
    Lanka Deepa, Vijaya Bhumi
    Mey Apey, Udaarawu
    Maathru Bhumi-yayi
    Maathru Bhumi-yayi …….

    Aadi Sinhaley Aey Weera Meemathun Layin
    Saarawu, Udaarawu
    Maathru Bhumi-yayi
    Maathru Bhumi-yayi …….

    Sri Lanka Buddhist party reveals its constitutional amendment

    ColomboPage News Desk, Sri Lanka.

    May 22, Colombo: Sri Lanka’s Sinhala Buddhist political party Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU) Wednesday revealed the 19th Amendment to the Constitution proposed by them.

    Legal adviser of JHU Udaya Gammanpila, Member of Western Provincial Council, briefed the content of the proposition today at a press conference held in Colombo.

    JHU Gampaha district MP Ven. Athuraliye Rathana Thero said the party expects to bring in the proposal to the parliament as a private member’s motion.

    Full Text of the Amendment:

    The proposition named as An Act to amend the Constitution of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka aims primarily to repeal the 13th amendment to the constitution which paved way for the power devolving Provincial Council system in the island.

    Full text of the draft constitutional amendment is as follows: Whereas the 13th Amendment to the Constitution was purportedly enacted, consequent to the Indo- Sri Lanka Accord being entered into between the President of Sri Lanka and the Prime Minister of India in 1987 under duress in defiance of the sovereignty of the people of Sri Lanka and,

    Whereas the Supreme Court of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka did not approve the provisions of the 13th amendment Bill as being consistent with the Constitution in as much as only four judges of the Supreme Court out of nine held that the approval of the people at a referendum was not required to enact the 13th Amendment whilst five judges held that at least one or more of the provisions of the Bill was in violation of the Constitution and therefore required the approval of the people at a referendum and,

    Whereas in terms of Article 80(2) of the Constitution “where the Supreme Court has determined that a Bill or any provision thereof requires the approval of the people at a referendum” such bill or such provision shall become law only upon the same being approved by the people at a referendum and the President certifies that the Bill or any Provision thereof has been so approved in the manner as set out in the said Article.

    Whereas the majority of the Judges that constituted the bench of the Supreme Court had determined that the Bill or any one or more of the provisions thereof requires the approval of the people at a referendum, such Bill can become law only if complied with Article 80(2) upon being approved by the people at a referendum and therefore the purported certificate of the Speaker endorsed on the Bill purportedly under Articles 79 and 80(1) of the Constitution is invalid and unconstitutional and,

    Whereas the Supreme Court has determined that any Bill or any Provision thereof requires the approval at a referendum the only cause of action available under the law is to comply with the process set out in Article 80(2) and the purported Amendment made to Clause 154G(2)(b) and 154G(3)(b) of the 13th Amendment Bill in Parliament without a further determination by the Supreme Court is unconstitutional and unlawful and,

    Whereas the 13th Amendment in Article 154A(3) provides for the establishment of one administrative unit for two or more Provinces, to accommodate the unlawful undertaking given by the then President of Sri Lanka in the Indo-Sri Lanka Accord to establish one administrative unit for the Northern and Eastern Provinces of Sri Lanka on the erroneous and false basis that the Northern and Eastern Provinces form part of the homeland of one single ethnic and /or linguistic community as claimed by the separatist forces and,

    Whereas the 13th Amendment has sought to abdicate the legislative power vested in Parliament and the Executive power vested in the President by the division of governmental power and restricted the Parliament and the President respectively exercising the legislative and executive power of the people and thereby offended the unitary character of the State, Whereas the 13th Amendment has vested inter alia police powers (including powers in relation to maintenance of public order) in Provincial Councils which was hitherto exercise by the Government of Sri Lanka, which will be a serious threat to national security concerns of the Republic in as much as, ,

    (a) the 13th Amendment provides for the Chief Minister of a Province to directly control the Head of the Provincial Police Force and thereby all Police Officers of the said Force and even national police units operating in any province. (vide Item 11 of the Appendix of List 1 of the 9th Schedule) thereby effectively taking away the powers of the Inspector General of Police and the Government of Sri Lanka exercising any authority over such police force, ,

    (b) the 13th Amendment entrusts the responsibility of prevention, detection, investigation of all offences (except the offences specified in the Schedule therein) and institution of prosecutions (subject to the powers of the Attorney General) to Provincial Councils and to enact any law on any such matter and further empower any Provincial Council to prevent any Police Officers of another Province entering such Province (vide the limitations contained in sub paragraph (k) of the 2nd item of List II of the 9th Schedule) and thereby jeopardizing the management of law and order and the national security of the Republic.

    (c) the 13th Amendment even restricts police officers of the national police force from being in uniform compelling them to be in plain clothes even when performing the limited responsibilities allowed within a province such as when engaging in prevention, detection and investigation of a scheduled offence (vide Item 10:1 read with 12:1 of the relevant Appendix of the 9th Schedule).

    Whereas the 13th Amendment, though based on the Constitutional structure of India, denies the Government of Sri Lanka to intervene in the event of a Province acting against the interests of the Republic, although the Central government of India is empowered to intervene in similar situations. (Vide Article 256 and 257 of the Constitution of India).

    Whereas the power of the Government of Sri Lanka to give directions with regard to the manner of exercising executive power by a Province is restricted to a situation where the maintenance of essential supplies and services is threatened or that the security of Sri Lanka is threatened by war or external aggression or armed rebellion (vide Article 154J and 154K) no such limitation is placed under the Constitution on the Government of India and,

    Whereas the 13th Amendment seeks to weaken the Government of Sri Lanka whilst strengthening the Provincial Councils and thereby destroying the unitary character of the State, territorial integrity of Sri Lanka and the sovereignty of its people and,

    Whereas Sri Lanka is a Free, sovereign, independent and unitary State and it is the duty of the State to safeguard the independence, sovereignty, unity and the territorial integrity of Sri Lanka and the provisions of the 13th Amendment are a threat to the independence, sovereignty, unity and the territorial integrity of Sri Lanka.

    BE it enacted by the Parliament of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka as follows:- 1. This Act may be cited as the Nineteenth Amendment to the Constitution. 2. The Constitution of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka (hereinafter referred to as the “Constitution”) is hereby amended by the repeal of ; ,

    (a) Chapter XVIIA

    (b) Article 155(3A)

    (c) Ninth Schedule

    3. Article 170 of the Constitution is hereby amended by the substitution, in the definition of “written law” for the words “and includes statutes made by Provincial Councils, orders” of the words “and include orders”.

    4. In the event of any inconsistency between the Sinhala and Tamil texts of this Act, the Sinhala text shall prevail.

  8. Ananda-USA Says:

    Tamils to vote in Provincial Council polls

    By P K Balachandran – COLOMBO
    June 19, 2013

    The Sri Lankan Parliament on Tuesday passed a Bill enabling people who were displaced from the Tamil-speaking Northern Province by the war to register for voting in the forthcoming elections to the Northern Provincial Council (NPC).

    With a certificate from the Grama Sevaka, Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) can now cast their votes in the area in which they had lived prior to displacement. However, no person who is already registered as a voter in another place, can go back and vote in his original constituency in the North. The facility does not cover people who had left the country.

    Though the measure is seen as a just and democratic one, Tamil leaders say the revision of the electoral rolls, which will be necessitated by the Act, can be used to stall polls to the NPC to be held in September this year.

    “Anyone can go to court and stall the Northern elections,” said V Anandasangaree, President of the Tamil United Liberation Front. The National Freedom Front (NFF) and other Sinhalese political parties are campai-

    gning against the NPC elections, as they fear that power may go into the hands of the “pro-LTTE” Tamil National Alliance (TNA).

    Envoy Arrives in SL

    Yashvardhan Kumar Sinha, the new High Commissioner of India to SL, arrived in Colombo on Tuesday.

    Better known as Y K Sinha, the envoy had previously handled several important assignments at the Ministry of External Affairs, and in Indian missions in the Middle East, Europe, South America and the Permanent Mission of India at the UN.

  9. Ananda-USA Says:

    The Defence Secretary, Gotabhaya Rajapaksa says:

    1. During the height of Eelam War IV, the three-member delegation to India comprising the Presidential Secretary Lalith Weeratunga, then Senior Presidential Advisor Basil Rajapaksa, and the Defence Secretary told India, represented by National Security Advisor M. K. Narayanan, Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon and Defence Secretary Vijay Singh, that POLICE POWERS WILL NOT BE DEVOLVED under the 13th Amendment and Narayanan had FULLY AGREED with it.

    2. When President Rajapaksa had assured India as well as other countries that his government would offer 13th Amendment plus, the President had meant was that he would give a better solution acceptable to all communities. It was misinterpreting the President’s assurance to propagate the falsehood that the government was ready to implement the 13th Amendment, which was forced on the then President JR Jayawardenene.

    THERE YOU HAVE IT …. Straight talk from the Defence Secretary, that India was made aware that the 13th Amendment would be modified to EXCLUDE Police Powers even during the Eelam War, and that the 13th Amendment Plus would not be the same as what was forced down Sri Lanka’s THROAT by India, but was one that would serve ALL of Sri Lanka’s citizens better.

    Agreements made UNDER DURESS are ILLEGAL under ANY LAW. They can be, should be, and will be ABROGATED as soon as the VICTIM OF CRIMINAL COMPULSION regains its free will. IN FACT, it is the DUTY of the VICTIM to DO SO!

    It is PREPOSTEROUS to claim that Sri Lanka is DUTY-BOUND in any way to retain the 13th Amendment forced down its throat by India to satisfy her need for regional hegemony and to placate Indian Racists pursuing a Greater Tamil Nadu agenda!

    Sri Lanka must be governed to serve Sri Lanka’s National Interest, not to serve India’s interests!

    RISE UP …. O Patriots of Mother Lanka …. RISE UP, in your TENS of MILLIONS, to REPEAL this Indian BALL & CHAIN shackling Mother Lanka’s limbs, NOW!
    PCs won’t have police powers, Govt. has told India

    By Shamindra Ferdinando
    June 19, 2013, 10:06 pm

    India had been informed of Sri Lanka’s decision not to devolve police powers to provinces at the height of the conflict, Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa said yesterday.

    The Defence Secretary said that both, President Mahinda Rajapaksa and he, had emphasised during deliberations with senior Indian officials that devolution of police powers would be inimical to the national interest as well as political stability. “We made our position clear during talks involving top level delegations from Sri Lanka and India”, he told The Island.

    The three-member delegation comprised Presidential Secretary Lalith Weeratunga, then Senior Presidential Advisor Basil Rajapaksa and the Defence Secretary. The troika functioned as an informal group on behalf of President Mahinda Rajapaksa to inform and interact with all those who matter, within and outside the country, in general and on events unfolding in Sri Lanka from time to time and visited New Delhi several times during the war.

    India was represented by National Security Advisor M. K. Narayanan, Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon and Defence Secretary Vijay Singh.

    The Defence Secretary was responding to Indian media reports of Indian Premier Manmohan Singh expressing concern over President Rajapaksa’s decision to amend the 13th Amendment to the Constitution.

    The Defence Secretary said vesting provinces with police powers would be inimical to the interests of minorities. Recollecting a discussion they had in New Delhi, Rajapaksa said that when Narayanan queried from Singh what he thought of Rajapaksa’s opposition to police powers being devolved to provinces, the Indian Defence Secretary had agreed fully with him.

    When it was pointed out that President Rajapaksa had assured India as well as other countries that his government would offer 13th Amendment plus, the Defence Secretary said that what the President had meant was that he would give a better solution acceptable to all communities. It would be nothing but foolish to misinterpret the President’s assurance to propagate the falsehood that the government was ready to implement the 13th Amendment, which was forced on the then President JRJ.

    Responding to allegations that Sri Lanka had gone back on its promise to implement the 13th Amendment after the conclusion of the conflict, the Defence Secretary alleged that it was the government of India that voted for the US-led resolution against Sri Lanka at the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) after having promised to throw its weight behind Sri Lanka. “India let us down in Geneva, very badly,” the Defence Secretary said.

    Commenting on the proposed Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) to study the national issue and make recommendations, the Defence Secretary said that the tangible actions would have to be taken to ensure the 13th Amendment wouldn’t be the cause for further chaos. If implemented fully as it is it could create a volatile situation not only in the Northern Province but other regions as well, the Defence Secretary said.

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