13th Amendment is a Federal Instrument
Posted on August 24th, 2020

N.A.de S. Amaratunga

Our hapless people battered and bruised by four years of ‘yahapalana’ , the two bank robberies, foreign interference, UNHRC Resolutions, separatism, Easter bombs and Covid have finally crawled to polling booths and stuffed the ballot boxes with lotus buds. Even the creators of the lotus bud may have been overwhelmed and shaken to the core for even they could not fathom the phenomenon.  Do they understand  its cause, its power, its anger, its desperateness,  and its expectations. Those on whom so much trust, faith and confidence have been placed must realize the gravity of this phenomenon.

People’s concern

If we know the agony the people went through during the last four and half years we could understand this phenomenon. Wasn’t the agony the same as that which plagued the country during the 30 year long separatist war. The country was in danger of being fragmented along ethnic lines during the last four years as it was during the war. The 2015 regime change was the culmination of a confluence of agendas comprising those of the western powers, their local collaborators and Tamil separatists. A destabilized, fragmented Sri Lanka would suit their agendas quite well. The imperialists would like to have a hegemonic grip on Sri Lanka with its strategic location in the Indian Ocean. Tamil separatists would want their ‘homeland’  and the local opportunist politicians would want political power. Those who plotted the regime change in 2015 had these as their goals.  And they worked towards their goal relentlessly. The Western powers took control, got the UNHRC to adopt the Resolution 30/1 and pushed hard for constitutional reforms. A federal constitution was presented to the parliament and it was a close call. People became desperate. Presidential election in 2019 and then the general election gave the people the opportunity to have their say and they have spoken loud and clear.

Our poor people should not be made to suffer this agony ever again, worry about their land, their independence and sovereignty, people who have laid down their life for the country. Should they always live in fear of being made landless, and their country fragmented and occupied by foreign powers. As long as the13th A is part of our constitution these fears will continue to haunt them.

Tamil separatism is still alive

The 13th A become crucial when we see that Tamil separatists have not given up their plan. This is evident in what CV Vigneshvaran and G Ponnambalam

did recently. They took a vow before the LTTE memorial to fight for the Tamil aspirations. Tamil aspirations as far as the LTTE is concerned is a separate state and nothing less. This they did before they took their oaths in the Sri Lankan Parliament. They apparently have allegiance to what the LTTE stood for and not to the Sri Lankan sovereignty or  its parliament. When CV was the chief minister in the Northern PC he used his position to campaign for a federal state. He had no qualms about eulogizing the achievements of the LTTE. He may have already started his campaign if his maiden speech in Parliament is anything to go by.

In this regard what we must not forget is that the 13th A is a federal instrument and it happens to be part of the law of the country. When it is fully implemented with the granting of land and police powers to the provincial councils the latter would have more powers than the states in India which is a federal country. Therefore Sri Lankan constitution as it stands today could be deemed to be federal in content. The fact that these powers have so far not been granted is immaterial from a legal point of view. One may argue that not granting them is unconstitutional.

The burden of the Provincial Councils

Several Provinces have existed without their Councils with no breakdown of essential services to the people for more than one year due to elections not being held. Though it is argued that not holding elections on time is a denial of democratic rights not holding elections for redundant institutions which in fact are a white elephant and a burden on the tax paying poor people could be considered a blessing in disguise. PCs were created as a solution to the so called ethnic Tamil problem but the silence of Tamil politicians on the issue of delay in elections to the Northern PC is deafening to say the least. If they can do without their PC there cannot be an ethnic problem of enormous magnitude which necessitated  the introduction by force of the 13th A by India. People of this country did not ask for the 13th A, it was forced on us by a hegemonic imperialist India partly to pacify Tamil Nadu politicians, and to prevent other interested global powers getting into the fray for geopolitical reasons. Our poor people have to pay for global geopolitical vagaries and local communal dubious ‘aspirations’.

The Provincial Councils do not serve any useful purpose. Instead it is another bureaucratic barrier to the people that increase the red tape, inconvenience, waste of time, money and energy of the people. Further it has increased the number of corrupt politicians that people have to bribe to get any official work done. The devolution of power via these PCs is totally redundant as shown by the inability of the Northern PC, which was formed for the very purpose of solving the Tamil problem, to make use of the opportunity to serve the people. The work done by these PCs could easily be carried out by the GA and the kachcheri system we had previously without the involvement of politicians. Similarly administrative power could be devolved to the North through the local government institutions. The 13th A with its Land and Police powers hangs over us like a Sword of Damocles which could eventually pave the way for a separate state. Thus the 13th A and its offspring the provincial councils could be done away with bringing great benefit to the people including Tamils.

Tamil problem

One may ask what about the Tamil problem. Firstly this has not been clearly explained. As far as any fair minded person could see Tamils in Sri Lanka are better off than Tamils in India. In Tamil Nadu for instance, Tamils cannot represent a case in courts in the Tamil language, leave alone anywhere else in India, where as Tamils in Sri Lanka could do so anywhere in the country. Tamils in the North and the East have no issues that other communities do not have regarding the use of language, education, employment, economy, household income, culture, sports etc. The house hold income in Vavuniya is better than that in Kandy, so are the roads. They have excelled in education. They have no special problems that arise due to their ethnicity. If Tamils are  discriminated they would not be able to achieve what they have. As for their political rights, these could easily be addressed at the centre of political power instead of at the periphery as the country is very small. Tamil representation at the centre should be made more meaningful particularly on matters related to minorities. The money saved by the removal of the  PCs and 13th A  could be used for the benefit of everybody. Tamils and other minorities should be made to develop a sense of belonging in the country of their berth. A federal state is not necessary for this, in fact a federal state based on ethnicity would result in the hardening of ethnic identity and lead to a tendency for secession.

2/3rd Majority

People have given a 2/3rd majority to the present government not just to provide for a stable government. In the process they had completely wiped out a giant of a political party which they thought was the cause of their agony and worry. They were worried about their land and their 2500 year old civilization they had built on that land. They gave a 2/3rd majority overcoming all obstacles and constrains of a proportional representation system of election. They are hoping for a permanent solution to this problem and not a piece meal adhoc arrangement. A 2/3rd majority is not a privilege that the politicians deserve at this juncture but a necessary evil and perhaps an imperative need that should be put to best use with responsibility. It is an opportunity that may never come in the future and the present government would do well to heed its message if it is to do its duty by the people.

N.A.de S. Amaratunga

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