THE CONCEPT AND CONTENTS OF THE 13TH AMENDMENT
Posted on November 1st, 2020

BY EDWARD THEOPHILUS

It seems that many people of Sri Lanka talk about the 13th amendment to the constitution before the quick boost of opinion on the arrival of the US Secretary of State. The visit was highly focused on opinion on the MCC agreement and political talks on the agreement, and it is clear that these talkative people have no clear understanding of the concept and contents of the 13th amendment. Media of the country attempt to divert the flow of opinion and India also wants to lie down the matter relates to the 13th amendment. However, people need to understand the truth about the amendment rather than motivating from time to time based on an unimportant statement of a politician.

Why did the 13th amendment pass, it might associate with the historical experience of Indian behavior toward Sri Lanka and the other neighboring countries? The general understanding of Sri Lankans implied India has hegemony over surrounding countries, and the manner of Indian opinion and the foreign policy demeanor toward the 13th amendment displays that the amendment was originated with the supports of India, and its hegemonic approach, but it is difficult to explain how it happened? During the British rule, Indian people took to various countries such as Sri Lanka, Fiji, and Certain African countries Western entrepreneurs at that time, Indian nationals or the freedom movement did not oppose the actions, but later Indian governments use migrated Indians to create distress against the legally elected government in such countries.

Was there a compromise between Sri Lanka and India when the amendment was enacted, and the implementation of the amendment?  Mr. J.R. Jayawardane, a party to the signatories to the Indo-Lanka Accord stated that the action was a strategy to live under the shadow of India without surrendering the country. The assassination of Mr. Rajiv Ghandi practically convinced India that the amendment might have negative effects concerning defense affairs and also showed the risk of using migrated labor from India for international politics. An article published in the Hindu paper on 07.09.2020 in India described the reasons why is the 13th amendment contentious based on four points and also indicated two significant points regarding the amendment.

The recent behavior of Mr. Sarath Weerasekera, who was appointed as the State Minister of the Provincial Councils shows that the hard-line approach to abolishing the provincial councils has either changed or underwater, resulting in the visit of the American Secretary of State, Mr. Mike Pompeo. Otherwise, abolishing the 13th amendment was a headache for many parties and it might re-emerge the environment change after COVID-19 19 epidemic and when a new constitution making emerged in the parliament. What people observe regarding the debate is Mr.Sarath Weerasekera has failed to point out the disadvantages incurred from the 13th amendment and how he is supposed to change the amendment give benefits to both sides India and Sri Lanka. When impartially considering the 13th amendment, it was a humanistic approach of Sri Lanka’s government toward the Tamil ethnic community and the experience after the enactment of the amendment since 1987 it has not been any disadvantage to neither Sinhala, nor Tamil, nor Muslim community of Sri Lanka.     

Before the arrived European invaders, the reign of Sri Lanka’s political administration was successfully used and tackled ethnic issues in the country adopting appropriate techniques to deal with ethnic issues in the country from time to time. Before the king Dutugemunu, Sri Lanka used a technique that divided the political administration as Ruhuna, Maya, and Pihiti, and it was changed by King Dutugemunu. The evidence relating to the provincial administration is not written in historical sources.  However, historical books in Sri Lanka provide evidence that King Dutugemunu did not extend the war beyond Vavuniya and respected the right of Tamils. I assume that from King Dutugemunu there is no harm if Tamils are living in the country respecting the right of the Sinhala Community without making distress to the government s of Sri Lanka and India.  The problem was South Indian invaders promoted actions against the Sinhala community and their religion Buddhism. If we look at the approach of King Dutugemunu, the contents of the 13th amendment would not be harmful to the Sinhala community or the country either.

The specific nature of the historical reign was that people were treated as human residing in the country and allowed to use owned language and religion or any other identity if there were not harmful to others in administration activities. The ethnic division was based on the language used by people, but it was not established on scientific reasons such as biological deviations. The wars incurred when ethnic groups (Tamils) attempted to control the right of the majority ethnic group, Sinhala, and India played a role to settle ethnic problems without favoring any ethnic groups.  The culture of India showed similarities in the practices of Sri Lankans and Indians.

The creation of provincial councils by the 13th amendment was conceptually associated with the division of the central government power than to delegation of the authority to nine provincial councils, and the division of power is not distinguished and the amendment indicates that irrespective of size and the nature of power given from the amendment are equal whether people living in provinces are Sinhala or Tamil or Muslims. The concept of the 13th amendment shows equity and justice incorporated into the amendment, without harm to the right of any ethnic community in the country. For example, if particular power is given to the northern province, the same power was given to the southern province. The concept relates to the 13th amendment that might difficult to understand by ordinary citizens.

People going against the provincial councils need to clearly understand the concept of the separation of power and delegation of power. Many political scientists talked about separation of power especially considering the separation of power between the executive, legislature, and Judiciary. The delegation of power in the 13th amendment is not related to the concept of separation of power, and the content of the 13th amendment indicated that the delegation of power is equally delegation of the authority subject to the commandment of the executive president of the country.

The Hindu paper highlighted that the criticism against the 13th amendment states that the provinces could be effectively controlled by the Centre.  This is an opinion based on the situation and experience when the population of Sri Lanka remained less than 15.0 million, However, the population of the country has been increased to 22.0 million, and the delegation of power economically is cost-effective and efficiency in providing services is more effective under the provincial council system as long as there are no attitudes toward to territorial integrity is respected and assured by members of provincial councils.  The best example is the current issue of the COVID 19 crisis, that invites the use of the authority of the center and the provinces. Many people have difficulty understanding the situation.

Strategically, Mr.J.R. Jayawardane disagreed with India the delegation of police power and land power. If police power delegated in an environment that the separatist movement was powerful the delegated power could have used to disturb the law and order, especially in North and East provinces.  The land power should be in the hand of the center as in an environment that the population is expanding there should be lands for the increase in population to live. It is accepted that in the international legal framework no person should be landless to live and the central administration of the country is responsible to provide to live all people in the country. The delegation of power from the point of view of Tamil politicians was more selfish and there was a nature of rejecting people of the country giving lands to live.   Mr.J.R. Jayewardene viewed that there should be an opportunity to expand the excess population in the Western province to expand in the east and I feel that India has agreed with the points of Mr. Jayewardene. The current wish of the Indian prime minister is not going beyond international justice.

Mr.Sarath Weerasekera has failed to develop concrete points in favor of why the provincial council should be canceled and what would be the alternative he suggests to implement after the cancellation.  He may know that this is a complicated issue that involves India too.  Various points JR highlighted to India not to give police and land management power to provincial councils were accepted by India and considered valid.  Lands of the country are to all people without an ethnic difference and the giving full power on land management to the council will prevent expanding population in the western province to North and East.  It is unacceptable.  When grants the police power to the provincial council it might lead to conflict between the federal police and provincial police services. Sri Lanka doesn’t want such a situation in the name of the provincial councils and India understands that such conflicts between the federal police and provincial police could emerge in India.

The concept and the contents of the 13th amendment should be educated to people through media and the amendment should not use as a wound of a beggar to manipulated political opinion.  If the government suppose to introduce a new constitution the concept and the contents of the 13th amendment should be incorporated into the new constitution.          

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