Proposal to Fully implement the 13th Amendment to the Constitution
Posted on January 29th, 2023

Mahinda Gunasekera

His Exellency, Mr. Ranil Wickremasinghe
President of Sri Lanka
Colombo, Sri Lanka

     Copy to:  Hon. Dinesh Gunawardena, Prime Minister of Sri Lanka
         ”     ”     Hon. Dr. Wijedasa Rajapashe, Minister of Justice, Sri Lanka

Your Excellency,

Proposal to Fully Implement the 13th Amendment to the Constitution

I would like to refer you to the inception of the need to incorporate the 13th Amendment  creating nine Provincial Councils including the temporary merger of the Northern and Eastern Provinces in the year 1987 granting a list of devolved powers plus a shared list together with power over land and policing within the Unitary State of Sri Lanka, following the signing of the infamous Indo-Lanka Accord by the then Prime Minister of India, Honourable Rajiv Gandhi and Sri Lanka’s President, His Excellency J. R. Jayawardene.  As a Cabinet Minister of President J.R. Jayawardene’s government, you would no doubt recall the military threats and duress applied on the Sri Lankan authorities by the then government of India, the regional super power, that engaged in gunboat diplomacy against her friend and small neighbour of Sri Lanka in forcing the hand of President J.R. Jayawardene to accept the terms laid down by India totally ignoring the Pancha Seela principles to which India was a leading proponent .

You would also recall that the 13th Amendment was adopted by the United National Party government which enjoyed a 5/6th majority in Parliament without having consulted the people and where President Jayawardene manipulated the vote by threatening to take up Letters of Resignation he had previously obtained from members of his caucus in order to ensure that the required two-third majority was received.  Furthermore, the Accord between the two leaders fails due to the threats and duress adopted by India, and also India’s failure to disarm the main terrorist group known as the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) which they undertook to accomplish in 72 hours thereof, whereas India’s Peace Keeping Force went on to engage the LTTE in military warfare for a period of nearly three years after which they withdrew having suffered heavy casualties. It must also be pointed out that the LTTE which called itself the sole representative of the Tamil community and so acknowledged by the Tamil National Alliance, did not sign nor accept the terms of the Indo-Lanka Accord as they sought a separate state called “Eelam” encompassing 1/3rd of the island’s land area and 2/3rds of the coastal belt and surrounding ocean, towards which they engaged in an armed confrontation lasting over 30 years including suicide terrorism.  Even the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka which reviewed the constitutionality gave its consent on a 5/4 split after certain changes were made to the original bill.

The people of Sri Lanka consider the Provincial Councils as a White Elephant which only has another set of corrupt politicians beholden to the main political parties, who remain an added burden on the public purse.  At a time when the flow of information is instantaneous, it is the height of stupidity to have nine Provincial Councils at an extravagant cost to administer the nine regions especially for a small developing country such as Sri Lanka when modern communications enables efficient administration from a central location. The reserved list of devolved powers makes it anomalous to refer to Sri Lanka as a Unitary State, when the Centre surrenders its rights to the Provinces as in a Federal system.

What the Tamil and Muslim minorities have mainly sought is a voice in the day to day governance of the state, which can be accomplished by sharing more power at the Centre by appointing members of the minorities and other opposition parties to Consultative Committees or Advisory Bodies to each of the key ministries or all ministries if necessary with a right to participate in the drafting of policies, monitoring implementation of programs and reviewing final outcomes as opposed to majoritarian rule as seen in the present system where the majority community dominates the governance.  In addition, experts from outside parliament too could be drawn to serve on Experts Committees to guide the ministers and officials in their day to day work for which a fee may be paid.  The Provincial Councils could be replaced by Multi-District Councils comprised of two to three districts to which powers may be delegated to deal with matters directly relating to the districts concerned.

We should avoid the devolving of powers to the Provinces as it could lead to the break up of Unitary state into two or more units with hostile borders and associated complications in settlement issues of such a division.  A separate memo has previously been submitted to the Ministry of Constitutional Affairs incorporating guidelines for the establishment of Multi-District Councils, election of Executive Chairpersons for each multi-District Council and member councillors, a copy of which could be re-submitted if required.  The report presented by the Special Committee headed by Mr. Romesh de Silva to draft a Revised Constitution by the former President has still not been released for public consideration even though public funds have been expended for this purpose.

Trust that you nor your government would take the unpopular step  to add on more powers to the existing Provincial Councils, nor take steps to re-merge the Northern and Eastern Provincial Councils which were demerged by the Supreme Court of the country.  We hope that your government which is faced with an enormous financial crisis will not add further constraints on the national budget by not making the Provincial Councils a greater strain on the public purse and instead resolve to strengthen the unitary character and solve the issues at hand with further savings to the nation’s budget.      

Yours sincerely,

Mahinda Gunasekera

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