A letter to the President from National Joint Committee
Posted on March 2nd, 2023

Lt Col Anil Amarasekera. (Rtd.) Co-President National Joint Committee

01st March 2023.

His Excellency, President Ranil Wickremasinghe,

The Presidential Secretariat,
Colombo 1.

Your Excellency,

You have made a public statement that you intend to fully implement the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution. The National Joint Committee (NJC) intends to caution you against implementing such a decision which would amount to opening a Pandora’s Box. The Ven.Mahanayake Theros too have in a joint statement requested you not to do so.

The Indo Lanka accord signed on 27th July 1987 that was forced on Sri Lanka by India through gunboat diplomacy is illegal according to articles 51 and 52 of the Vienna Convention on the law of Treaties. India also failed to implement some of the provisions therein such as disarming the terrorists and as such the Indo Lanka Accord can be considered as repudiated. Therefore do you consider the 13th Amendment enacted on 14th November 1987 in accordance with the Indo Lanka Accord to have any validity?

When the 13th Amendment was challenged in the Supreme Court, while Chief Justice Sharvananda, Justice E.A.D Athukorale, Justice Percy Colin-Thome and Justice H.D. Thambiah in their determination said that a referendum was not necessary for its enactment, Justice R.S.Wanasundara, Justice O.S.M Seneviratne, Justice L.H.De Alwis and Justice H.A.G de Silva in their determination said that this Amendment cannot be enacted sans a referendum. Though Justice Parinda Ranasinghe in a separate verdict conceptually agreed with the Chief Justice Sharvananda, he dissented on article 154G (2) (b) and (3) (b) which he said should be approved at a referendum. He refused to suggest any amendment to the said articles 154G (2) (b) and   (3) (b). The subsequent amendment made to the said articles at the committee stage was not subjected to the scrutiny of the Supreme Court. Therefore putting together Justice Parinda Ranasinghe’s verdict with that of Chief Justice Sharvananda can be interpreted as incorrect and if so the 13th Amendment has been enacted sans the approval of the Supreme Court that makes it controversial if not illegal.

The ruling given by Chief Justice Sharvananda that the Provincial Council bill be passed after the 13th Amendment became law was also ignored by the then government which took a vote on the Provincial Council bill two days before the 13th Amendment received the speaker’s certification on 14th November 1987. Therefore the Provincial Council bill too has been enacted illegally. 

On or about 1995 the Chandrika Kumaratunga Government introduced the devolution proposals that was commonly known as the Package. It was to campaign against the package and to educate the masses regarding the danger of devolving political and administrative power from the centre to the periphery that the NJC was established by Retired Supreme Court Judge Mr. R.S. Wanasundera. The NJC also established the Sinhala Commission to inquire into the grievances of the Sinhala majority. Two reports were published by the Sinhala Commission to educate the international community in this regard.

The NJC advocated the view that political and administrative power should be decentralised from the centre to the periphery but should never be devolved. Many organizations including political parties such as the UNP and the JVP joined with the NJC and when these devolution proposals were tabled in the National State Assembly on 8th of August 2000 all approach roads to the parliament was blocked by protesting masses and President Chandrika Kumaratunga had to use helicopters to fly her MP’S to parliament. It was Mr. Mahinda Rajapaksa who walked from the parliament to the Batheramulla junction to inform the people that the devolution proposals had been postponed indefinitely and for the protesting people to disperse which they did peacefully. 

The English meaning of decentralization and devolution of power seem very similar when looked at superficially. However the important fact that needs to be realized when it comes to the governing power of a country is that decentralization amounts to the transfer of that power from the central government to a local authority be it a region, a province or a district while devolution is on the other hand the removal of central government power and handing that power over to a region, a province or a district. Therefore decentralized power if misused by a region, a province or a district could be recalled by the central government while devolved power cannot be recalled by the central government if misused by a region, a province or a district. Taking into consideration the difficulty or virtual impossibility for a central government to recall devolved power to a region, a province or a district let us consider the possible repercussions of such an eventuality in this country with several simple examples.

Firstly let us consider irrigation which is the life blood of the farming community in the northern and eastern provinces. Once this subject is devolved to a province, if the provincial administration fails to maintain the reservoirs (Wewas) and irrigation canals in the Sinhala villages, there is nothing the central government can do to help the Sinhala cultivators in distress. The only alternative left for them would be to leave those villages in the northern and eastern provinces and migrate to some other province.

Secondly let us consider the subject of health. Once this subject is devolved to a province, if the provincial administration fails to provide adequate funds to maintain the rural hospital buildings serving the Sinhala community or fails to provide adequate doctors, nurses and other staff or even medical supplies to rural hospitals in their area, the Sinhala villagers will have no other alternative left other than to leave the province and to migrate to some other province where these facilities are available.

Thirdly let us consider the subject of education. Once this subject is devolved to a province, if the provincial administration fails to appoint the teachers needed to schools in Sinhala villages and also does not allocate adequate funds to maintain and repair school buildings in the Sinhala villages, there is nothing that the central government can do in this regard. The Sinhala population will therefore leave the province and migrate to some other province where good education facilities are available for their children.

These are only three simple examples that I have provided to bring to your attention the danger of devolving power to the provinces. However the situation would be the same with regard to distribution of electricity, repair of roads, purchase of agricultural produce and many other such subjects, if there is devolution of power to a province where the Sinhala population is a minority. Therefore while devolution will only hasten the division of the country by creating administrative avenues to encourage the migration of the Sinhala population from the northern and eastern provinces of the country to other provinces, decentralization of power will not encourage such action as these powers can be withdrawn by the central government if found to be misused by any provincial council.

Mr. C.V.Wigneswaran M.P said recently that the full implementation of the 13Th Amendment is good but that he will not look back until a federal constitution is promulgated. He is trying to apply Samuel James  Veluppillai Chelvanayakam’s policy  of ‘little now more later’  with an intention to first federate a unitary state through the full implementation of the 13th amendment. The federated state will subsequently be divided to establish Eelam, which is the final objective of the separatists. If  Wigneswaran and likeminded separatists succeed to achieve during peace what they failed to achieve through three decades of war, all the sweat, blood, tears and toil expended by the security forces sometimes even by sacrificing their very life and limb to defeat the separatists would have been in vain.

This ‘little now more later’ policy has been applied with great success by racist Tamil politicians since independence. They first succeeded in making Tamil a language of the minority community an official language in par with Sinhala which is the language of the majority community in this country. Tamil incidentally is not an official language even in India where the majority of the Tamil population live in this world. Through the enactment of the controversial 13th Amendment the racist Tamil politicians succeeded in devolving much of political and administrative power to the northern and eastern provinces that can be utilised to create an exodus of the minority Sinhala population from these two provinces as pointed out previously in this letter.

Through the enactment of the 16th Amendment these racist Tamil politicians succeeded in making Tamil the language of administration in the northern and eastern provinces for the maintenance of public records and transactions of all business by public institutions. The majority Sinhala population not being racists had little or no objection while such discriminatory legislation was enacted for political expediency but can the Sinhala majority continue to allow this ‘little now more later’ policy to continue?   

Therefore in the interest of the Sinhala minority that is living in the northern and eastern provinces, the NJC kindly request you to promulgate a new Constitution for which the majority of the people in this country gave a mandate both at the last presidential and general elections so that the people living in any part of this country are not discriminated based on their ethnic, caste or religious identity.

Lt Col Anil Amarasekera. (Rtd.)

Co-President National Joint Committee

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