The Sunday Leader

In Search Of A Political Solution

By Raisa Wickrematunge

Keheliya Rambukwella, Mano Ganesan, Vijitha Herath and Rauf Hakeem

With the presidential election two weeks away, the time has come for candidates to clarify their stance on issues of the day. One of the major issues at the forefront of public consciousness is the national question. It is a fact that sections of the Tamil minority feel their rights have been consistently ignored. So what is being done to ensure that war doesn’t flare up again?

The President has offered the 13th Amendment as a political solution to this problem in his new policy statement. The 13th Amendment sought to devolve power by creating provincial councils. However the Amendment had teething problems, not least due to a continued centralization of power.

Defence Spokesman Keheliya Rambukwella said the 13th Amendment, though in operation, has not been fully implemented. “We are looking at the fundamentals of the 13th Amendment now. There are some laxities as well, so we are looking at correcting these areas.” Rambukwella said. However, he added that anything beyond the 13th Amendment would be considered federalism, and against government policy. Upon being asked why the 17th Amendment was not being implemented in conjunction with the 13th, Rambukwella said the government was dissatisfied with it, as it categorises minorities. “All members must have equal rights,” Rambukwella said. He added that earlier attempts to implement this amendment had not worked satisfactorily.

“We need to look at this without rushing through it. In addition there needs to be unanimous approval between the parties,” Rambukwella said, continuing, “It is a disorganized situation.”

Do other parties think the 13th Amendment is a sufficient measure to solve this delicate problem?

SLMC Leader Rauf Hakeem said the offer allegedly made by the President was puerile, noting that similar announcements made by the President in the course of the last four years had not borne fruit. “This amendment is within the constitution. It is nothing new. In fact it is his duty to implement it, and by not doing so he is violating the constitution,” Hakeem charged. The SLMC head said the President was guilty of grabbing power, and the minorities had no faith in him. He added that the only flaw within the 13th Amendment was excessive power afforded to the government which obstructed devolution. However Hakeem doubted that even the removal of this excessive power would solve the problem.

Meanwhile JVP MP Vijitha Herath queried as to what exactly the President was proposing as a political solution, the 13th Amendment only, 13 plus or 13 plus plus? He said this had thus far not been explicitly stated. “The President must personally say what he is offering as a political solution. Everyone would like to know,” Herath said.  TNA Member Mavai Senathirajah said the 13th Amendment was categorically not the solution to the Tamil question. Senathirajah said the fact that no police or land powers were granted to minorities under the amendment, in addition to the unequal distribution of power made this a weak solution to a deep-rooted problem. As such, he said devolution was simply not possible under the present constitution.

Mano Ganesan said the President had been given plenty of opportunity to address the political issue, but had failed to do so. “We have discussed this, and we don’t think he will deliver,” Ganesan said. He too noted that the President was unclear as to whether police and land powers would be afforded to the minorities.

Ceylon Workers Congress Chief Arumugam Thondaman said the President’s proposal to implement the 13th Amendment was a good start. “We have to start somewhere. We should at least start with 13 plus, and develop from there.”

At the time of writing, both the UNP and JVP said they were conducting internal discussions, and as such it was too early to comment. They directed the public to their election manifestos, which were released on Thursday.

From categorically rejecting the 13th Amendment as a political solution, to saying that the amendment is a good springboard to a more united nation, political opinion is diverse. Some call for revisions to the 13th Amendment, others say that nothing will change. Worryingly, most of the minorities said they had little faith in the 13th Amendment as a solution to their grievances.

Part of the chess game that constitutes politics, and the struggle for power, is the fact that the will of one leader can influence the lives of many. It seems that the minority ethnicities feel their needs are inadequately addressed. It is also a fact that an important part of the job of those in power is to ensure all citizens, whatever their ethnicity, feel secure in their homeland. This cannot be overlooked by any candidate. So as election manifestos are gradually released, one has to wait and see how this situation will be addressed, not just by the ruling party, but by the opposition as well.

1 Comment for “In Search Of A Political Solution”

  1. [...] how this situation will be addressed, not just by the ruling party, but by the opposition as well.(The Sunday Leader) January 11th, 2010 | Category: [...]

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