The Sunday Leader

To Thirteen Or Not To Thirteen?

By Dinidu de Alwis and Niranjala Ariyawansha

With India’s involvement – which some saw as support and some saw as intervention – Sri Lanka’s constitution was amended for the 13th instance and the provincial council system was introduced.

Indian Premier Rajiv Gandhi and President J. R. Jayewardene signing the Indo-Lanka Peace Accord

Although never fully implemented, it is seen by political think tanks as a progressive step towards decentralisation of administrative powers to more local levels. More leftist and nationalist elements in the island have constantly opposed the structure. Sri Lanka’s government – especially the current government – has repeatedly either agreed to or volunteered to fully implement the amendment’s provisions. With many foreign governments using it as a yardstick to measure post-war reconciliation in Sri Lanka, it has been in the top of any discussion about how the island has fared at the end of the bloody conflict.

Senior Minister Scientific Affairs And Secretary, Lanka Sama Samaja Party

We are completely against the abolition of the 13th Amendment. As a result of the amendment, all militant groups except the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam put down their weapons and entered the democratic political path. Abolishing the amendment would mean restarting the problem again: assisting the separatists to carry on their agendas. The way we see it, the provincial council system worked for 20 years even with its weaknesses.
Those who oppose the 13th Amendment is parliament then should come out with a solution for the problems of the Tamil and Muslim people. We decided during the All Party Representatives Committee that all provinces do not need a police commission as stated in the amendment.
We should be willing to change the provisions according to what suits us. The President himself said that the solution to the problem should be found through a Parliamentary Select Committee. What has to be done is to strengthen the power devolution structure and to figure out how to live as a united Sri Lankan people. At a time when there is an international move to bring Sri Lanka to war crimes tribunal in Geneva, abolishing the 13th Amendment will create many problems.
I also don’t think that the Tamil National Alliance is a separatist party. We had differences of opinion during the APRC as we do now. All these problems are things that can be sorted through negotiations.


Magala Samaraweera Parliamentarian UNP
The government orchestrates this whole drama about the 13th Amendment because they don’t want to devolve power to the minorities at all.
What they don’t realize is that if they go along with the rhetoric, it will prove Velupillai Prabhakaran right. Prabhakaran used to justify his violence by saying that the Sri Lankans or as he referred to it, the Sinhala government only responded to violence, and would never agree to any form of power to the Tamil people. The fact that the government is trying to take back powers that have been devolved will go on to prove him right, and Prabhakaran, even from his grave, will have the last laugh. This kind of rhetoric is actually detrimental to the country and its territorial integrity. The extremist fools of this country should realize that what they are doing is actually paving the way for separatism in the country again, if they want to wrap up the 13th Amendment.


VIJITHA HERATH  JVP  Parliamentarian
What the government did by talking about the provincial council system and the 13th Amendment was to draw attention away from the Divi Neguma bill, and away from the budget. This is exactly what the government did back in 2010 when the Ban Ki-moon report on Sri Lanka was coming out, and they are doing it again when Sri Lanka is about to be brought up at the United Nations Human Rights Council. What they are trying to do is to cover defeat and the dirt that is there in the public sphere, by washing it up with the 13th Amendment. This is not going to work and people are not going to fall for it.  The current budget doesn’t make any concessions to people either.


The government has to come clean about what their proposals are as a solution. They come out with ideas like the Parliamentary Select Committee but no solid proposals have been made: the Tamil National Alliance has put forward their proposals but the government hasn’t done so. In 2008, the government made a voluntary commitment during the Universal Periodic Review at the Human Rights Council to implement the 13th Amendment, and now just before the next UPR they are talking about the abolishing of it. The government should come out and tell people what the solution is, instead of using mouthpieces like the JHU, Wimal Weerawansa or the Secretary of Defence.

1 Comment for “To Thirteen Or Not To Thirteen?”

  1. Throughout the post independent era, we have signed so many treaties without foreseeing the outcome of the pact. Giving distinct regional autonomy based on language, culture, or even ethnicity is a paradox to the national unity. It facilitates greater division as each enclave does mind only the going concern of its affairs and creates so called rivalry with the rest of the island. We can take Indian Central Government as a tested example. Issues like Assam, Kashmir, and even Tamilnadu are holding the central government at gun point to activate their regional political agenda. In Sri Lanka, we must not have same Indian scenario with the North and the East by implementing further the Indian drafted 13th. Amendment. Instead, Sri Lanka should encourage a strong participation of those differences at the National Government. Sound policies like one country with different languages and cultures are meticulously over viewed, drafted, and implemented.

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