Velupillai Prabhakaran Is Dead
Kill His Dream As Well!
A few decades old ‘devolution debate’ has once again come to the fore with the introduction of the Devi Neguma bill. To establish a new Department named ‘Devi Neguma’, the Ministry of Economic Development recently presented a bill to the parliament. Amalgamating three existing institutions, such as the Samurdhi Authority, the Udarata Development Board and the Dakshina Sanwardena Board, the bill seeks to institute grass-roots organizations based on Grama Niladhari divisions, AGA divisions, districts, regions (two or more districts) and national level conventions. It also is to encompass all the government servants involved in rural development work in GS divisions up to district level, including AGAs and GAs. Further, it intends to establish a micro finance system amalgamating Samurdhi Bank, Udarata Development Bank and existing micro finance systems. Accordingly, the proposed Department could be termed as the largest organization in which a financial mechanism is embedded, surpassing existing Sarvodaya or Sanasa voluntary organizations or even Grameen movement in Bangladesh.
The economic, social and political implications of this bill and all what it incorporates could be subjected to criticism or analysis by any interested party. However, more importantly, the issue at present is not the Divi Neguma bill or its contents but the intricate path it has to tread before it is passed in the parliament.
The Divi Neguma bill, which was approved by the Cabinet, was challenged in the Supreme Court when it was presented to the parliament. The Supreme Court ruled that as per article 154-G-3 of the Constitution, the bill need to be approved by all the provincial cou+ncils and then be referred to the parliament to be entered into the order paper. Accordingly, the approval so obtained for the Divi Neguma bill from all Provincial Councils, including the Northern was intimated to the speaker of the parliament by the President. However, it was thereafter challenged in the Appeal Court, citing that the Governor of the Northern Provincial Council (NPC) had no powers to approve it as his provincial council, though institutionalised, is yet to be constituted with elected representatives. The Appeal Court in turn referred the case to the Supreme Court, prompting a legal battle. In legal circles, when everybody concedes that the governor of NCP could exercise statutory executive powers, some others argue that since there is no legal entity called NCP, only eight Provincial councils exist in the country. There is also another argument that until the NCP is dually constituted, no bill related to Provincial councils could be passed in the parliament, even with the two-third majority!
These arguments clearly manifest the extent of the so-called devolution of powers under 13th Amendment, Provincial Council Act and limitations of the unitary form of state (Article 03) and the legislative powers vested in parliament (Article 76). Do these arguments indicate to us if we are heading merely towards a conflict between the judiciary and the executive or a much complex constitutional crisis is looming large in our country?
It is obvious that by using the Divi Neguma Bill the Tamil separatist forces are working overtime to promote a constitutional coup. It may also be an attempt to give a new interpretation to the very basis of the unitary form of the state, which would eventually lead to a constitutional separatism. As far as the political history of Sri Lanka is concerned, constitutional separatism is not a new phenomenon. Ponnambalam brothers in 1920s, G. G. Ponnambalam in 1930s and 1940s and S. J. V. Chalvanayagam from 1950s to 1970s sought to stage it.
At the very beginning Ponnambalam brothers tried to achieve a Tamil majoritarian rule. When it failed, G. G. Ponnambalam wanted to share equal or more power at the center. S. J. V. Chalvanayagam strongly advocated separatism through constitutional means. Banda-Chelva (1957) and Dudley-Chelva (1968) pacts can be sited as clear attempts towards these sinister motives. It also has to be remembered that Amirthalingam had to sacrifice his life to his own ‘boys’ in trying to bargain with constitutional reforms, using Velupillai Prabhakaran’s (VP) gun power and terrorist tactics. After VP was killed, with the blessings and support of Tamil Nadu, India, America, Britain, and Canada and (ABC) led western powers, the Global Tamil separatist movement tried its best to achieve a separate state here in Sri Lanka.
Since 1970s, armed struggles for separatism or separatist terrorism have been gaining momentum due to successful separation of Bangladesh, then Timor, South Sudan and a dozen of new states in East Europe (the former Communist world). However, in this regard, a new trend seems to be emerging fast. In Britain-Scotland, in Spain-Catalonia and in Canada-Quebec attempts are underway to secede through constitutional means, using agitations, economic delinking and referendums. Some violent agitations are now taking place in Tamil Nadu and very likely it will be emulated by the separatist movements in the North and perhaps, in the East.
Here in Sri Lanka, it is now evident that a new front is being launched in the sphere of judiciary, aiming at the same objectives. As per the recent rhetoric of Sampanthan in Batticaloa to the effect that direct action may follow, their current moves can be considered to be subtle ways of transforming the unsuccessful separatist terrorism into a constitutional separatism.
The history proves that the sole strength of separatist terrorism in this country has been with foreign backing and as long as India and the Western countries are leaned towards Tamil terrorism, the so-called international community must realize that it is counterproductive to any process of reconciliation. In view of the emerging development and also as a result of the fact that the ‘forgive and forget’ plea of the National forces has not yielded the desired results, it is high time we adopt an appropriate strategy to counter the activities of the Tamil Separatists. Whether they like it or not the only option now available before the national forces to defeat constitutional separatism is to mobilize a mass movement in every front. It should be known that although Velupille Prabhakaran is dead, his Eelam dream is yet to be killed.