13th Amendment: Implementation possible only through consensus

Sri Lanka’s Great Game, ‘devolution’ or more precisely the 13th Amendment, has once again kicked off and is being played with much vigour.

We are reminded of the performances of great players of the past: S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike, J. R. Jayewardene, Colvin R. De Silva, S. J. V. Chelvanayakam and many others. There is one factor common to all these politicians: they all vacillated in their position not particularly for political advantage but for their own political survival.

SWRD commenced his career promoting federalism in the 1920s and went on to enact the Sinhala Only bill which resulted in the political and social fabric being torn apart. Colvin R. De Silva, Lanka’s Marxist prophet, soon after the Sinhala Only bill declared: ‘One language – two nations; two languages – one nation’. Twenty years later he drafted and guided a constitution which not only retained the Sinhala Only Act but also gave Buddhism the ’foremost place’ among all religions.

Chelvanayakam was one of the founders of the first Tamil political party, the All Ceylon Tamil Congress (ACTC) and refused the join the UNP under the leadership of D. S. Senanayake. He then formed the Federal Party, a much more hard line Tamil party than the ACTC but in 1965 he allied his party with the UNP led by Dudley Senanayake. The Federal Party under his leadership broke away from the UNP when the agreement between him and Senanayake fell through and then went on to form the Tamil United Liberation Front which was committed to create a separate independent Tamil state.

Leaders from both sides of Elephant Pass have kept on shifting their positions on this vital national issue and even today many are hemming and hawing on the question of retaining or abolishing the 13th Amendment. Many vital national issues could be affected on the future this amendment.

No doubt this amendment is a ‘made in New Delhi’ product forced upon the then President J. R. Jayewardene after Indian troops were landed in Sri Lanka. It was punishment to Jayewardene who had the impertinence to call the self proclaimed ‘Empress of India’ names and pal up with her arch rival Moraji Desai. New Delhi’s pretence was that it was to help the Tamils in the North and East to gain a degree of autonomy from the Central Sri Lankan government but the paradox of it was that the LTTE leader Prabakaran did not want this kind of autonomy or devolution but a separate state and took on the Indian forces. This gross Indian interference in our internal affairs caused outrage among the Sinhalese and although it was included in the Constitution 26 years ago, successive governments have been unable to implement it.

The 13th Amendment has assumed geopolitical dimensions with India’s alignment with its new found ally, America, which for reasons of its own have recognized India to be the ‘regional power’ of South Asia and at New Delhi’s behest is hounding Sri Lanka together with its Western allies on alleged violation of human rights. There could be no other reason for this only superpower in the world nit picking on this small far away country, which just two decades ago they said: ‘did not appear on their radar screen’.

Abolition of the 13th Amendment would be a slap in the face of the ‘regional power’ by its small neighbour and could lead to serious consequences.

The present regime contributed to this American and Indian antipathy. Flushed with the ‘historic’ victory over terrorism, it back-pedalled on it pledge to implement the 13th Amendment and did more damage by getting China involved in the construction of a strategic sea port and airport just a mile or two away from the main sea route between the Middle East and the Far East in addition to giving China a free run in development projects. India considers Sri Lanka as its ‘backyard’ meant for its exclusive use.
Quite apart from these external pressures, there is a basic obligation on the part of all governments to look after the interests of their own citizens.

However much government supporters and its media may claim that a great amount has been done for rehabilitation of Tamils after the terrorist conflict, even apolitical Tamils still feel they are second class citizens. Language rights, inability to communicate with the government in their own language, the presence of large military detachments in their areas, military being involved in civilian issues, seizure by the military of privately owned lands are some of the allegations made against the government.

If any attempt is made to implement the 13th Amendment with success it has to be done with the consensus of both Sinhalese and Tamils. If not greater harm would befall the entire country. Repetition of time worn theses, legal and academic punditry will not convince the ordinary people – those who really matter – about the abolition or retention of the amendment.

Removal of the amendment which has been in the statute book for 26 years albeit not implemented is bound to worsen inter communal relations as well as relations between Tamils and the government. Whatever political party that will control a new Northern Provincial Council should realize that any unilateral attempt to implement the laws relating to deployment of a police force and land use is bound to erupt in chaos.

Let the amendment remain in the Constitution and the attempt to implement it be made only when consensus has been reached.

7 Comments for “13th Amendment: Implementation possible only through consensus”

  1. suren soysa

    This Chos is exactly what the terrorist minded Tamils & politicians want if they are to get separatism without blood shed. It is a pity that most do not understand this simple Arithmatic. See what they did at the Trincomalee PC with the US Embassy! Right or wrong they deliberately deviated from correct practice to create “CHAOS”. Give any right to Tamils, they will misuse it in today’s context to have friction. That need runs in their blood & bone.

  2. The war is over for more than 4 years. There were no problems during this period. I think Notherners are happy continue to rebuild their lives. We must help them. I think we should give them to rule their province. I think Mr.Sampanthan is a very good man and he told time and time again that they are happy to live together with the majoritiy. give them a chance and I am sure the diasporas too will help them to rebuild the nation.

    • suren soysa

      This is just building castles in the air or letting ones imagination run riot! Count the national & international peace moves during the 30 years of war. Was TNA toddlers then? See what damage the diaspora & TNA did after the war to destabilize the country & undermine the war they started in high spirit to have their own way in this small nation. The ordinary Tamil is a peaceful lot but not & never the TNA,ITAK & the other barking Mano & the bunch. If MR gives it ,he will pull it back if matters turn sour, but no other Politician will have the guts to do so. Not the UNP in any case.

  3. Arunasalam

    I agree.Very good suggestion and solves many problems for the time being. I hope the stake holders consider this seriously. “FOOLS RUSH IN WHERE ANGELS FEAR TO TREAD”.

  4. manuelpillai

    It was promised by Sri Lanka that 13th Amendment will be implemented and much more to the satisfaction of the minority Tamils to the whole world and especially to India and got their support to defeat LTTE.Now,if SL goes back on its promise,the world will not be happy and it may even be against SL. The tall-talk that we are a sovereign country and all that and that you can do anything under the sun is not going to help you.Your diplomacy will fail.God alone can deliver this country from the pit into which it has already fallen.

  5. rakavan

    Mothballing the 13th amendment until consensus is reached between the Tamils and Sinhalese, suits the agenda of the Sinhalese polity in further weakening the political rights of the Tamils. To claim that this amendment was forced upon Sri Lanka does not do justice to the Tamils of NE.

    You only need to see the exent of colonisation of Sinhalese in the East since independence, in particular since the repal of S29 with the introduction of republican constitution in 1972 and later by the introduction of the 1977 constitution, to comprehend the underlying motives of the Sinhalese polity.

    India realised way back in 1987, that the longer it turned a blind eye to these ethno supremacist agenda in its neighbourhood and the consequent taking of arms by the Tamil militants to resist it, would eventually be a threat to its own survival as a country and was forced to intervene to complete the unfinished business of the British when they left the island.

    Implementation of 13A to the letter and spirit will lead to the the realisation of permanent peace and recociliation between Sinhalese and Tamils. Tamils do not harbour any aspiration for secession, though they were forced to vote for it buy the majoritarianist polity in 1977.

    Incrementalism of ‘bit now rest later’ until consensus is reached between Sinahlese and Tamil polity, is no way to solve this problem that has been allowed to fester deliberately by all successive governments since the independence. It is politically convenient for the Sinhalese to throw the ball into the long grass, but Tamils do not have that luxury and this the countries of the world understand full well.

    • suren soysa

      rakavan, we have heard this crap from Tamil politicians & terrorists from time immemorial. If the Northern PC obviously under the TNA , ITAK or any other Tamil party behaves even for a moment like VARADHARAJA PERUMAL, will India & the West take full responsibility to correct it promptly or allow the Central Government to finish it off like PRABHAKARAN?

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