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Asian Tribune is published by E-LANKA MEDIA(PVT)Ltd. Vol. 20 No. 105

India cannot dictate terms to Sri Lanka on the 13th Amendment

By Raj Gonsalkorale
Colombo, 07 Jul (

Sri Lanka’s sovereignty is at stake if India were to dictate terms in regard the 13th Amendment. Whether Sri Lanka decides to amend the 13th Amendment as it feels fit, or whether the country replaces its current Constitution in its entirety, is the right and responsibility of Sri Lanka and no one else. It is distressing that a country that nurtured Sri Lanka’s terrorism and thereby conspired to lead it towards separatism, is still dictating terms about its internal affairs.

India’s policies and activities in the late seventies to the early eighties precipitated the destabilization of Sri Lanka and provided India the lever they needed to meddle in the internal affairs of the country. The short sightedness of Sri Lanka’s political leadership in 1977 ensured India got what they had long desired, a strong foothold over Sri Lanka.

In recent times, although many would have had some sympathy towards the Union government of India for the unrelenting and undue pressure exerted on another sovereign country by one of its 28 States, Tamil Nadu, a more sober reflection could well point a finger at a deliberate strategy on the part of India’s shadowy intelligence agencies for the constant haranguing of Sri Lanka by Tamil Nadu.

It is no secret that most Tamils in Tamil Nadu couldn’t care less about Sri Lankan Tamils, as they bear no special affinity towards some other countrymen and women simply because the happen to be Tamils. Indian Tamils of recent Sri Lankan origin who happens to be engaged in the Tea and Rubber industry in Sri Lanka, and who had lived the life of miserable indented labour until a leader from their own, Sathyamoorthy Thondaman, working with successive Sri Lankan governments, raised their living standards to some degree, have never received any sympathy from the State of Tamil Nadu and the Tamils living there. This begs the question why India and the State of Tamil Nadu changed their stance and began to show a brotherly interest in Tamils of Sri Lanka.

From all reckoning, the change of heart began after 1983, when a large scale refugee influx hit the coastal areas of Tamil Nadu as a consequence of the despicable events in Sri Lanka that year. In all likelihood this was not one of the after effects of India’s support for terrorism in Sri Lanka that was expected by its intelligence agencies. Although these numbers have reduced considerably now, the spectre of Sri Lankan Tamils landing on the shores of India as refugees is not something that will be countenanced by India. Perhaps in their reckoning, the one way of preventing this, would be their involvement in Sri Lankan domestic affairs where they will have an opportunity to influence and yes, even dictate, to the Sri Lankan regimes, as to what they could do and what they could not do.

The 13th Amendment, brought in by India with the hope of placating the Tigers they nurtured, was of course rejected by the Tigers, and not to anyone’s surprise, rejected by the TULF as well at the time.

Judging by what has been reported in the media about India’s message to the President’s brother and senior Minister Basil Rajapaksa, today, India has taken a firm stand that the 13th Amendment should not be diluted in any form, and that it should even be strengthened to provide more and more powers to the provinces. In stating this position, India has been assisted by the TNA who only dance to the tunes of the Tamil Diaspora or India itself, and other Sri Lankan politicians, even some from within the ranks of the current regime who have been blinded by the bright, but deceptive lights of the 13th Amendment.

This writer is not dismissing the thrust of the 13th Amendment, and will have his own views about it as a citizen of Sri Lanka. However, as a contributor to the Asian Tribune that has a substantial readership, the writer has to contend that this thrust of devolution, which is the primary objective of the 13th Amendment, has to be considered from several perspectives, and that it has to be done by the citizens of Sri Lanka and no other country.

The first amongst many contentions that Sri Lankans have to contend with is whether the people of Sri Lanka were given an opportunity to discuss the pros and cons of this amendment. The answer is a clear NO. Secondly, did it help to end terrorism and war? Again, the answer is a clear NO. Thirdly, does it recognize Sri Lanka as one country, where it is a homeland for all? Once again the answer is a NO. Instead it recognizes the concept of a traditional Tamil homeland in the North and East, although an overwhelming majority of Sri Lankans do not recognize such a concept.

If one were to take the view that the purpose of devolution is to provide better and more efficient services to the people, are the units of devolution under the 13th Amendment, the provincial councils, the most efficient and effective solution to provide better and more efficient services to the people? The answer is probably a YES and a NO. Over bearing and unilateral central decision making on many issues better handled at provincial level have not helped the argument against devolution.

In terms of what Tamil politicians have been arguing for a long time, their right for self-determination, does the 13th Amendment and the amalgamation of the North and East provide that right? The answer is NO considering that more Tamils live outside the North and East than within it.

If Land and Police powers are to be granted to provinces primarily to meet the arguments and demands of Tamil politicians that they need police powers to ensure their security, and land powers because land is theirs, in their traditional homeland, does the 13th Amendment provide greater security for all Tamils in the country, including those who live outside the “traditional homeland”, and does it address land management issues for Tamils outside their traditional homeland, in Sinhala and Muslim dominated provinces? The answer again is NO.

Some analysts will have a different view on these issues, as much as some ordinary citizens are bound to have different view. The point is that an opportunity has not been given for views to be heard in an atmosphere where such a discussion could take place. Certainly, in 1987, when the guns and mortar of the LTTE were devastating the country and they were murdering people who opposed their views, the climate certainly would not have permitted a sober, rational discussion.

Things are different today, and such a discussion could and should take place.

Whatever amendments that are brought into the current constitution, or if and when a new constitution is drafted, it must ensure equal rights for all citizens of Sri Lanka irrespective of their ethnicity or religion. It must retain the unitary nature of the country. It must have an arrangement to ensure land allocation throughout the country is not done solely by the central government as regional priorities do need to be taken into consideration.

Even if regional police forces are a viable alternative to entirely central policing, it would be difficult to make and sustain an argument that the current climate is right to devolve such police powers to regional units.
With the activists within the Tamil Diaspora still actively campaigning for a separate State, in all but perhaps name, and collecting funds in several countries and influencing decision making at the highest levels in their adopted countries, and India and Tamil Nadu arguing for almost the same outcome, no sane Sinhala person is going to accept that Police powers should be devolved to regional units. Maybe what might be possible would be an unarmed community Police that could be administered by regional units.

All these need to be discussed by the people of Sri Lanka. That discussion has not happened yet.

-Asian Tribune-

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