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Now, It Is Thirteen Minus

2013 Jun 19

Kamal Nissanka

Initial post war reconciliation expectations are now totally failed In Sri Lanka as the attempts are taking to dilute the powers of the provincial councils in the eve of the northern provincial council election. Thus national question that was manifested in the Sri Lankan political landscape since early 1920’s will be remained in continuity. Historically, the issue was further aggravated with the introduction of electoral methods in the early legislative councils and later with introduction of universal franchise under the Donoughmore system. In the course of time Sri Lankan national question    was transformed into a power sharing issue.  Since then number of popular proposals such as Fifty- Fifty of G.G.Ponnambalam, BC Pact, DC Pact, Rajive Gandhi- J.R.Jayawardene Pact (Indo-Lanka Accord of 1987) were introduced to cope with the problem. There were other attempts too in the form of constitutional reforms .Our two major constitutional attempts in 1972 and 1978 faced lots of criticism during last 35 years as both these constitutions failed to incorporate the minorities into the bodypolitc. Next major change, the Provincial Council (PC) system triggered by Indian intervention lasted for nearly quarter century is now under criticism and a debate had been evolved as to the suitability of provincial council system.

The major actor in Tamil politics, until May 2009 was the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) which opposed the PC system and their aim was to create a separate Tamil speaking mini state within the island of Sri Lanka. One school of thought that opposed the creation of a mini state advocated a centralized administration opposing all types of devolution. Their view was that any devolution to North would ultimately lead to a separation.  Another school of thought that opposed the separatist agenda of the Tamils advocated the defeat of the LTTE and thereafter to introduce a power sharing package. A third school of thought that emerged in the  hay day of LTTE war advocated that it was an unwinnable war and the best is to have a power sharing package as taking LTTE as the sole representative of Tamil community in Sri Lanka. In the midst of these arguments and debates the PC system survived  in the South but people were not happy  about this political authority  as it had become a  method  of wielding power  by  the same people  who are enjoyed  power in the centre.  Close relatives of leading politicians were promoted to stand for provincial councils making it a political extended family. However this situation arose as a result of the district propositional electoral system that included a preference system.

Mahinda Rajapakse administration that   came to power in 2005  appointed Prof Tissa Vitarana to look into the  matter of power sharing  but in the course of time President himself lost interest and then suddenly found the solution to the issue lies in the in the 13th amendment itself  and wanted to activate the 13th amendment in full  length.

The nature of the debate in the post war situation is different because on the one hand India, EU and USA are pushing for a political solution to the national problem in the form of constitutional reform. President is said to have been agreed to 13+ with Indian authorities at one stage.

On the other hand the political elements who advocate a solution through economic development deny the theory of power sharing to the North and East. They in fact want to revoke the 13 th amendment which was a brain child of India.  Moderates advocate that in the post war period if a true mechanism of power sharing is introduced that would bring lasting peace to Sri Lanka.  Another factor is the growing Diaspora that is able to influence western governments and UN agencies openly.

By every means the recent introduction to dilute the 13th amendment is a 13 minus. (13- ). Some of the amendments such as need of the consent of majority provincial councils to introduce legislation to some subjects affecting provincial councils are a step in the re-centralization program. It would further enhance the hands of the President as he could manipulate the provincial council system through the political authority and as a leader of a party.

The first north east provincial council was a disaster owing to many reasons. Ultimate result of indo- Lanka accord was the creation of seven provincial councils to Sinhalese dominated provinces. As the government is determined to dilute the powers of provincial councils the reconciliation agenda will be severely affected. If the present administration wants to revoke the 13th amendment without introducing a power sharing package to the north and east it would definitely invite for greater troubles to the island nation.

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