29 September, 2020

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Accountability Issues Must Not Displace Devolution

By Jehan Perera

Jehan Perera

Jehan Perera

Prior to the Commonwealth Summit there were several positive signals from both the government and TNA.  It was the government that led the way by boldly deciding to conduct the Northern Provincial Council election, campaigning at the polls with enthusiasm and accepting its verdict with an appearance of good grace.   However, after CHOGM there has been a decline in good news in relation to post-war reconciliation.  The news is dominated by bitterness, be it the issue of the international community investigating the past or the pro-LTTE speech in Parliament by an opposition TNA parliamentarian.  There are signs of a growing deterioration in relations between the government and TNA.  The failure of the Northern Chief Minister C V Wigneswaran and the TNA to take part in the district development committee meetings in Jaffna and Kilinochchi bode ill for the cooperation between the central and provincial authorities.

The present structure of the provincial council system under the 13th Amendment is that power and resources are with the central government.  Without the cooperation of the central authorities, there is little that the provincial authorities can do.  The problem in regard to cooperation between the two parties at the district development committee meetings is that they are presently chaired by the minister of the central government in charge of northern affairs, Douglas Devananda.  He has been chairing these meetings, along with the Governor of the Northern Province at which very important resource allocation decisions are made.  One of the complaints of the northern people has been that these decisions reward only supporters of the government.  Another complaint has been that the decisions taken have emphasized infrastructure at the expense of the immediate livelihood needs of the war-affected population.

The Northern Chief Minister has so far rejected offers to co-chair the development committee meetings with Minister Devananda who has many years of experience of handling ministerial work and has the whip hand over the government officials of the area.  There is an apparent lack of confidence in an equal partnership or in joint and mutually acceptable decision making on the part of the newly elected provincial council members who belong to the opposition.  This is unfortunate, as there is a danger of this type of disagreement blighting the expectations of the Northern people in regard to the newly formed provincial council’s ability to deliver concrete results to them.  If the northern people feel that their expectations are not being realized within the structures of the Sri Lankan state, and that their elected representatives are powerless, this will surely serve to jeopardize the hard won peace that now exists.

External focus

There is also another factor at work that is diverting attention away from issues of devolution of power. After CHOGM there has been an international focus on accountability issues that relate to the last phase of the war.  The political discussion within the country has veered to issues of human rights and to the possible motivations of those who promote accountability for past violations.  One of the consequences is that issues of governance have been dropped off the centre stage.  An important motivation in seeking accountability for the past is to ensure justice to the victims of past human rights violations.  Another is to prevent the abuses that occurred in the past from recurring in the present and future.  These are legitimate motivations that need to be respected.   However, the question being raised in Sri Lanka is whether there are other motivations also.

The focus on accountability is enabling the government to avoid dealing with governance issues that also have a major impact on the lives of people.   In particular the issues connected to the system of checks and balances in a democracy have been overshadowed and are not debated.  The UNP’s boycott of the budget debate is an example.  This was due to the government shifting budget allocations to ministries without obtaining parliamentary approval.  But there has been little or no discussion of this issues and no public outcry at all, even though the allocation and misallocation of financial resources is of utmost consequence to the life of people.  Instead the outcry is against the external imposition of accountability issues on the country.

While the issue of devolution of power is only one aspect of governance, the ability and willingness to devolve such power can pave the way for better governance in general.  This is because the effective and efficient sharing of power between different groups of elected authorities requires non-partisan institutions to maintain the balance between them.  Institutions such as the judiciary and finance commission will play an important role in ensuring that the system of devolution works.  But they will also ensure that other aspects of governance improve which will benefit all sections of the people, and not only the ethnic minorities who lead the campaign for devolution of power.

Restoring balance

Accountability issues have taken the centre stage after CHOGM and the announcements by British Prime Minister David Cameron that he would ensure that his government pursues these matters at the UN Human Rights Council meeting in March next year.  On the other hand, prior to CHOGM it was the issue of devolution of power that was at the centre stage, especially after holding of the Northern Provincial Council election.  There is a need to bring back the focus on to the devolution of power and implementation of the 13th Amendment in a manner that meets the needs of the people of the provinces.  The overwhelming victory of the TNA gave the hope that this opposition-controlled provincial council would wield its powers effectively and thereby set a positive example of power-sharing to be emulated in the rest of the country also.

There is general belief within Sri Lanka that the willingness of the government to move forward on the issue of devolution of power was a result of international pressure.  The government felt obliged to give specific commitments with respect to the devolution of power to both the Indian and Japanese governments.  But in the aftermath of CHOGM the international pressure has shifted to the issue of accountability to the detriment of devolution of power.    The disclosure that Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is still open to the idea of accepting the Northern Provincial Council Chief Minister C V Wigneswaran’s invitation to visit Jaffna may be a bid to restore the balance between accountability and governance.

The Indian announcement may be part of a synchronized international effort to rectify the imbalance brought about by the post-CHOGM focus on accountability issues by the international community.    Indian Finance Minister P Chidambaram has said that India will pursue the implementation of the 13th Amendment regarding the devolution of power.  He also added that “If there is no change in Sri Lanka’s attitude, India will continue to press on the international community for a detailed inquiry into the human rights violations and killing of Tamils and punishment to those who are behind the killings.”  There is a suggestion in this statement that India is prepared for a trade off, and will press for accountability if there is no progress on devolution.  These are matters that need to be discussed.

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Latest comments

  • 0
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    Well this is of course obvious – The international community has better things to do than be holding war crimes Trials in Lanka.. Syria, Palestine/ Israel, Afgahnistan, Iraq etc. situation are far more important.. and time consuming. Not to mention China, Japan and Korea rattling in the far east!

    The Rajapassa regime has TOTALLY failed to grasp this fact: India and the International community would certainly turn a blind eye to Rajapassa’s war crimes if the ROOT CAUSES of the war – power sharing with the minorities and devolution of power and reconciliation were addressed.

    • 3
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      Jehan Perera,…………………………………………………

      “Accountability Issues Must Not Displace Devolution”

      ………………………………………………………….

      Here is Accountability, CATHOLIC CHURCH STYLE……………………..

      The world was and is watching how the CATHOLIC CHURCH treated humanity All over the World and is exposed to ALL THE CHURCH lies. So, Gotabaya Rajapaksa was sent to Rome to learn from the Pope. Chris Nonis, a Sinhala Catholic, was appointed High Commissioner of UK to Spin, the Rajapaksa Atrocities and Lies,on War Crimes, Catholic Church Style………. ——————————————- ………………………………………………. Supporting Data……………………………………….. The Catholic Church Arguments to whitewash the Crimes committed by the Sinhala Buddhist State is being explored by the Rajapaksa Regime and the bourgeoisie against its own citizens……………………………….. ……..Rajapaksa and TNA (LTTE)need to fess up, be transparent and move on like the South Africans. Independent verification of the war crime data by the Dept of Census is needed with International Supervision, with spot checks, to prevent the State lying from manipulating the data……….. Why Channel 4 was not allowed in the North, no witnesses?………….. Being trained by the Catholic Church? ……… ………… Christopher Hitchens Destroys The Catholic Church……………………….. ……………………………………
      ……………………………………………………
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o3766TOukRo

    • 0
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      Hello don’t take Jehan seriously. All what he writes comes after editing at Vasu’s ministry. His NPC boss is Vasu’s man. So he talks for the State. Let him say “no”.
      AS

  • 0
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    post-war reconciliation, The focus on accountability,issues of devolution of power will those benefit Tamil community… ??
    Thamils (Specially TNA Politicians )should Understand one bitter truth that 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Eelam wars were not the only rebellions against Sinhalese Nation..There were many attempt throughout the history.. All of attempts were finally defeated.. Generation of Tamils were wiped out from this land, in the May 2009 was a end another chapter…
    Dont demand.. you won’t get anything.. Rights you enjoying today granted without any demands..

    • 2
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      Bebon:

      Oh, thank you very much. I somewhat have the gut feeling that somehow you people are certainly going to pave the way to repatriate the Rajapaksas to answer for war crimes. Does that include telling them to tell the UNHRC to go to hell? I am so eager to hear from you.

  • 3
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    “Accountability Issues Must Not Displace Devolution” ———————————-
    For a start there is no “devolution” in sight or thought of the Sinhala ruling junta.——————————–So, accountability is an urgent first and determine whether it was genocide, which is continuing in different forms. ————————————–If it is genocide UN should conduct a referendum among the affected people as to determine what they want.

  • 1
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    The whole problem is that there is no sharing of power with the devolved PC. If the PC is to serve as a mere rubber stamp, will that amount to devolution? Actually an elected provincial council should have a bigger say in all matters provincial. What is the big idea in having a Central Minister for Northern Affairs, functioning from the North when there is a provincial council specifically elected for the same purpose? It will be understandable if such a Central minister co-ordinates matters in respect of the Northern Province from Colombo in matters where funding comes from the Central government. His co-chairing with the elected CM will only lead to clashes or duplication. How can the priorities in respect of the periphery be decided at the Centre? That will mean no devolution and pure centralisation! Surely the elected PC does not want to be a mere rubber stamp!

    Sengodan. M

    • 3
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      The so-called devolution of power as it is practiced is an eye wash: The Sinhala regime simply doesn’t want to give any power to elected Tamil council, stop.

      • 0
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        Still you divide SL, you need power

  • 1
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    Sinhalaya Machan, you are so right!

    But the Rajapassas are Sinhalaya Modayas and have no education – so they got their knickers and knockers in a twist!

    Actually, it is UNEDUCATED and UNCULTURED Rajapassa’s greed for power and money because they are GODEYAS from the BOONDOCKS that has led them to power grab and land grab and militarize post-war Lanka and this has put them in a soup with the International Community and India which will out fox Rajapassa brothers who are Sinhalaya Modayas after all!

  • 2
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    Presently Sri Lanka is a failed state, with laws selectively enforced by the regime. Minorities are oppressed and their religious places destroyed or damaged with state connivance. Tamils’ land are forcibly confiscated by the army. Young Tamils are disappeared, tortured and killed with impunity. Young Tamil women are raped by the armed forces with impunity. Tamils’ means of living in the North-East is grabbed by the armed forces. Government higher ups are involved in harassing and facilitating Tamils to emigrate as refugees with high risk at sea, and when deported subject to torture. The basic problem is to have an effective government respecting the laws and democracy as it is with freedom of the media. You can clearly see from the above that the state needs to be reconstituted before talking about devolution. Accountability for the past actions and continuing actions will only lead to the straightening of the state. Therefore no amount of talk will be of use if laws are not enforced. External pressure must be applied for full accountability of all; government, politicians, soldiers, Tigers and whoever else; I can clearly remember Wimal Weerawanse inciting genocide of Tamils during the war after 2005. Until accountability is established impunity will continue and the state will remain a failed state beyond redemption.
    Accountability must come first to make the rulers accountable.

  • 1
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    Devolution will create a low caste tinderbox and explode eventuallly as it did. There is absolutely no hope of change here. Those non-Tamil have no clue what they are dealing with here.

    • 1
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      .
      You mean the Chinese!:-)

  • 4
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    The governor is the representative of the president in the provincial council system . Powers are devolved by the president to the PCs through the Governor. The Governor has to permit the NPC to exercise these powers. The NPC is the elected body that should be involved in intra-provincial affairs in the north. Douglas Devanantha is one of several MPs representing the north in parliament. He is a national minister in charge of traditional industries. He can represent his electorate in parliament and even speak for Tamils. But by what right has he been placed in charge of northern affairs? Has he been sworn as a cabinet minister for northern affairs? His experience is as a survivor and not as a successful politician or cabinet minister. Why should he be foisted on the northern people, who have not elected his party or the UPFA to rule the Northern province? The Government Agents – the arm of the central government in the districts, can convene and chair the District Co-ordinating Committee meetings. That will be legitimate and acceptable. Douglas Devanantha can be one among the MPs who attend these meetings.

    There is a right way to do things and a wrong way. Our governments persists on doing things the wrong way.

    Dr. Rajasingham Narendran

    • 3
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      In fairness to Douglas, his position as Minister in charge of Northern Affairs may have served a purpose when there was no provincial council functioning. Now that there is an elected PC, such position becomes superfluous. So it is simply a matter of the President changing that portfolio. After all, there is no shortage of portfolios in Colombo! Even if there is one, it is simply a matter of creating another!
      Sengodan. M

  • 0
    0

    This is one of the better contributions from Jehan.

    This very talk of a tradeoff is unsettling. Devolution must be part of a governance package of which accountability must also be a vital part. Why is the one to the detriment of the other? This is a bad development.

  • 1
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    No accountability commissions.The funniest part being those promoting accountability and so called war crimes investigations are talking only about the last few days of the war.This accountability and so called war crimes issues are all going down the toilet.Let David or the UN conduct their own Kangaroo court trials.We wouldn’t care a fart.
    Then about devolution.Once again a capitol NO!The TNA obtained around 200,000 votes.Now they are asking for one third of the land and 2/3 rd of the sea.A bloody set of dreaming lunatics.

    • 2
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      Max Silva:

      “Let David or the UN conduct their own Kangaroo court trials.We wouldn’t care a fart”

      You won’t care, that is ok but looks like MR is taking it seriously. He send very powerful teams for the last two UNHRC sessions and it won’t be an option for him to refuse sending a SL team there again in 2014. You have to ask him why because he is not taking your advice seriously. Perhaps, he thinks of you as one of those duds just good for shouting but have no substance. Please keep us informed whether MR took your advice seriously this time or just brushed you aside like dust.

      • 2
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        Keep on dreaming.Geneva will also be dreams as usual.Oh!you poor defeated Tamil terrorists!Life is so cruel to you.

        • 2
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          Max Silva:

          You see what I am talking about. Did you know that despite refusing to acknowledge the UN Panel set-up by Ban Ki Moon, and despite telling you fools that the regime would not even bother about it, the same way you guys were made fools of, MR send a team under the auspices of the current CJ Peiris to secretly meet the Darusman Panel. We are not dreaming, you are. Mdm Navi Pillay told of your regime right in Sri Lanka, right in front of you people. Cameron came, went to the North, warned the regime, mind you in Sri Lanka itself and you fools could not do anything to stop him and now you know it is you people who dream while the Rajapakses ride on you jokers. We mean business. Unlike this, MR and his gang were forced to retreat and escape through the back-door in London. Surely, you would not have forgotten that. Prabhakaran may have been brought down but didn’t he blow up some of you guys before his exit. Whether you guys like it or not, we will be a thorn in your flesh as long as it takes.

          By the way, I want to share a secret with you. Do you know that President Premadasa gave money and arms to Prabhakaran? What a tragedy?

          • 1
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            Start training your grand children to be thorn.

            • 1
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              mechanic:

              You still do not get it. The Tamils are a very resilient people. Even with a hostile army breathing on them, they still defied the intimidation and threats to vote against the ruling regime. Whether you admit it or not, Basil and the regime believe so. You are shamefully wrong when you say that we should start training our grandchildren. Why only start with our grandchildren. It has been in our blood for generations.

  • 0
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    .
    Author says, …..There is a suggestion in this statement that India is prepared for a trade off, and will press for accountability if there is no progress on devolution……..
    I think this is the position of many…..
    :-)

    • 2
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      MaRa junta will neither devolve power to Tamils nor agree for accountability investigations – they are typical Sinhala chauvinist authoritarians.

      • 1
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        You’ve getting brainier.

  • 3
    0

    Jehan, I am surprised by this.

    It is a bit silly of you to ask Vigneshwaran to work with Duggie. It is like asking you to work with the BBS – because they are blessed by the government.

    • 1
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      Why not, both are Tamils and both from Jaffna aren’t they?

      • 1
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        mechanic:

        Sarath Fonseka and Ranil are Sinhalese as MR is. Why are they not seeing eye to eye? Silly you, did not think you are such a dud.

  • 2
    0

    Jegan,

    Do you think that the Rajapakse and its casino group is first and people of North are second. It is true that NPC has to work with good governance of the centre, not with bad governance of the centre. Centre has to devolve and hand over the power to the province and the development is the responsibility of NPC, not of the minister appointed by the Centre. The Governor is there to oversee the work of NPC and he should be a mediator between Centre and Province.
    If you don’t understand the basics of devolution, please be keep quite.

  • 2
    1

    The TNA’s only goal is to show to the world that provincial councils dont work . They dont care for their people instead care for only their political agenda . They are hoping for some intervention from
    India or the EU . well they will have to wait a looooog time .

  • 3
    0

    What a poor country. There are no statesmen,intellectuals or educated people to share the burden of governance. Everything has to be done by a single family members be it defense, security,law and order, Urban development, Attorney General’s department, development, finance,Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces and to top it all even the running of the Parliament will have to be supervised by another member of the same family.Almost the entire Budget (of course with borrowed money)will have to be shared among them.An offspring has to lead the youth, another one will have to lead the rugby players.Where have the balance 20 Million citizens gone? Even the Ambassadors have to be cousins and nephews. When few educated people like CVW come forward to share their burden of governance at Provincial level they prefer uneducated people like Douglas(as Dr.RN puts it.)and former Army Commanders.No accountability for anything as people are afraid to question them.SLMC leaders question them on platforms when it comes to Provincial Council Elections but wag their tails for more cabinet posts thereafter. Aswer the Courtjester is there always to praise whoever may be in power if he is made a National list M.P.and there will never be devolution.
    of power.

  • 2
    1

    Any one who read the Budget papers must have seen the colossal amount of money which has been pumped into North,since Nanthikadal ……It is now in a state where even the PM “Twister Cameron” could fly in and hold high level talks with a Vellala CM…
    How ironic is that this CM was hand picked and installed by the TNA who acted as the proxies of Prabakaran, and watched the LTTE destroy everything for thirty years… Now the TNA won’t allow the CM to sit with a fellow Tamil, who is instrumental in giving the North back to the Vellalas in .. better shape than it was in 83…. What gratitude…. TNA has no intention of reconciliation and living with fellow inhabitants in peace and harmony…All they want is what Prabkaran couldn’t get…That is one third of the country for 10 % of the population…Until they come clean …say sorry to the Muslims as well as others and declare openly that there is no hidden agendas and all they want is peace and harmony on equal footing, the problem will linger on….Would they do it?…I wouldn’t be putting my money on it, especially with Siras and Premas popping out of the TNA pot and praising Praba in the open and the Diaspora and their Western backers openly encouraging them….

    • 0
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      .
      You nailed it buddy….TNA is going to get what VP could not, Because Vignes is a Vellala and MaRa is from Low-country.
      :-)

    • 1
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      K A Sumanasekera:

      Whom are you guys trying to hoodwink. The regime pumped money for infrastructure development. While GL Peiris was bluffing the whole world, it has become crystal clear that all these developments are for your army guys to do business and to rob the Tamils of their lands. People have been deprived of their livelihood because of this. With tin sheets over their head, the people are struggling for their livelihood. So, you go and tell these stories to your Sinhala jokers.

      And let me tell you something also. When UN SG Ban Ki Moon took a ride over the air with MR immediately after the war, he exclaimed that he had never seen devastation in his life. We now look back and nostalgically believe that not only the Tamils had a better, corruption free administration under Prabhakaran. Can you say that for your pathetically corrupt ridden regime you people have chosen. For what the Tamils face in the North today, there is certainly an inescapable feeling that Prabhakaran should have kicked a lot more fellas before giving up. And please don’t waste your money on silly bets, you will lose it for sure.

  • 1
    0

    Accountability –

    “PPT names panel of judges to hear genocide case against Sri Lanka” http://www.tamilnet.com/art.html?catid=13&artid=36864

  • 2
    1

    No need for devolution.

    Tamil Nadu is a Tamil federal state. Everything Tamils want. Just go there.

    Tamil Nadu is closer to Jaffna than Colombo!

    Go there!

  • 1
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    Jehan has became a spokesman of MARA and murderous Douglas and suggesting TNA to trust and work with them. He writes for money.His National Peace(Cash) Council’s Secretary General is a Vasu’s man who teaches him sucking politics so he also sucks for money. Dauglas is a close friend of Jehan who recommended him for a “MODA Japanese” award of five Million in 2008. He talks like a baby and is telling us that the Governance and the Accountability are like two separate entities.Jehan is a soft and submissive political analyst who always run behind political wrong doers and try to justify their actions.But still he gets funds from Norwegians,UK,USS and Australians to continue his “Work” for MARA

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