19 May, 2024


Achieving Balanced Regional Development Through Devolution

By Laksiri Fernando

Dr. Laksiri Fernando

Dr. Laksiri Fernando

Whatever the weaknesses of the 13th Amendment or devolution in the present constitution, there is a clear socio-economic philosophy behind it, for the benefit of the people living in the provinces. That is the objective of ‘balanced regional development’ which can hardly be achieved under a complete unitary state. This is something which needs to be carried forward and strengthened in a new constitution.

It is generally accepted that ‘uneven development’ is one underlying reason for many of the ethnic and other social conflicts in the world. This is similar to the thesis put forward by Tom Nairn in his ‘Break-up of Britain’ in 1977. Youth unrest, rebellions and thereafter armed struggles developed both in the South and in the North primarily in the country’s poor and underdeveloped provinces. The acceptance of this fact is not about economic determinism or rejection of other political factors such as the dreadful ethnic discrimination/suppression in the case of the civil war in the North/East, but placing those conflicts in a broader socio-economic background.

Sri Lanka’s constitution making is perennially weak in conceptualizing the principles behind institutions, structures, authorities and resultant powers in the governing system. They are mostly dry and boring legal documents. If they refer to concepts at all, they are mostly abstract in nature or repetition of what appears in text books (e.g. people’s sovereignty). The 13th Amendment is also the same in most of its formulations. However, there are some gems among the stones. ‘Balanced regional development’ undoubtedly is one of those gems.

Objective of Balanced Development

Although the ‘balanced regional development’ is tagged to the Finance Commission (FC) in the 13th Amendment, its objective can be considered one of the main pillars of devolution in general. It is not clear whether the provincial councils or the central government ever took this objective into proper account. It was always relegated to the FC and considered just as a formula for financial allocation, yet within the strictures of the Treasury. What the Article 154 (R) (5) says on ‘balanced regional development’ is the following.

“(5) The Commission shall formulate such principles with the objective of achieving balanced regional development in the country, and shall accordingly take into account –

(a) the population of each Province;

(b) the per capita income of each Province;

(c) the need progressively, to reduce social and economic disparities; and

(d) the need, progressively, to reduce the difference between the per capita income of each Province and the highest per capita income among the Provinces.”

The above is the present (legal) status. Even in the future, it might be advisable to have a truly independent commission to assist the provincial councils and even the central government in formulating ‘such principles with the objective of achieving balanced regional development’ not only among provinces but also within. There is such a commission in South Africa called the ‘Finance and Fiscal Commission.’ In the case of Sri Lanka, it might be better to call it the ‘Finance and Planning Commission’ as there are major planning matters to be sorted out apart from finance and fiscal matters. 

However, ‘balanced regional development’ is primarily a task for the provincial councils and the central government in mutual cooperation, and not for the FC in isolation. The best model for Sri Lanka in this case is ‘cooperative devolution.’ When you take the population of each province, per capita income, socio-economic disparities, and the ‘difference between the per capita income of each province and the highest per capita income among the provinces,’ the massive uneven development in Sri Lanka is very clear. What is missing in this inventory might be the ‘disparities in natural resources and environmental conditions.’ These also have to be taken into account in trying to ameliorate uneven development in the country.

‘Uneven development’ largely is a product of colonialism and lopsided capitalist development. It is not clear whether the pre-colonial situation was even or balanced. Perhaps not. However, we have more accurate information since the colonial period. It is mainly the Western province that became ‘developed’ under (British) colonialism and the unitary state. The unitary state, and politics controlled from Colombo, contributed to this debacle. Even though major surpluses were extracted from the tea plantations, the central province remained underdeveloped as the benefits were not distributed to that province or the people.

This was underdevelopment within underdevelopment. In the provinces, although major towns such as Jaffna, Gale, Trincomalee, Nuwara Eliya or Kandy were developed, the purpose was mainly administrative and not socio-economic. This is the trend which has to be reversed, and one of the main ways that could be done is through devolution. Take the one time popular saying in the south, ‘kolombata kiri apata kakiri,’ literally meaning ‘milk for Colombo and melon for us’ or ‘everything for Colombo and nothing for us.’ There is an undeniable truism in this saying even today.

Obstructing Uneven Development

There has been a very clear ‘centre-periphery dichotomy’ in Sri Lanka both in the economy, and in the socio-political sphere since independence, the Western province dominating. This dichotomy became overwhelming under the open economy after 1977. Let me give some empirical evidence in the following Table (GDP Share by Province, 1990-2015) for the last 25 years.Sri Lanka

According to these figures, the Western province still remains dominant in the economy (41.2), but since the end of the war, some course correction is underway. The GDP share of the province was 40.2 in 1990, but increased during the war, peaking in 2000-2005 period. The figure for 2005 was 50.8 percent. The Eastern province, traditionally called the ‘granary of the country,’ once contributed 14 percent, but declined under the open economy and then the war.

‘Open economy’ is a policy that Sri Lanka cannot avoid, but to counter the adverse effects, a ‘balanced regional development’ is necessary. By 2015, only the Central, the Southern and the North Western provinces could achieve a 10 percent contribution. Among the other provinces, while the North Central (5.4), Uva (5.2), Eastern (6.0) and Sabaragamuva (7.0) struggling above the 5 percent mark, the Northern province is still lagging behind around 3.5 percent, even after the end of the war. Uneven development and regional underdevelopment not only highlight the need for devolution, but emphasises the requirement for rethinking as to the way it should proceed in the future.

Some Causal Reasons

The argument here is not about having equal share of GDP for all provinces. This is unthinkable given the provincial disparities in population among other factors. The population share of the Western province for example is around 29 percent, and it is natural therefore for that province to achieve a higher share of the GDP also given the fact that physical capital (i.e. infrastructure) and the human capital (i.e. education, health) are comparatively higher. The following Table 2 gives a comparative picture of the population share (2012) and the GDP share (2015) for the provinces.Sri Lanka CB

It is obvious that a province like the North Central or Uva might not achieve a share like the Western. The population shares are different. This applies to the other provinces, and also to the North and the East. However, given the vast areas of land in all these provinces what they can achieve in agricultural production might be immense, if the agriculture is modernized (largely physical capital) and the agricultural labour is better skilled (human capital). It is also too obvious that financial capital does not flow, internal or external (FDI), unless there are sufficient base for physical and particularly human capital in the provinces.

Considering that difference in physical and human capital is the main reasons for uneven share of GDP among different provinces, a major task for devolution would be to bridge these disparities. While reliable data are not available for a proper comparisons, some of these disparities are also visible. When you travel from Colombo to the North (North Central included), East, Uva or the deep-South, you come across underdevelopment, poverty and poor infrastructure facilities. What you might not see visibly are the social or human development conditions. These are the poor conditions particularly in health and education and also gender inequalities.

‘Sri Lanka Human Development Report 2012’ (UNDP) gives a valuable comparison from pages 15 to 19. According to these information, calculated primarily on the district basis, Gampaha, Kalutara and Colombo, stands the highest in that order in the human development index (HDI), while the Northern Province is the lowest as a province. As districts outside the Northern Province, Nuwara Eliya, Batticaloa and Badulla stand the lowest in HDI. As these information also show, the disparities are not only between provinces, but also within provinces, both at the district and divisional levels. That is one reason why the devolution has to go deeper, and into the divisional or local government levels.

There are some welcome developments when the year 2015 is compared with 2014. This however should not be exaggerated considering the progress that needs to be achieved in the future. As the Central Bank reported, the share of the GDP of other provinces (other than the Western) increased from 58.3 in 2014 to 58.8 percent in 2015. All these provinces performed better in 2015 except Uva recording a decline. The Eastern province doubled its growth rate while the North achieving a 12.1 percent growth rate. Both provinces were rising from a lower base, and the growth was in agriculture and not in industries or services.

A Possible Way Out

There are obvious two extremes to be avoided if balanced regional development needs to be achieved in the country through devolution. One is the ‘unitary’ thinking where the dominant politicians and the bureaucrats believe that regional development can be achieved or projected from Colombo. This can and have happened even under devolution. The other is the emotional political demands or ‘separatist’ thinking of many minority politicians neglecting the socio-economic factors of the issues involved. Both are self-serving devices on the part of the elitist politicians. Sri Lanka has experimented both, but has failed miserably.

While the initial national economic plans, first the ten year (1956-65) and then the five year (1970-75), geared from Colombo failed to achieve balanced regional development, the ‘bull in a china shop’ approach of the open economy (since 1977) had been a colossal disaster in this respect. The present predicament is that both the ‘unitary’ thinking and ‘separatism’ still dominate the devolution debate as well as its crooked practices. One consequence is the vast disparities in income distribution throughout the country. According to the available figures, the poorest 20 percent of the population receives only 4.5 percent of total household income, while the richest 20 percent receiving 54.1 percent, although the absolute poverty is now comparatively low.
A major reason for this situation is the vastly ‘underdeveloped’ outer provinces. Despite the immense income inequalities in the Western province itself, the per capita income is 140 percent higher than all the other provinces combined. Thus a major objective of devolution should be ‘balanced regional development.’ There is nothing particularly wrong in having a ‘megapolis’ in the West or ‘smart cities,’ but there should also be ‘smart cities’ in other provinces as well. In reformulating what appears in Article 154, in clarifying the primary objective/s of devolution, it could be said:

‘Both the provincial councils and the national government shall formulate such principles with the objective of achieving regional development in the country, with the assistance of a Finance and Planning Commission, and shall accordingly take into account –

the population of each province;

the per capita income of each province;

the level of physical and human capital of each province;

the disparities in natural and environmental conditions between provinces;

the need progressively, to reduce social and economic disparities; and

the need, progressively, to reduce the difference between the per capita income of each province and the highest per capita income among the provinces.”

What might be necessary in achieving such a ‘balanced regional development’ obviously is ‘cooperative devolution.’ It is also clear that if such an objective is accepted in a new constitution, more research needs to be done particularly in assessing the existing levels of ‘physical and human capital’ and also quantifiable ‘natural and environmental conditions’ in and between provinces.

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Latest comments

  • 9


    “What might be necessary in achieving such a ‘balanced regional development’ obviously is ‘cooperative devolution.’ It is also clear that if such an objective is accepted in a new constitution, more research needs to be done particularly in assessing the existing levels of ‘physical and human capital’ and also quantifiable ‘natural and environmental conditions’ in and between provinces.”

    You have highlighted the economic dimensions of the devolutionary exercise defined through the Finance Commission envisaged in the 13th amendment. I have not noticed anyone else do so before.

    We have lost sight of the woods of economics for the thorny bushes of ethnic politics. Each province is unique in many ways including potentials and problems. The uniqueness is an opportunity and the problems a challenge. They have to be recognized for what they are and addressed from a local perspective by the locals. This is the penultimate benefit of devolution. The Center should allocate financial resources and play an enabling role, until the weaker provinces get into their stride.

    The fact that the northern , north central and the eastern provinces are lagging behind so badly, with many others ahead only by a narrow margin, is an indictment of the centralized model of politics and develpment planning, we have followed and fought tooth and nail to preserve.

    I however think the words in the new constitutional proposals should be ‘Optimized development’ in all provinces through optimization of human resources, environmentally friendly harnessing of natural resources and surmounting the constraints of climate and location.

    Yes, this should be ‘Cooperative Devolution’ where the Centre and the provinces play supportive roles, and the provinces compete with each other to improve the lives of their people.

    Thank you.

    Dr.Rajasingham Narendran

    • 0

      Prof. Laksiri, Please ask the Aussi govt or AUSAID to fund a crash course on HUMAN DEVELOPMENT and development of the REAL ECONOMY for Rani-Sira’s Cabinet of clowns who do not know the meaning of the term DEVELOPMENT, seriously!

      They think that development is concrete urban jungles, fast cars and fast food, paper money speculation and derivatives trading on the stock market which is the rich man’s casino! Rather than investment in real PRODUCTION of goods and services and building a Knowledge economy by investment in human resources, research and development of niche sectors.

      The Ranil-Sira economic team are all into overseas trips and hot air about foreign investors but do not know the difference between development of the REAL ECONOMY that actually benefits the people is (agricultrual production and industrial output) and the fake paper castles financial sector that benefits global financial speculators.

      They do not know that economic development must be ENVIRONMENT and PEOPLE friendly in an era of GLOBAL WARMING and ari conditioning is the biggest polluter! The Parliament Members needs a crash course in the meaning of the words “human, social and economic development”, but the UNDP’s trainings for these clowns will leave out Economic and Social Rights to development.

      • 0

        “Parliament Members needs a crash course in the meaning of the words “human, social and economic development”

        Indeed, sir, the parliament needs its members to enhance their education greatly.

    • 2

      Dr Rajasingham,

      Thank you for your thank you! In fact your comment to my last article prompted me to write this article.

  • 3

    Prof Laksiri, there is no balanced development even in Colombo! Only corruption in the name of development.

    After all balanced development should be environmentally and socially friendly development, but Colombo is turning into a concrete jungle and hot house while Kanata is going to get electricity for Ghosts at the mega coast of 60 million! This is the new corrupt scheme of the Colombo Municipality.

    Earlier this year, in March there was all island power cuts, power and electricity black out but the Ghosts at the COlombo Cemetary need electricity. Who is going to make quick MEGA buck on this? Faisar Mustapha and the mafia at the Colombo Municipality..

    Is this a priority for the pedestrians of Colombo?! Who but Ghosts wonder around

    Meanwhile “beautification of Colombo Kanata cemetery which has many treas – one of the last places with tall trees since all the other Public parks have been logged by the Colombo Municipality whose trea cutting teams work overtime for the sorry to say Muslim Mafia at the Colombo Municipality, will mean the cutting down of all the remaining treas.
    Environmental and citizens groups should protest this non sense and CT editors please expose this racket!

    • 0

      “Beautification of Kannatta” for its Ghosts?! Ha, ha ha!

      This means cutting down treas so some dude at Colombo municipality can make a quick buck while putting up electricity wires!

    • 0


      Yes, you are right in highlighting the ‘unbalanced’ and even superficial development in Colombo. Equally, your emphasis on environmentally and socially friendly development is also appreciated. That is why devolution should go deeper, and for the devolution to work, citizens’ and civil society participation should be strengthened. Devolution per se is not a panacea. I am sure if you send necessary information and pictures/videos about what is going on, the CT would publicise and expose. At the same time, I like to know your opinion about devolution and its merits for balanced regional development. Balanced regional development also applies to the Western province. I have seen poverty in Colombo and many underdeveloped areas in the Kalutara district for example.

  • 4

    Overdeveloping Colombo and the South like Hambantota in the long run is a risky strategy.

    There have always been a racial bias in the economic Policy of Sri Lanka. George Osborne roared Northern Powerhouse to address the imbalance in the poor Northern England cities that the author is referring to. But he didn’t have any concrete and the new PM Teresa May has abandon the slogan Northern Power House and trying to replace it with more real incentives for inward investment to those Northern Cities in the U.K

    Those elsewhere in CT criticising NPC for not passing any statues for economic revival should read this blog.

    The economic development is centrally, as the author correctly points out is in centrally controlled. Passing statues at Provincial level is not going to change that

    What is needed is devolution of more economic and finical powers to the provinces. That will allow the Provincial govts to create tax heavens to invite foreign direct investment, by passing the centre

    • 1


      Sorry for the late response. Most you have said are correct and I agree. However, the NPC also should focus more on its given mandate before asking more and more. This is my opinion. If they return money without utilizing them, then their credibility for asking more becomes questionable. I have met the officers of the NPC in December 2010 in respect of a World Bank project. They were very capable people. Therefore, I don’t see any capacity problem in implementing the NPC mandate and projects. But they should have the political approval. Too much politicking is a problem everywhere. If the necessary statutes are not there, it is not a good performance on the part of the council. Ultimately, people will suffer.

      The neglect from Colombo is also there in many other provinces. You can see it from the tables I have given. I also have past ground experience. It is also an urban bias in economic policy. Centralized thinking is a common trait among many politicians, bureaucrats, elites and even some intellectuals. I am not denying any ethnic bias, but it is not purely ethnic in my opinion. That is why there should be a common effort to rectify the situation. If we accept the need of a united country, there are things that (can) belong to the provinces and there are things for the national government. Development is a common cause. It is also a simple economic principle to have ‘division of labour within a common assembly line.’ I frankly don’t think having separate tax heavens in provinces is workable. It would lead to chaos.


  • 3

    Northern and Eastern provinces have the lowest shares of GDP according to the chart.
    But, if the cost of maintaining the armed forces in them is included,
    the GDP Share should be substantially high.

    Only the armed forces are ‘developed’ in these two provinces.

    • 2

      Because, Tamils are busy establishing the homeland and tamilizing the area.

  • 2

    The piece refreshes me of the JVP’s rallying cry as they rose again the state; Kolambata Kiri, Apita Kakikiri.( To the non Sinhalese speakers in the forum; Colombo gets the milk, we get cucumbers ).

    • 0

      …and for Tamils paanagkootai handed out by the Sinhala army who have taken over the panama thoopu

  • 0

    The paramount issue is the National of development Island not rely on that “devolution of power”. That “devolution of power”leads a federalism of separatism of US political agenda will dismantle our nation into pieces. Imperial of US sovereignty dominated by nation powerless puppet regimes in ‘governance’ time to time in Sri lanka the vested interest against our people.

    Which of devolution has more familiar with Tamil terrorism had been apply by LTTE in that gun-rule and TNA ballots rule the politics of undermined, that values of emerging Democracy forces among Tamils.

    The ‘devolution’ that terms and conditions, hence political meaning that in Sri Lankan has nothing else, but by leads to Tamil separatism.
    That is how Tamil chauvinist take into account by their politics meaning of road map against Unity of democracy of majority .
    Tamil are born chauvinist, they seek first separatism and second US base in their myth of “homeland land” in north-east.

    Now Indian-RAW having policy of cohabitation with US-CIA which encourage and promoted US military and Marian base presence in Island by supporting and address the victimizes of LTTE members of Tamil Terrorist.

    The writer “devolution package” will save the aim of separatism. Result of that ‘devolution ‘ of constitutional proposal will be devalued our democracy and sovereignty of unitary character of State of Sri lanka.

    The important issue is what type of capitalist model and path we are going choose by ruling classes in power from 2015 January 9th.
    That has to be settle by broad consensus and deliberation by our nation.

    But not that by US and Indian Neo-colonial-hegemonies think tanks and their local agents of political parties that including UNP-Ranil W…of orthodox Christian democratic, TNA, JVP & Muslim Congress. Agreed so-called the “devolution” by Personalities of MS and CBK neo-liberalism of ex-SLFP Banadarakers of all feudal roots of KBG.

  • 1

    Power devolution for balanced development will surely be a positive step as argued by intellectuals.

    But the serious problem is that almost all who prescribe devolution want to do it on ethnic basis.

    What is the importance of ethnicity for production? Isn’t that a racial idea?

    When it comes to human resources all are same, whether it’s Sinhala, Tamil or Muslim or any other.

    Presently the main obstacle for devolution is devolving power to North alone or North and East as one unit.

    We can solve this problem easily through a new plan avoiding much criticized devolution on racial basis.

    For example we can merge North and North Central province (instead of East) to make a new province.

    People will have to co-exist and contribute to development.

    That’ll totally eliminate the doubt that majority are brewing in their minds.

    It’s wise for us to re-consider the fact that, we don’t want 9 provinces now thanks to the developed infrastructure (mainly transport and communication).

    So we can merge other provinces as well and thus devolve power to just 3 or 4 or maximum 5 provinces and make it a success.

    Unless this won’t happen for another 100 years.

    • 1


      Why not encourage bordering provinces to cooperate among themselves in sharing financial, human and more specially political resouces(avoid duplication of political positions ) among themselves before any formal merger is made? The obvious example being Nothern Province and Eastern Province can immediately start working along the lines I have proposed.
      It will naturally evolve to the situation you wish in the most optimal manner. Surely our Constitution would not have any bar on such mutual corporation?

      • 1


        Corporation between provinces is possible even now. not only with bordering provinces but also between or among other province/s, there’s no need of special effort for that.

        What the majority can’t understand is why should provinces be merged taking only the ethnic factor into consideration, as you mentioned North and East.

        Geographically the closest neighbor (please check the border length) for North should be North Central so if there’s a merger, make it North and North Central with provision for corporation with East or any other province/s

        The minority in our country are extremely racial so isolating them might be a threat for security and integrity of the country, a reasonable belief and fear of the majority.

        • 1


          We are on the same wavelength.


        • 2

          If devolution is to be on a regional basis, the merger of the northern, north central and eastern provinces will be logical.

          Dr. RN

          • 0

            Dr. RN

            I personally believe in keeping North and East always apart for 3 reasons.

            1. North and East are 2 directions, why should they be together.

            2. It gives a message for minority to think otherwise, that to drop their plea of having North-East tied on racial basis.

            3. In such a province made up of North, East & North-Central, will unreasonably enjoy access to more than 50% of marine resources and about 40% of land.

            So please see whether it’s logical or not to have them together.

            It may be argued that the provincial councils given forcefully to Sri Lanka (may be except North) through the intervention of India can be defeated easily be merging all the provinces to make a single provincial council; isn’t that a good provision?

            However I don’t support that idea.

            Democracy can do any thing,even to make a man, a woman or vice versa.

            • 0

              Have a look at the census results for the North and Easter provinces seperately and see for yourself.

          • 0

            The citizenry must guard themselves from those who are tainted from the MISDEEDS of the past rulers,especially from the proposals of reforms, amendments and re-packaged failed policies. It is necessary , we mentor our children to seek solutions outside the box.

            August 25th 2016

  • 3

    What Dr.Laksiri is suggesting for a Balanced Regional Development is far fetched with the Sinhala government in power. The Sinhala government did not do any development in the North so far.
    The Tamils do not want a Unitary State but a United State where the powers of administration and development must stay in the hands of the Tamils. The decision should be theirs and theirs only. The balanced Regional Development or corporative development does not arise at all and the people reject it. 150,000 armed personnel in the North and grabbing of private lands will not bring development but Sinhala colonisation to the North. The Tamils are not against any Sinhala individual settling in the North or East but they are against government’s agenda on colonisation. When we talk of Balanced Regional development, the powers at the centre is cemented and the Tamils will be empowered with nothing. Then again they would be treated as second class citizens. A federal setup in the new constitution is ideal for all communities to live in peace and develop their parts of the country and enhance their economy. Failing which the Tamil people reaffirms for a referendum to be held in the North and East for them to determine their fate.

    • 1


      You’re racial Sellam; the ideal name for you.

    • 1


      Tamils were fighting a ferocious, barbarian war against the Government for 30 long years. They destroyed their own water, electrical and transportation infrastructure and killed off all their elderly politicians. Naturally there was no space for any development. Immediately after the war the Government established democratic institutions and restored infrastructure and launched a massive road development programme. However the loss of war has given rise to a consuming hatred which is increasingly eating into their psyche. With people like genocide Wiggie coming into prominence who is hell bent on destroying any peace and amity I feel immensely sad for the young Tamil generation.

      As for any development under Yahapalana I don’t have to waste my words. Not only you Tamils they fooled everybody, sowed hatred all round to grab political power. You are screaming that Sinhala political leaders deceived us Tamils for 60 years – add another 5 to that 60.


      • 3


        ” However the loss of war has given rise to a consuming hatred which is increasingly eating into their psyche. “

        This is the type of generalization that becomes with time an established and concretized fact! You are mistaking the noise of a few, for the voice of the many, to stereo type a community.

        This is what the extremists from all camps expect and you are offering it to them on a platter!

        Err on the side of reason, moderation and solutions, instead of on the side of rabble rousing, madness and mayhem.


  • 4

    As long as the hated towards the Tamils by the Majority Sinhalese people especially the extremist Buddhist Clergy exists there is no hope for unity in Sri Lanka.
    First and foremost the Respected Buddhist Religious leaders and the Sinhalese politicians must explain the people the situation and create an atmosphere for unity by giving the legal rights and respect to the Tamils as in the UN charter.
    For the country to flourish UNITY is important.
    The proposed new constitution should be to the international level and not just to reduce the rights of the Tamils.
    Tamils all over the world are watching very closely the outcome of this constitution and this will decide the destiny of Sri Lanka [ go forward or go downward] This will affect the UNHRC resolution 30/1 which calls for permanent political solution to the Tamils in the North and East

    • 0


      A political solution is sought for Hindu and Christian Tamìls in the Nothern Province or all Tamil speaking people(Tamil Nation ) scattered across the island irrespective of their religion or the date of arrival? Majority of Tamiĺ Nation live outside North and East.


      • 1

        But Majority Tamils live in the North & East. Most of the Tamils live in Colombo and suburb for employment and business. Once The North and East is developed and job opportunities are available most of them will be back to N & E. This is not an excuse for delaying the political rights and self-determination of the Tamils in the |North and East. It is specified in the UN charter. Millions of Tamils are living outside Sri Lanka. If the situation improves and justice and rule of law is restored most of them will return to their homeland.

        • 0


          Say clearly who the Tamils are. All Tamil speaking people in the country or only Hindu and Christian Tamils in the North excluding those who practice Islam as their religion and those arrived during the British.

          NONE will leave Colombo to Jafna and NOT A SINGLE diaspora will come back to Jafna


          • 0

            A good excuse for the Sinhalese Govt. not to give equal rights to the
            Tamils. Create jobs in all the Provinces equally first. How can you be so sure that “NONE will leave Colombo to Jafna and NOT A SINGLE diaspora will come back to Jafna”

            If Justice prevails in this WRETCED country for EVERYONE irrespective of the language spoken or religion practiced, people will come back, including the Sinhalese who left the country for good!!

  • 2

    Laksiri has said;

    “Whatever the weaknesses of the 13th Amendment or devolution in the present constitution, there is a clear socio-economic philosophy behind it, for the benefit of the people living in the provinces. That is the objective of ‘balanced regional development’ which can hardly be achieved under a complete unitary state. This is something which needs to be carried forward and strengthened in a new constitution.”

    One day this writer has blamed Sinhala-Buddhists for all Political, Economic and Social ills in Sri Lanka. Another day he has recommended NGOs to run the affairs of the Government of Sri Lanka. Now he has spoken about devolution of powers in Sri Lanka to appease the chauvinist Politicians and his favorite political masters in Colombo. But this writer has always failed to identify the problem(s)and it really baffles me. All his convoluted arguments are part of a useless academic or theoretical exercise.

    People of Sri Lanka (Sinhala and Tamil) are interested in a stable and prosperous economy and good future for their kids. All governments since independence have failed miserably to satisfy the basic needs (Food/medicine, Clothes and Shelter) of our people and that situation alone led to two civil wars; one in 1971 and other in early 1980s threatening the security of all citizens of the country. It is ABSOLUTELY NOT based on transferring the powers to regional levels.

    I hope this writer understands it. It was the root cause for the uprising lead by Tamil separatists. However, due to mismanagement and the corrupt defeatist-mind of J.R.Jayawardene (Uncle of the chief sponsor of the writer), the Sri Lankan armed forces received good beating from a well trained (by India and others), well equipped and fearless terrorist gang in the battle fields. Subsequently Indian armed forces also got involved and received a good beating from the same terrorists. As a result, India proposed a face-saving formula for both GOSL and GOI. That is what has come to known as 13th amendment to our constitution. India wanted to extricate IPKF from the battlefields of Sri Lanka with honor and did not give a damn about how we will face the future political turmoil in Sri Lanka in July 1987. JRJ and his gang also did not give a damn about Sri Lanka’s sovereignty and the unitary status of the country.

    My dear messenger Laksiri, if separatists and the chauvinist Tamil politicians, REALLY BELIEVED in the 13th AMENDMENT as a solution to their problems, they would have NOT ASSASSINATED Prime Minister Rajiv Ghandhi; the main man responsible for the idea.

    I perfectly understand your job as a messenger and spin doctor. The chauvinist separatist politicians demand more powers through devolution and Prime Minister Ranil (just like his uncle) would like to offer them to keep his job. But you will not succeed in disseminating twisted stories.

  • 2

    Dr Laksiri Fenando,

    Thank you for an excellent and timely article.

    Any perusal of the 13 Amendment along with the Provincial Council Act No 42 of 1987 will reveal that the objective of devolution as enumerated in these acts is not power sharing or any solution to ethnic problem, but Balanced Regional Development.

    It must be made clear that GDP measures only the economic growth and it often distorts and ignore the reality.

    What about regional imbalances?

    When you look at the concept of development in a holistic manner, one would relies that development is not merely economic development, but it encompasses other sectors such as education, health, poverty alleviation, gender equity, sports, culture, human rights etc.

    Only tools available to the Finance Commission in their annual recommendation are the criteria Based Grant and the Provincial Specific Grants.

    When compared to the Block Grant that deals exclusively with the Recurrent expenditure.

    what is available for the capital component is merely about less than 10% of the total expenditure which is measly to make any impact in the regional development.

    What is needed is a huge paradigm shift in all aspects of development. What I recommend is the bulk of even foreign funding be transferred to the Provincial Councils for designing and implementation, but of course with the center as the final authority.

    For the attention of new constitution makers please!

    • 3


      Thanks for your thoughtful input.

      The fact that the first Northern Provincial Council has been an absolute disaster and the Chief Minister has shaped himself in to the ‘Chief Mischief Maker’ has to be borne in mind by those designing the new constition. The vision Prof. Laksiri has presented will not take shape, if such PC’s are elected time and again. The same would be true for the government at the center.

      What we need is holistic development in all provinces accentuating all aspects of human endeavor. Do we have the politicians and public servants to lead us towards such a vision, in our midst.

      Should we have a ‘National Planning Commission’ of eminent persons to set the overall goals and monitor progress at the national and provincial levels. The Planning Commission proposals should be subject to wide and indepth national debate before being adopted as ‘National Development Policy’ by parliament and the provincial councils.


    • 2

      “What is needed is a huge paradigm shift in all aspects of development.”

      Yes, it needs a huge paradigm shift in all aspects of development but it also no needs the participation of the people of the regions/provinces. The people of the provinces should feel that it belongs to them and trust between the central government and provincial government should be established firmly. Both should go on the same line of thinking. As it is the Central government do not trust the people of North East (keeping military and interfering with public matters) and still North Eastern people are not prepared to trust them). As long as this barrier remains whatever the shift of development paradigm is not going to yyield expected growth.

    • 4


      There is one matter that I cannot understand in your comment. You have said referring to the 13A and the Act, “it is not power sharing or any solution to ethnic problem, but Balanced Regional Development.” Although I have emphasized the common benefit of BRD, I believe the devolution as designed in the 13A as well as generally, addresses ‘power sharing’ (PS) and at least part solution to the ethnic problem. This should not be neglected or hide.

      I believe, the Northern Provincial Council offers tangible autonomy for the SL Tamils even at present. The SL Tamils are 93 percent within the province (20102) and it is about 44 percent of all SL Tamils. Although around 30 percent of all SL Tamils live outside the North and the East, they have an abiding attachment to this province/s. Devolution in Sri Lanka is more than normal devolution, because power is given through the constitution and not by an ordinary act, although there are ambiguities.

      Of course the SL Tamils or their leaders ask for North-East. I don’t think it is reasonable, realistic or practical. SL Tamils in the province is around 39 percent. A combined province (N+E) would jeopardize not only the rights of the Sinhalese, but more particularly of the Muslims. It is not necessary for modern Tamil rights. In resolving the ethnic problem in any country, it has been my expressed view since 2003 (‘Some Parameters for a Political Solution,’ Pravada and Daily News) that ‘there should be a recognition of separate identities and there should an attempt to transcend them.’ The Eastern Province could be the test case where reconciliation between the three communities could be built or not built.

      • 2

        “A combined province (N+E) would jeopardize not only the rights of the Sinhalese, but more particularly of the Muslims.”

        This is what I do do not understand the mentality of the so called progressive Sinhala professionals. No body explains why and how it is going jeopardize the right of the Sinhalese and Muslims only if North East combined. What about the rights of Sinhalese and Muslims in the Northern Province or what about the rights of the Tamils and Muslims in the rest of the provinces?
        I don’t know how many understand how the ethnic problem came to this magnitude since 1948. The primary problem was the state sponsored colonization of Sinhalese in the North Eastern province in order to change the demography. Banda-Chelva and Dudley-Chelva pact realised this reality and devolved powers to North East. In 1921, in the East Tamils were 55%, Muslims were 39% and Sinhalese were leass than 5%.
        If there is no merger, we are going to see mergers of either Sinhalese and Muslims or Sinhalese and Tamils or Muslims and Tamils as we have already seen in the post 2009 period. 39% of the Tamils couldn’t get the chance to form a government in the East. The divide & rule policy will going to oppress one community and that is going to be definitely Tamils because Tamils are now enemies of both Sinhalese and Muslims.

        • 0


          You should have quoted my whole paragraph and not only the third sentence. It reads as follows.

          [“Of course the SL Tamils or their leaders ask for North-East. I don’t think it is reasonable, realistic or practical. SL Tamils in the province is around 39 percent. A combined province (N+E) would jeopardize not only the rights of the Sinhalese, but more particularly of the Muslims. It is not necessary for modern Tamil rights. In resolving the ethnic problem in any country, it has been my expressed view since 2003 (‘Some Parameters for a Political Solution,’ Pravada and Daily News) that ‘there should be a recognition of separate identities and there should an attempt to transcend them.’ The Eastern Province could be the test case where reconciliation between the three communities could be built or not built.”]

          I have said, “I don’t think it is reasonable….” Because I have never found a reasonable justification for the N+E merger. Could you please Ajith give me an answer or justification. Please also take into account what I said about “It is not necessary for modern Tamil rights.”

          You are absolutely correct Ajith in raising the question: “What about the rights of Sinhalese and Muslims in the Northern Province or what about the rights of the Tamils and Muslims in the rest of the provinces?” Of course this is a concern and that is why devolution should not be the only solution for ethnic dominance, antagonisms or conflict whether in the North, East, Central, Western or the whole country. Through devolution we are talking about practical solutions and not absolute solutions. Another way of neutralizing any ‘ethnic dominance’ is through human rights, rule of law and reconciliation.

          • 3

            Dr Laksiri Fernando,

            It would be the responsibility of Ajith, to whom you have directed your rejoinder, to respond to you. I would stay out of it.

            However, As a keen observer of the many arguments you make in this Forum, I have to point out that I did not find it surprising that you were careful enough to sidestep the main thrust of his point of view.

            Here is what Ajith had said: ‘The primary problem was the state sponsored colonisation of Sinhalese in the North Eastern province in order to change the demography’.

            I tend to agree with him.

            If you would agree that the State sponsored colonisation did take place, your response ought to begin there. If you would not, then you should have denied it, before proceeding with your rejoinder.

            Let me assume for a moment, that you would deny it. In that case wouldn’t Ajith be wasting his time debating with you.

            What is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander!

            Your logic, ‘SL Tamils in the province is around 39 percent. A combined province (N+E) would jeopardize not only the rights of the Sinhalese, but more particularly of the Muslims’ collapses when you bring in the ‘colonisation’ factor. (Your crocodile tears for the Muslims, I shall ignore.)

            You cannot deny that the moves of the government to create this artificial alteration to the demographic pattern of the provinces resulted in the ensuing altercations.

            You are welcome to respond. But, going by your past record, I have a feeling that you might not.

            • 1


              Yes, I do sidestep some controversies for the sake of sanity and reconciliation! But in this case, I don’t think I did it purposely, because in my opinion it had nothing much to do with the ‘reasonability of a merger.’ Doesn’t the homeland concept much older than the colonisation? It is also not purely a Tamil or a Sri Lankan question. It is there in many countries although I have reservations about it also from a human rights point of view. This is on record. I recollect when I visited Sri Lanka in 1993 (I believe), my friend Kethesh Loganathan invited me to meet with some EPRLF parliamentarians. We met at Sravasti. Suresh Premachandran was there. When we were discussing the Thimphu principles I expressed my reservations on the homeland concept. I asked the question why don’t you formulate your rights and claims in (modern) human rights terms. I have reservations for accepting a ‘homeland’ concept except for indigenous people. However, I understand the feeling, even among modern communities, therefore some accommodation could be possible.

              Why do you say I have crocodile tears for the Muslims? Is it because I am identified as a Sinhalese? Isn’t it possible for people to talk about other communities? Are we living in watertight compartments? I do can admit that I may have some ‘feelings’ for the Sinhalese because of my upbringing, but to the best of my knowledge, it is not my conscious motive in political judgements. But I do consider the interests of the Sinhalese as a community. This is an objective consideration. If I fault, I am ready to admit.

              I know you are a doosra bowler! You have been sometimes bowling right and left even when I am not on the crease! In my opinion, you have a ‘this or that’ (formal) logic and sometimes frankly it is difficult to answer or there is no point. Therefore I am ready to give you the victory! Please therefore consider this as an exception.


              • 1

                Laksiri, You surprise me again. This time with a response.

                * How are you contributing towards reconciliation when it was the ‘ratio’ aspect that you had highlighted.

                * Isn’t the homeland concept much older than the colonisation, you ask. I am puzzled. You need to help me out to understand that.

                * You state that you have reservations on accepting a ‘homeland’ concept except for indigenous people. Good to know.

                Who are the indigenous people of Mother Lanka?

                Now, I will answer your question: Why do you say I have crocodile tears for the Muslims?

                You have not only asked the question, but also ‘tried’ to answer for me! I will ignore that crap of an answer.

                Here is my answer:

                You had pointed out, ‘A combined province (N+E) would jeopardize not only the rights of the Sinhalese, but more particularly of the Muslims’. My observation was over your phrase ‘more particularly’.

                I am a Tamil. You are a Sinhalese. We are both on a journey. No ethnic group should have a claim for added rights or privileges based on its numerical strength or proportion.

                No merger of any part of the country with another will be required
                if ‘numbers’ are thrown out of the window.

                I believe in this. I accept this. If you would also accept this, we are together on the path to reconciliation. If not, as well say goodbye to reconciliation.

                • 0

                  Hi Nathan,

                  Two more questions?

                  One: Why are you upset about me emphasising Muslims more particularly?

                  Second: How do you know you are a Tamil?

                  For the sake of the readers (if anyone is still reading!) the above two questions arises out of Nathan’s following two statements.
                  1. “You had pointed out, ‘A combined province (N+E) would jeopardize not only the rights of the Sinhalese, but more particularly of the Muslims’. My observation was over your phrase ‘more particularly’.”

                  2. “I am a Tamil. You are a Sinhalese. We are both on a journey.”

                  • 0

                    Hello Dr Laksiri Fernando,

                    Q: Why are you upset about me emphasising Muslims more particularly?

                    A: More particularly for what reason? If I have to guess, you must be having the ‘ratio’ in your mind. And, I have said quite categorically that the ‘ratio’ argument does not hold if the State ‘colonisation’, on which you have a tactical decision to keep mum, is factored in. You are hiding behind an unexplained ‘sanity’ on the issue of discussing the vital factor of government manipulated changes to demography. If I were to grant you your ‘ratio’ analogy and accept your ‘more particularly’ just imagine how ‘even more’ you would have to empathise with Tamils considering the dwindling ‘ratio’ of Tamils in the two provinces, caused by colonisation.

                    As regards to the remark that I am ‘upset’ I am laughing to myself about your characterisation. I have been quite despite your provocation, with words you have chosen to ‘describe’ me. Now that you have brought up the subject let me get back to some ‘thorny’ matters I had previously shut my eyes to, in the name of decency.

                    It is my nature to ignore those whose language is intentionally hurtful. In your case, I take it that your words though hurtful were not intended. However, it must be stated that those words reveal more of you to me, than you bargained for.

                    Let me take them up. Please bear in mind that I choose to come out with these only on being questioned by you.

                    You had mentioned:

                    * ‘I do sidestep some controversies for the sake of sanity and reconciliation’.

                    ___ Would that sentence have lost its effectiveness had it been, ‘I do sidestep some controversies for the sake of reconciliation’!

                    What was the purpose of the extra adjective ‘sanity’ that you had inserted? What was it implying. My interpretation may spoil your mood, and hence, I will wait for yours.

                    You had asked Ajith to debate you when you were not even willing to consider the main thrust of his point of view.

                    Tamils are seeking a merger to offset the effect of colonisation, among others. And, you set the rules of the game while refusing to discus his reason. Where is the ‘sanity’ in this.

                    * ‘I know you are a doosra bowler! You have been sometimes bowling right and left even when I am not on the crease! In my opinion, you have a ‘this or that’ (formal) logic and sometimes frankly it is difficult to answer or there is no point.

                    ___ The whole exercise you and I are engaged is built on logic. And, you degrade yourself by calling names. (It was unbecoming of you to descend to such levels! I kept my sanity intact by shutting my eyes to those words. You have forced me to bring it out.)

                    Logically speaking, ‘there is no point’ is escapism, especially when facts and logic were the main grounds of my stand.

                    For you to say that I have a ‘this or that’ (formal) logic is quite condescending. Formal logic is nothing but findings based on deduction. Deductive findings are easier to grasp than Inductive conclusions.

                    Q: ‘How do you know you are a Tamil’?

                    A: Is there a hidden agenda behind this question? I will not let that distract me. I will answer it genuinely, and to the best of my knowledge.

                    I am a Tamil by birth. What better answer one could one have! (By the way, my Birth Certificate highlights it!)

                    Bonus: My feelings are for all fair minded Sri Lankans, not just Tamils. We should not ruin our country in the name of Sinhalese and Tamils. The task of making everyone a proud Sri Lankan, is in the hands of reasonable and educated people like you, particularly in the present political climate. So, consider the interests of not just the Sinhalese, but each and every community in Sri Lanka.

                    • 0

                      Dear Nathan,

                      Thanks for your frank response. I’ll take cognizance of what you say.


          • 0

            Dear Dr. Laksiri,

            I am not sure what you meant by “Modern Tamil Rights”. as far as I am concerned the rights are equal to all whatever the system of governance.
            If you go back to 1950s, “Sinhala only Act” triggered the need for the identity of the needs of the Tamil speaking people, which is the North East traditionally homeland for over 500 years for both Tamil speaking Muslims and Tamils. Tamils and Muslims were almost 95%. Muslims were not against to Banda-Chelva Pact or Dudley-Chelva agreement. These agreements recognise this fact. The divide and rule policy and subsequent events lead to the fall in the relationship between Tamils and Muslims. whatever happened in the relationship between Tamils, Sinhalese and Muslims then and now are due to competitive forces in the South within the politics of Sinhala political leadership (UNP & SLFP). I don’t look at the devolution of power for North East based on race or relegion. I look at it as a administrative division where Tamil being the official language similar to Sinhala in the rest of the island and it is to provide security to the identity of Tamil speaking people. What is important now is to create a constitution where every citizen of this island should have the same right irrespective of whether he lives in North East or South west or any sort of governance. For example, tamils living in the South should have the same right as a Sinhalese live in the North. Sinhalese in the North should learn Tamil anD Tamil live in the South should learn Tamil. The constitution should ensure that the central body is for all, not to represent a single race.

            • 1

              Dear Ajith,

              There are rights, traditional and modern, and all cannot be considered human rights unless they are applicable to all human beings or claimed/applicable in the form of achieving human rights for particular groups (e.g. rights of women, children or minorities). Claim for homeland to me is a traditional right whether it is in Sri Lanka or elsewhere. I am talking in general terms here. All rights, even some modern ones are not human rights. I hope you agree with it. The right to hold arms in the 2nd Amendment in the US constitution is modern, but not a human right.

              The Tamils’ right to official language and the use of Tamil language in dealing with the administration etc. are (modern) Tamil rights and they are also human rights. Why it is a particular Tamil right? Because it is so far denied or not recognized. This right is and should be equal to the Sinhalese. Although I used the word ‘modern’ for clarification, it is not always a necessarily qualification/description.

              It is clear from your statements that you are a believer of ‘traditional homeland of the Tamil people.’ This is obviously not modern and in my view is not reasonable as a right but there is a possibility of accommodating some of its aspects. Why accommodate? You have given some reasons as threats for security and identity particularly since 1950s. This does not necessarily lead to the conclusion of having a merged province of North-East. Around 30 percent of the SL Tamils are outside these two provinces. This is apart from Muslims living outside. Where is their homeland? Homeland concept is a messy concept and also conflictual. This is always a problem when people claim rights based on actual or perceived tradition. Recognition of Buddhism as state religion is also such a claimed right. Most of the rights claimed on the basis of tradition are conflictual.

              Of course you have very clearly expressed and I appreciate that you “don’t look at the devolution of power for North East based on race or religion.” You say, “I look at it as an administrative division where Tamil being the official language similar to Sinhala in the rest of the island…” But don’t you think that there is some ambiguity in that? Official language should be for the country not for a region or administrative division. If the official language in the North-East is Tamil and rest of the country is Sinhalese, then the Sinhalese speakers in the N-E and the Tamil speakers in rest of the country might be automatically discriminated. I also think that in the case of official language and also in the medium of higher education we should go beyond Sinhala and Tamil for English also. If you have noticed my proposals for the official language, I have proposed to have all three languages as official languages.

              Coming back to the rationale for provincial divisions, the best policy is to accept the present demarcations and accommodate other concerns within them. If I may take your linguistic concern, then you have two provinces with majority Tamil speakers and you have seven provinces with majority Sinhala speakers, but official languages are Tamil, English and Sinhalese in all these. In Switzerland, there are only four languages, but there are 26 Cantons. There is no need to lump provinces based on majority language of the provinces.

              I completely agree with the spirit of your last few sentences in respect of equal rights and ‘bilingualism.’ I would rather emphasize multilingualism. If there is political will I am sure that this can be achieved rapidly under modern technological circumstances. I beg your pardon if I have inadvertently misinterpreted you or neglected any of your points. We all have limited capacities and time.


              • 0

                Dear Dr. Laksiri,
                Thank you for your response and clarifications.
                I strongly believe that a devolution of power in a merged North East Region is the right approach towards solving the problems that was created by the state. I agrre with Nathan that any problem solving approach should start from looking at the fundamental cause of the problem and to address those issues. The purpose of devolution is to make sure that the state should not involve in changing the demography at least in the future in the traditional homeland of Tamil speaking people. I am not saying that North East should only for Tamil speaking people or South should only for Sinhalese. I am sure the multicultural, multilingual, multi relegious NorthEast region will flourish economically, culturally and politically if it is allowed.
                I still don’t understand how the Sinhalese speakers in a merged North East will be discriminated. You must be assuming that the administrators of the North East (Tamils) will discriminate Sinhalese and Muslims. It clearly shows that there are issues with Trust because the events happened in the past and our individual experiences have some influence in our thoughts.
                It is true that we all have limitations in our abilities and no one is perfectly right or wrong.

                • 0

                  Dear Ajith,

                  Sorry if I am probing too much. I would not have major reservations on the merger, (1) if the two provinces were administratively contiguous and (2) if the Muslim factor was not there. My concern for the Muslims there is not ‘crocodile.’ On the first point, please look at the geography of the two provinces. My main concern in the present article was on ‘balanced regional development.’ If the two provinces are merged, it would be extremely difficult to rectify the existing imbalances and even they might exacerbate. Look at the distance from Jaffna to Batticaloa for example. On the second point, the East might give some ease for the Muslims even if it is not completely adequate. In terms of reconciliation, I have pointed out two principles: (1) recognition of identities and (2) trying to transcend them as much as possible. The East can be a good ‘experiment’ or example in reconciliation between the three communities since all three communities are in a balance. This is not a justification of any ‘forced alteration’ of demography but the acceptance of the present reality. I am not saying these not as a ‘pundit’ but fortunately or unfortunately this is my subject. Thanks for your valuable inputs.

                  I’ll try to attach a map below, but I am not sure whether it would stick or our stubborn CT Editor would allow it!

                  • 1

                    Dear Laksiri,

                    I completely agree that the disparity of income should should be minimised but I am not sure that the balanced economic development is the best way to do that. It needs lot of thinking, analysis and discusions by experts and I don’t this is the best place for that. The analysis of GDP share and the population share since 1990 is not sufficient make any conclusions about balance growth development. We should go back to the period before conflict. I strongly believe the conflict since 1950s must have had significant contribution towards the decline of GDP share and population share. Further, western region should be considered as a special and should not be usedin comparision becuase Colombo is the capital city where the investments are centred.Further, there are a number of huge challenges barriers at the centre such as institutionalised, politicised race based infrastrures (99% Sinhalese only military, the influence of relegion on state decisions, unstopable corruption etc.), the rivalry of power politics and its influence on law and order including justice. The role and the power of the centre is very important and the regions or provinces should have sufficient autonomy (with minimal and essential interference)to make their decisions. If we are going a balanced growth we also need a balance representation in the centre.
                    I would like to propose the following:

                    Power should be devolved to Four regions including North East as one. Colombo city should come under the governance of Central administration.Outer areas of Western province should go with neighboring regions. Each region should be equally represented to form the centre. The security, Finance, citizenship should be under the control of centre. The citizens of Srilanka should have the right to live, study, work etc. in any party of the country/region. Each region should be represented in the security forces of the centre.

                    • 0

                      Dear Ajith,

                      Thanks for your response. I think we have expressed our views enough. Better we agree to disagree on some points for the moment.


            • 1

              Sinhala ONly ACT – you cant put the blame on this since it was bound to that era -where there had been hatred against colonial masters by indegineous people to that time. This was common to any country which had been colonised. Later only that normalized. Even today, we see, some represetatives of the society,are ready to call it ” that western coutnries will invade us”. Latter is abused more for their political survivial rather than for anything.

              Rajakashe and Wimal Buruwanse only lived abusing western invasion. So the gulliable voters thought immediately, Rajakashes would not have been won, things would develop towards the invasion. Today the people of this country should be very clear that billas stammered by Rajakashe men were blatant lies.
              They did not know how to handle it with the international communtiy the way they moved forward with external affairs.
              As some discussions proved themselves, much is achieved by the current consensual politics but much more is to be achieved if people s final goal is peace for all in this country

        • 1

          Muslims in Sri Lanka area ethnically Tamil. They have been brainwashed by their selfish power hungry southern based elite to think that they are Arabs/Moors, hate their actual Tamil/Dravidian origin and love and worship anything remotely connected with Arab. Arabs are only a small minority amongst the world’s Muslims. Most Muslims in the world do not speak Arabic and do not identify themselves in anyway with the Arabs. In fact their large and powerful Muslims neighbours like the Turks Kurds and Iranians hate the Arabs. Most of the world’s Muslims live in the Indian subcontinent and in Indonesia and not in the Middle east or western Asia.
          Just because Islam originated in the Arabian peninsular and Arab traders introduced Islam to South India and the island and a few of them married with local women. A little bit of Arab or a very distant male ancestor amongst a few hundred Muslim families does not make them Arabs or Moors. As per their logic the Christians in the island are all Europeans or Jews and White Europeans introduced the religion to the island and Lord Jesus was a Jew. As proof of this European ancestry they could show the few thousand half/quarter caste Burghers.
          The British and later the Sinhalese used this Arab origin lie regarding the Island’s Muslims that was deliberately perpetuated by their elite to divide and rule the island’s Tamils on the basis of religion caste and region. This suited their agenda and their agenda too.

  • 1

    No devolution is required for development in Sri Lanka and instead it is a huge administrative cost for a country like Sri Lanka and also devolution makes additional procedures and makes hindrance to easy passage which is already happening.

    Devolution is an utter waste of resources in Sri Lanka for the administration as because of particular ethnic group is asking, it cannot be happened.

    No devolution on ethnic lines and no devolution at all.

    • 2

      As Nimal Wijetunga says, it is a stupid mythical belief of the so-called socialoligsts (social engineers) that what is required for economic development of the poor is division of states to micro-states.

      Laksiri Fernando of this tribe says: That is the objective of [S13] ‘balanced regional development’ which can hardly be achieved under a complete unitary state.”

      This is utter nonsense. Why cant development be achieved in a “unitary state” of Sri Lanka that is only slightly larger than a betel leaf? What about the loss of economies of scale that are lost when each village is made an autonomous ‘state’ of Sri lanka.

      The division of countries in to microstates is an imperialist plot that goes back 600 years as the obvious means of “divide and rule”. Only they benefit from it. The most recent example of South Sudan is a good example.

      Laksiri Fernando should explain how devolution would solve the primary problem of resource scarcity (caused by colonial plunder and ongoing exploitation)that is the root problem of poor countries.

      Lack original thinking (like Laksiri’s idea shows) comes a close second!

    • 1

      Nimal Wijetunga,

      There is a relative truth in what you say that when provincial councils were set up there were higher administrative costs. There are figures compiled. But those ‘costs’ should have been and should be considered as input or investment. Provincial councils also created gainful employment for many local people and that was a merit. The problem was that there were no planned efforts to reap better and higher results. That is a predicament even in central administration. During the initial decade or so many administrative officers or provincial politicians could not understand the system. Public servants were reluctant to move out of Colombo because of self-interests e.g. children’s schooling etc. This is still a problem.

      Administrative officers and professionals (teachers, doctors, engineers etc.) are reluctant to go and serve the provinces although they might come from there, because there are no proper facilities. But unless they go, the facilities also cannot be built in the regions. This is a vicious cycle and unless we break this cycle there cannot be balanced development. I am talking about balanced development, you are talking about just development. Although I have not discussed in the present article, devolution is also can check the adverse population migration to the Western province.

      You also lament about ‘devolution making additional procedures’ and ‘hindering easy passage.’ Both concerns appear to be influenced by the so-called ‘merits’ of arbitrary management. Perhaps ‘Divineguma’ can be one example. In my view, it lead to waste and corruption and also to high costs because of travel and subsidies, not to speak of corruption. In development, what is important is people and their needs, not mere figures or buildings.

      Devolution is not for a particular ethnic group although it is part of the need and its justification. Devolution in many forms (federalism, decentralization, local government, regional/provincial councils) have been in our discussions since 1930s. I have never argued for purely ethnic devolution. However, I have no objection for any ethnic group asking for it, even Sinhalese! In my view, devolution should be on the basis of the existing nine provinces. That is the most simple and direct approach. We also need to understand, for various reasons, the SL Tamil community wants to have some form autonomy. Extreme views we can reject, but their reasonable feelings and one may say ‘aspirations’ should be accommodated. I am using ‘we’ as Sri Lankans. I don’t know whether you knew about my positions during the war. Although I am normally reluctant to talk about myself, I was one who strongly advocated defeating the LTTE/terrorism when they were not willing for a reasonable solution. I am also on record advocating the possibility of defeating the LTTE. That is now over. Tamil people are different. Their reasonable aspirations should be recognized for the unity, reconciliation and justice in the country.

      • 1

        Dear Prof. Laksiri,
        You have stated that you had strongly advocated defeating LTTE terrorism when they were not willing for a reasonable solution. The internatinal community gave the green light and actively supported Srilanka Government when LTTE or rather Prabakaran refused to accept a federal solution to a merged north and east. Once again international community was given the assurance by the present government that they will settle Tamil problem along that line. Will you advocate defeating State terrorism when Sinhalese people through their government are not willing for a reasonable solution advocated by them. Only way Sinhala terrorism on Tamils could be defeated is by international military intervention. Will you find fault with Tamils if they request for international military intervention to save them from Sinhala terrorism.

  • 1

    Dr RN,


    But a National Planning Commission centralizes and thwart Devolution.

    This is the lesson India learnt at a cost.

    In India, Finance Commission is a constitutional creation.

    They have state Finance Commissions too that looks into fiscal devolution to Panchayats and other local Government bodies.

    The Finance Commission encourages devolution whereas Planning Commissions encourages Centralization?

    Which one we prefer- Unitary or Federal?.

    Indian Planning Commission is created outside the Indian Constitution, but a very powerful body, that allocates bulk of financial resources.

    The Indian Planning Commission is a pet commission created by Jawaharlal Nehru soon after India became a Republic.

    Jawaharlal Nehru was an admirer of Soviet Union and other Eastern European Communist Countries.

    Nehru was in haste to develop India quickly.

    India had formulated a series of Five Year Plans and the bulk of financial allocations were through the Planning Commission in India.

    That looks at things mainly on efficiency criteria.

    The States were not happy about the crucial role played by the Planning Commission.

    Narendra Mody, former Chief Minister of Gujarat was so unhappy with the pivotal role of Planning Commission had as a priority as Prime Minister, had abolished the Planning Commission and now the states in India have a better say in development issues.

    We in Sri Lanka have to decide ourselves after learning lessons from others countries and take appropriate actions.

    • 2


      Thanks. I am sure that pitfall can be avoided by establishing independent Provincial Planning Commissions that through a suitable mechanism become vital components of the National Planning Commission. The provincial needs and perspectives should dictate the contours of the national pie and not vice versa.

      Further, the mechanism should restrain politicians at the center and the periphery wasting public resources on White Elephants like the Hambanthota port, Airport, cricket stadium and international cricket stadium, to name the most recent. I have serious reservations about the port city project, now renamed the Financial City Project, because of its likely environmental impact. Further, why should it be located in Colombo, given the size of our island. Further, we can yet find 300 ha of land at a reasonable distance from Colombo, unlike Singapore, without the need to tamper with our nature shaped coast line.

      I must also point out that the five year plans of the National Planning Commission in India, laid the foundations for India to enter the world stage as an industrial power. Diverse parts of India were brought to the point of take off, in parallel.

      Your further thoughts on this topic will be welcome.


  • 0

    devolution is the only way forward for this country.devolve and evolve, so that we don’t revolve round and round the mulberry bush singing here we go gathering nuts in may,nuts in may,nuts in may……….

    for those who oppose devolution,their is only one other alternative to it which is centralisation of powers.we tried centralisation after independence tearing up any proposals for devolution,resulting in revolution,two in south and one in north,which we put down brutally with losses to the whole country.

    Now to satisfy those who oppose devolution,we have to conduct the same experiment of centralisation,hoping that this time we will get another result different from the first experiment,which einstein defined as insanity.

    If we discard the 13th amendment without progressively making it better and going on the path of devolution,we will again get the same result, revolution.

    for those who say centralisation has worked in many countries in cluding singapore,i would say to them look at the history of each country.They differ so vastly from each other.Our history has been a very complex one with three kingdoms before the british amalgamated them with force,so after the british left the pressure is great to get back to what it was unless we use the thread of devolution to stitch them back together again.That is what india did treading the path of devolution,while we went with the opposite alternative.

    India’s experiment worked,ours didn’t.So the nuts here want to try again the failed experiment of centralisation,hoping to get a different result.

  • 2

    Dr Laksiri Fernando,

    I am sorry for the careless wording in my comment.

    Since your article dealt mainly about regional development, I wanted to support your argument by pointing out much emphasis is given to Balanced Regional Development in 13A at the expense of a solution to the ethnic problem.

    A perusal of the List 1-Provincial Council List clearly indicates that the items are purely economic in nature which if handled properly would have facilitated regional development.

    The 13A as per se is a satisfactory solution to the national question.

    It was word by word copied from the Indian Constitution.But not the Act No 42

    Fortunately the power sharing arrangement in the Indian constitution is acceptable in letter and sprite to almost everyone in India-Politicians, bureaucrats, judiciary.

    But in Sri Lanka it is not so. We must accept this self evident fact.

    The 13 A is still taboo in Sri Lanka to the majority community. It is not really acceptable to the members of the majority community-Politians, bureaucrats, Judiciary and so on. That had made 13 A unworkable.

    When it is so,it is foolish to think in terms of a federal solution. It will be made unworkable from day one.

    The Tamils themselves showed indifference to make 13A workable. It is the tragedy.

    If the Tamils imaginatively approached the whole question, the result would have been different. Other Provincial Councils also would have rallied around the Tamils and small improvements would have been possible.

    A Paradigm shift is essential for Tamils to re-examine and re-formulate their strategy with out of the box thinking.

    Let the Tamils start with a zero base and move in a new but different direction.

    • 0


      I perfectly understand. I also took the opportunity to clarify some matters on my part.


  • 1

    Devolution has so many names: same context. As been said in Scandinavia: “A loved and cared child has many names”. On that alone…, Sri Lankans deserves devolution; so many names; they as persons been endowed with.

    Human resources and raw material are part and parcel in development which has no secrets. The whole country is now a free trade zone. The unit of devolution (UOD), the Province, remains isolated as it ignores the districts in the same province. This (UOD) on paper, ignoring the validity of one district to the other as one being better, sets back the tasks for devolution on paper. It is already there, if only Colombo deciding to let go, sooner the better, instead of piling “chokker blocks”, all the way.

    As the country is a free trade zone now, one could ask: Who decided to “put the cart before the bull”? The decision was to pave the way, for devolution? The war made a dent.

  • 2

    Dr RN,

    I make it very brief.

    Let me call Balanced Regional Development as Balanced Regional Economic Growth to facilitate my argument.

    Let us have a Central Planning Commission and forget about Balance Regional Economic Growth because it is an unattainable goal.Uneven economic growth is the norm.
    Here I refer to only economic growth,not to other aspects of development like education, health,sports, culture, gender, environment, human rights etc those should be equitably spread throughout the island.

    The economic Growth in one region should benefit all regions equitably.

    A Central Planning Commission with experts and international input is essential for rapid growth that will minimize racist tendencies.

  • 0

    Dr Laksiri Fernando lives in a cloud-cookoo land. In every country in the world, capitalist or socialist,rich or poor,developed or developing,western or eastern, democratic or autocratic, in the past immemorial or present there is, and has been, concentration of wealth, and power in cities and urbanised areas. This disparity is more stark in Australia, New Zealand, Canada which are less industrialised than Western Europe and USA. In UK poverty, low pay and unemployment are higher in regions remote from London . In the federal USA there is a marked contrast in wealth and job opportunities from state to state.
    In India despite regional autonomy for65 years the gap between rich and poor states has grown wider.
    I fear that Dr Laksiri is disingenuous in beating the drum of devolution at a time when the current government is attempting to enact a constitution formulated/drafted with the guidance of the west and USA on ethnic lines.

    • 0

      Better tax systems manage them not allowing richer in the west as a whole. Else, the poverty levels would end up the way seen in India. In Germany, more you earn more taxes you need to pay. That is the same in Denmark and few other countries though Swiss tax system makes it different for the swiss depending on the bezirk administrative region you are registered for the job.
      Ruwan is right about asymetric distribution of wealth on those countries if the rulers would not introduced proper tax systems.
      In srilanka, they the normal workers are not entitled to pay taxes. Say teachers, Engineers or others dont pay taxes the way Germans orother europeans are compelled to do. Now it is high time them to pay taxes for the benefit of the development of the country. VAT is the start but just VAT would not bring the targeted income to the govt.

  • 1

    “I fear that Dr Laksiri is disingenuous in beating the drum of devolution..”

    Not only “disingenuous”, he is corrupt and can be identified as a “Wolf in Sheep’s clothing”. Most likely, when it concerns about the land of Sinhala-Buddhists, he has “got a chip on the shoulder’.

  • 2

    Well said Mr Ruwan Semasinghe!

    I disagree with you only on your last paragraph.

    New constitution is subject to referendum and therefore your fears are unfounded.

    Remember the last two constitutions were framed by political parties solely in the interest of their political party, excluding the rival political parties and all minorities.

    Let us have a new all inclusive, consensus constitution with inputs from all political parties including joint opposition and all minority communities.

    Why not optimistically participate in this noble venture!

  • 0

    We all agree that development should take place. This is what MR was trying to do.

    No-one has put forward the scheme of “Development before Devolution” . Admittedly the interested parties feel that Development will dilute the hunger for devolution but this is just the point.

    Development before Devolution.
    Development before Devolution.
    Development before Devolution.

    Some of the United States want to cecede but not seriously since they have common economic good. (source: Wikipedia)

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  • 0

    The “Laksiri Fernando and Ajith” both are always speaking on behalf of rights of Tamils and Muslims in Sri lanka.

    Indeed two of the these Christen democratic political classes of petty bourgeoisie thinking tank and denied majority of Sinhalese people survival of an Island.

    They intentionally and by willing to be encourage and manage the tension between Tamis, and Muslims with Sinhalese majority-Buddhist.

    They have three options;

    1 They want Sinhalese-Buddhist restrict democracy for Sinhalese
    majority in parliament. And confined Sinhalese broad politics of
    into their residents.

    2 Minimizing globe role of Sinhalese, disregards the economic and
    social development by attacking democracy legitimacy at their home

    3 Both of them Laksisri.F & Ajith do as much as globalize USA, UK and
    Indian hegemony and pave way for UNP regime in power at cost of
    the sovereignty of Sri Lankan.

    This road map that by the political projects of US and Indian have hypergloblization, democracy and nation sovereignty all at once.
    We can have at most two out of three. We want democracy and nation state with political and economic sovereignty.

    The “name of rights of Tamils and Muslims” in that US hegemony by Laksiri and Ajith want the costs of sovereignty have been encouraged by partition state will be interfered by US military base in Island.

    Both of them we can now that envisage right of minority of this sort, which Ranil.www of UNP,CBK and MS will reinforced the US and Indian smooth functioning of foreign capital market in Sri lanka.

    If US and Indian hegemonies of occupy our soil the so-called globalization and democracy ,but only if you keep right of self-determination our nation at bay.

  • 0

    Living abroad, you are out of touch with reality. The Primary reason no investor wants to invest outside a BOI zone is political interference and bribery. Do a Google search on the number of crimes committed by Pradeshiya Sabha Chairman. One man celebrated his 100th rape of a virgin. Another invaded a Christmas party in Tangalle and raped a the Russian girl friend after killing the British Tourist.

    The Provincial Councils have become white elephants mostly run by thugs involved in Drugs, illicit liquor, illicit felling of trees, illegal filling of paddy lands and protected water retention areas.

    The Prime Minister is on the correct track in establishing industrial zones and the Colombo Financial Centre, on the one stop shop concept, out side the reach of bribe takers. Devolution is not the path for development. It is the path to proliferate crooked politicians running around in high powered duty free SUVs at the expense of the taxpayer.

  • 1

    Mr. D.Nimal

    Thank you for making the following observations. You are not alone.

    “1) They want Sinhalese-Buddhist restrict democracy for Sinhalese majority in parliament. And confined Sinhalese broad politics of into their residents.
    2 Minimizing globe role of Sinhalese, disregards the economic and social development by attacking democracy legitimacy at their home land.
    3 Both of them Laksisri.F & Ajith do as much as globalize USA, UK and Indian hegemony and pave way for UNP regime in power at cost of the sovereignty of Sri Lankan.”

    I have said before and I will say it again; Laksiri is a product of Sworn enemies of Sinhala-Buddhists. Ajith has joined the bandwagon. They will not relax their anti Sinhala-Buddhist campaign in any foreseeable future.

  • 1

    Dear Laksiri Fernando,

    I came across the following response for your article, it is an intriguing one.

    “My dear messenger Laksiri, if separatists and the chauvinist Tamil politicians, REALLY BELIEVED in the 13th AMENDMENT as a solution to their problems, they would have NOT ASSASSINATED Prime Minister Rajiv Ghandhi; the main man responsible for the idea.”

    I also understand the devolution package in 1987 for the ethnic crisis in Sri Lanka was the brainchild of Hon. Rajiv Ghandhi. It has not been publicly acknowledged by the Sri Lankan side. My question is why people of any ethnicity believe in this proposal when LTTE Tamil leaders are responsible for assignation of Hon.Rajiv Ghandhi. Why would they do it when he was trying to help them. It Does not make any sense.

    • 1

      Dear Prof. Ramakrishna,

      True it was Hon. Rajiv Ghandhi who prompted the 13th Amendment in 1987 through the Indo-Lanka Agreement. Even otherwise, it has its own merits and it was in line with many of the discussions that have taken place prior to the agreement. President J. R. Jayewardene allowed me to go through his files in April 1993 which contained correspondence between the two and some other documents even before opening his archives. Therefore I have a good sense of the connection. Some militant groups accepted the 13A but not the LTTE. The LTTE didn’t believe in it. However I believe they killed Rajiv Ghandhi not merely because of the 13A but also because of sending the IPKF and some other matters. I think I have seen the ‘intriguing response’ you have quoted, but it was beyond reasonable premises for me to answer. I also don’t have time to answer all the questions/responses. The response says and you also imply ‘Tamil politicians’ and ‘Tamil leaders’ are responsible for the assassination. This is not correct in my opinion. Even if it is the case, it is not a reason to throw the baby with the bathwater, (1) the principles of the 13A has merits in resolving the problems of the Tamil people and (2) it has merits for regional balanced development for all people in the country. The second was my main argument in the present article.

      You may be right in saying that the assassination of Mr Ghandhi does not make sense as ‘he was trying to help them.’ I have seen him in Delhi at the Society for International Development (SID) conference in 1990 and he was an impressive visionary. However, the Tamil community or the (present) Tamil political leaders are not responsible for the Rajiv Ghandhi killing. A criticism nevertheless can be that they have not condemned the assassination enough or drawn the lessons enough of that henious crime of the LTTE.

      • 0

        Dear Dr.Laksiri Fernando;

        Thank you for the response. At least you have acknowledged the contribution of former PM Rajiv Gandhi. Now, I wonder why one should pursue to enhance or to implement 13th Amendment. The factors and the political/security background that triggered 13th Amendment are no longer there. GOSL, SL Military Forces and the majority Sinhalese are in very stronger position. No devolution will take place without the blessings of Majority Sinhalese.
        We have to be realistic, especially the Tamil Political leadership needs to be more innovative within a framework acceptable to Majority Sinhalese. I hope you understand my argument.

  • 2

    Dear Dr. Laksiri Fernando;

    You have finally got courage to respond to the observation I made when it was re-submitted by Prof. Ramakrishna. Nevertheless thank you. JRJ may have shown the files with relevant material but the fact remains, 13th amendment was the brainchild of Hon. Rajiv Gandhi. (I had the privilege of corresponding with this great son if India and his mother), They strongly believed that Sri Lanka is a SOVERIEGN UNITARY STATE and it should remain so. The same cardinal principle was expressed by his mother Hon. Indira Gandhi and the current Prime Minister of India Hon. Narendra Modhi. In reality, the Indian leaders have protected and assured our Sovereignty and Unitary status compared to the actions of some nefarious political leaders (four of them)with the caliber of Don Juan Dharmapala.

    I would like to emphasize that 13th Amendment was not introduced as a solution to the ethnic conflict between Tamil and Sinhala people, but it was meant to be a diversion to slow down LTTE ferocious onslaught on highly disorganized and ill equipped Sri Lankan Military forces and IPKF with no knowledge of the TOPOGRAOHIC maps of the battle field.

    If SLMF and IPKF were able to eliminate LTTE, then there would not have been any discussion on the 13th Amendment or devolution of power.13th Amendment is flawed right at the beginning because the objective did not have any valid or legal base. In a virtuous forum of gentleman, the 13th Amendment must be thrown into the garbage can. JRJ or his associates or his followers lack the qualities of true gentlemen such as Hon. D.S.Senanayake, Hon. Dudley Senanayake or Sir John Kotalawela.

    My point is there is no LTTE now and there is no threat to Security of our motherland/her people as long as we keep our heroic SLMF alert, ready and well equipped. So don’t try to resurrect 13th amendment to appease the proxies of LTTE; including all Tamil speaking chauvinist politicians and some segments of “Diaspora”.

    You have stated;

    “You may be right in saying that the assassination of Mr Ghandhi does not make sense as ‘he was trying to help them.’ I have seen him in Delhi at the Society for International Development (SID) conference in 1990 and he was an impressive visionary. However, the Tamil community or the (present) Tamil political leaders are not responsible for the Rajiv Ghandhi killing. A criticism nevertheless can be that they have not condemned the assassination enough or drawn the lessons enough of that henious crime of the LTTE.”

    How can you be so sure that present political are not responsible for the killing of Rajiv Gandhi. Some of them were the surrogates representing Prabhakaran, when he was the biggest Kahuna in the North and Eastern province. They were the cheer leaders and you have made an attempt to sugar coat the bitter past and dress them in sheep’s clothing. It will not work and it should not work.

    GOSL is in a stronger position now to ensure the safety and security for all Sri Lankans from Dondra to Point Pedro compared to that of 1977-2009. So we need new thinking not the flawed and bending-backward policies for appeasing the separatists.

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