By R.M.B Senanayake –
It would appear that the Government is going ahead on amending the 13th Amendment. The Thirteenth Amendment is an agreement between the Sinhalese and Tamil political parties backed by India. The Indian Government pressurized the LTTE to accept it although they did not do so in good faith.
Article 154(G)(3) is a safeguard built into the provisions of the Constitution to safeguard and preserve the devolution of power to the Provincial Councils. It prevents the central government from legislating on subjects allocated to the Provincial Councils (PCs) without first obtaining the consent of all PCs. In the event where one or more PC does not consent to a proposed bill, the central government has the option to either pass the bill by a simple majority, in which event the bill will become law applicable only to the Provinces for which the PCs agreed to the bill, or to do so by a two thirds majority in which case the bill will become law applicable to the entire country.
This move to do away with this provision shows that the Sinhala political leadership will not keep its word. In 1958 the B_C Pact was unilaterally abrogated by SWRD and in 1966 Dudley Senanayake and Chelvanayagam gave up the Agreement they had come to because of the same opposition by the Buddhist monks, who are the opinion makers for the Sinhalese people. In the 1980s the devolution of power to the District Development Councils was undermined and ultimately they were scrapped.
In 1987/88 the Sinhalese political leadership agreed to the 13th Amendment devolution proposals and enacted them into law. This was also under the sponsorship of the Indian Government which pressurized the LTTE to accept it. There were problems in implementing it however because of the Concurrent List which required attention to make clear the powers of the Provincial Councils. Now instead their powers are to be emasculated and the very existence of Devolution of Power to the Provincial Councils is at peril. It will give an excuse to the Tamil politicians and parties to reject and boycott the PCs and after election to the Northern PC they may well agitate outside it in other fora both locally and internationally.
Keeping one’s word of honor or abiding in good faith seems to be an ethical value not in the conduct of relations of the ancient Sinhala State with other States or with its own citizens. A friend of mine once suggested to me that keeping ones word is not an ethical value in either Hinduism or Buddhism which makes social intercourse with them unreliable.
What this action also shows is that the Sinhalese will not treat the Tamils as a distinct ethnic group with legitimacy for their rights to language, religion and culture to be safeguarded. The UN Declarations respects such rights and does not permit discrimination against minorities. The breach of faith by Sinhalese governments ( not only Sinhalese political leaders) will convey the message to the International community that there is no worth in any undertakings of the Sinhala majoritarian governments. This would strengthen the case for an independent Tamil state in the eyes of the International Community. It is a situation similar to the Kurds who were discriminated against by Iraq, Syria and Iran. They were militarily harassed in Turkey. So the UN established Kurdistan as an autonomous region and now the Kurds from Turkey have also moved into Kurdistan. We may be digging our own grave. Note that China has supported the UN sanctions against North Korea its closest ally.