22 September, 2018

Blog

Delayed 19th Amendment Highlighted Root Course Of Ethnic Minority Problem

By Jehan Perera

Jehan Perera

There has been an unexplained delay in the government’s plan to present a 19th Amendment to the constitution as an urgent bill to Parliament. As a result there is speculation that the government might have postponed its presentation, at least for the time being.  There had been opposition from both ethnic minority political parties and the government’s own left wing parties to the passage of the 19th Amendment which seeks to weaken the 13th Amendment.  It is possible that internal dissension is the cause of the delay.  However, President Mahinda Rajapaksa also declared he knew how to obtain a two-thirds majority in Parliament. He repeated this assertion at the Government Parliamentary Group last Monday at the Presidential Secretariat. He also added that if needed he would also be able to get some votes from the main opposition United National Party (UNP) parliamentarians.

Therefore it is more likely than not that external factors rather than internal factors have been the determining factor in the government’s decision to delay the passage of the 19th Amendment.  India has clearly expressed its unhappiness at developments in Sri Lanka.  This is evident in a statement issued by the Indian government following a meeting last week between Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and a visiting TNA delegation.  The statement noted that “The Prime Minister conveyed to the TNA delegation that he was dismayed by reports suggesting that the Government of Sri Lanka planned to dilute certain key provisions of the 13th Amendment to the Sri Lankan Constitution ahead of elections to the Northern Provincial Council. It was noted that the proposed changes raised doubts about the commitments made by the Sri Lankan Government to India and the international community, including the United Nations, on a political settlement in Sri Lanka that would go beyond the 13th Amendment. The changes would also be incompatible with the recommendation of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC), set up by the Government of Sri Lanka, calling for a political settlement based on the devolution of power to the provinces.”

These Indian concerns were also reflected in the strong stand taken by Opposition Leader Ranil Wickemesinghe in Parliament opposing the proposed 19th Amendment.  He said, “We have to stick to the commitments made to the international community and act on them.  We cannot deviate from such commitments.”  He also added that it would be a sin if the government were to unilaterally back off or renege on its promises.  He also pledged his party’s support to the government to stick to the promises it had made to the international community.  The strongly moral stance of the Opposition Leader’s speech is reflective of the breakdown of trust that needs to be rebuilt with both the international community and with the country’s own ethnic minorities.

Politically Popular

Although the government started out with an ambitious plan to remove police and land powers from the provincial councils, do away with the need to get the consent of all provincial councils to pass legislation that impacted upon them, and to prohibit the merger of any two or more provinces to form a larger entity, it decided to drop the first two items.  Both of these items have to do with the power of the provincial councils to govern themselves and to protect themselves from central government encroachment on their powers. This amendment would not be popular with the existing tier of provincial council politicians who would not wish to be robbed of their powers.  Therefore the government decided to focus only upon the issue of the merger of two or more provinces. The only two provinces likely to seek a merger with each other are the Northern and Eastern provinces which are both provinces in which the ethnic minorities predominate.

The proposed 19th Amendment epitomizes what the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka is about.  At the root of Sri Lanka’s three decade long war is the existence of an ethnic conflict in which the political representatives of the three major ethnic communities (Sinhalese, Tamil and Muslim) took up conflicting positions on important political issues, such as language, public sector employment and land settlement.  As the Sinhalese people constitute over 75 percent of the population, their representatives have a permanent majority in Parliament to overcome ethnic minority dissent whenever the vote divided on ethnic lines.   It is the imposition of the will of the ethnic majority over the ethnic minorities, time and again, that fuelled the demand for ethnic separatism and eventually for an independent Tamil Eelam.

The merger of the Northern and Eastern provinces has been a long standing demand of the Tamil political parties and has become akin to an article of faith with most of the Tamil population in the two provinces.  It was also a demand of the Tamil militant organizations that engaged in violence for an independent state of Tamil Eelam.  Even today the EPDP which is a close ally in the government coalition continues to stand for the merger of the Northern and Eastern provinces.  In these circumstances, the prohibition on any two more provinces to merge in the future will not be a consensual decision.  On the other hand, the merger of the Northern and Eastern provinces is seen as dangerous by the government and most Sinhalese people, as paving the way to the creation of a separate state of Tamil Eelam.  Due to this factor, the proposed 19th Amendment will be a popular one with the majority of the Sinhalese people.  Neither will it be opposed by any of the seven Sinhalese-dominated provincial councils, as none of them have shown any interest in merging with each other. Therefore the passage of the 19th Amendment will be politically advantageous to the government in consolidating its support amongst the Sinhalese majority.

Minority Concurrence

The Muslim position in relation to the merger of the Northern and Eastern provinces is an ambiguous one.  They would not wish to be dominated by the Tamil majority in a merged North East Province.  The SLMC has insisted that in the event of a merger, the Muslim majority areas within the province should be given the status of a separate Muslim-dominated provincial council.  They have also stipulated that event those areas in the Northern and Eastern provinces that are not geographically connected should be brought under the ambit of the Muslim-dominated provincial council.   By implication, closing the door on the merger of the Northern and Eastern provincial councils will also preclude the possibility of a Muslim-dominated provincial council.  Although a member of the government coalition, the SLMC has expressed its opposition to the 19th Amendment and its provision to prohibit the merger of any two or more provinces.  Therefore, it is clear that if the 19th Amendment is passed it will be in opposition to the wishes of the ethnic minorities.

Shortly after the war ended President Mahinda Rajapaksa on behalf of the government promised the international community and the Sri Lankan people that a political solution would soon be found that had the backing of all communities.  This position was reiterated this week in a media interview given by the President’s brother and Defense Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa.  “When it was pointed out that President Rajapaksa had assured India as well as other countries that his government would offer 13th Amendment Plus, the Defense Secretary said that what the President had meant was that he would give a better solution acceptable to all communities.”   This provides the right understanding that any change in the constitution relevant to the ethnic conflict would be taken in consensus with the ethnic minorities and not unilaterally.  With the proposed 19th Amendment, Sri Lanka was once again taking the road of unilateral Sinhalese decision making over the objections of the country’s ethnic minorities.  It now appears that the possibility of an Indian boycott of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting has motivated the government to postpone the introduction of the 19th Amendment.  The better path would be for the government to heed the words of the President after the end of the war and instead forge a solution that has the concurrence of the ethnic minorities also.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Latest comments

  • 0
    0

    Ethnic minorities should move out of the country if they have a problem.

    • 0
      0

      Absolutely.

      But that requires DIGNITY which is in short supply among them.

  • 0
    0

    Why is it that Christian/Catholic religious leaders and followers are the ones to be speaking on behalf of the Tamils …. because they have an agenda.

    PLEAS REPLACE THE WORD TAMIL with EThnic minorities.

  • 0
    0

    JEHAN PERERA, READ THIS:

    ” As an Indian … I think the Hindus are getting a raw deal in India
    Christians are converting people en masse
    Hindus who cry foul are called racist….

    Hindus in Sri Lanka have been taken for a good jolly ride…
    Why is it that Christian/Catholic religious leaders and followers are the ones to be speaking on behalf of the Tamils …. because they have an agenda.

    Were they not helping the LTTE? Yes they were… “

  • 0
    0

    This guy on INGO mafia US$ payroll at all times & is anti-Lankan for more than 03 decades, no wonder what this idiot says go against Sri Lanka as his Bread & Butter come from anti-lanka mafia, but all should know this guy has zero following in Sinhala Sri Lanka; if you like it or not for next million years Sri Lanka will be governed by Sinhalese only, so this joker should never be taken seriously but only as a poor guy writing for his bread & butter, & make no sense or impact.

  • 0
    0

    There was so much Brouhaha about 13A and now a deadly silence. Calm before the storm? The President has spoken and his astrologers have studied the alignment of the planets, so the show will go on. Manmohan the stoic and silent one has uttered a few words and Menon will be calling over for a friendly chat. So all is looking good on the Northern Front.

    Hope our Tamil compatriots will make use of this opportunity to obtain a mandate and build bridges of trust with all communities and people of this nation. We need wisdom and statesmanship. Lets not make the same mistakes again.

    • 0
      0

      If we do the same mistakes it all end up in victory as in May 2009. The minorities surrender with white flags. So why change?

  • 0
    0

    The Indo Lanka Accord(ILA) of 1987, was an agreement between three parties, namely; India, Sri Lanka(SL) and Tamil Liberation Movements(TLM).

    India was the guarantor for the implementation of ILA. Under IPKF, the first elections for the merged Provincial Council of North-East was held and Chief Minister Varatharajaperumal was appointed.

    SL on its part, was to hold a referendum in the East, within one year, ratifying its merger with the North.

    The TLM, refering to the past dishonesty and breach of agreements by the Sinhalese collectively with the Tamils, raised serious doubts and reservations about violation or abandonment of the provisions of ILA, by the Sinhalese, to make ILA a “toothless dog” for Tamils.

    Rajiv Gandhi, the then Prime Minister of India, assured the TLM, TULF and the political leaders of Tamil Nadu, that in such an eventuality, India would support and create Tamil Eelam according to the democratic Tamil Mandate of 1977.

    Since 1987, SL has unilaterally violated the ILA at least 3 times. They are;

    1. Asking IPKF to leave prematurely,
    2. Failing to hold a referendum in the East before
    1988.
    3. De-merging North-East without a referendum.

    Therefore, India is obliged to carry out the promise given by its Prime Minister Rajiv Ghandi.

  • 0
    0

    Dear Jehan Perera,

    Your article is titled: Delayed 19th Amendment Highlighted Root Course Of Ethnic Minority Problem. I appreciate your struggle for gaining at least minimal rights to the minority communities and religions.

    I say it is not: The root cause of the problem is the mind set of the Sinhala Buddhist ruling elite from the time Ceylon, now Sri Lanka, got its independence. At every stage for 65 years they have undermined the rights of the Tamil minority nation and other communities, and it’s continuing at an accelerated pace.

    Truth must be faced before justice can be done, whether it is the injustices to the minorities, war crimes or crimes against humanity committed by the present regime. Truth will set Sri Lanka free, not otherwise.

    The present regime is fooling everybody inside and outside Sri Lanka.
    The question is whether the international community will also keep an eye closed to all the mockery of justice going on.

    • 0
      0

      Well said Thiru.

    • 0
      0

      No. The root cause of the problem is Tamil illegal migration to SL from TN. The war dispatched a million but not all of them.

      • 0
        0

        Root cause is 700 thugs arrival in Lanka. We can do DNA tests and deport all people who have animal genes (lion or fox or Nari) I guess you know how so called Sinhalese got animal genes.
        Then only descendants of Dravidian (Naga, Yaksa, Deva) will remain in Lanka.
        Anura

      • 0
        0

        Muliyawaikkal

        “The war dispatched a million but not all of them.”

        How about the remaining 20 million descendants of Kallthonies?

        When are you going to dispatch them for good?

    • 0
      0

      19th A won’t see the Light. It is a Joint Drama By Givrenment and India
      to fool Sinhalease and Tamils.
      http://www.firstpost.com/world/is-india-party-to-sri-lankas-refusal-of-power-to-the-tamils-901409.html

  • 0
    0

    This learned writer reckons the Provincial Council chiefs must have their own Police and the Titles to common property which belong to all inhabitants,

    The reason he gives is that it protects the CMs from the central Government and stop it encroaching on their rights.

    Not sure who finances the NGO this writer works for.

    But these financiers must be a hell of a powerful lot, for this writer to try and convince the poor inhabitant population that the B grade pollies with dubious Cvs in the provinces love them and look after them better.

    • 0
      0

      R.M.B Senanayake is another and they all all work with the Church.

  • 0
    0

    From the inception of Tamil communal politics there have been concocted ‘root causes’, ‘Sinhala Only’, B/C pact, D/C pact, standardization of education, the diabolical concoction of ‘genocide’ etc. In the future the 13th. amendment will become the ‘root cause’ till the Tamil racist elements find another ‘root cause’ until such time they realize the futility of rebelling about a cause that does not exist.

Leave A Comment

Comments should not exceed 300 words. Embedding external links and writing in capital letters are discouraged. Commenting is automatically shut off on articles after 10 days and approval may take up to 24 hours. Please read our Comments Policy for further details. Your email address will not be published.