26 September, 2018

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Devolution Talk: A Response To Malinda

By Laksiri Fernando

Dr Laksiri Fernando

If I try to sway the ‘Harvard Boy’ to my side of thinking, not necessarily on devolution, then I would ask him to ponder further on the “17th and the 18th syndrome” of Rajapaksa administration. I know it is not an easy task given his political past. Anyway, this is in response to his “Devolution Talk and Devolution Talkers” and his comments on my previous article, “Gotabhaya’s Talk About Abolishing the 13th Amendment,” in it.

The difference between us seems to be mainly based on (a) how we assess the connection between the ‘internal’ and the ‘external’ and (b) how devolution could best be synchronised with ‘grievances,’ development and democracy. Perhaps because of the first factor, he has got rather carried away by my, what he calls ‘gonibilla.’ I do believe that the abrogation of the 13th Amendment would spell disaster for our external relations, especially with India, and ‘gonibillas’ are the things that unfortunately people like GL Peiris understand best. See what Keheliya Rambukwella has been uttering since the controversy.

The 13th Amendment ‘appears an imposition’ because our legal drafters just started copying what is in the Indian Constitution without any creativity, otherwise the essence of the Indo-Lanka Accord could have been transformed into an indigenous product with little ingenuity. Then it would have suited the devolutionary thinking evolving in our own country for some decades. There are no pure indigenous things without external influences.

I am by nature is not a status-quo person, also in relation to the 13th Amendment or devolution, but the ‘as-is situation’ of the provincial council system is not that bad as Seneviratne attempts to picture. He has not given any examples, partial or otherwise. It is not at all a ‘white elephant’ as some people repeat to argue. Corruption is less in the provinces than in the centre. Main weaknesses are mainly due to insufficient resource allocation (around 10 per cent) and the centre grabbing provincial functions like in Divineguma or Agrarian Services. There are alternative possibilities of ‘cooperative devolution,’ even without amending the present constitutional provisions, but those are not pursued for reasons best known to the powers that be. Those were proposed, but not accepted.

Seneviratne should admit that he has substantially a different perspective on the subject which has nothing much to do with the weaknesses of the present system. I have even characterised the 13th Amendment once as ‘bad law.’ But at present, I don’t want to see the situation goes from bad to worse. It is simple as that. It might not be that difficult to analyse a ‘to be situation’ from the present ‘as-is situation.’ But the attempts at present are completely different. Seneviratne says, after agreeing that the present as-is situation is amendable, “that devolution to provinces is antithetical to current economic theory in terms of resource endowment and allocation.” What economic theory he is talking about? This is not clear or explained.

On this debate, there is no need to go to “Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya or the Arctic.” That perhaps shows an attitude, if not a phobia on his part. The main detractors of proper development, stability and people’s sovereignty, if those are the concerns, are within the country and within the ruling clique itself. It is not even the SLFP or the UPFA.
I have no disagreement to admit that grievances, particularly socio-economic ones, are across ethnicities (mainly class and rural), and happy to note that Seneviratne clearly recognizes that Tamils have grievances which needs to be addressed. No problem in accepting that ‘different ways’ should be employed to address the grievances (i.e. devolution, equal opportunity, second chamber, human rights etc.) but difficult to understand however the apparent distinction that he makes between democratization and devolution. What is important at this stage in Sri Lanka is to promote ‘horizontal democracy’ through devolution, for both reconciliation and development. Here is a reference in that respect: http://www.asiantribune.com/news/2011/07/01/strengthening-horizontal-democracy-can-be-way-reconciliation-sri-lanka

Seneviratne seems to be fancy about several ‘academic theories’ on geographical or ecological demarcations of the country for devolution but to me present demarcations are by and large sufficient irrespective of them being ‘colonial-drawn’ unless there are clear suggestions. I myself would not use a term like ‘white-drawn’ as he has used.
Of course, no one can draw an ultimate and direct connection between grievances and what he calls ‘territory-based’ resolution. It is not necessary. It is a question of matrix. His ‘wager’ is largely redundant when other measures are accepted and devolution is also appreciated for other reasons than ethnic grievances. But I dispute his claim that “the majority of [Sri Lankan] Tamils live outside the North and East.” This is not a fact. This is a claim based on 2001 Census which counted only 18 districts. We are still waiting for correct figures for the 2012 Census. I am not a person to jump on other people’s mistakes. Therefore, I leave the matter just there, for him to verify.

The principle that devolution is not only for ethnic grievances is already accepted in the present system of provincial councils, whatever the other weaknesses. That is why we have Provincial Councils in other areas. If a re-demarcation is necessary, then a proper claim has to be made in that respect. The most unfortunate matter, however, is that even three years after the end of the war, elections are not held for the Northern Provincial Council. Why? He should express his opinion.
Seneviratne’s end or conclusion is rather confused. He simply jumps from reform to ‘scrap.’

*The writer is former Senior Professor in Political Science and Public Policy, University of Colombo, and currently Visiting Scholar, University of Sydney.

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Latest comments

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    Laksiri Fernando gives a very subjective comparison of provincial council and the central parliament with respect to no of criminals in each, amount of corruption and how useful those to the respective people etc., etc.,

    I would have preferred statistics to prove it.

    On the other hand, Laksiri can give what made him an enthusiast of the 13th amendment. Then, even don’t agree, I can understand the Laksiri’s argument that the 13th amendment is good for Sri Lankan people.

    If not, Laksiri is just another one such as INGO – special interest groups, Indian needs or Tamils – asking to carve out a separate ethnic enclave in Sri Lanka.

    If you are just an ideologist, ideology and practical situation never go together. Communist theory is one such failed philosophy.

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    Seniviratne is a [Edited out] half baked and confused he does not know the first thing about economic theory or the dynamics of globalization and LOCALIZATION!
    The fact is that the level of academic debate and journalism has sunk so low (because of the braindrain from Lanka that FUTA points to), that half-baked journalists like MS who suck up to the racist, violent and corrupt Rajapassa regime profit big from the absence of real knowledge production and intellectual debate on the issues of the day.
    Please call him [Edited out] in future!
    The guys newspaper is good to wipe Mahinda Rajapassa’s Ass!

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    Comments on Laksiri’s article smack of Sinhala chauvinism.The concept of devolution of power as elucidated in Laksiri’s first article takes us to the past where Sri Lanka had power centres in Ruhunu, Maya and Pihity.Devolution of power to the periphery gives the people participatory Democracy. This has nothing to do with the ethnic problem as most people tend to believe.As the majority of the population the Sinhalese should not fall into fear mongering ,whipping up people’s emotions and create collective mass hysteria by bringing up an enemy equal to the non-existant LTTE by the Regime to be in power come what may.Whether one is Harvard educated or a person with a common sence can easily understand the logic behind the new strtegy of the Government of diverting the attention of people from their daily woes by creating a Gonibilla.

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    Our Harward Boy by being a Harward Boy himself is not indigenous.

    Budhism itsely is not indigenous to Sri lanka.

    Was Budhism imposed in Sri Lanka?

    Are we to oppose to everything foreign?

    Are we to reinvent the wheel ?

    or to share the knowledge and experieces of our forefathers whether local or foreign and assimilate and go forward?

    The essence of 13A was indigenous to Sri Lanka,

    SWRD Bandaranaike thought in these lines from the time he toyed with the federal idea in the 1920s’

    He continued to hold these views during his days as Minister of Local Government.

    Regional Council was his brain child and the concept of Regional Council was in the election manifesto of MEP in 1956 and also in the first throne speech in 1956

    This concept was introduced into the Bandarainaike- Chelvanayakam Pact of 1957 not due to Chelvanayakam but at the insistance of SWRD.

    UNP under JR,Dudly,Ranil and others are receptive tl this idea.

    Federal Party- an undigenous party was advacatiing federalism as a way out to the national question Problem from 1949 onwards .

    The Tamils- an indIginous population continously demanded devolution.

    It was also the pet solution of the Communist Party of Sri Lanka before becoming dead left.

    13A actually was the natural outcome of these processes.

    LTTE of course had a different agenda.

    No liberal worth their name possibly could oppose devolution.

    Hence Malinda could only be a hardline racist!

    But our present government like LTTE is for absolute power even among their own political party colleagues and they are therefore against any kind of power sharing.

    The word power sharing is anathema for them,

    India actually acted as a midwife and our Sri Lankan legal draftsmen foolishly adopted a cut and paste approach to indian constitution and drafed a hastily prepared 13 A and made a shoddy job and in the proces made it problamatic

    13A is definitely a badly conceptualised and drafted lwgislation. when you compare it with 16A that deals with language rights it becomes apparent.

    It is suicidal to abolish 13A, But surely it must be amended and make it more devolution friedly legislation to effectively have power sharing and [articipatory democracy at the lowest level of governance. it is not for India or the West but for the indiginous people of Sri Lanka.

    Professor laksiri Kernando I very much like to have your opinion.

  • 0
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    This Lackey of Chennai with a PhD. in separatism from Tamil Nadu University cannot compete with a skilled scribe educated at Harvard. This debate is Aa one sided battle with a victory as clear cut as occurred at Nandikadaal in May of 2009.

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      American Lanka Lover
      Are you. by any chance, the (Rajapaksa-stooge) sibling of MS, enjoying the democratic freedoms of the USA and making periodic physical and journalistic forays into Sri Lanka?

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    Does it matter he went to Harvard or any other university? Sri Lankans have serious political questions, lives are involved and We don’t want to repeat that bloody thirty years of disruption. By the way president George W. Bush is Harvard educated, that was a real mess.

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    MALINDA SENEVRATHNE IS NOT ONLY HARWARD QUALIFIED,BUT ALSO AT SEVERAL OTHER UNIVERSITIES INCLUDING PRADENIYA AND ROYAL. ONE’S ACADEMIC PROFICIENCIES ARE NO CRITERIA TO JUDGE ONE’S PATRIOTISM. MALINDA THOUGH NOT DEFINITELY A RACIST, IS BOLD ENOUHG NOT TO DISCLAIM THAT HE WAS BORN AS AN ORDINARY SINHLA BUDDHIT SRILANKAN.THOSE WHO PROFESS DEVOLUTION AND UNWANTED POWERS TO THE NORTH AND EAST ARE LEFT ORIENTED ACADEMICIANS MOST OF WHOM HAVE NO CONCERN TOWAWRDS THE WELLBEING OF THE SRI LANKA,WHOSE SINHALA BUDDHISTS ARE AMAZINGLY UNIQUE AS A RACE. THE 13TH A DEFINITLY CONTRIBUTES TO THE GRADUAL DECIMTION OF THE COUNTRY, BY WHAT LTTE COULD NOT DO, THE 13TH A WOULD DO SYSTEMATICALLY.THOSE NGOS,HALF BAKED SRILANKANS SO CALLED EDUCATED AND TIGER RUMPS WANT SRI LANKA DISSOLVED GRADUALLY. MALINGA IS QUIET RIGHT IN HIS STANCE AND WILL SHAETTER ADEQUATELY THEIR BIASD PEJUDISED WEAK ARGUMETS.IDIOCY OF SOME PUNDISTS PREVEDNTS FROM REALISING WHAT THE COUNTRY FOUGHT FOR AT SUCH A COST OF LIFE ,WOULD HAVE BEEN GIVEN ON A PLAETTER TO THE LTTE.

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