20 May, 2019

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Devolution Talk And Devolution Talkers

By Malinda Seneviratne

Malinda Seneviratne

Are you for 13, 13-minus or 13-plus, someone asked me. Political circles are a-buzz with the 13th, i.e. the Amendment thrust down the Sri Lankan polity by India in 1987, defended ferociously by Indophiles and non-Tiger separatists and happily used by politicians of all color intent on furthering careers and making bucks. The pro-13th commentators have all come out of the woodworks, as have those who opposed it and oppose devolution to boot.

Debate on the matter is not new. The present buzz follows a statement by Gotabhaya Rajapaksa advocating its repeal. Context in brief is as follows: a) the 13th is a part of the constitution, b) the President has at various times talked about devolution and pledged to go further, i.e. ’13 Plus’, c) it has no discernible connection with expressed grievances and makes no sense in terms of demographic, developmental and historical realities.

And yet, those who are dismayed do make some interesting points. Dharisha Bastians (‘From 13 Plus to 13 Minus’) argues that there is presidential double-speak. Sumanasiri Liyanage (‘The UPFA government is heading for its first defeat in Parliament’) on the other hand is a victim of his own fantasies and notions of democracy predicated on faulty reading of conflict. Laksiri Fernando (‘Gotabhaya’s talk about abolishing the 13th Amendment’) is fascinated with status quo (right or wrong) and erroneous in the assertion that a repeal would necessarily wreck language rights.

Tissa Vitharana’s outburst is perhaps the most clownish, for he sees ‘foreign conspiracy’ in moves to abolish the 13th. The biggest conspirator with respect to the 13th was India and that’s certainly ‘foreign’, not to mention that the darlings of those intent on dragging his leader to the Haig are also ‘foreign’ or ‘foreign funded’ AND are staunch 12-Plus advocates (their backtracking from separatism to federalism to the 13th corresponds to the decline and fall of terrorism: no coincidence!).

Fernando’s is nevertheless the most thoughtful of the responses. He has detailed, for example, pre-13th devolution talk. He has also referred to the LLRC recommendations pertaining to devolution. He has conjured a gonibilla factor: ‘Devolution and the 13th Amendment are the ‘trophies’ that the government has been showing the international community and the UN as indications of Sri Lanka’s commitment to resolve the ethnic question in the country. Backtracking on them would undoubtedly spell disaster for the country in the international sphere.’

Now the statements made on devolution from time to time does not necessarily make it logical, necessary, meaningful or sustainable. These statements could be shot to pieces with the as-is situation of the 13th. Fernando argues that as-is is mendable. This is true except for the fact that devolution to provinces is antithetical to current economic theory in terms of resource endowment and allocation. We have to keep in mind also that the X-Country success is not necessarily replicable in Country-Y.

As for the ‘trophies’, Fernando misses the blatant truth that Sri Lanka’s detractors are as interested in ‘solutions’ as they are concerned about ‘democracy’ In Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya or the Arctic. Showcasing ‘achievement’ is simply not going to cut ice unless the relevant lines are toed.

Grievances (and no one can deny that Tamils have them, as do various other segments of society, including Sinhalese) need to be resolved in different ways, especially through democratization. Here, Fernando’s comments on the 17th and 18th are extremely valid. But we are not talking about ‘democratization’ here but ‘grievance-addressing’.
What all these people forget is that the lines we are talking about here are white-drawn. They have nothing to do with the longer history of the country (where demarcations – Ruhunu, Maya and Pihiti –made political but more than this geographical sense) or make sense in terms of present day prerogatives (economic hub, resource-complement, seaboard and so on). Secondly, I am willing to wager that if asked to enumerate ‘grievances’ and tie each of them to territory-based ‘resolution’, they would be stumped, particularly given the fact that the majority of Tamils live outside the North and East.

It is in this sense that the line Fernando quotes from the LLRC Report (‘appropriate system of devolution’) and the one he misses (‘acceptable to all’) need to be considered. We can have devolution, not to resolve grievances that are not devolution-resolved but for better and more meaningful development. That would necessitate re-demarcation of provincial boundary. That’s the ’13 Plus’ we could aim for. If there’s anything that thumbs a nose at reality, then it is better to scrap. No 13, no 13 Plus, no 13 Minus. Zero.

*Malinda Seneviratne is the Chief Editor of ‘The Nation and his articles can be found at www.malindawords.blogspot.com .

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    Sinhala governments will never solve the Tamil people’s problems without an outside power imposing a solution. History has shown that. So shut up and implement the 13th amendment fully. Try and repeal it and see what happens to Rajapaksa – the man will not know what hit him. This is probably the best way to get rid of this corrupt despot.

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      i remember at one time a guy called parabakaran also did similar challenge in asking MR to come to killinochi..

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    nation is a toilet paper. editor of nation is a toilet attendant. nation stinks so is the editor.

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      Don’t worry Rama, he’s not trying for your job at the Croydon town public washrooms.

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        i hear he tried for you and failed because you are too black and council officers wouldn’t be able to see you in the dark. when you look like sri lankan cricketers, you can’t really blame the council officers.

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      He sure writes better than you do.

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    maslinda had the best of both worlds. he was able enter the sri lankan uni with lower marks because of positive discrimination favouring chingalavans . he was able to enter harvard with lower marks because of positive disceimination favouring blacks.

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      And Rama was able to land a job scrubbing ..

      This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our Comment policy.For more detail see our Comment policy
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        This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our Comment policy.For more detail see our Comment policy
        http://colombotelegraph.com/comments-policy/

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        Mahinda has a “Bramn” Sharma also among his suckers!

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    [ Tissa Vitharana’s outburst is perhaps the most clownish,]

    Excellent wording.

    These politicians are worse than the LTTE proxy TNA. They are there only because of the NATIONAL LIST.

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    Is it not to antagonise the Forces against Sri Lanka that we should not remove 13A ?

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    Malinda,

    Your arguments don’t wash. Despite your attempts at objectivity, your chauvinistic slip is showing. Let me elaborate. You believe there is no territory based grievance. Assuming what you say is true, would you concede that there are ethnicity and religion based grievances? Or perhaps grievances based on the fact that Sri Lanka is a multi lingual multi ethnic country?

    None would argue that the 13th amendment is the panacea for all our ills. Where do you stand when it comes to taking the country forward where equality, rule of law, respect for the individual and the dignity of all is enshrined within a united Sri Lanka. Ultimately the cry for devolution stems from the perceived lack of basic civil liberties.

    What will you do to dismantle all those statutes that are discriminatory of the minorities?
    Since you are in perpetual denial going by your previous responses, you would label dissenting voices and dismiss their arguments as laughable, instead of improving your argument. None could me more deaf than the man who pretends to deaf!

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      Grievances are changing day by day. It is like day by new mental illnesses are revealed by the doctors.

      Territory based, religion based and ethnicity based grievances are newest.

      Interesting thing is in the middle of those, they insert the word multi-every thing country too.

      So the Sinhala Buddhist civilization is completely neglected.

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        fool, which world you live in. peoples needs and desires change on a daily basis and they move with time. you lot just live in the past and cling on to some bogus fiction.

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    lets assume that tamils have some special grievances that non of the sri lankans are not subjected to, if so can u elaborate on how a ghetto created with exclusive powers will solve that given the fact that most of the tamils live out side of this ghetto? what about the minorities within that ghetto, what about the grievances of those due to tamil exclusiveness within that ghetto..if the current system is faulty, then the solution is to fix that so that everybody benefit irrespective of differences. creating a tamil ghetto with the same faulty mini system will not resolve anything if one agrees that the system is faulty in the first place…13th has not fixed any problems(other than the language right, which should be protected) rather creating a white elephant,. it only provides a face saving facade to indians and a hope to tamil separatists that there is still hope in their tribal fantasies ..

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      oi silly billy, tamil grievances have been detailed over and over again by tamil politicians past and present in the past 64 years. those politicians are not ordinary laymen. they were all barristers and queen councils and respectable people. can you really compare gotabaya, weerawansa or for that matter ranawaka with them. these three are uneducated geezers just play for the gallery and their survival depends on how many headlines they make by coming out with bizarre stories. by the way what’s your problem. are you deaf and dumb and suffering from a medical condition called ” dyslexia “. i have already told you ghettos and slums start from madawachi. after that it’s slums and ghettos all the way. why do we have to eloborate to people like you who has a mental block. all the tamil demands have already been laid down time and time again and if you have a problem taking it in , i am afraid we can’t help you.

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        really so why dont u tell us what r those exclusive tamil problems articulated by super duper tamil intellectualsm, which non of the sinhalese,muslims nor indian tamils face so that without an exclusive ghetto for them selves to act like a majority would not resolve?

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          it appears that you are suffering from more than one medical condition. i am not an old fool like you to repeat what i have said already.

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    Solution to solve the issues facing Sri Lanka:-

    (A) MULTI-CULTURE (B) MULTILINGUAL (C) MULTI-FAITH (D) EQUAL OPPORTUNITIES TO ALL CITIZENS (E) RESPECT ALL COMMUNITIES, THEIR HONOUR AND PROPERTY RIGHTS. (F) NO COMMUNITY CLAIMS SUPREMACY OVER THE OTHER (G) STRICTLY MERIT BASED GOVERNANCE AND NATIONAL ASSISTANCE TO ALL CITIZENS (H) ALLEGIANCE TO ONE COUNTRY, ONE NATION. (I) MAKE A DIPLOMATIC EFFORT TO CONVINCE THE NEIGHBOUR TO BE PART OF THE SOLUTION AND RELIEVE THEIR CONCERNS AND ASSURE THEM OF A FAIR TREATMENT TO ALL COMMUNITIES.

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    I gotta start reading the Nation; this gentleman is certainly among the most articulate and knowledgeable journalists in a nation with far too few.

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    WHY DO YOU HAVE TO GET PERSONAL WHEN DISCUSSING A STATEMENT, A PROBLEM,
    A SITUATION, OR A CRISES. ISNT’ IT BETTER TO FOCUS ON THE SUBJECT ANALYTICALLY SO THAT ALL PARTIES CAN SEE EVERYBODIES POINT OF VIEW ? THIS WOULD I AM CERTAIN MAKE ALL OF US AWARE OF THE ISSUE AND CONTRIBUTE LARGELY TO A SOLUTION WHEN THE NEED ARISES.

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    @Rama..seems only one suffering is u tamil racists who are seeking exclusiveness since the days of ponnambalams and chelvanagams..if u dont have a answer tell so without such verbal abuse..

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      i am at a loss to understand why you lot are so concerned about ghettos, exclusiveness etc.etc. majority of the countries in the world have only one nationality . in other words poland has polish, greece has Greeks, croatia has croats, Bosnia has Bosnians, serbia has serbs, dubai has arabs and so on,. i don’t know why you lot are making such a fuss about this trivial matter. do you love them so much so you want them closer to you. i doubt that very much. however, i know the real reason why you don’t want tamil people to live together in the two provinces. even though north east is part of sri lanka , those areas have been neglected as regards development. you didn’t want tamil provinces to do well and prosper. now you are moaning about ghettos etc. because if tamils are given power the two provinces will take off because of the ingenuity and hard work of tamil people. probably in 15 or 20 years time north east would with accelerated development be able to catch singapore or hong kong. on the other hand sinhala south with a stagnated economy will always remain a third world hell hole. sinhala people are lazy layabouts with no initiative will never be able to achieve anything that the tamils would achieve. your inherent jealousy and inferiority complex are the main reasons why you don’t want tamil people to have any power. you want to keep them under control so that they will remain beggars just like you.

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    Rama, I am very fascinated by y comments. Would u kindly let us know in which part of Sri Lanka were u born? What sort of job did y father do? And what school did u attend and which year did u leave Sri Lanka ? I am sure if u are sincere enough to answer these questions then we would be able to discuss matters much further in a more logical way that would be beneficial to all parties concern.

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    There was a Politician addressing some citizens and he said, Friends, I will give you a ‘Bridge’ and the Citizens shouted back ” But we don’t have a river !”.Then the Politician said, ” I will give that too”.
    This was done by the so called great politician Junius Richard Jayawardena who never had a clear idea about the country and the people he was chosen to lead. Now many are throwing abuses at each other attempting to find a solution to one of the silliest mistakes committed by that acclaimed Politico who felt that the only thing he could not do was to make ‘man a woman and a woman a man’.
    From the day this country got independence, what the people needed was a peaceful country where all would be respected and all would have equal opportunities.In this small country where the resources are limited,the opportunities should be there for everyone.
    So, what was the need for this 13th Amendment ?
    Already there is no barrier for any Tamil person to buy land and start business ventures in those so called Non Tamil areas.But can that be done by Non Tamils in those so called Tamil areas ?
    Although it is not perfect,a Programme like ‘Divineguma’ is the First Programme that tried to make use of the resources available in local areas as the first step towards poverty eradication.
    Although there are some misfits in this government, is it not the first time this country was united properly and some efforts are made to correct the mistakes ?
    What do these armchair politicians who do politics as a vocation and not as a service do ? ( That includes even the politicians in the government who can easily be more frugal and responsible )

    So, as I can see, what Malinda Senevirathne has stated is nothing but sensible.Let us not bridges in places where there are n rivers except in cases of shortening surface road distances.

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