By Malinda Seneviratne –
According to National Freedom Front (NFF) leader Wimal Weerawansa a petition to get the 13th Amendment abrogated was held back considering the current tensions between the Judiciary and Legislature. Talks with the UNP and SLFP suggest that there are few takers for dogmatic positions on the 13th Amendment. Even the leader of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), R. Sampanthan, while holding fast to ‘devolution’, has expressed a willingness to go for re-demarcation of unit, i.e. three or four zones instead of the present nine provinces.
Sampanthan has warned that repealing the 13th ‘could cause grave and irreparable damage to the country’s future’. It is heartening that the TNA leader, even at this late hour, is concerned about the country’s future. Indeed his re-demarcation proposal amounts to a radical political shift from the previous fascination with white-lines or those provincial boundaries based on a map drawn by colonial rulers. A re-demarcation, though, would necessarily amount to ‘modification’ and/or ‘nullification’ of the 13th, an eventuality that Sampanthan opposes. It is best that these ‘concerns’ are treated as the business-as-usual rhetorical of a politician and something that should not be allowed to rob the ‘statesman-like’ suggestion that the TNA leader has made in his interventions during the Budget Debate.
Sampanthan is of course erroneous when he says ‘the 13th is the only constitutional provision that recognizes diversity’. All it does is legitimate the work of a frivolous map-maker later used by Eelamist myth-mongers for their own purposes. Communities are not held by maps, and fall out of provincial boundary. The recognition of difference, as in the existence of different communities and people with different religious faiths, finds more than adequate mention in the constitution. The only major differentiation that the constitution is silent on is that of class.
Still, Sampanthan does make a valid point about efficiency in resource allocation. The 13th has seen enormous sums of money going waste, mostly to maintain the provincial councils rather than alleviating the conditions of the citizenry. Moreover, the current lines rebel against contemporary economic thinking given anomalies of resource endowment across regions. A re-demarcation then must correct for these inequalities. In other words, logic and science as opposed to political expediency and untenable ethnic ‘enclaving’ should guide the cartographer. It would logically take us to Ruhunu, Maya and Pihiti, an option which even in these communal politicking times should be considered.
What would result is ‘horizontal democratization’ as some have put it, provided of course that the devolved complement of powers exceed what is contained in the 13th. Provided, also, that the power of the citizen to participate in decision-making is enhanced in the process. For example, devolving the power to exercise strong-arm tactics and be dismissive of manifesto post-election from center to province won’t make things easier for anyone but the politicians.
The trick then would be to follow such re-demarcation as per a 13+ formula with vertical democratization which includes measure to correct current institutional flaws, ensure greater transparency and obtain greater degrees of accountability. Ideally, the two processes, vertical and horizontal, can be sought through a single amendment or better still a new, that is a third, republican constitution, but this may not be the proper time. Insistence on a double-push might kill both.
As of now, justice for all in the matter of having a meaningful say in designing laws and policies that affect people’s lives depend more on largesse than on constitutional provision. That’s not a flaw in the 13th Amendment but the 1978 Constitution.
So if we have to go with ‘first-things-first’, then 13+ must necessarily pick up the Sampanthan proposal. To make it really a ‘plus’ amendment, though, the vertical ‘re-demarcation’ if you will of power lines has to be pushed for.