By Malinda Seneviratne –
A form of drama that emphasizes the absurdity of human existence by employing disjointed, repetitious, and meaningless dialogue, purposeless and confusing situations, and plots that lack realistic or logical development. That’s the description of a particular form of drama called ‘Theater of the Absurd’. In the 21st Century where confusion has been globalized courtesy finely orchestrated media campaigns whose sole objective is to justify crimes against humanity and manufacture public consent for the same, the description is valid for any number of things and processes. In Sri Lanka, perhaps there’s nothing more deserving of that description as the 13th Amendment to the Constitution.
It was, to recap, thrust down Sri Lankan’s throat by Rajiv Gandhi determined to ‘Bhutanize’ the island, as a logical ‘next step’ to a process of destabilization started by his mother Indira Gandhi in 1982, when the first batch of Tamil militants were trained in India. It was illegal. Its legality was obtained by reiteration via elections. It was rejected quickly enough by the ‘sole representatives of the Tamils’ (self-appointed) and their one-time mouthpieces, the TNA which recovered voice and franchise, paradoxically, courtesy the Sri Lankan security forces in May 2009. Even today, the Tiger rump which clubs internationally rejects the 13th Amendment. No one wants it. It has benefitted only politicians and only because it serves the political teething necessary to take bigger bites out of the body politic at the national level.
Those who reject the 13th do not subscribe to the same political ideology of course. For some, the 13th is ‘too much’ while for others it is ‘not enough’. Either way, it is neither here nor there; not an ‘interim’ option, not a working document for a better text. It has only served political theatrics of the absurd kind.
Although the Supreme Court de-merged the North and East, the potential for re-merging remained intact. The clause for merging of provinces has no logic except to serve India’s purposes, i.e. destabilizing Sri Lanka in the event of a Government that is not as India-friendly as India would like comes to power. The 13th is then essentially a Bankanization script awaiting enactment.
The drama over the ‘Divi Neguma’ Bill demonstrated how a spoiler can scuttle national development initiatives. It is in this context that a re-visit is called for. The Cabinet is currently deliberating on the matter. Those who have traditionally been ‘Pro-13th’ have asked for time to offer views. Time has been given and that’s good. The issue of land and police powers has been raised and remains ‘up in the air’ with both the Opposition (touching but not touching the issue in its much trumpeted recommendations for constitutional reform) and the Government (we’ve only seen the smaller elements of the coalition coming up with strong views) being cagey about definitive statements.
Meanwhile, an ill-conceived and deformed political entity that has done nothing for the people continues to distract from the core issues of good governance and institutional reform which, rightfully, ought to take center stage in the matter of constitutional changes. It is for all intents and purposes a dead object whose stench is a nauseating political reality that unsettles post-conflict processes of reconciliation and development.
Indeed, it robs devolution from whatever logical worth it may have. The 13th, after all, is not coterminous with ‘devolution’. There can be other models. For example, if taken to its logical conclusion, we would have to leave provinces behind and go straight to the Village Councils. Alternately, the Eelam-map-fixing 13th can be done away with to make way for a more logical and scientific re-drawing of provincial boundaries that make for a more equitable distribution of resources and more efficient planning. The 13th stops all that.
If the Government feels charitable in letting the likes of DEW Gunasekera, Rauff Hakeem, Vasudeva Nanayakkara and others to offer views on proposed amendments to the 13th, it can go the whole hog and put the question to the voting public. End of story.
The bottom line is, Sri Lanka’s unity and integrity are not negotiable. Want another ‘PS’? ‘We cannot import a solution, and it cannot be a Rajapaksa – Sampanthan agreement.’ It’s a people’s thing and that is exactly what the 13th Amendment is not!
The 13th is a political corpse that has being carted from forum to forum, election to election; it is a filthy rug that is posited as banner of conflict resolution. It was India’s baby. It is a cadaver that Sri Lanka is saddled with. It is customary, need we say, to bury the dead.
*Malinda Seneviratne is the Chief Editor of ‘The Nation’ and his articles can be found at www.malindawords.blogspot.com