15 April, 2024


It Is Unwise To Release The Bird In The Hand (13A) For Two (Federal) In The Bush!

By Veluppillai Thangavelu

Veluppillai Thangavelu

13th Amendment has returned to the limelight among Tamil nationalist parties after a lapse of 35 years. Amendment 13 A is the outcome of the Indo-Lanka Agreement signed between Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and J.R. Jayewardene, President of Sri Lanka. The Accord was signed on 29th July 1987 in Colombo. The accord was expected to resolve the Sri Lankan Civil War by necessary Amendments to the Constitution of Sri Lanka. This was at a time his government was facing two insurgencies, one in the Northeast led by Tamil militants and the other in the South led by the JVP.

The Agreement was bitterly opposed by leading members of J.R. Jayewardene’s own United National Party. The opposition was spearheaded by Lalith Athulathmudali who was the Minister for National Security in J.R.’s cabinet. It was also opposed by Prime Minister, Ranasinghe Premadasa who flew to Japan to avoid the signing ceremony. Opponents of the Accord claimed that it was signed under duress and threat of military force.

On 14 November 1987 the Sri Lankan Parliament enacted the 13th Amendment to the 1978 Constitution of Sri Lanka along with the ancillary Provincial Councils Act No 42 of 1987 to establish Provincial councils. This led to the creation of 9 Provincial Councils on 03 February 1988. The first election for provincial councils took place on 28 April 1988 in North Central, Northwestern, Sabaragamuwa and Uva provinces.

13A also declared Tamil shall also be an official language and English shall be the link language. It assured a power-sharing arrangement to enable all nine provinces in the country, including Sinhala majority areas, to self-govern. Accordingly, the provincial councils have become the second tier of the administrative structure of Sri Lanka.

On September 2 and 8 1988, President J.R. Jayewardene issued a proclamation temporarily enabling the Northern and Eastern provinces to be one administrative unit administered by one elected Council till a referendum was held in the Eastern Province on a permanent merger between the two provinces. However, the referendum was never held and successive Sri Lankan presidents issued proclamations annually extending the life of the “temporary” entity. Ironically, he himself was opposed to the merger of the Northern and Eastern provinces as a single entity but agreed to it as a tactic.

Elections were held for the NEPC on 19 November 1988. A. Varatharajaperumal of the EPRLF was elected as the Chief Minister.

The merger of the NEPC into one province resulted in the JVP reacting violently, stepping up a campaign of killings, strikes and violent demonstrations in the South. However, the merged NEPC was dismissed following the UDI by Chief Minister Varatharajaperumal on March 01, 1990, and brought under central control. It was dissolved in June 1988.

On 01 January 2007, the two provinces – North and East were de-merged following a court case filed by the JVP the previous year. The Supreme Court in its verdict did say the merger of the two provinces has no force in law, but the Court also said that parliament can pass a law to merge the provinces instead of by Presidential gazette notifications.

The 13th Amendment is considered unfair and partisan by both the ultra-Sinhala nationalist parties and the LTTE. The Sinhala nationalist parties thought it was too much power to share while the Tamils consider it too little. The Tamil National Alliance (TNA) — which chiefly represented the Tamils of the north and east in Parliament in the post-war era see it as an important starting point, something to build upon. One major sticking point is the office of the Governor created by the 13th Amendment.

The Governor of a Province unlike the Governor of a State in India is no mere figurehead. The 13th Amendment stipulates that executive power in the province in relation to those matters which are within the competence of the Provincial Council shall be exercised by the Governor. However, the fact remains that 13A is the only constitutional provision with the province as a unit of devolution on the settlement of the long-pending Tamil question.

Despite the passage of 13A, successive Sri Lankan governments have failed to implement the Accord fully, especially Land, Police and Public Order, despite repeated calls from Tamil parties and the Indian government. Public

Elections were not held to the demerged Eastern Provincial Council until 2008 and to the Northern Provincial Council until September 2013. Thus, the Tamils did not benefit from the Provincial council system that was meant, in the first place, to meet the demand for devolution of power by the Tamil people.

Now Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam, leader of both the ACTC and TNPF has denounced the 13th Amendment enacted within a unitary state and those Tamil parties that stand for its implementation as stooges of India. He and his party the TNPF kept out of the entire exercise because they felt that 13A has no place even as a temporary arrangement or as the first step towards a federal structure. According to Gajendrakumar the TNA’s insistence on the 13 A only helped the Sinhala-dominated government to preserve its unitary state. The only solution for the Tamils is to fight for full federal state within a united country.

On 10 January 2022 In a public statement, the Tamil National People’s Front slammed the 13th Amendment and maintained their steadfast commitment to “the hallowed Tamil National principles of nationhood and self-determination”. In their statement, the TNPF slammed the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) for its support of the amendment maintaining they were “contravening decades of successive mandates of the Tamil nation”.

They further highlighted that “the Provincial Councils were widely pilloried, rejected and boycotted by Tamil people, and considered not even a starting point to Tamil political aspirations of nationhood and self-determination. We have dedicated ourselves to campaign to defeat the move to implement the 13 A and Provincial Councils, and have commenced a campaign to communicate our people the grave dangers of the Provincial Councils” they conclude.

The argument that the TNA or other Tamil nationalist parties have accepted the 13 A carte blanche is puerile. In an interview with The Morning, TNA spokesperson, M A Sumanthiran said that ” 13 A doesn’t fulfill the aspirations of the Tamil people. “The 13th Amendment set up the Provincial councils – that we welcome. It also enabled two or more adjacent provinces to amalgamate – that we welcome. But insofar as the powers that were given to the provinces and within the framework of a unitary constitution, that experiment is a failure as we envisaged because the centre has been taking back powers that were granted on paper under 13 A,” he added.

Ironically while Gajendrakumar denigrates the TNA leaders for accepting 13 A and contesting Provincial Council elections, he also says his party will contest the Provincial Council elections whenever elections are held. In the past, the ACTC has boycotted the Provincial Council elections claiming it is a creation within a unitary constitution. At a press conference prior to the holding of the elections in 2013 in Jaffna, he waxed eloquent ” the TNPF totally boycotts the election. We will not contest and under no circumstances. We have told the TNA to face the elections with the message that the 13 A is neither a beginning, nor an interim solution, and nor a final solution.”

Does he admit now he was wrong in boycotting the elections in 2013, but right in contesting the elections now? Applying the same logic that 13 A is a “creation within a unitary constitution” why his party is contesting elections for a parliament that is also created by the unitary constitution? Suffice to say there should be a method in one’s madness.

If we accept his argument now, then he was wrong in boycotting the elections in the past. Taking into account his idiosyncrasies, there is no guarantee he will not perform another summersault in the future.

Again, he has no qualms in taking an oath of allegiance to the unitary constitution before and after getting elected to parliament under the 6th Amendment enacted on 8 August 1983. This draconian Amendment made it a criminal offence to advocate secession and establish a separate state within Sri Lanka.

Under 157A. (1) No person shall, directly or indirectly, in or outside Sri Lanka, support, espouse, promote, finance, encourage or advocate the establishment of a separate State within the territory of Sri Lanka. (2) No political party or other association or organization shall have as one of its aims or objects the establishment of a separate State within the territory of Sri Lanka.

Gajendrakumar’s outright rejection of 13 A must be sweet music to the ears of those ultra-Sinhala Buddhist nationalist forces who also want the abolition of 13A and the Provincial Council system under it for opposite reasons.

It is historically true that the TULF which was engaged in extensive talks with the Indian Government in the eighties did not accept fully the 13 A. In a lengthy letter signed by Amirthalingam, General Secretary, M. Sivasithamparam, President and R. Sampanthan, Vice President and addressed to Rajiv Gandhi, Prime Minister of India on 28 October 1987 it catalogued the shortcomings of 13 A. ( https://sangam.org/letter-pm-rajiv-gandhi-tulf-13th-amendment/).

The TULF leaders did not reject 13 A outright but expressed their disappointment stating the TULF regrets it cannot recommend the contents of these Bills (13 A and Provincial Council Bilks) to the Tamil people as being satisfactory, just and durable.

The letter claimed “All parties to the negotiations have always understood that the powers to be devolved to the Provincial Council will be the same as those enjoyed by a state in India with suitable adaptations. This was to be particularly so in the field of legislative and executive power. During the discussions between the Sir Lankan Government and the TULF in July/August 1986, it was agreed that the legislative power of the province in respect of provincial subjects would be near-absolute and that the governor would be a ceremonial head, with his discretionary powers clearly defined.

In retrospect, it would be seen that the Provincial Board of Ministers, including the Chief Minister, had almost unfettered freedom to administer the province without the Governor placing roadblocks or interfering with the day-to-day administration of the Provincial Council. In fact, the Governor while enjoying executive powers, in most cases has to act on the advice of the Chief Minister. For example, Ministers are appointed by the Governor on the advice of the Chief Minister, so is the removal of Provincial Ministers. While 13A devolves power within a unitary constitution, it has at the same contains some federal features if implemented fully including Land, Police and Public Order and order powers. It will be foolish to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

A letter dated 29, December 2022 and addressed to Prime Minister Modi by 5 Tamil parties stated “In this situation, we appeal to Your Excellency to urge the Government of Sri Lanka to keep its promises to: (I) fully implement the provisions of the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution (ii) implement the clear commitments made by all sections of government from 1987 onwards and enable the Tamil speaking peoples to live with dignity, self-respect, peace and security in the areas of their historic habitation, exercising their right to self-determination within the framework of a united, undivided country.

In short, 13A is a starting point in a long struggle by the Tamil people inhabiting the Northern and Eastern provinces as their area of historical habitation, a federal structure by exercising the right of self-determination of the Tamil people within a united country. Unfortunately, the ultra-Sinhala-Buddhist nationalist forces are vehemently opposed to it. Sinhalese people have been brainwashed that federalism means a division of the country.

Under these circumstances, it is political suicide on the part of Gajendrakumar to reject 13A and campaign to communicate to the Tamil people the grave dangers of the Provincial Councils.

He should be told that it is unwise to release the bird in the hand (13A) for two birds (federal) in the bush.

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Latest comments

  • 1

    If I were a Tamil I would strongly oppose full 13A as that involves land and police powers to Sinhala majority provinces where +50% of Tamil speaking people live. Under local politicos these Tamils will be reduced to third class citizens.


    • 5


      “If I were a Tamil I would strongly oppose ……………………… “

      Of course your ancestors were Tamils, you are genetically and culturally a Tamil.
      Whats your problem?

      Which country are you supporting, Ukraine or Russia?
      Ukraine supported Hitler, Putin is an aspiring Hitler both sold arms this stupid island, in addition Ukraine sold arms to VP as well.

      You know some stupid Tamils are supporting Ukraine some oppose it. Similarly some Sinhala stupids are supporting Ukraine some support Russia.

      And I don’t know why.
      Do you know as to why SJ supports China?

      By the way where are your vanguards Shavendra and Kamala?
      Both want to prevent illegal immigrant entering this island.
      However it appears the descendants of Kallathonie converts are regularly seen in Sultanate of New Delhi with their begging bowls.

      Grow up soman.

      • 1

        “Of course your ancestors were Tamils, you are genetically and culturally a Tamil.
        Whats your problem?”
        My problem is finding a solution to the arse ache of Tamil racist donkeys on Colombo Telegraph.


  • 6

    Why not ask the Tamils in the North and East to confirm and decide their future destiny in the Island via a UN conducted Referendum – as the people’s democratic choice, with various options : 13A +, Federal State, Confederation, Separation as an Independent Tamil Eelam, or status quo -under a unitary, united, indivisible, majoritarian Sinhala, Buddhist chauvinistic regime, for structural genocide of the Tamil Homeland, with or without 6A..

    Again we are mislead to believe that the bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. What about the breach of trust in the last 70 years as a failed nation, the war crimes, the crimes against humanity, the genocide, and the enforced disappeared. What is our collective responsibility as a Tamils to safeguard our future generation in the island?

    Enough is Enough, the earth is moving around.

    The thirst of the Tamils, is Tamil Eelam.

    • 5

      Manicka Vasagar,
      Your thirst keeps changing. You were thirsting to be taken back as an MP in Sri Lanka. When it failed you attached yourself to TGTE.
      You will die a thirsty man!

    • 1

      Manicka Vasagar,
      “What about the breach of trust in the last 70 years as a failed nation, the war crimes, the crimes against humanity, the genocide, and the enforced disappeared.”
      Tamils who live in Sinhale/Sri Lanka are the descendants of coolies brought by colonial rulers (large majority), mercenaries who came in 13th Century to Yapanaya and occupied Sinhala land and remnants of Dravida invaders who invaded this country from 3rd Century BC. After Sinhale gained independence, indigenous Sinhala Buddhists accommodated these people in their country. The assumption of Sinhalayo was that these people will live peacefully with Sinhalayo and contribute to development of the country. Instead of living peacefully, Tamils resorted to violence against Sinhalayo after independence by attacking Sinhalayo in Yapanaya from 1950s and resorted to terrorism after passing Vaddukkodai Resolution in 1976 and declaring war against Sinhala Nation to create a separate State within Sinhale.
      It was Tamils in Yapanaya who breached the trust and committed war crimes and crimes against humanity by massacring Sinhala Buddhist men, women, children, Buddhist monks and even fetus of Sinhala pregnant women using suicide bombers, claymore bombs, AK 47s, chemical bombs, swords and machetes.

    • 1

      Mr Manicka Vasagar
      I support your call for a referendum.
      Do us a favour. Keep Tamils living outside North.and East well informed so that they will have an opportunity to quench their thirst. Start that process NOW.
      Another important thing before the referendum. Start peace talks between Hindu Christian Tamils and Islamic Tamils NOW. Otherwise results might disappoint you.



  • 7

    Gajemdrakumar is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. He entered politics supporting Mahinda Rajapakse. For him to claim what LTTE claimed clearly shows that he is a Tiger Remnant. There is no way the government which claims it’s maintaining a democracy can depend on the voices of two politicians Gajendrakumar and Wigneswaran to make a stand against 13A. Both these politicians are truly pushing the LTTE ideology. There is no room for LTTE ideology. Anything to do with Tamils or for that matter non-majority community should have the majority blessings of not only the Tamils of Jaffna but also Tamils, Muslims, Malays, and Burghers who live in Jaffna and the rest of the country. 13A must stay.

    • 1

      “13A must stay.”

      Something is better than nothing!

      If Tamils want 13A why low caste Tamils in Yapanaya told the Sub-Committee on Power Sharing of the Constitution Drafting Committee appointed during ‘Yahapalana’ Government not to give land and police powers to NPC?
      This raise the question ‘Which Tamils want 13A’.

      • 0

        Eagle Eye
        A political solution is sought for Hindu/Christian community in Jaffna.
        It goes like this:
        If a referendum is held for merging North and East majority of East will say NO.
        That leaves only Nothern province for Ealam.
        Now when votes are counted in the Northern province you will find that Islamic Tamils have backed away. ( They still remember Kattankudi mosque and Thalaivar’s marching orders)
        That leaves only Hindu Christian community as there are no Sinhalese ( They were subjected to toatal ethnic cleansing well in advance) anymore.
        Now if Tamil speaking people outside North and East presently living in Sinhala majority provinces (They comprise +50% of total Tamil speaking people) are included in the referendum they will say NO for the fear of moving into Ealam. They consider Sinhala Buddhist society is superior to a Tamil only enclave.
        TNA knows all this – they are no fools.
        They have been using various permutations and combinations of ‘Tamils’, Tamil People , Tamil Speaking People ,Tamil Nation, Ealam Tamils, Eazam Tamils etc. etc, several in the same breadth leaving us confused all the time. Objective is to bamboozle India and International community, but in practical terms include only Hindu/Christian community in Jaffna.
        Every Tamil racist donkey on Colombo Telegraph knows this.
        They are wasting our time.


  • 1

    “The only solution for the Tamils is to fight for full federal state within a united country.”
    When Ranil Wickramasinghe handed over almost one third of the country on a platter to Prabhakaran he rejected that and went on massacring Sinhalayo to achieve the objective of creating a separate State as mentioned in Vaddukkodai Resolution which contains a manufactured history to justify the demand for a separate State.
    After the Government of Sri Lanka defeated LTTE Tamil terrorists fighting on behalf of separatist Tamil politicians in Yapanaya in Nandikadal now Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam wants to refuse 13A and fight for a Federal State that Tamils refused. Is he planning to outsource fighting to Dalits in Yapanaya as they did before?

  • 0

    Veluppillai Thangav,
    ” The Governor of a Province unlike the Governor of a State in India is no mere figurehead”
    A perusal of relevant provisions in 13 A with the relevant provisions in the Constitution of India reveals a conclusion contrary to your above assertion.
    The 13 Amendment in respect of executive power is reproduced below:
    154 C:-
    Executive power extending to the matters with respect to which a Provincial Council has power to make statutes shall be exercised by the Governor of the Province for which that Provincial Council is established. either directly or through Ministers of the Board of Ministers, or through officers subordinate to him,
    154 F:-
    There shall be a Board of Ministers with the Chief Minister at the head and not more than four other Ministers to aid and advice the Governor of a Province in the exercise of his functions.
    The Governor shall, in the exercise of his functions, act in accordance with such advice, except in so far as he is by or under the Constitution required to exercise his function or any of them in his discretion.
    Exerts of relevant articles in the constitution of India is given below.

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