By Rajan Philips –
Modi Resets The Clock To 13A. (When) Will It Start Ticking In Sri Lanka?
If there was disappointment in Sri Lankan Tamil political circles after Narendra Modi’s majority victory in the Lok Sabha elections, there must have been disappointment in government circles after Modi’s swearing in and his brief meeting with President Rajapaksa, when Prime Minister Modi reset the Indo-Lanka clock back to 13A. However, after returning to Colombo, President Rajapaksa seems to have directed senior (SLFP) Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva to let it be known that only the proverbial Parliamentary Select Committee could decide on the future of the Thirteenth Amendment. While the new Indian Prime Minister suggested to President Rajapaksa that an early and full implementation of the Thirteenth Amendment and even going beyond it will facilitate the national reconciliation process, Minister de Silva has reminded the media in Colombo that “the government would co-operate always with India, but no one should interfere in the internal affairs of the country.” Why did not the President himself straighten Prime Minister Modi on the matter while the latter is still new to the file on Sri Lanka?
Rather than having his Minister offer a history lesson in Colombo, President Rajapaksa could have told the new BJP Prime Minister that the Thirteenth Amendment was forced on a weak Sri Lankan President (J.R. Jayewardene, a mostly secular urban elite) by the wretched Congress Party of India, and that it is now up to the two of them, as Asia’s new strongmen doers (I am paraphrasing Basil Rajapaksa’s comparative exhilaration), to throw 13A into the same dust bin where the Congress has been dumped, and rewrite a new relationship between Modi’s India and Mahinda’s Lanka. The same way, the Chinese are expecting Mr. Modi to rewrite Sino-Indian relationship now that the moribund Congress is finally out of the way. While at it, they could also put Tamil Nadu in its place, in its corner. Why not?
Here is why. President Rajapksa’s style of governing is saying different things to different people, and letting his Ministers say even more different things to even more different people. May be the ministerial musings in Colombo were intended not for Indian ears but the UPFA government’s small sidekicks like the NFF, the JHU, and now even the MEP, who are getting hot under the collar and are hollering out multi-point demands directly at the self-beleaguered President. Modi could ignore Tamil Nadu’s misplaced protests and invite Rajapaksa to Delhi for a new beginning, but President Rajapaksa is too ensnared in his own little alliances to tell them, minions, where to buzz off: i.e., political wilderness without SLFP support. If the Modi mantra is maximum governance with minimum government, the Rajapaksa style is minimum governance with maximum government plus, plus.
Prime Minister Modi’s resetting the clock to 13A sends a message not only to the Rajapaksa government, but also to those in Tamil politics who cannot give up on their matinee dreaming and have been investing their dreams on a Tamil Nadu government, contesting just 39 out of 543 Lok Sabha seats in India, to somehow roughhew the Sri Lankan political landscape. They too can wake up from their matinee madness and smell the evening tea, just as the Sri Lankan government must realize that it cannot engage Delhi without talking 13A. Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva has been in politics long enough to know that after 1983, the internal and the external in Sri Lanka have become inextricable. If anyone is interfering in Sri Lanka’s internal affairs, it is because the Sri Lankan government has externalized its internal affairs. It will not be nice for India to say it, but any Sri Lankan politician with a head on his shoulders must know that India does not need Sri Lanka’s co-operation on anything but it is Sri Lanka that needs India’s co-operation to address its own internal as well as external affairs. The choice for the Sri Lankan government is to either co-operate with India on 13A to mitigate the West’s insistence on war crimes investigation, or alienate India and further aggravate the island’s internal and external circumstances.
Same 13A policy but different players
Modi’s resetting the clock indicates continuity in policy but discontinuity in method. Contrary to any fanciful notion that Sri Lankan government circles may have entertained that the new BJP Prime Minister would dump 13A as unwanted Congress legacy, Mr. Modi has affirmed that his new government will stand by India’s current policy on Sri Lanka as defined by the Thirteenth Amendment. What will change is the method of operationalizing it. In contrast to Manmohan Singh’s hands-off, laid back, disengaged and not-following-through approach, Modi’s mode of governance will be hands-on, focused, fully engaged and full of follow-throughs. Sri Lanka is not going to be a daily priority for the Indian Prime Minister, but it will not be relegated to the back burner and the fire put off. The priority would be set by India’s new Foreign Minister, the diminutive Sushma Swaraj with impressive political and experiential credentials. She is also quite familiar with the Sri Lankan file having led an all-party parliamentary delegation to the island in April 2012, when she was BJP’s Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha.
Mrs. Swaraj is one of the high profile stalwarts in the Modi cabinet, a number of whom including Modi, Swaraj, Home Affairs Minister Rajnath Singh, and Finance and Defense Minister Arun Jaitley, cut their political teeth in their mid-twenties in the protest movement against Indira Gandhi’s 1975 Emergency Rule. Like many others in the new government, Mrs. Swaraj has her own RSS roots, growing up as the daughter of an RSS member. She has been a Supreme Court Advocate and she is married to one. Her political trace has quite a few first-woman milestones – Chief Minister of Haryana, Chief Minister of Delhi, Minister in former BJP governments, and Leader of the Opposition in the last parliament. Any South Asian leftist or progressive will cringe at lauding someone with RSS roots, and I do. But objectively, one has to concede that Modi and his band of RSS cadres have arrived at the pinnacle of India’s national politics motivated and determined to prove that they can do better than the grand old Congress Party. The Rajapaksa government should beware that part of that motivation and determination will rub off on Delhi’s dealings with Colombo. In Sushma Swaraj, G.L. Peiris will have a formidable counterpart. Mrs. Swaraj is also reputed to have been one of the dissenting voices in the BJP during Modi’s ascent as the Party’s Prime Ministerial candidate, and it is an indication of the respect she commands in the Party that Modi has magnanimously rewarded her with one of the three (or four) key portfolios.
The Sri Lankan government should also not make the mistake of misreading Tamil Nadu’s relationship with the new Modi government. Tamil Nadu is an industrial power house in the Indian economy and the State has maintained its economic strength independent of the corruption and antics of both the DMK and AIADMK governments. But the extraordinary electoral success of the AIADMK in the recent Lok Sabha elections signal some new developments in Tamil Nadu politics, although it would be childish to compare the victory of Jayalalithaa’s AIADMK in Tamil Nadu and the success of Modi’s BJP at the national level, and suggest that the former is proportionately greater than the latter. The breakdown of alliances in Tamil Nadu split the opposition votes in every riding enabling the AADMK candidates to win easily. Yet, in most of the electorates the AADMK obtained huge majorities indicating the overall satisfaction of the electorate with the State’s economy and its incumbent government. Regional caste concentrations that have been a factor in previous elections were smashed by the AADMK wave in this election. The DMK of C.N. Annadurai could not win a single seat, the poetic verdict of the electorate against the corruption and feuds of the Karunanidhi family. The Congress of Rajaji and Kamaraj has been totally obliterated, with scions of famous political families (Kumaramangalam, Chidambaram etc.) hitching their wagons to the troubled star of Rahul Gandhi and going down to defeats, even losing their deposits. The general view is that Jayalalitha and AIADMK are well poised for the 2016 State Assembly elections.
Looking ahead at the national level, Jayalithaa and Naredndra Modi have enough reason to co-operate than to confront. Jayalalitha has had a friendly relationship with Modi in the past and that is on schedule to be re-established at their first post-election meeting on June 3, in New Delhi. She has in the past flirted with Modi’s and BJP’s anti-conversion Hinduthva ideology, and it is quite possible that she stayed away from a Left-front alliance to keep her options open to deal with a BJP government. For much of the campaign, Jayalalithaa did not attack Modi or the BJP, and it was only towards the end she took them on because of the fear that she would lose minority religious votes if she was seen as being soft on Modi and the BJP. Modi and the BJP will also require DMK’s support in the Rajya Sabha where the BJP government will be well short of a majority at least for the next couple of years. Bills need passage in both houses to become laws, although parliamentary convention would require the defeated Congress Party which currently has the largest group in the Upper House not to obstruct legislations of a newly elected government.
The June 3 meeting between Modi and Jayalalithaa is billed to be on economic issues and centre-state finances. Apparently, she is trying restart with Modi what she started with Manmohan Singh three years ago and got nowhere. But the discussions are bound to cover a wide range of issues and senior BJP ministers are already in consultation with the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister. To what extent the Sri Lankan Tamil question figures in these powwows is anybody’s guess for now. However, it will not be prudent for the Sri Lankan government to assume that Jayalalitha will not have any influence on Modi’s Sri Lankan policy, and it will be equally farfetched for Tamil matinee dreamers to see in Jayalalithaa’s electoral success a vindication of their daydreams.
Amarasiri / June 1, 2014
Rajan Philips –
RE: Modi Resets The Clock To 13A, Version 2.
This reset will consume another decade or two, until reset 3 is taken uo in 10 to 290 years time.
Deja Vu Have seen it before…
Binaramalee Papadopoulos / June 1, 2014
Rajapakshe or any authoritarian men (e.g Gadafi, Sadam, Zimbawian Mugabe,Indonesian Suhartho, Philipinian Marcos etc) have much common. They are painting a BEAUTIFUL ABOUT THEIR SO CALLED MADE magananimity, cuddling infants to teenage children, but they focus more on their family wealth. This is the reason why I believe it is the need of hour opposition to suggest president´s wealth to be proved before Tsunami/before 2005 AND with those of today. If the gab would come up as billion times more – that will be unqequivovally acceptable that the bugger and co. are grabbing the state funds for their survival.
aratai / June 1, 2014
Form India Today, Hindu, NDTV to India’s PM’s and Foreign Ministers…..MaRa promised 13+.
And now he is under the gun!
HL Seneviratne / June 1, 2014
A perceptive and balanced article. Thank you.
Orissa-man / June 1, 2014
Rajan – the clock has already started to tick on 27 May 2014 when our king met the new prime minister. Our king thought the new prime minister will be same as the Italian lady and her highly educated ex-prime minister who did everything our great king asked for. This is not going to continue with Chaai Waala.
Sri Lankans should realise two great works of our late King JRJ: (a) creating an executive presidency system (b) 13A. Both are curses not blessings to both Sinhalease and Tamils. One is an Ivory elephant for some and the other is a white elephant for ordinary citizens. But for sure the new indian government will remove both curses from every Sri Lankans. Why do i say this? If 13A is implemented the great King and his rule will finish and therefore it is not going to happen. On the other hand if it is not implemented Chai Waala will do some thing greater than the Parippu dropping. That will be the end for both curses. Good days are ahead my beloved Sri Lankans..
Tamodaya / June 1, 2014
Rubbish! There is no clock. This is a usual Indian demand.
Modi has nothing to lose if SL does not implement 13 amendment.
Chandra / June 1, 2014
Please note that Tamodaya is Fathima Fukushima also known as Lorenzo (from Canada) at Lankaweb
Rohan / June 1, 2014
“… President Rajapaksa could have told the new BJP Prime Minister that the Thirteenth Amendment was forced on a weak Sri Lankan President by the wretched Congress Party of India, and that it is now up to the two of them…”
He would have had done that, if he had not declared himself that he will implement the 13th amendment, even go beyond it. As they say, “You are the master of the unspoken word,and the slave of the spoken word.”
Karikalan Saravanan / June 1, 2014
Mr. Rajan Philips
Quite a good assessment. Congrats. But, then, you have written about Tamil “MATINEE DREAMING”, MATINEE MADNESS” TAMIL MATINEE DREAMERS” etc. Excerpts:
“….those in Tamil politics who cannot give up on their matinee dreaming”……”They too can wake up from their matinee madness…..and it will be equally farfetched for Tamil matinee dreamers to see in Jayalalithaa’s electoral success a vindication of their daydreams…..”
Could you kindly explain what/whom are you referring to. For all intents and purposes Tamil Eelam is dead like a dodo and is buried too. Despite the govt’s attempt to create the bogey, LTTE is dead. I know your problem. Apparently, being an ethnic Tamil, you feel compelled to show that you are impartial, even-handed. In a way, an abject apology to “big brothers” in the South, lest you may be called a Tamil racist. What a pity!
K.A Sumanasekera / June 1, 2014
Full 13 A with a TNA Police Force and Sambandan holding the titles to all govt land in the NE may please Modi, the Diaspora and Cameron Harper Pillai Troika,
Plus the Christian Faction of the UNP will get into Government.
That is if Rajpaksa bend over to Narendra Modi and get shafted.
Will that solve the Ethnic problem in Srilanka?.
What is the plight of the 2 Million plus Muslim population?.
Is Sambandan happy to give the East to Hakeem so that SLMC Police will be in charge with Mr Hakeen ing holdthe titles to the Land bank?.
If Sambandan doesn’t agree, do the Sinhala South have to keep the 2 Million among them?.
Can the Govt force Sambandan to give SLMC the East?.
Will Modi like to have an autonomous Muslim Province and Muslim Police next door to him?.
What is the US position for such a scenario?.
Instead of confining people to enclaves, based on their Race , Caste and Religion ,like in India, aren’t there other alternatives like Deputy PM of each religion , or race depending on the diversity?.
Or is it 13 A or bust?
But then our Opposition is not interested in what the majority want,
They only want to topple the Govt and get the hands in the kitty.
That is why our leaders f..ed the country and the great majority of the poor rural inhabitant population big time till 2009.
Sumith / June 1, 2014
MaRa keep on repeating same with India and expect a different result every time. He would get the same result no matter how many times he tries.
Einstein called this insanity experiment.
ken robert / June 1, 2014
Srilankan visit to Modi’s inauguration was turned out to be Faux pas, which was elegantly narrated in this week’s Sunday times political commentary. To paraphrase the political editor of Sunday times, foreign diplomacy was so naive and in fact a student of foreign affairs could easily see the mishandling of Indian media during the debriefing of the meeting between Srilankan President and prime minister Modi.
Interesting times ahead!
Off the Cuff / June 1, 2014
Dear Mr Rajan Philips,
Re “Prime Minister Modi’s resetting the clock to 13A sends a message not only to the Rajapaksa government, but also to those in Tamil politics who cannot give up on their matinee dreaming and have been investing their dreams on a Tamil Nadu government, contesting just 39 out of 543 Lok Sabha seats in India, to somehow roughhew the Sri Lankan political landscape. They too can wake up from their matinee madness and smell the evening tea, just as the Sri Lankan government must realize that it cannot engage Delhi without talking 13A.”
As a supporter of devolution I have repeatedly tried to get the views of the Tamil intelligentsia to the following question.
The 13A recognizes that land developed by govt should benefit Sri Lanka’s population according to the National Ethnic Ratio. It also recognizes that the North and East are not an Exclusive Tamil habitat.
If then, as an example, the Vanni lands are opened up centered around the Iranamadu Tank or Jaffna and Vanni are opened up centered around the river for Jaffna project such lands would have to be necessarily allocated according to the National Ethnic Ratio which is approx Sinhala:Lanka Tamil:Moor:Indian Tamil:others 75:11:9:4:1. In the East if the Gal Oya and Mahavelli Schemes are expanded the same situation will occur.
This is equitable, as funding or debt burden of development will then be in the same ratio as the beneficiaries.
At the same time it will alter the demography unless new provinces are created in such a way that the older provinces retain the existing demography by divesting unoccupied Public Land. Such territories that do not come under State govts, exist in India and the USA.
The administrative boundaries of the British does not reflect human habitation but revenue collection. It is inconceivable that a Total Tamil population of around 50,000 could inhabit and defend a near 40% of Lanka with very long boundaries, at a point of time, just before colonial rule.
It is also known that about 85% of Lanka was Forrest when the Brits arrived. This was King’s property which became govt property. It is also known that the waste Lands act and other draconian laws increased the govt land holding to about 90%.
The problem of Land (which is a scarce resource) is at the heart of the objections that emanate from (in your own words) the “UPFA government’s small sidekicks like the NFF, the JHU, and now even the MEP, who are getting hot under the collar and are hollering out multi-point demands directly at the self-beleaguered President”
jansee / June 1, 2014
When the whole world looked the other way even when the regime brutally annihilated a section of the Tamils, and while the Tamils strove hard to highlight the ongoing atrocities, there were many like you who wouldn’t have even faintly dreamt that the spirit of the Tamils will never stop the arduous task of getting justice for their fallen brethren. I am not saying we have got that justice but we are almost there and there is not going to be any let up in the journey. My dear friend, does that look like matinee dreaming to you.
Our brethren in SL were not only beaten to pittance but the Rajapaksa regime never had any real problem in controlling and relegating the Tamils and in so doing, inflicting great deal of pain and suffering. The regime’s greatest problem and headache is from the Tamilnadu and diaspora Tamils. I can see that your drunkard mind seems to suggest your conflicting opinion of Tamilnadu’s influence on Modi in dealing with SL. No one underestimates the fluidity nature of politics but when out of thin air Rambukwella “heaved a sigh of relief” that BJP won an absolute majority thereby dismissing the role of Tamilnadu’s politics on SL, his unsaid and unwritten comment seems to be “we taake notice”. As for you, you may construe whatever you may want to.
When Cameron walked into SL with his “firepower” and Harper refused to attend CHOGM, you mean to say the Tamils over there never had any contribution to that. There could be differences in the way matters are dealt with but no one is dreaming away the future of the Tamils in SL.
Rajan Philips / June 1, 2014
My not so dear friend,
Getting justice is not day dreaming, but thinking that passing resolutions in the Tamil Nadu Assembly will lead to a referendum in/on Sri Lanka is. What did the Assembly do in 2009?
As for the spirit of the Tamils, here are links to what I wrote in 2009- A Tamil Standpoint in Sri Lanka: http://www.transcurrents.com/tc/2009/02/a_tamil_standpoint_in_sri_lanka.html
No one can “dream away the future”, the point is not to dream away from the present!
jansee / June 1, 2014
If your idea is to just sit tight and write page after page what Rajapakse should or should not do, then you can have your cat that closes its eyes tightly believing that the whole world has gone into the slumber. No one thinks or believes that a resolution from the TN Assembly would lead to a natural progression – a referendum on Eelam but the “minimal” UNHRC resolutions and India’s support for them naturally has its footprints in Tamilnadu.
You are either whimsical or not even intelligent in alluding to the events of 2009. It is a known fact how the UP and DMK played a drama that betrayed the Tamils and for that the price both paid in Tamilnadu has been but anything but colossal. Politicians are politicians and I cannot disagree with you that they can be strange bedfellows and hoping anything or everything they say, including the present Tamilnadu govt, can be attested as plain truism is to breathe too much live into any hope and would be foolish. Nonetheless, it will never be an option, under the present circumstances, not to have some faith in them, as R Sampanthan had lately done so unless otherwise you have a secret “goliath” that can stand to the might of the Rajapaksa regime, both literally and figuratively.
I honestly do not want to say this, the future can be shaped by dreams but the present is here and alive unless your version means that you are “day-dreaming”. Cheers
radish.S / June 1, 2014
Even before talking about 13A or |3A+ or other ways that could be tried,as Prof.Sumantra Bose puts it,’imaginative associative structures whereby the Sinhalese and Tamil peoples can co-exist, and co-operate in certain vital spheres of common interest (and there are many), so that the welfare of both peoples can be safeguarded and enhanced.'(Sumantra Bose, States, Nations,Sovereignty -Sri Lanka,India and the Tamil Eelam Movement,Sage Publications, New Delhi,1994).
Before that there are few things that could be done even before thinking about the abolition of the office of Executive President. This needs better people than Dayan, who always blows his own trumpet as to how he won the May,2009 resolution against Sri Lankan Government and Dew Gunasekera who says that there is no problem in giving CVW of the NPC the Police Powers but with the other CMs in the South it may be a problem or Vasudeva.N.
1.Repeal 18A and bring back 17A
2.Pass the Right to Information Bill.
3.Srip the M.P. post of all those who face serious criminal charges in Courts.
Once the Independent Commissions under 17A are in place 75% of the problems will be solved. Balance 25% will vanish with the abolition of Executive President.And of course we must get rid of jokers like Aswer from the Parliament, who waste valuable time there and public funds.
This will set the stage for a better future for the country.
Rajan Philips / June 2, 2014
There is no suggestion that Tamil Nadu is not a significant factor in regard to the Tamil question in Sri Lanka. On the contrary!
This present article highlights two opposite mistakes: the Rajapaksa mistake of assuming that with the new Modi government, Tamil Nadu is no longer a factor; the opposite mistake is to project the 37/39 AIADMK victory as a momentous fillip to the cause of Sri Lankan Tamil politics.
In regard to the second point, there is no suggestion that all Tamil political thinking subscribes to it. Far from it. But there are those who do and they are deservedly called matinee dreamers. Hopefully, you are not among them.
As for the UNHRC resolution, that resolution would be far more effective, politically and otherwise, if it is not burdened with too many parental claims and credits including the ascription to Tamil Nadu.
jansee / June 2, 2014
“This present article highlights two opposite mistakes: the Rajapaksa mistake of assuming that with the new Modi government, Tamil Nadu is no longer a factor; the opposite mistake is to project the 37/39 AIADMK victory as a momentous fillip to the cause of Sri Lankan Tamil politics.”
Rajapaksa is making a mistake, and so is Tamilnadu. I get it. Someone has a baby, it will either be a boy or girl. Did I get it right? Or am I still dreaming?
There are many who contributed to the success and the passage of the UNHRC resolution. AI, HRW, and as many as 42 countries proposed the resolution (though not all are members). I did not know of anyone or any instance where Tamilnadu claimed sole credit and I don’t know how you dream up these ideas. Many, including the American realised that taking India along would enhance the success and it is here that Tamilnadu played its role in pressuring New Delhi to twice vote in favour. If there was no such pressure, ND’s vote would have certainly gone to SL, as in 2009. May be you should explain how else this may have been achieved. And may be you should share your knowledge of how effectively this may be achieved without interference of these parties.
Moderate / June 2, 2014
RP seems very moderate in his views.
I would love to know what Rajan thinks about this:
Don’t you think Rajan that Mahinda R. lost a golden opportunity to become the second coming of Lincoln has he at least implemented the 13th Amendment to its fullest as his political settlement to this ethnic issue?
I undertand 13th amendment alone might not be sufficient, but at the least he would have won manner Tamil hearts. Had that been the case, he might have won more seats in the NPC too. But instead he gave way to Sinhala chauvinists as many of our past prime ministers and presidents did in the past. Oh, Mahinda could have been so much more than just a president, I can not see any other individual other than Mandela who had this kind of opportunity in this past couple of decades… Mahinda could have been a Lincoln- but he will end up being Modi’s little naughty pussy!
sridas sivasambo / June 2, 2014
It is but natural to speculate on the bright side. Yes, the situation would certainly have been different if Modi required an Alliance with AADMK to form the Government. Fortunately for the ‘matinee dreamers’ things are not turning out too bad. Isn’t it? Let us leave it at that and start dreaming afresh . Neither you nor anybody else could actually foretell future developments and you could continue to articulate in the same detached manner, as though you, personally, are nowhere in the equation.
sach / June 2, 2014
what are your ideas on TNA’s actions to make any politcal power devolution within a united SL impractical? Because TNA’s guiding principle is ‘we have to show to the IC that we cannot have a power devolution within a united SL’.