By Upali Gajanayake –
Freedom, equality and justice are prominent features of the political culture rooted in a democratic society. An important feature of free thought, which started taking root after the 15th century. This is the establishment of the legal basis for the freedom of man living in the nation state. Montesquieu’s theory of separation of powers provides the necessary philosophical basis to limit the state’s power. The devolution of power in countries with physical geographical disparities and national cultural diversity has become a political method as a measure to guarantee the rights of all citizens without discrimination.
In many new colonial states, beautiful clauses including the above elements were inserted into their constitutions, but the public was kept far away from that political culture. The argument regarding the 13th amendment to the present Constitution of Sri Lanka shows that reality.
The argument regarding the 13th amendment came to the forefront again when President Ranil Wickremesinghe recently announced that he would take steps to transfer police and land powers to the provincial councils.
President Ranil Wickremesinghe recently called a group of leaders of several political parties and other politicians who represent the current parliament and boasted that he would immediately implement the 13th amendment fully, thus creating a heated debate.
As mentioned by the President in his own words, the 13th amendment is currently a part of the Sri Lankan Constitution. Whilst the rest of the powers have been delegated to the provincial councils, only police and land powers are left to be delegated.
However, we are not able to say President Wickremesinghe will be a political leader who does what he says. Whilst saying that, the 13th amendment will be implemented, President Wickremesinghe also pointed out that ‘’If the MPs want, the Parliament can repeal the amendment.’’
But President Wickremesinghe’s statement has once again set the stage for racist, opportunistic, brutal politicians who have fallen on all fours politically so far.
By being a shrewd politician, his ulterior motive may be to turn the March local government election into a dogfight between the racist political parties by turning it in a completely different direction.
On the other hand, there is a possibility that he is trying to shape the political mind of the North early for his benefit in the upcoming presidential election.
The President who visited Jaffna recently faced public anger and had to return to Colombo amid tight security. It was a threat to his future political dream.
Furthermore, several high-level diplomatic officials of the Delhi administration recently visited Colombo. The President may be being pressured by the Indians to implement the 13th Amendment soon.
My primary focus of this article is not to discuss those facts or the political integrity of President Wickremesinghe. The focus should be on the so-called patriots who are sharpening their racist swords and preparing the stage to re-enact the old dramas with the president’s statement about the 13th amendment is a dereliction of political responsibility.
Who would like to see again the bloodbath that happened in 1987 in Sri Lanka? When the 13th amendment was introduced after the Indo-Lanka accord of 1987 and the first provincial councils elections were held, the country became a battlefield. No one wants to see the country fall back into a tragedy like in 1987-89.
As soon as President Wickremesinghe’s 13th Amendment speech came out, a handful of politicians and so-called organizations who were careful not to talk about racism in public for a while have started to catch their old prey again.
The United National Party (UNP) led by President Wickremesinghe and the Podu Jana Peramuna (PPP) which is protected by him, are still silent on giving power to provincial councils. Now their old allies have started again blowing the old horn that the 13th amendment is a dangerous tool to divide the country.
The first political party ready to relaunch this mal ideology is Wimal Weerawansa’s National Freedom Front (JNP), which has become a political orphan since withdrawing their support to Podu Jana Peramuna.
A frontline leader of the National Freedom Front, MP Jayantha Samaraweera said that ‘’the patriotic people are ready to sacrifice their lives to defeat the efforts of President Ranil Wickremesinghe to fully implement the 13th constitutional amendment and pave the way for an Eelam state.’’
Jayantha Samaraweera is the national organizer of the National Freedom Front led by Wimal Weerawansa. He has also emphasized that his party will take the lead in defeating the 13th Amendment. Jayantha Samaraweera has questioned the two leaders of their old political alliance. ‘’President Ranil Wickremesinghe has said that he is ready fully implement the 13th Amendment. The president explained his position in front of ex- president Mahinda Rajapaksa who destroyed the Tamil Tigers, and also in front of Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena, who opposed it when the Indo-Lanka Agreement was signed on June 29th, 1987.’’
‘’We ask Mahinda Rajapaksa and Dinesh Gunawardena, ‘You fought against separatism and separatist terrorism throughout history. We ask them now, in the end, are you being prepared to give Eelam on a tray to Prabhakaran’s successor, Sumanthiran?’’’
The anti-provincial council ideology are being used by some of the political parties in Sri Lanka to gain votes dishonestly.
A Racket To Gain Votes
MP Channa Jayasumana, a professor of medical science and a former minister who was involved in the promotion of fake medicine while the people of Sri Lanka were suffering from the Covid-19 epidemic, recently addressed his constituents and declared a war against the devolution of police and land powers to the provincial councils.
MP S.M. Marikkar who is a spokesperson of the Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) warned that ‘’the country could be set ablaze by implementing the 13th fully.’’
Athuraliye Rathana and his ‘yellow pet team’ will also raise their voices soon. Udaya Gammanpila, Gevindu Cumaratunga and Prof. Nalin de Silva have already joined this procession.
MP Udaya Gammanpila a character who uses words without any responsibility, has already started shooting. He provided a warning by saying: “With the establishment of police commissions giving power to the provincial councils, the battle in the future will be between the government’s military and the regional police force. Countries that secretly supported the separatists will be able to openly supply arms to the provincial council police in the future.”
MP Gammanpila went on to question ‘’Therefore, with President Wickremesingha preparing to transfer police and land powers to the provincial councils, everyone was waiting for the reaction taken by the Janata Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP).’’
What does the statement of Udaya Gammanpila imply, who hides the anti-Tamilism brewing in him?
He shows the political skepticism towards the Tamil people. Until this kind of doubt is eliminated, it will be difficult to create a common political culture in Sri Lanka.
MP Gammanpila implies by giving police powers to the Northern and Eastern Provincial Councils, there will be a total Tamil police force. This warning is misleading the people. There is no logical basis for this warning from the leader of the Pivithuru Hela Urumaya. It is a complete distortion to understand the transfer of police power as the establishment of a Tamil police force.
A New Challenge
When President Jayawardene presented the provincial council solution, the Janata Vimukthi Peramuna(JVP) led by Rohana Wijeweera took up arms against the government and the political parties which supported the plan and turned the country into a killing field in 1987-89.
MP Channa Jayasumana and Jayantha Samaraweera leaders of Uttar Lanka Sabhagaya (ULA) challenged Janata Vimukti Peramuna (JVP) to publish its opinion over President Wickremesinghe’s statement.
Aware of the danger of hurting the hearts of Sinhalese voters while facing the local government elections, JVP general secretary Tilvin Silva is hiding the party’s position on the 13th amendment. He tries to run away from the issue by saying that ‘’Ranil has no desire to activate the amendment fully.’’
But MP Harini Amarasuriya, member of the Jathika Jana Balawegaya(NPP) the alliance led by Janata Vimukti Peramuna(JVP) expresses a direct opinion.
Dr. Amarasuriya has told a newspaper that the 13th Constitutional Amendment has already been added to the Constitution as a solution to the national problem, so it should be fully implemented.
Enemy Is Not New
Starting from ex-Prime Minister Sirima Bandaranaike to Rohana Wijeweera, many political forces have a notorious history of being hostile to it. A number of politicians, labour leaders, civil activists and professionals who supported the provincial council were brutally killed.
In addition to the United National Party, only left-wing political parties including the late Vijaya Kumaratunga’s SLMP and a handful of progressive organizations in Sri Lanka supported the implementation of Provincial Councils by President Jayewardene.
The SLMP, LSSP, SLCP and NSSP were the main political forces that pushed forward the provincial council solution even more than the United National Party.
The United Socialist Front (USF) formed by the alliance of those four left political parties, has yet to receive any justice for its members, who had to pay in blood for their support of the provincial council system.
A Question To The Old Left
Three decades after those bloody years, Sri Lanka’s two oldest left-wing political parties, the Lanka Sama Samaja Party and the SL Communist Party, as well as Vasudeva Nanayakkara’s group, have allied themselves with a group that says will fight against the devolution of powers to provincial councils.
With that background it is certain that the people who wish for a political solution to the ethnic problem in Sri Lanka will raise a question like below.
“Can you all move an inch further as a coalition under a flag of ‘Uththara Lanka Sabhagaya’ with so-called racists? If possible, what is the political morality in it?”
What has happened now is that the groups once who were holding the provincial council solution on their shoulders have fallen into the lap of the enemies of the provincial council.
Agnos / February 5, 2023
The politicians and voters who are against implementing even the 13A, still haven’t realized that their racism and stubbornness led the country to the abysmal conditions it has today. Take SP/SJB. He started saying he wasn’t against going beyond the 13A; then he met Gunadasa Amarasekara and said there would be nothing beyond 13A; now his SJB is saying even full implementation of 13A cannot be tolerated. It looks like the country is carrying a self-destructive genie and its freefall cannot be prevented.