23 June, 2024

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Sri Lanka – Nation Building, Devolution & The 13th Amendment – Part IV

By Lionel Bopage

Dr. Lionel Bopage

Current Situation

The full implementation of the 13th amendment continues to be a controversial issue. The amendment is subject to opposition from both the south and the north east of the country. There are certain serious deficiencies with the current 13th Amendment model that need to be addressed in any future constitution. The 13th Amendment in the form it was enacted, has never been fully implemented, as many powers, especially land and police powers are yet to be devolved.

The political arena in Sri Lanka is, once again, abuzz with demands both for and against the full implementation of the 13th Amendment, even 45 years after its enactment. The nationalists in the south still argue that such devolution is too much and would lead to division of the country, whilst those in the northeast argue that there is not enough devolution. There is also the possibility that many politicians and their organizations have taken up this issue at this point in time due to the possible electoral vulnerabilities they are facing.

During the Gotabaya Rajapaksa presidency, there were assertions that certain provisions in the 13th Amendment were impractical and alternative solutions needed to be sought [Daily Mirror 6 Jan 2020, Some provisions in 13A impractical, alternatives should be sought: President]. If police powers are in the hands of Provincial Councils, the police force will become politicised, he had said. So, to help solve issues caused by language and cultural differences, he wanted to appoint individuals from the districts to the police up to the rank of OIC.

Last February, some sections of the Buddhist Sanga/clergy demonstrated against the full implementation of the 13th Amendment. However, locally, internationally and on several occasions in joint statements with India, the government has recognised the necessity for meaningful power sharing as a way of achieving reconciliation among the peoples of Sri Lanka. The Tamil National Alliance (TNA), which advocates for a federal solution, wants the full implementation of the 13th Amendment, including land and police powers.

President Ranil Wickremesinghe did speak once about fully implementing the 13th Amendment. However, in the next breath changed his mind stating that he is committed to implementing the 13th amendment but without police powers, and that the Parliament needs to discuss its implications. His devoted supporters appear to go along with whatever position he takes. These pronouncements end up as mere political opportunism.

Last July, President Wickremesinghe called an all-party meeting and asserted that Sri Lanka should retain “its provincial councils with powers adequately devolved as provided for in the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, or abolish the PC system entirely” [Ref: EconomyNext July 27, 2023]. Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) attended the all-party meeting, while a number of south-based political parties, including the National People’s Power (NPP) boycotted it. Yet again, decentralisation of land and police powers has become the Achilles heel of devolution of power in Sri Lanka.

The excuse given by the NPP, which represents a broad coalition of groups led by the JVP, for boycotting the meeting was that it was just a sham as the government has not ensured consensus within its own ranks over the issues relating to the 13th Amendment. According to the NPP, the President is utilizing this exercise to win Tamil votes to secure victory at the next presidential election. This happened even as some of the leaders of the JVP have expressed their vehement opposition to the 13th Amendment [Ref Adaderana]. According to them, even the NPP does not accept the 13th Amendment.

However, both the JVP and NPP have a question to answer. If they accept that there are specific issues the non-majoritarian communities face due to their ethno-linguistic and religious backgrounds, and if they think the 13th Amendment does not address those issues, then it is their duty and responsibility to present the policy positions that they would be adopting to address those issues. Asking the non-majoritarian communities to wait to address their issues under a future JVP or NPP regime is meaningless; rather it would be much better to secure their support by advocating the policy positions with regard to the national question.

Another Truth Commission?

Once again, the Government of Sri Lanka has proposed a commission, this time under the title ‘National Unity and Reconciliation Commission’. Going by the past experiences of numerous commissions convened since 2005 on this subject, it is no wonder that many, including the victims’ families, have expressed grave reservations about this proposal.

Not a single commission appointed in the past has been effective in delivering truth, justice or reparation to the people who have suffered. The regime has not come out with any clarification as to how this time they would ensure the safety and a conducive environment for the commission to function effectively.

Structural issues

In the absence of clear structural arrangements at the provincial level, differences exist from province to province in how devolved powers are exercised. The Ministry of Home Affairs is the direct authority of Divisional Secretaries. They are also under the administrative supervision of District Secretaries. The Divisional Secretaries have no direct link with the Provincial Councils. Thus, they have to play a dual role, serving sometimes conflicting interests of the central government and Provincial Councils, making operations of a Provincial Council ineffective. This anomaly needs to be fixed.

All powers constitutionally provided under the 13th Amendment appear to be devolved to provincial councils, except for land and police powers. However, there have been other additional manoeuvres used, such as the application of non-transparent measures for controlling the finances required for the provincial councils to function efficiently and effectively.

As per the Supreme Court’s determination, if land power is a reserved subject and cannot be devolved, and police powers should not be devolved as it would compromise national security, then there is no way such a system could address the issues of the economic and law enforcement facing the non-majoritarian communities. Are we headed for another militant uprising of nationalities demanding their basic rights and freedoms based on their right to self-determination?

To be continued…

Related stories:

Sri Lanka – Nation Building, Devolution & The 13th Amendment
Sri Lanka – Nation Building, Devolution and the 13th Amendment – Part II

Sri Lanka – Nation Building, Devolution & The 13th Amendment – Part III

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Latest comments

  • 9
    0

    “police powers are in the hands of Provincial Councils, the police force will become politicised, he (Gota) had said.
    This is perhaps the most specious argument against devolution. The police force is already as politicised as it can be. Senior officers are at the beck and call of politicians. The CID acts on the whims of Buddhist monks. At least two DIGs are in jail or death row. Honest officers are hounded out of service.
    What could be worse?

    • 10
      0

      “Asking the non-majoritarian communities to wait to address their issues under a future JVP or NPP regime is meaningless; rather it would be much better to secure their support by advocating the policy positions with regard to the national question.”
      True, and typical of the JVP. It will not take a stand against political monks, and it will avoid any perception of being soft towards the minorities.
      We don’t need the JVP to tellus “Try us once and see the difference “. Anyone can do that.

      • 0
        1

        old codger,
        .
        You’re very clever, but dishonest.
        .
        I will not play ball with you any more.
        .
        Panini Edirisinhe (NIC 483111444V)

        • 2
          0

          Honesty is so relative that you can be honest when you are not!

    • 3
      2

      OC
      In Britain, for very practical reasons, local policing and education are matters for local authorities.
      If policing is a community activity that makes sense.
      If the Police is part of national security, that will make much of the Army redundant.

    • 1
      0

      “The police force is already as politicised as it can be. Senior officers are at the beck and call of politicians.”
      /
      What about the courts? Are they not politicized? How can a defending lawyer of “harakkatta / beef mouth” / alleged arrested criminal can allow his client to order his food outside? On what basis? I am not a lawyer, being a senior graduate in biomedical sciences I always follow the reasons, I feel our people are really apathetic not to protest the kind of statements made by lawyers in public.

  • 0
    12

    ‘A militant uprising of nationalities’?….you mean will the tamil-diaspora have enough funds to reestablish the ltte?

    its not as if they ever stopped trying you know?

    i understand your paymasters want you to say certain things, but do you (or they) really not see all the integration and assimilation happening on the ground? is that what irks you so much? tsk tsk.

    Lanka has only been building its national-identity despite severe attempts by chola-supremacists and their lackeys to annex the north.

    also, on what planet do you see the moors taking part in tiger-terrorism?

    • 8
      0

      Any mention of devolution to the island’s Thamizh and Thamizh rights by anyone, you will see our hybrid Liger cub, living the good life in some British zoo, coming here roaring and screeching his opposition and to spread anti Thamizh hatred and misinformation from the safety and comfort of somewhere in the UK.

      • 0
        7

        Tamils (as well as Sinhala, Moor) all have the same full and equal civic rights in Lanka.

        it’s ltte-buffoons like you who keep screeching for the racial-segregation of the north and restart the same chola-supremacist nonsese that lead Bharat to include a constitutional ammendment against imbeciles like you looking to secede.

        Check out J Sai Deepak – he shines a bright light on your shit – but you already knew that.

        • 8
          0

          Liar

          “Tamils (as well as Sinhala, Moor) all have the same full and equal civic rights in Lanka.2

          Is that so?
          Interesting, when did you find out Tamils (as well as Sinhala, Moor) all have the same full and equal civic rights in Lanka.?

          How did you find out Tamils (as well as Sinhala, Moor) all have the same full and equal civic rights in Lanka?

          How many Tamil Generals in the Army, Air Marshalls in the Air Force, How many Tamil Admirals in the Navy?

          In the 75 year post independence history of Sri Lanka how many Tamils served as Finance Ministers, Defence Ministers, Chairmans of leading banks, state enterprises, ….. ?

          Please go away, go find out where my friend soma has gone and whether the Sinhala Speaking Demela Ravi Perera is being well fed by Hindian Diplomats in Colombo.

          • 0
            3

            Matta,

            Google is free – the names of the Lankan Tamils civil-servants killed by your ethno-terrorists are immortalized. Search a little more and you’ll find the names of brave Lankan Tamils and Moors who died in battle against the ltte.

            Lankans vote all of our ethnic-leaders into power…so not sure why you’re talking as if parliament is only Sinhala.

            Additionally on the topic of full and equal civic rights…you’re here aren’t you? Yes you get paid by the ltte-diaspora to spew venom but you’re still on the island enjoying your tea (and your full and equal civic rights).

        • 6
          0

          Liger,
          Let alone Tamils, even some Sinhalese are less equal than some other Sinhalese. You want documentary proof?

          • 2
            0

            old codger,
            You may have made the above comment lightly, but it has depth!
            We all are more or less equal!
            Equality is possible only when numbers are discussed.

        • 1
          0

          Liger

          Have you checked your head for any anatomical changes lately? How can
          every commenter against the Sinhalese be a LTTE supporter or agent? Is it fair to generalise them as such.?
          /
          If so, our southern terrorists or JVP should also be any representative of the Sinhalese. Is it correct to classify the people as such? Whenever I read from you, I am forced to think that the vast majority of our Sinhalese nation is narrow minded. They are like the Republicans on the ground defending white supremacy in that country.

    • 2
      3

      This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our Comment policy. The key to maintaining the website as an inviting space is to focus on intelligent discussion of topics.

      For more detail see our Comment policy https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/comments-policy-2

      • 3
        0

        leelagemalli, Stop being naughty!

    • 4
      0

      Liar

      “A militant uprising of nationalities’?….you mean will the tamil-diaspora have enough funds to reestablish the ltte?”

      Face the facts, LTTE was lead by nimal fernando’s hero the stupid psychopath VP who fought another equally stupid psychopath.
      Most of the Tamil Diaspora was non participants of VP’s war. It was VP who had to think from A to Z. The Tamils were forced to carry the dumb Tamil National leader, however Tamil diaspora and Tamils of Sri Lanka, India, … elsewhere are now free from VP’s control hence they are endowed with surplus human and financial resources.

      Therefore you will have to sit down with soma, the Sinhala speaking Demela Ravi Perera, Elle Gunawansa, Udaya Ganampilla, Namal, Admiral without fleet, Kamala, the Surgeon General, …. Champa, Shenalli Waduge, …. and have a serious discussion about you lot leaving the island.

  • 7
    0

    Lionel Bopage.

    Just the other day a new set of Constitutional proposals were presented by its authors
    Romesh de Silva P.C.,Manohara de Silva P.C. et al. Leading figures of the Viyath Maga, the think tank of Gota[ who is now at home but still very busy] like Sarath Weerasekera, Anuradha Yahampath [Ex.Governor Eastern Province] etc etc were all there.

    Well the audience were told that that the 13th Amendment has been axed.!!!
    Parliament is supreme they say and whatever small mercies that were allowed in the 13th Amendment is also withdrawn. Interesting development ………….

    What next? Political Buddhism is now entrenched constitutionally………….?

    • 6
      0

      How will India react to doing away with 13A which was never implemented in the first place!? Not very strongly I’d say
      _
      The current constitution already has the foundation for Political Buddhism pegged and we are all witnesses to its materialisation;
      – “The Republic of Sri Lanka shall give to Buddhism the foremost place and accordingly it shall be the duty of the State to protect and foster the Buddha Sasana while assuring to all religions the rights granted by Articles 10 and 14(1)(e).”
      —> GoSL building and funding viharas rather lavishly across the country since inception, and sometimes (deliberately) in Tamil/Hindu concentrated areas
      —> At the least, a constitution atypical of a ‘modern’ democracy

      Suppose, even with a deep economic crisis on our hands, it’s not far fetched to think that there’d be support for a new constitution that further oversteps the boundaries of a democracy and facilitate Political Buddhism in overt terms

      • 0
        0

        “How will India react to doing away with 13A which was never implemented in the first place!? Not very strongly I’d say”
        I am inclined to agree with that analysis.
        Will the Tamil politicians agree? They cannot, for it is bad for business.

        • 2
          0

          What is your clear position on the 13A? Should it be implemented (Devolution of power as prescribed), scrapped, or implemented with amendments?

  • 0
    2

    Dear Dr. Lionel Bopage,
    .
    I know that you’re very sincere, and I respect your efforts to get something done.
    .
    But given the level of dishonesty that prevails among the leaders today, I fear that we will have to wait until a better lot are elected.
    .
    I know that people have turned totally selfish, but yet I feel that given all the suffering that we’ve been through, the worst rogues will be thrown out.
    .
    No meaningful reforms can be carried out under a President who has no mandate. Period.
    .
    Panini Edirisinhe (NIC 483111444V)

    • 1
      0

      Those who say that they are honest generally aren’t!

      • 0
        0

        Starting a conversation, ‘Honestly, … .’, is an admission that he has not been honest always!

      • 0
        1

        Nathan, I thank you for being honest.
        .
        That’s something we should put some gold in our mouths.
        /
        In CT, people who go after honesty and high values are only hero/worshippers or hirelings. Unfortunately, these people do not see it in this life.

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