Colombo Telegraph

The 13A: Joint Cabinet Memorandum Of Ministers DEW, Tissa And Vasu

Joint Cabinet Memorandum of Ministers DEW Gunasekera, Tissa Vitarana and Vasudeva Nanayakkara of the Socialist Alliance.

We are opposed to both proposals on a matter of principle and in view of the serious adverse political consequences that will surely follow. However, we can agree to legislation to repeal section 37 of the Provincial Councils Act, No. 42 of 1987.

Vasu, DEW and Tissa

The reasons for our stand are outlined as follows:

1. The 13th Amendment to the 1978 Constitution was formulated with the intension of solving the national question and bringing back the Tamil militant groups into the democratic political stream. It achieved this objective with the sole exception of the LTTE. The latter has now been militarily defeated, so that the door is open to win over the Tamil people as a whole to democratic politics within the framework of a single united country. When extra power devolution, 13 plus, has been promised, any deletions and modifications of the 13th Amendment, without due consultation, prior to holding the election to the Northern Provincial Council, will be viewed as an attempt to deprive the Tamil speaking minority (Tamils and Muslims) of a right that has hitherto been enjoyed by the Sinhala majority.

2. The fact that the proposed amendment to paragraph 3 of the existing Article 154 G has the objective of removing the safeguard which requires a 2/3 majority of the total number of members of Parliament to be obtained if one provincial council does not agree to a Bill that is being passed by Parliament, with regard to powers that have been devolved to the Provincial Councils, would further strengthen the fear of majority views being imposed on the minorities.

3. Criticisms leveled against the Government on the grounds of acting in a majoritarian anti-democratic fashion would be strengthened. It would further alienate the Tamil speaking minority and help those with a separatist agenda, both in Sri Lanka and abroad, to manipulate them once again, and also win international support, thereby increasing the danger of separatism rather than reducing it. It is our view that any changes to the 13th Amendment should only be made after due consultation, preferably at a meeting of the proposed Select Committee of Parliament, at which representatives of the Tamil and Muslim parties are able to be present.

4. We have no objection to legislation being framed to repeal section 37 of the Provincial Councils Act No. 42 of 1987, as this was a transitional arrangement and there is a Supreme Court ruling against the purported merger by the former President J.R. Jayawardene. The best course would be to retain Article 154 A (3), and include provision for a mandatory poll of all the electors in each of the adjoining provinces that desire to be merged. This would ensure that the decision of Parliament is approved by the voters of the concerned provinces.

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