By Malinda Seneviratne –
Thirteen. Thirteen Plus. Thirteen Minus. That’s the talk in the politico-ideological streets. It is almost like a rudimentary arithmetic problem. In July 1987 Sri Lanka may have been plus or minus or average compared to other members in the community of nations. Wherever the country may have stood, it was dragged in the negative direction by the Indo-Lanka Accord.
Did the Indo-Lanka Accord deliver on ‘peace’? No. Did India, as it pledged, subdue all military groups including the LTTE? No. Indeed, India in effect reneged on the deal more than twenty years ago.
A bloody conflict that was about to be ended, was given a lease of life. It lived on for 22 years more. Took 100,000 lives or more. The Accord precipitated a bloody insurrection that took 60,000 lives. If even 1% of the dead were ‘smart’, we are talking about a monumental loss of invaluable human resources. That’s the genesis of the HR crisis Sri Lanka faces right now. All in the minus column.
Sovereignty. India inserted clauses to subvert Sri Lanka’s right to commerce with other nations on matters of security. The accord sought to concretize random boundary lines in terms of a homeland claim that has no basis in terms of history, archaeological record or demography, effectively helping turn myth into fact. Drop that in the minus column.
Legality. The bill was presented in part to Parliament. A 9-member bench of the Supreme Court could not conclude on constitutionality. They were divided 4-4. It took a Chief Justice (who happened to be a Tamil) to interpret the opinion of the 9th member in favor of ‘constitutional’. The Provincial Council bill was passed immediately after the Indo-Lanka Accord was passed, as though father and son were birthed together. Minus that!
Truth and lie. It was not about Tamil grievances/aspirations. Rajiv Gandhi bragged about Bhutanization. IPKF high-ups said it was a victory to stump Tamil parties and get Trinco and not Jaffna as the capital of the North-East. It was about Indian foreign policy prerogatives.
The ‘ground reality’ was said to warrant the sating of a militant group. The majority objected. The militants were not sated. In fact the LTTE rejected the 13th Amendment, of course for reasons that were different to the objections put forward by certain Sinhala groups. In any event, it rebelled against popular sentiment. The only beneficiaries were fledgling politicians who saw in it stepping stones to further careers. Positive for them, negative for the voter.
We can also minus national dignity. We can minus other things verbally agreed upon, but that’s conjecture. The bottom line is that the Indo-Lanka Accord took Sri Lanka in the wrong direction with the multiple factors at play determining the speed and length of that journey. The logical thing, in terms of recovering the recoverable, is to scrap the 13th forthwith.
How? Well, there’s a thing called a ‘geo-political reality’, thrown at us by the likes of Dayan Jayatilleka to say that India’s endorsement is a must and therefore it is the Indian ‘frame’ within which we seek ‘progress’. That’s a lie that was exposed in May 2009. There is a geo-political reality of course, but what is thrown around is an inflated version of the beast. In other words an ad and a pernicious one at that; full of exaggerated claims.
The ‘how not’ is easier to answer. The wrong way is to do what some bikkhus in Ampara at a meeting held to champion the 13th Amendment. What has to be understood is that ideological battle was won by those who oppose the 13th. The logic is with them. Those who were defeated opted to go with ‘the boys’, directly or indirectly. That can happen again, but each time it will end in the Nandikadaal Lagoon, metaphorically or literally.
The ‘how’ of it is not very clear, but if lessons have to be learned, we can pick from Prabhakaran and his God Father Chelvanayagam. Prabhakaran was defeated only after the military apparatus learned Prabhakaran’s language. Chelvanayakam said ‘little now, more later’. The lesson is, ‘less now’ and ‘even lesser later’, no, not in terms of righting wrong (devolution is but one proposal and an erroneous one, but full and equal citizenship rights cannot be compromised), but in getting us some ways in the ‘plus’ direction after the big-minus of July 1987. In other words, a gradual erasing of the 13th.
There are other ways of employing logic. The logical ‘end’ of the devolution argument is the Grama Rajya, or devolving to the smallest possible unit. Propose it and no one can object, and objection means obstinacy and non-interest in resolution. Another would be to say, ‘since sovereignty, especially in circumstances far afield from July 1987, is non-negotiable, the coastal belt (including of course a 10 mile wide strip of land all around the island) and Trincomalee have to be taken off the equation of “power sharing”’. Will India agree? If not, why not? Stumped, one would think.
*Malinda Seneviratne is the Chief Editor of ‘The Nation’ and his articles can be found at www.malindawords.blogspot.com