18 May, 2022


The Pluses And Minuses Of The 13th Amendment

By Malinda Seneviratne

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

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Latest comments

  • 0

    Where have these people been over the last 25 years? If India has foisted this on us as stated why have people been silent? Why has this not been challenged on legal grounds?

    Is the hue and cry because of NCP elections? Does ‘sovereignity of the people’ include the minorities?

    • 0


      Malinda Seneviratne has been very vociferous and has been writing a lot on 13th Amendment for a long time now and he has always been consistent with his views on the same. This is not something he has come up with after being silent for 25 years.

    • 0

      Thanks for the information. I agree that MS has been a staunch opponent of 13A. As commented by Prof Carlo Fonseka in 2009.


      The Problem

      According to the 1981 census, of the people in the Northern Province 92% were Tamils and of the people in Eastern Province 41% were Tamils. There is evidence that they had inhabited the northern parts of the country for many centuries. They have preserved a language, religion and culture of which they are proud. This has induced in them a sense of special unity that distinguishes them from the rest of the people in the land of their birth. This sense of unity has generated in them a feeling of kinship and oneness. From time to time since 1956 – in 1958, 1977, 1979, 1981 and 1983 when many of them were beaten up, looted, killed and some even burnt alive – it is to their northern haven that those who survived fled for dear life. (I know from personal experience what it feels like to flee from death threats). Therefore, to me, the aspiration of Tamils for a measure of self-governance in the areas where their ancestral homes are safely located is understandable and justifiable. Because the 13th amendment appeared to fulfill this aspiration to some degree, I have always supported it. Recently, however, I felt impelled to add the caveat that it should not be implemented during the life time of the self-appointed sole representative of the Tamil people.

      Reductio ad absurdum

      To MS the Tamil people inhabiting the northern parts of Sri Lanka are somehow reducible to the person of the self-appointed, blood-thirsty psychopathic sole representative (who ruthlessly decimated the finest representatives of the Tamil people). To him, therefore, the Tamil problem which has plagued our country for several decades boils down to a do-or-die confrontation between the sole self-appointed representative of the Tamil people and the Sinhalese. In internecine person-to-person confrontations killing one’s opponent is the ultimate act of conflict resolution. That decisive act happened in May 2009. MS seems to regard that Hitlerite “final solution” applied to the sole representative of the Tamil people as marking the end of the history of Sinhala-Tamil conflicts. To me such an attitude is an exemplification of nothing less than “rural idiocy”.

      Malindas stand is consistent with his beginings in the political arena

      In 1992 Malinda Seneviratne along with Patali Champika Ranawaka, Ven.Athuralaiye Rathana and others participated in a meeting at a temple in Wadduwa. It was here that foundation was laid for Sri Lanka’s first ever green left wing nationalist political group “Janatha Mithuro” (Friends of People) inspired by ideological input of Professor Nalin de Silva, Dr Gunadasa Amarasekara et al. The meeting however was broken up and its participants including Malinda were incarcerated for several days. He was one of the early advocates of a military solution to the insurgency perpetrated by Liberation Tigers of Tamil Ealam (LTTE) and questioned legitimacy of the claim for a separate state for Tamil people in Sri Lanka. He became an activist with the National Movement Against Terrorism aligned with his friend Champika Ranawaka and was later to become a member of Champika’s party Sihala Urumaya, that campaigned on a Sinhala Buddhist nationalist platform. Malinda contested Jaffna municipality as Sihala Urumaya candidate in 2000. Malinda Seneviratne supported the then Prime Minister and current President of Sri Lanka, Mahinda Rajapakse when he contested in the Presidential Election 2005.

      I have been following this conflict closely from around 2004 but I cannot recall any movement against 13A with the current intensity and also supported by the Govt. The President himself has gone on record promising 13A+ on many an occasion. So we have to conclude that the current uproar is due to the NPC election. So my comment is not about Malinda but in a more general context.

      • 0

        //MS seems to regard that Hitlerite “final solution” applied to the sole representative of the Tamil people //

        ‘Sole representatives of the Tamil people ????????? ‘ Really ?????? That’s a VERY shallow understanding and shows that you have not got the larger picture at all. And by terming it as Hitlerite you are further proving your lack of understanding and prejudices. Anyway you say you have been following the conflict closely from 2004, so the lack of insight is quite understandable.

        And regarding those links you have given, I have seen and read them all, long before.

        • 0

          These are the words of Prof Carlo Fonseka, not mine.

          • 0

            Ok.. thanks for clarifying. But by highlighting those words you seem to be endorsing them. Anybody who has a better understanding of the Tamil and LTTE issue will neither highlight nor endorse such words.

            • 0

              These are highlighted in the original article carried by the Island.

          • 0

            Finding excuses huh? :) So what was the purpose of you to have posted it here? Unless you subscribe to those thoughts there was no reason for you to have posted it here (I am assuming that you read the full article before you posted)

          • 0

            Whats the problem in posting an article by an emminent intellectual who claims to personally know and have discussed the issue with MS. I think the learned Prof would have a greater insight into his thinking than either of us.

            Indeed you seem to have some personal interest in defending MS. In my case I dont know him from Adam. I am merely commenting on his article and as stated by you his past articles and background which I looked up thanks to your reply.

            To me he comes across as a strong supporter of JHU and therefore his views resonate with the policy of the party, however he may couch his language. This is my view. You may have a different uderstanding.

  • 0

    MS has become just another mouthpiece for the brotherhood.
    Singing for his supper in style

  • 0

    pack it in. enough is enough.

  • 0

    “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.”

    What nonsense is this bugger talking.Wasn’t it premedasa who asked the indian troops to go before they could finish their job?Wasn’t it premedasa who gave arms to the LTTE to fight the indian troops,and this donkey is telling that India reneged on the deal when it had thousands of it soldiers killed and wounded.Premedasa even told the indian high commissioner that he would commit suicide if the troops did not leave.

    “Sovereignty. India inserted clauses to subvert Sri Lanka’s right to commerce with other nations on matters of security.”

    Why doesn’t he give the clauses.How come if there were such clauses Srilanka is presently freely having defence deals with china?India would have pointed the clauses.This malinga is a slimy bugger.

    “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.”

    The definition of homeland is the territory with which a particular ethnic group closely identified with.Doesn’t the north east fit that description for the tamils.Is malinga saying that they are not closely identified with the north and east.In the east the muslims are also closely identified with it.Nobody mentioned exclusively tamil homeland only.definition of traditional is long established.Haven’t the tamils been long established in the north and east?So what is the problem in the Indo lanka accord stating the obvious that the north and east are the traditional homelands of the tamils.Is this a myth as malinga claims.If so is he wanting to change the definition of homeland and traditional.why dosn’t he write to the oxford union etc and get the definition changed.They will rightfully chuck it into the bin saying this “black bastard monkey is trying to teach us english”.

    “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’.”

    Didn’t a majority vote for it in the end?Is that illegal?

    “The logical thing, in terms of recovering the recoverable, is to scrap the 13th forthwith.”

    So why is that not being done?Without going on complaining about 13th amendment day in and day out go ahead and scrap it chicken head. The tamils coudn’t care a shit anyway.Why do you think prabhaharan also rejected it.He did not want to be like a dog being thrown the crumbs from your table.Therefore you bonehead get it into your modaya head that the 13th amendment is something favourable to the sinhalese because India brought it in to stop separation,because they and the sinhalese have that same objective,but India can move from anti seperation ,to neutral(fed up and don’t care anymore)if you really want to push them and with an abundance of modayas that’s what will happen and the eelamists will be rubbing their hands in glee that india is no longer like a 600 kilo grizzly bear standing in the way.

    • 0

      Well Said. I was amazed at the dementia of this writer or was he thinking of pulling a fast one hoping no one remembers what went on during the Premamadsa years. In what condition was Sri Lanka when the Portugese arrived on the island. Did not the north have its own Kingdom or has this also been conveniently been updated. The 13th is a gift which puts an end to this curse. I wish these morons grow a brain.

Leave A Comment

Comments should not exceed 200 words. Embedding external links and writing in capital letters are discouraged. Commenting is automatically disabled after 5 days and approval may take up to 24 hours. Please read our Comments Policy for further details. Your email address will not be published.