By C.V. Wigneswaran –
A journalist asked me; Why are you collaborating with the Government to implement the Thirteenth Amendment which has been rejected by the Tamil Parties? Would you not be adversely commented upon by other Tamil National Parties?
My response was;No! Not at all! All Tamil National Parties have at one stage or the other approved the immediate implementation of the Thirteenth Amendment. Only the Tamil Congress (TNPF) has rejected the Thirteenth Amendment in toto. There are Thirteen Registered Tamil Parties in the North and East including Tamil Congress. Out of the Twelve barring the Congress, seven Parties have signed and informed the President that they want the immediate implementation of the Thirteenth Amendment though it may not be a permanent solution to the Tamils’ problem. The eighth Party has consented to the request of the seven Parties, though not signed the document. The balance four Parties ITAK, TELO, PLOTE and EPRLF, though they have declined to sign the letter to the President for the full implementation of the Thirteenth Amendment, they had earlier signed a letter to the Indian Prime Minister Hon’ Modi, making the same request and sought the intervention of the Indian PM in the full implementation of the Thirteenth Amendment. Therefore the desire to implement the constitutionally presently available Thirteenth Amendment immediately is universal among the twelve Parties.
All Tamil National Parties have some form of federalism as their final goal for a permanent settlement. Our Party TMK has asked for confederation as in Switzerland. None of the Parties, not even the Tamil Congress has asked for separation.
Therefore collaborating with the Government to implement an already available legal provision in our Constitution need not be looked upon unfavourably by the Tamil Parties.
Our Tamil politicians have somehow got into the habit of identifying those who think differently from them as traitors or fellow travellers in the band wagon of the Government. It takes patience and comprehension to understand what the other person says even if that person’s views are different from ours. Categorizing those views as traitorous shows weakness on our part. We do not want to meet their arguments but prefer to detract the audience by calling our criticizers traitors or madmen.
It would help our people if our Tamil intellectuals, both inland and abroad, start debates and discussions earnestly among our people to find out as to what our political goals should be.
Those who prefer federalism have plausible grounds to support their views. But with a Sinhalese dominated Government conditioned to believe federalism is separation, we need to educate them patiently. Implementing the Thirteenth Amendment could be a preliminary step in this direction.
What stands between a federal and unitary State in Sri Lanka is the lack of comprehension about the Tamils and their needs among the Sinhala masses. Once the truth about the Tamils of Sri Lanka dawns on the Sinhalese they would appreciate the need for a Federal State.
When the nine Chief Ministers before dissolution of the Provincial Councils met in Anuradhapura under the Chairmanship of the former President Sirisena and agitated for more powers to the Provincial Councils, Hon’ Peshala Jayaratne the CM for the NCP said in Sinhala words to this effect – “WE want all powers but not Federalism”. He was scared of the word Federalism! In other words he wanted all powers for the Provincial Councils under a Unitary Constitution. Of course there are provisions in law, which could make the granting of powers under a Unitary Constitution to the periphery, permanent.
The Provincial Councils’ system has been tried by other Provinces and have been found to lack adequate powers.
The exercise we are involved with the Government is to resuscitate the Thirteenth Amendment and make it available for the Provinces in time for the Provincial Councils’ elections, due to take place soon.
*Justice C.V. Wigneswaran M.P.