21 October, 2020

Blog

WikiLeaks: SLFP Proposal Removes Police And Land Powers, But Replaces Them With Nothing – EPDP Vigneswaran

“Dr. K. Vigneswaran, a member of the APRC Experts Committee, told us that Tamils do not believe that devolving powers to the district level will meet their aspirations. The concept of the merged Northeast Province speaks to their need for security and for proper representation, he said. Tamils fear that the Districts, whose heads are to be appointed by the President, will be subject to manipulation by the central government. Tamils believe that “colonization” of their traditional areas by Sinhalese would accelerate. Further, Vigneswaran argued, the SLFP proposal removes the powers of police, land and irrigation from the provinces, but replaces them with nothing. He asserted that reserving the security, land and water portfolios to the central government leaves it unclear what is left to be devolved to the districts.” the US Embassy Colombo informed Washington.

Dr. K. Vigneswaran

The Colombo Telegraph found the related leaked cable from the WikiLeaks database. The ‘Confidential’ cable discusses the governing SLFP’s devolution proposals. The cable was written on May 04, 2007  by the US embassy Charge d’Affaires James R. Moore.

Moor wrote; “A senior UNP Member of Parliament we contacted said he had spoken by phone on April 3 to party leader Ranil Wickremesinghe. The MP believed that the newspaper had taken Choksy’s comments out of context. What Choksy meant, he said, was that only the UNP and SLFP, working together, could put forward a viable proposal that could command the necessary majority in the South and in Parliament. However, he noted that the UNP had for months insisted that the 2000 proposal by then-President Chandrika Kumaratunga was the minimum benchmark to meet. The SLFP proposals represented a step back even from the status quo under the 13th Amendment and were therefore ‘a waste of time’. He and three UNP working committee members we saw separately all expressed deep skepticism that the SLFP proposals were serious. It appeared to them that the President was simply trying to play the ball back to the UNP. They saw this as an attempt to shift the onus to the UNP for advocating concessions to the LTTE. They made it clear that the UNP was disinclined to fall into this trap.”

Placing a comment he wrote; “The UNP, moderate Tamil and Muslim parties, and “crossovers” to the government such as G. L. Peiris all argue that the final devolution ‘package’ must lie somewhere between the existing structures of the 13th amendment and the LTTE’s 2003 proposal for an Interim Self-Governing Authority. The SLFP proposal, for all of these players, is simply not on the playing field. APRC chair Vitharana (himself the chair of a small left-wing party) and SLFP figures such as Health Minister and peace negotiator Nimal De Silva have emphasized that the SLFP draft is not the governing party’s final word. However, a basic analysis of the various proposals now in play shows that the SLFP draft is the outlier, and has little in common with the others. The UNP has promised to engage seriously on devolution provided the SLFP put a credible proposal on the table. Our discussions with UNP interlocutors indicate they do not see a way forward based on the current SLFP draft. The two main parties continue to be wary of each other, and it will be difficult for them to cooperate on this crucial issue as long as each suspects the other of seeking a partisan advantage. It remains true that any proposal which does not have the backing of the two main Southern parties will fail to reach the critical mass needed to move forward. Similarly, any proposal that is completely out of bounds for the great majority of Sri Lanka’s Tamils will not hold the potential to help resolve the decades-old ethnic conflict.”

Read the cable below for further details;

VZCZCXRO5601
OO RUEHBI RUEHLMC
DE RUEHLM #0661/01 1241145
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 041145Z MAY 07
FM AMEMBASSY COLOMBO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 5984
INFO RUEHRL/AMEMBASSY BERLIN PRIORITY 0376
RUEHKA/AMEMBASSY DHAKA PRIORITY 0081
RUEHIL/AMEMBASSY ISLAMABAD PRIORITY 7062
RUEHKT/AMEMBASSY KATHMANDU PRIORITY 5149
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON PRIORITY 3723
RUEHNE/AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI PRIORITY 0932
RUEHNY/AMEMBASSY OSLO PRIORITY 3795
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO PRIORITY 2876
RUEHCG/AMCONSUL CHENNAI PRIORITY 7648
RUEHBI/AMCONSUL MUMBAI PRIORITY 5330
RUEHON/AMCONSUL TORONTO PRIORITY 0196
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA PRIORITY 2014
RHHMUNA/HQ USPACOM HONOLULU HI PRIORITY
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHEHAAA/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEHBS/USEU BRUSSELS PRIORITY
RUEHLMC/MILLENNIUM CHALLENGE CORPORATION PRIORITY
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 COLOMBO 000661 

SIPDIS 

SIPDIS 

DEPARTMENT FOR SCA/INS
MCC FOR F REID, D NASSIRY AND E BURKE 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/03/2017
TAGS: PGOV PREL PHUM CE
SUBJECT: SRI LANKA: CRITICISM OF RULING PARTY DEVOLUTION
PROPOSAL MOUNTS 

REF: COLOMBO 643 

Classified By: Charge d'Affaires James R. Moore, for reasons 1.4(b, d). 

¶1.  (C) SUMMARY: Most parties represented in parliament,
including several elements of the ruling coalition, have come
out publicly or privately against the governing Sri Lankan
Freedom Party draft devolution proposals.  The Sinhalese
nationalist JVP has also attacked the plan, saying it is
contrary to the President's anti-federalist 2005 election
campaign manifesto, which the JVP accepted when it supported
him.  The opposition United National party (UNP) is awaiting
the return of its leader, Ranil Wickremesinghe, currently
traveling in Europe, before taking a definitive position.
The prevailing sentiment in the party is that the UNP has
little to gain by engaging on basis of the SLFP text, which
they regard as incapable of addressing the country's ethnic
conflict.  Most Tamils believe that district-level devolution
has been tried at least twice before in previous decades and
found to be inadequate for Sri Lanka.  End summary. 

OPPOSITION TO SLFP PROPOSALS VIRTUALLY UNANIMOUS
--------------------------------------------- --- 

¶2.  (C) The chorus of voices criticizing the governing SLFP's
devolution proposals continued.  The Sinhalese nationalist
JVP denounced the draft as contrary to the President's
election manifesto, which was stridently anti-federalist.
JVP parliamentary leader Wimal Weerawansa noted, "the
proposals refer to a federal form of government which was
against the people's mandate.... if the government believes
it can resolve the problem by increasing the number of
administrative bodies , it will be a joke..  (This) would
only help corrupt politicians misappropriate public funds by
being part of the system." 

¶3.  (C) Sri Lankan Muslim Congress (SLMC) leader Rauff Hakeem
told Pol Chief that his party had not yet discussed the
proposals, but he personally did not think they could
contribute to a settlement of the ethnic conflict.  This
would depend mostly on the attitude of moderate Tamil
parties, he said, whose spokesmen so far had expressed "deep
distress" over the ruling party's draft.  Hakeem thought that
the proposal to devolve power to the districts would open to
the door to manipulation by the central government and could
actually help "extend the power of the executive presidency
to the periphery."  He commented that the SLFP's 2000
proposals were "much better," and called for further
discussions within the APRC on the basis of the "Majority
Report" of the Experts Committee, rather than the SLFP draft. 

THIRD TIME LUCKY?
----------------- 

¶4.  (C) A key member of the SLFP drafting committee (strictly
protect) confided to Pol that the President had rejected the
work of his committee, which had proposed provincial level
devolution.  The President then convened a second, smaller
working group that excluded this contact and other prominent
SLFP moderates.  Nevertheless, this working group had also
reported out a proposal to devolve power to the Provincial
Councils.  The third and final draft was the brainchild of
Sri Lanka's Chief Justice (known for his extreme and quirky
views) and a lawyer close to the JVP.  Our source told us the
President pushed this third proposal through the party's
Central Committee.  He believed that his plan for devolution
to the provinces commanded much support within the SLFP, but
in the end, Central Committee members were unwilling to cast
votes against the President.  His own draft went down to
defeat, 33 to 3, although the President subsequently endorsed
several amendments he suggested. 

COLOMBO 00000661  002 OF 003 

UNP SENSES A POLITICAL TRAP
--------------------------- 

¶5.  (C) The principal opposition UNP has yet to take a
definitive position on the SLFP concepts, mainly because its
leader, Ranil Wickremesinghe, is currently traveling in
Europe.  UNP delegate to the APRC K. N. Choksy gave an
interview to the daily newspaper "Island" in which he
reportedly said the principal difference between the two main
parties was on the unit of devolution ) the province or the
district.  He turned the President's development argument on
its head, saying the district units would be too small to
carry out sustainable development, and would tend to fragment
the country.  Choksy did, however note that the UNP and SLFP
were both on record as advocating substantial devolution
within one nation.  Choksy expressed hope that this consensus
on the central issue could help advance the stalled peace
process. 

¶6.  (C) A senior UNP Member of Parliament we contacted said
he had spoken by phone on April 3 to party leader Ranil
Wickremesinghe.  The MP believed that the newspaper had taken
Choksy's comments out of context.  What Choksy meant, he
said, was that only the UNP and SLFP, working together, could
put forward a viable proposal that could command the
necessary majority in the South and in Parliament.  However,
he noted that the UNP had for months insisted that the 2000
proposal by then-President Chandrika Kumaratunga was the
minimum benchmark to meet.  The SLFP proposals represented a
step back even from the status quo under the 13th Amendment
and were therefore "a waste of time."  He and three UNP
working committee members we saw separately all expressed
deep skepticism that the SLFP proposals were serious.  It
appeared to them that the President was simply trying to play
the ball back to the UNP.  They saw this as an attempt to
shift the onus to the UNP for advocating concessions to the
LTTE.  They made it clear that the UNP was disinclined to
fall into this trap. 

¶7.  (C) The UNP working committee members we spoke to
(protect) were also suspicious of the role the Chief Justice
played in developing the SLFP proposal.  They believed that
any consensus emerging from political discussion among the
parties would probably later be rendered moot by a Supreme
Court decision orchestrated by the Chief Justice.  They cited
numerous precedents for this, noting that the same Supreme
Court had ruled -- on grounds that many have found dubious --
that both the Post-Tsunami Operational Management Structure
(PTOMS) and the 1989 merger of the North and East Provinces
were unconstitutional.  They expected the Supreme Court would
soon overrule an appeals court decision and declare the 2002
Ceasefire Agreement unconstitutional as well. 

THE BASIS OF OBJECTIONS TO THE SLFP PROPOSAL
-------------------------------------------- 

¶8.  (SBU)   The idea of devolution to the district level is
not new - proposals for decentralization of power in Sri
Lanka along those lines go back nearly fifty years.
-- In 1957, Prime Minister S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike reached a
partial agreement with Tamil Federal Party head Chelvanayakam
on devolution to the provinces, but the accord soon fell
apart over the issue of Tamil language rights.
-- In 1965 Prime Minister Dudley Senanayake and Chelvanayakam
agreed on a plan for district councils.  This plan was also
short-lived and, in the view of most Tamil-speaking people,
did not result in any significant autonomy .
-- In 1979, President Jayawardene proposed a system
remarkably similar to the present SLFP concept, including
District Development Councils (DDCs) with appointed District 

COLOMBO 00000661  003 OF 003 

Managers to plan economic development activities.  Tamil and
Muslim parties in the North and East found the system
unworkable because the unit of devolution was too small to be
economically viable.
-- As a direct result of the 1987 Indo-Lanka Accord, the 13th
amendment to Sri Lanka's Constitution replaced the DDCs with
Provincial Councils.  This is the status quo that the SLFP
proposes to supersede, essentially by turning back the clock
to pre-1979. 

¶9.  (C) Tamils find this broadly unacceptable, saying that
district-level autonomy was been tried at least twice before
and found unsatisfactory.  Ceylon Workers Congress spokesman
Yogarajan, whose party represents "Up-Country" Tamils of
Indian origin, said "President Jayawardene introduced the
provincial council system because people rejected the
district councils in the 1980s.  Tamils were not satisfied
with them even then.  That is why war is going on even today.
 Now the SLFP has taken a step backward." Even the anti-LTTE
Eelam People's Democratic Party, part of the governing
coalition, has come out against it.  Party spokesman
Thavarajah commented: "We are very clear that any devolution
package should be based on the provinces proposal.  Also, we
are in favor of the Northeast merger." 

¶10.   Dr. K. Vigneswaran, a member of the APRC Experts
Committee, told us that Tamils do not believe that devolving
powers to the district level will meet their aspirations.
The concept of the merged Northeast Province speaks to their
need for security and for proper representation, he said.
Tamils fear that the Districts, whose heads are to be
appointed by the President, will be subject to manipulation
by the central government.  Tamils believe that
"colonization" of their traditional areas by Sinhalese would
accelerate.  Further, Vigneswaran argued, the SLFP proposal
removes the powers of police, land and irrigation from the
provinces, but replaces them with nothing.  He asserted that
reserving the security, land and water portfolios to the
central government leaves it unclear what is left to be
devolved to the districts. 

¶11. (C) COMMENT:  The UNP, moderate Tamil and Muslim parties,
and "crossovers" to the government such as G. L. Peiris all
argue that the final devolution "package" must lie somewhere
between the existing structures of the 13th amendment and the
LTTE's 2003 proposal for an Interim Self-Governing Authority.
 The SLFP proposal, for all of these players, is simply not
on the playing field.  APRC chair Vitharana (himself the
chair of a small left-wing party) and SLFP figures such as
Health Minister and peace negotiator Nimal DeSilva have
emphasized that the SLFP draft is not the governing party's
final word.  However, a basic analysis of the various
proposals now in play shows that the SLFP draft is the
outlier, and has little in common with the others.  The UNP
has promised to engage seriously on devolution provided the
SLFP put a credible proposal on the table.  Our discussions
with UNP interlocutors indicate they do not see a way forward
based on the current SLFP draft.  The two main parties
continue to be wary of each other, and it will be difficult
for them to cooperate on this crucial issue as long as each
suspects the other of seeking a partisan advantage.  It
remains true that any proposal which does not have the
backing of the two main Southern parties will fail to reach
the critical mass needed to move forward.  Similarly, any
proposal that is completely out of bounds for the great
majority of Sri Lanka's Tamils will not hold the potential to
help resolve the decades-old ethnic conflict.
MOORE
Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Latest comments

  • 0
    0

    What “police and land powers”?
    Police and Land powers,especially in the north and east,are exercised by the army,which functions under the military governors.

    • 0
      0

      With the election of a Tamil CM that will all change mate and it is a slippery road into which MR has been pushed by India , USA and Britain. There is no escape route.

  • 0
    0

    The denial of SLFP lead Government to put forward a proposal to resolve six decades of National problem , the denial of President Rajapakse to talk to TNA on the basis of agreed principles, not even to mention about APRC prposals submitted by Dr. Vitharane, acceptance of extremist proposals to remove the land and police powers to the provincial councils and the delayed Northern Provincial council elections clearly proves that Sinhala politics never agree for a solutions based on democratic way.

    They need to have the power to exercise full control over Tamils from what they eat to where they sleep. To keep this power they will do whatever they can including mass scale killings as happened in 1958, 1977, 1983 and 2009. The way it goes suggests that if TNA wins the NPC elections, you could expect worse than July 1983 or even worse than Mulliwaygal.

  • 0
    0

    Tamils are talking for power devolution.

    Pabakaran had power for 30 years. what did Tamils get ?

    Power is for politicians and not for lay for people. Lay people are fighting for living their life.

    Why all these Police and Land powers ?.

    what for ?

    • 0
      0

      Jim,

      You are not only a soft and a lay person but also sound stupid.

      MR wants to keep Police powers to rule the Tamils and impose his will and Land powers to grab Tamil Land and colonise.

  • 0
    0

    There is a price to pay if you lose a war, and the Tamils currently are probably the weakest they have ever been. Now with no leverage, they will have to fight for the scarps the Sinahala nationalist give them.

    • 0
      0

      Oh Boy or Boy,

      Boy George the War on Tamils started in 1958 and has continued since unhindered but is drawing to a close. The election to the Northern assembly has been forced on MR ( reluctantly) by India USA and Britain and I am not sure if you have any intelligence and let me give you an idea of how things are going to evolve.

      1) The election of the CM is the first step down the slippery road for MR.
      2) Contrary to what MR and his gang are putting out there is not going to be any watering down of the 13th Amendment with regards to Police and land Powers and big brother has seen to that.
      3) Soon after the election CM will test the waters and try to flex his muscles and confine the army to barracks and have control over the police. As in the absence of Central Control and with an elected assembly with peoples mandate CM should have a free reign. But MR knowing his instinct will dissolve the Assembly making mockery of Democracy and rule from the centre. The problem for MR is his unwillingness to devolve any power to an elected assembly because it will interfere with his agenda of colonisation.
      4) Then it will be up to the Guarantors such as India USA and Britain to take the necessary action.
      5) So the choice for MR is daunting but no doubt he will get peoples mandate because the vast majority of Sinhalese are inherently racist.

Leave A Comment

Comments should not exceed 200 words. Embedding external links and writing in capital letters are discouraged. Commenting is automatically disabled after 7 days and approval may take up to 24 hours. Please read our Comments Policy for further details. Your email address will not be published.