By Ayathuray Rajasingam –
A close examination of the 13th Amendment, would reveal that the Northern Province Provincial Council (NPPC) is powerless to manage the Provincial Fund required for the economic development of the Northern Province, because of the enormous powers vested with the Governor. Actually it denies the economic freedom that would lead to the growth and prosperity of the Northern Province. Economic freedom denotes the ability of the individuals to undertake economic direction and actions. According to Friedrich Hayek Rule of Law is required for economic freedom as evidenced in the Western democratic countries. Equality of law requires that all legal rules apply equally to everyone which are seen as safeguards against restrictions on liberty, because they require that all laws equally apply to those with political and coercive power as well as to those who are governed. However, special privileges and arbitrary application of law in Sri Lanka are seen as exemptions from this principle of generality and equality.
After the defeat of the LTTE, economic challenges has been a major factor for the Northern Province that was ravaged by war. Though the infra-structure development work are being carried out, the denial of economic freedom and an absence of equality of law was characterized by systematic and calculated acts of grabbing lands belonging to the Tamils and colonized with the Sinhalese. The government failed to realize that majority of the Tamils aspired to live peacefully for which it should have provided a platform for economic freedom. On the contrary, the ruling politicians celebrated the victory as though they have won a great battle against another country and began to harass the helpless Tamils, which is not the method of healing the pains of feelings. It appears that the ruling politicians are still driven by narrow considerations that Tamils are not a segment of the Sri Lankan community.
It is time to take adequate steps to create an atmosphere of friendship and brotherhood for the Tamils to feel that Sri Lanka is still their home and to allay their fears of being hunted on suspicion through para-military groups. Now look at Canada. 50% of the Canadian population are immigrants, some of whom have fled through fear of being persecuted in their countries and they are been given their freedom to develop the economy in Canada. A friendly atmosphere is created to feel themselves that the country is their home and the immigrants had shown their sincere in developing the economy of the country and they are also ready to defend Canada. It is time for Sri Lanka politicians to realize that Nations are built on trust. Instead of pursuing a malignant economic policy, it is far better to grant their economic freedom to develop the country rather than borrowing loans from foreign countries, in addition to the hundreds of thousands of housemaids being sent to Middle-East countries where they are subject to endless harassment and torture.
In a democratic country where open economy is in practice, political and civil liberties are inter-woven with market-based economies. It is the economic freedom that will eventually lead to political freedom. Economic freedom is vital because it affects every aspect of an individual’s life. Economic freedom has many advantages. Everyone has a desire to live in a society with high levels of economic freedom. Economic freedom has the force of leading to higher incomes which would result in reducing poverty and unemployment among a number of other advantages, because the people are driven by desires to do the best jobs of producing products and services which transform into a better life-style of the people. Generally economic freedom promotes the well-being of the people. If there is an absence of economic freedom people’s lives become miserable because of the tyranny of some wealthy people and Sri Lanka is no exception. Briefly economic freedom helps to arrest the inflation of Sri Lanka currency.
In a democratic country the government should give freedom to the people to prosper themselves within a country without its interference. The people should feel free to secure and protect their human resources, labour and property. Hong Kong, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and other Western democratic countries have demonstrated that economic freedom is the key to greater opportunity and an improved quality of life, which the ruling politicians in Sri Lanka failed to realize. It is a tool that drives prosperity in the world. Sri Lanka is ranked 81st in Economic Freedom Score Index because of government’s intervention. Mention should be made that expatriates are willing to invest but Sri Lanka has not realized economic freedom revolve round the freedom to choose how to manufacture and market utilizing one’s own resources. It is reported that two State banks in Sri Lanka are in considerable debt while the Central Bank is not fully independent. Further it says the Government influences the allocation of credit and uses domestic financial resources to finance government borrowing. Had economic freedom been granted to the Provincial Councils would Sri Lanka be in this plight?
In a fast changing world, the allegation that North-East Province be considered either as a Money Order Economy or a Foreign Remittance Economy is without any foundation. The people of North-East Province have the will power & determination. When the people can withstand the attacks of terrorists and the Armed Forces, surely they can be led properly to build an economically strong nation. The people of North-East Province have the potential to develop the economy of the North-East Province if they are given the economic freedom. History has shown that prior to 1860 Germany and Italy were in shambles. What is required is a person of the calibre of Bismarck of Germany or Cavun Cavoor of Italy who gradually and steadily developed a sound economy with their shrewd diplomacy for the unification of their countries. Bismarck levied taxes to build Germany, but according to the 13th Amendment the Chief Minister cannot levy taxes from the people without the approval of the Governor who is appointed by the President. The 13th Amendment should be made meaningful in the best interests of all the Provinces. The issue of providing a free hand to the people of North-East Province to develop the economy does not mean separation, but for a strong economy that will unify the entire country. It is an issue of generating employment to several thousands and revenues for the North-East Province as well as for the entire country which will be more than the remittances sent by hundreds of thousands of housemaids from the Middle-East countries. The issue of increasing the salaries at intermittent periods will also not arise. This is equally applicable to other Provincial Councils too. Developing the economy of a war-ravaged Province does not mean colonizing Sinhalese in Tamil areas with the assistance of Chinese investments which is likely to antagonize India.
The allegation that if Police powers are given to the Provincial Councils, North-East Province will have a powerful Army is again ridiculous. The Police will be deployed to carry out the task of maintaining law and order in the civil administration of the Province. Similarly, if the Land powers are given, there will be a booming economy in the Northern Province because the Tamils have the will power & determination. Building a strong economy does not mean it is exclusively for Northern Province, but for the entire country. It is crucial that the 13th Amendment should allow room for reforming regulations which would create a conducive climate for economic activity. This will be beneficial for all the Provinces. It is vital that economic freedom should be analyzed in the context of forward thinking, which as an engine drives the spirit of confident building measures within the communities for the achievement of national reconciliation.
Since Indo-Sri Lanka Peace Accord was signed between two sovereign countries, it cannot be revoked unilaterally. The Peace Accord was drawn having due considerations to the United Nations Charter. India expects that all citizens be treated equally from 13th Amendment as under a federal system, though the word Federalism is not employed. 13th Amendment is only a stepping stone from where improvements by way of Amendments should be passed to make it more meaningful. But Sri Lanka accumulated all powers and funds within it without devolving the powers to the PCs. What really happened the constant denial of the fundamental rights of the Tamils eventually gave birth to terrorism where the voice of the moderates were silenced. Tamil militants made a blunder by misleading the Tamils instead of adapting the policy of Bismarck or Cavun Cavoor. When the Peace Accord was signed, Tamil militants should have avoided confronting the governments of Sri Lanka and India which demonstrated their immaturity and the lack of knowledge on International Law & International Relations and even on International Economic Law. Anton Balasingam made a blunder by having close links with the late R.Premadasa which compelled India to delay the implementation of the 13th Amendment with the required improvement as more meaningful.
C.V. Wigneswaran has been associating well with the Sinhalese and understands their aspirations. It is ridiculous to compare C.V. Wigneswaran with Anton Balasingam as commented by some unscrupulous Sinhalese politicians. C.V. Wigneswaran is a religious-minded gentleman with a sense of discipline in life. He has the capability to negotiate with the ruling Sinhalese politicians to promote the granting of economic freedom as adequate provisions by way of Amendments not only to fulfill the legitimate aspirations of the Tamils for the last 25 years but for the entire people in an atmosphere of cordial friendship, which effort will be applauded by the international communities and especially India which was instrumental for drawing the Indo-Sri Lanka Peace Accord. Moreover, instead of granting the economic freedom to make the 13th Amendment meaningful, C.V. Wigneswaran can tactfully point out that the ruling politicians have clumsily handled the matter and made it more complex by diverting their attention in antagonising the Indian fishermen around Kachchativu while having close links with China & Pakistan which have further aggravated India. Sri Lankan has ignored that there is provision in the UN Charter for any country to intervene in another country when there is a threat to its sovereignty on the pretext of genocide, cross-border terrorism, etc. It is time that Sri Lanka realizes how JR gave in when India demanded that foreign elements should not be allowed to use its harbour that are detrimental to the interests of India which is a reminder to the present government. Some Sri Lanka’s politicians shout that no country can intervene in the domestic affairs of a country without realizing that Sri Lanka has already bowed to India. If India declares North-East Province as its Protectorate in order to protect its sovereignty and territorial integrity, not only the issue of Kachchativu is solved automatically (this is one way of retrieving Kachchativu from Sri Lanka and is a debatable issue) to the satisfaction of the Tamil Nadu, but also the granting of economic freedom to Tamils, signalling an economic boom in the Northern Province. Diplomacy begins here.
It is at this juncture the choice of former Justice C.V. Wigneswaran appears to be a wise move not only to lead the Tamils in the democratic path and to allay the fears that haunt them, but also seen as an invitation to other legal luminaries and academics to step into the political stage at a time the Police, Judiciary, Customs and other Institutions are on the verge of collapse because of corruption. Since C.V. Wigneswaran can spotlight the lack of economic freedom that the 13th Amendment should have provided, the Tamil Parliamentarians should raise in one voice with him. There is a moral obligation on the Tamils to rally round C.V. Wigneswaran on this issue.