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Genealogy of Concept and Genesis of 13th Amendment -II

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By Prof. Gamini Keerawella

Prior to the 1977 general election, J. R. Jayewardene promised to summon an All Party Conference to take all possible steps to remedy the grievances of the Tamil- speaking people. However, what followed the election victory of the UNP, in 1977, was a series of anti-Tamil riots. On 12 August 1977, in less than a month of the new government assumed office anti-Tamil riots started. It was reported that over 300 Tamil people were killed during the riots. The political implications of the Anti-Tamil riots in Sri Lanka reverberated on the other side of the Palk Strait. On 24th August 1977, the Tamil Nadu Assembly adopted a resolution urging the Government of India to “depute a representative of the status of a Cabinet Minister to Sri Lanka to find out the true status of the affairs and have direct talks with that government by way of assuring the feelings of the Tamils there”. At this time, however, the Prime Minister Moraji Desai dismissed the Tamil Nadu request and stated that the Government of India did not propose to send a Cabinet Minister to Sri Lanka since the Indian High Commissioner in Colombo had been doing every thing possible and the two governments were also in close touch with each other.

Despite the election pledge to summon an All Party Conference to take all possible steps to remedy the grievances of the Tamil-Speaking people, J.R. Jayewardene first offered the District Development Councils (DDCs). It is important to note that, in spite of strong pressure on the part of the militant youth groups not to contest, the TULF participated in the DDCs. The DDC experiment of the TULF proved to be disastrous. On the one hand it faced the antipathy of the youth who advocated direct-armed struggle. On the other, the Central government was not prepared to tolerate even decentralization of administration. “The institution of District Minister ensured that all decisions of the Council will be subjected to strict control by the representative of the central government”.

There were anti-Tamil riots again in 1981. Tamil Nadu politics was rocked again due to the ethnic riots in Sri Lanka. The leaders of the 20 political parties urged the Prime Minister Indira Ghandi to grant the Tamil youths seeking refuge in Tamil Nadu political asylum. This time the Indian official reaction was clearly different. For the first time, the Indian Government made representation to the Government of Sri Lanka regarding the violence against Tamils during the ethnic riots. In the period 1977-1983, the power and influence of the Tamil militant groups increased very rapidly. This is reflected in the Jaffna Municipal elections held in 19 May 1983. The LTTE was able to implement a boycott of the elections successfully and the turn-out of the Jaffna polls was only 14.5 percent. The 1983 July riots created a very strong protest in Tamil Nadu in the form of bandhs and demonstrations. The delegation from Tamil Nadu made representation to Prime Minister Indira Ghandi on this situation and she assured the delegation that New Delhi “was dealing with the Tamil question in Sri Lanka as a national issue affecting the whole country, not merely as a problem concerning Tamil Nadu alone”. Just two days after the outbreak of riots, Prime Minister Indira Ghandi contacted President Jayewardene by telephone to discuss the Sri Lankan situation. As K.M.de Silva reveals, ‘The upshot of that fateful conversation was that Jayewardene found it necessary to invite Mrs. Ghandi to send an official representative to observe the situation in the island on the spot and report back to her”. When V.P Narasinghe Rao, a senior Cabinet Minister, visited Sri Lanka as a special envoy of the Indian Prime Minister on 29 July, parts of Colombo was still burning.

After July 1983, India entered swiftly as a self-appointed mediator and Indira Ghandi selected G. Parathasarathy as the mediator. The declared mission of G. Parathasarathy was to create an atmosphere for a negotiated settlement and act as intermediary between the Government and the Tamil political parties to formulate new proposals for devolution. As Godfrey Gunatilleke traced, at this point there were four inter-related but separate components to the negotiating process. “(1) the negotiation between the government of India and the government of Sri Lanka, (2) the talks between the Indian government and the Tamil Parties (3) the consultation in the conferences of the Sri Lankan political parties, and (4) the negotiation between the Tamil parties and the Sri Lankan government”. The first layer negotiations continued from August to November and the both parties able to agree on an acceptable plan, based on regional councils. This plan was became known as annexure ‘C’

In January, President Jayewardene convened the all-Party conference (APC) to discuss the proposals that came out from the first layer of negotiations. The polarization was very clear. The TULF and Tamil parties firmly stick to ‘regional councils and no less’ while the Sinhala political parties to ‘district councils no more’. Jayewardene’s vacillation and naivety was demonstrated very clearly at the APC and he did not come forward to defend the Annexure – C that he jointly fathered. Lacking his strong support, Annexure “C’ was made impotent”. The deadlock over the two positions made Jayewardene to suspend the APC on 30 September 1984.

Meantime, the Government prepared the 10th Amendment Proposals and Draft District and Regional Council Billi. On 21 December the Jayewardene Government decided to terminate the APC and stated that he would meet the TULF in early January to discuss the proposals. At first, the TULF agreed to go alone with the 10th Amendment. Later, Amirthalingam stated that the proposals were totally unacceptable to the Tamils and left Sri Lanka. Thereafter, President Jayewardene announced that he was withdrawing the proposals.

In June 1985, President Jayewardene and Minister Athulathmudali met Prime Minister Rajiv Ghandi for direct discussions the on ethnic issue and reached “an agreement on using India’s good office in finding a solution to the ethnic problem”. This paved the way for the direct dialogue between the Tamil armed groups and the Sri Lankan Government in Thimpu in August 1985. At the discussions at Thimpu, the six Tamil groups enunciated ‘four principles’ from which they would not waver. The Sri Lankan delegation also presented an outline of structure for devolution of power and affirmed that beyond which they could not proceed. In this context, what has happened in Thimpu is well known.

In June 1986 President Jayewardene decided to embark on a new political initiative and convened a round table conference of all political parties (PPC). He declared the Provincial Councils as the basis for devolution of power at the PPC. Both the SLFP did not attend the PPC but Mrs. Bandaranaike agreed to consult to President Jayewardene separately. The negotiations between GOSL and the TULF as well as discussions within the PPC continued for over three months. The basic draft of the Provincial Councils emerged out of these deliberations. As K.M.de Silva ,who had access to the official documents, traced “consisting of 50 pages in all, they included draft constitutional amendments, a draft Provincial Council Bill, schedules setting out ‘Reserved, Concurrent and Provincial Lists’, as well as detailed memoranda dealing with law and order, land and land settlement and education”. President Jayewardene and Prime Minister met at the Bangalore Summit of SAARC in November 1986 and further discussed the proposals known as ‘19 December Proposals’. It was really an incorporation of the agreements reached at the Bangalore summit into the Draft Provincial Council Bill of the PPC. The main issue remained unsettled was the merger of the Northern and the Eastern Provinces. There were many proposals in this regard but no agreement was reached.

The situation began to change rapidly from January 1987. Prabakaran who was operating in Tamil Nadu till now, slipped into Jaffna, in January anticipating the Indian pressure. The LTTE leader’s arrival marked a new phase in the armed action. In response to the increased pace of the LTTE armed activities, the Sri Lankan government imposed economic and communication blockade on the Jaffna peninsula. In March 1987, Rajiv Ghandi sent his personal envoy, Dinesh Singh to Colombo to convey India’s grave concern about the situation in Jaffna. In response to the Indian concern, Colombo declared an unilateral ceasefire for 10 days in April. However, after a bomb explosion in Colombo, which claimed over 200 deaths, the government decided to commence military offence in the North once again and Vadamarachchi offensive came in this context.

It is true that the Indian démarche was the immediate factor that cleared the way for the Provincial Councils in 1987. Even a cursory look at the political genealogy of the concept of Provincial Councils would clearly endorse that it was not simply a parasitic organ. It has been in the political discourse since independence in various forms. The vacillation and failure to take correct stand at the correct time on the part of Sri Lankan state had given India an opportunity to intervene in Sri Lanka’s internal affairs. By utilising Sri Lanka’s vacillation, India applied coercive diplomacy and violated Sri Lankan air space, entered into the Sri Lanka’s decision making orbit and attained its geo-strategic objectives, which was manifested in the Annexure to the Indo-Sri Lanka Peace accord.

It must be noted that at the outset the Provincial Councils have to carry a certificate of illegitimate birth due to the Indian intervention. However, the Indian role was just a midwifery role. The politically and ideologically weak ruling class of Sri Lanka failed to give it a natural birth. Further, the Provincial Councils had to toddle at the beginning on an unceremonious note as both the LTTE in the North and the JVP in the South violently denounced the Provincial Councils. The SLFP boycotted the Provincial Council elections at the beginning. In addition, there were many inherent structural weaknesses. As President J.R. Jayewardene was not yet deviated from the old centralized mind-set, the devolution package under the 13th Amendment was a half-baked product. The other hand took what was offered by one hand to the Provincial Councils. With all these shortcomings, the 13th Amendment was an important step in the evolution of the political discourse of the country. It alleviated the earlier fears that devolution promotes separation. In addition to the structural weaknesses of the 13th Amendment, non-implementation of some provisions and failure of the central government institutions to devolve functions to provincial units hampered the Provincial Council System. The dominant of centralized political culture of the country has negated the true potentials of the Provincial Council system as another tier of democratic governance. Some of the political criticisms levelled against the provincial council are equally applicable to the central government too. All these shortcomings are not reasons for the abolition of the Provincial Council system. Such a move would create more complicated political problems and their repercussions would be grave. What is necessary at this point is to go forward and address the shortcoming of Provincial Councils to make them true units of devolution of power to the people in the regions. (Concluded)


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Islamophobia and the threat to democratic development

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There’s an ill more dangerous and pervasive than the Coronavirus that’s currently sweeping Sri Lanka. That is the fear to express one’s convictions. Across the public sector of the country in particular many persons holding high office are stringently regulating and controlling the voices of their consciences and this bodes ill for all and the country.

The corrupting impact of fear was discussed in this column a couple of weeks ago when dealing with the military coup in Myanmar. It stands to the enduring credit of ousted Myanmarese Head of Government Aung San Suu Kyi that she, perhaps for the first time in the history of modern political thought, singled out fear, and not power, as the principal cause of corruption within the individual; powerful or otherwise.

To be sure, power corrupts but the corrupting impact of fear is graver and more devastating. For instance, the fear in a person holding ministerial office or in a senior public sector official, that he would lose position and power as a result of speaking out his convictions and sincere beliefs on matters of the first importance, would lead to a country’s ills going unaddressed and uncorrected.

Besides, the individual concerned would be devaluing himself in the eyes of all irrevocably and revealing himself to be a person who would be willing to compromise his moral integrity for petty worldly gain or a ‘mess of pottage’. This happens all the while in Lankan public life. Some of those who have wielded and are wielding immense power in Sri Lanka leave very much to be desired from these standards.

It could be said that fear has prevented Sri Lanka from growing in every vital respect over the decades and has earned for itself the notoriety of being a directionless country.

All these ills and more are contained in the current controversy in Sri Lanka over the disposal of the bodies of Covid victims, for example. The Sri Lankan polity has no choice but to abide by scientific advice on this question. Since authorities of the standing of even the WHO have declared that the burial of the bodies of those dying of Covid could not prove to be injurious to the wider public, the Sri Lankan health authorities could go ahead and sanction the burying of the bodies concerned. What’s preventing the local authorities from taking this course since they claim to be on the side of science? Who or what are they fearing? This is the issue that’s crying out to be probed and answered.

Considering the need for absolute truthfulness and honesty on the part of all relevant persons and quarters in matters such as these, the latter have no choice but to resign from their positions if they are prevented from following the dictates of their consciences. If they are firmly convinced that burials could bring no harm, they are obliged to take up the position that burials should be allowed.

If any ‘higher authority’ is preventing them from allowing burials, our ministers and officials are conscience-bound to renounce their positions in protest, rather than behave compromisingly and engage in ‘double think’ and ‘double talk’. By adopting the latter course they are helping none but keeping the country in a state of chronic uncertainty, which is a handy recipe for social instabiliy and division.

In the Sri Lankan context, the failure on the part of the quarters that matter to follow scientific advice on the burials question could result in the aggravation of Islamophobia, or hatred of the practitioners of Islam, in the country. Sri Lanka could do without this latter phobia and hatred on account of its implications for national stability and development. The 30 year war against separatist forces was all about the prevention by military means of ‘nation-breaking’. The disastrous results for Sri Lanka from this war are continuing to weigh it down and are part of the international offensive against Sri Lanka in the UNHCR.

However, Islamophobia is an almost world wide phenomenon. It was greatly strengthened during Donald Trump’s presidential tenure in the US. While in office Trump resorted to the divisive ruling strategy of quite a few populist authoritarian rulers of the South. Essentially, the manoeuvre is to divide and rule by pandering to the racial prejudices of majority communities.

It has happened continually in Sri Lanka. In the initial post-independence years and for several decades after, it was a case of some populist politicians of the South whipping-up anti-Tamil sentiments. Some Tamil politicians did likewise in respect of the majority community. No doubt, both such quarters have done Sri Lanka immeasurable harm. By failing to follow scientific advice on the burial question and by not doing what is right, Sri Lanka’s current authorities are opening themselves to the charge that they are pandering to religious extremists among the majority community.

The murderous, destructive course of action adopted by some extremist sections among Muslim communities world wide, including of course Sri Lanka, has not earned the condemnation it deserves from moderate Muslims who make-up the preponderant majority in the Muslim community. It is up to moderate opinion in the latter collectivity to come out more strongly and persuasively against religious extremists in their midst. It will prove to have a cementing and unifying impact among communities.

It is not sufficiently appreciated by governments in the global South in particular that by voicing for religious and racial unity and by working consistently towards it, they would be strengthening democratic development, which is an essential condition for a country’s growth in all senses.

A ‘divided house’ is doomed to fall; this is the lesson of history. ‘National security’ cannot be had without human security and peaceful living among communities is central to the latter. There cannot be any ‘double talk’ or ‘politically correct’ opinions on this question. Truth and falsehood are the only valid categories of thought and speech.

Those in authority everywhere claiming to be democratic need to adopt a scientific outlook on this issue as well. Studies conducted on plural societies in South Asia, for example, reveal that the promotion of friendly, cordial ties among communities invariably brings about healing among estranged groups and produces social peace. This is the truth that is waiting to be acted upon.

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Pakistan’s love of Sri Lanka

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By Sanjeewa Jayaweera

It was on 3rd January 1972 that our family arrived in Karachi from Moscow. Our departure from Moscow had been delayed for a few weeks due to the military confrontation between Pakistan and India. It ended on 16th December 1971. After that, international flights were not permitted for some time.

The contrast between Moscow and Karachi was unbelievable. First and foremost, Moscow’s temperature was near minus 40 degrees centigrade, while in Karachi, it was sunny and a warm 28 degrees centigrade. However, what struck us most was the extreme warmth with which the airport authorities greeted our family. As my father was a diplomat, we were quickly ushered to the airport’s VIP Lounge. We were in transit on our way to Rawalpindi, the airport serving the capital of Islamabad.

We quickly realized that the word “we are from Sri Lanka” opened all doors just as saying “open sesame” gained entry to Aladdin’s cave! The broad smile, extreme courtesy, and genuine warmth we received from the Pakistani people were unbelievable.

This was all to do with Mrs Sirima Bandaranaike’s decision to allow Pakistani aircraft to land in Colombo to refuel on the way to Dhaka in East Pakistan during the military confrontation between Pakistan and India. It was a brave decision by Mrs Bandaranaike (Mrs B), and the successive governments and Sri Lanka people are still enjoying the fruits of it. Pakistan has been a steadfast and loyal supporter of our country. They have come to our assistance time and again in times of great need when many have turned their back on us. They have indeed been an “all-weather” friend of our country.

Getting back to 1972, I was an early beneficiary of Pakistani people’s love for Sri Lankans. I failed the entrance exam to gain entry to the only English medium school in Islamabad! However, when I met the Principal, along with my father, he said, “Sanjeewa, although you failed the entrance exam, I will this time make an exception as Sri Lankans are our dear friends.” After that, the joke around the family dinner table was that I owed my education in Pakistan to Mrs B!

At school, my brother and I were extended a warm welcome and always greeted “our good friends from Sri Lanka.” I felt when playing cricket for our college; our runs were cheered more loudly than of others.

One particular incident that I remember well was when the Embassy received a telex from the Foreign inistry. It requested that our High Commissioner seek an immediate meeting with the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Mr Zulifikar Ali Bhutto (ZB), and convey a message from Mrs B. The message requested that an urgent shipment of rice be dispatched to Sri Lanka as there would be an imminent rice shortage. As the Ambassador was not in the station, the responsibility devolved on my father.

It usually takes about a week or more to get an audience with the Prime Minister (PM) of a foreign country due to their busy schedule. However, given the urgency, my father spoke to the Foreign Ministry’s Permanent Sectary, who fortunately was our neighbour and sought an urgent appointment. My father received a call from the PM’s secretary around 10 P.M asking him to come over to the PM’s residence. My father met ZB around midnight. ZB was about to retire to bed and, as such, was in his pyjamas and gown enjoying a cigar! He had greeted my father and had asked, “Mr Jayaweera, what can we do for great friend Madam Bandaranaike?. My father conveyed the message from Colombo and quietly mentioned that there would be riots in the country if there is no rice!

ZB had immediately got the Food Commissioner of Pakistan on the line and said, “I want a shipload of rice to be in Colombo within the next 72 hours!” The Food Commissioner reverted within a few minutes, saying that nothing was available and the last export shipment had left the port only a few hours ago to another country. ZB had instructed to turn the ship around and send it to Colombo. This despite protests from the Food Commissioner about terms and conditions of the Letter of Credit prohibiting non-delivery. Sri Lanka got its delivery of rice!

The next was the visit of Mrs B to Pakistan. On arrival in Rawalpindi airport, she was given a hero’s welcome, which Pakistan had previously only offered to President Gaddafi of Libya, who financially backed Pakistan with his oil money. That day, I missed school and accompanied my parents to the airport. On our way, we witnessed thousands of people had gathered by the roadside to welcome Mrs B.

When we walked to the airport’s tarmac, thousands of people were standing in temporary stands waving Sri Lanka and Pakistan flags and chanting “Sri Lanka Pakistan Zindabad.” The noise emanating from the crowd was as loud and passionate as the cheering that the Pakistani cricket team received during a test match. It was electric!

I believe she was only the second head of state given the privilege of addressing both assemblies of Parliament. The other being Gaddafi. There was genuine affection from Mrs B amongst the people of Pakistan.

I always remember the indefatigable efforts of Mr Abdul Haffez Kardar, a cabinet minister and the President of the Pakistan Cricket Board. From around 1973 onwards, he passionately championed Sri Lanka’s cause to be admitted as a full member of the International Cricket Council (ICC) and granted test status. Every year, he would propose at the ICC’s annual meeting, but England and Australia’s veto kept us out until 1981.

I always felt that our Cricket Board made a mistake by not inviting Pakistan to play our inaugural test match. We should have appreciated Mr Kardar and Pakistan’s efforts. In 1974 the Pakistan board invited our team for a tour involving three test matches and a few first-class games. Most of those who played in our first test match was part of that tour, and no doubt gained significant exposure playing against a highly talented Pakistani team.

Several Pakistani greats were part of the Pakistan and India team that played a match soon after the Central Bank bomb in Colombo to prove that it was safe to play cricket in Colombo. It was a magnificent gesture by both Pakistan and India. Our greatest cricket triumph was in Pakistan when we won the World Cup in 1996. I am sure the players and those who watched the match on TV will remember the passionate support our team received that night from the Pakistani crowd. It was like playing at home!

I also recall reading about how the Pakistani government air freighted several Multi Barrell artillery guns and ammunition to Sri Lanka when the A rmy camp in Jaffna was under severe threat from the LTTE. This was even more important than the shipload of rice that ZB sent. This was crucial as most other countries refused to sell arms to our country during the war.

Time and again, Pakistan has steadfastly supported our country’s cause at the UNHCR. No doubt this year, too, their diplomats will work tirelessly to assist our country.

We extend a warm welcome to Mr Imran Khan, the Prime Minister of Pakistan. He is a truly inspirational individual who was undoubtedly an excellent cricketer. Since retirement from cricket, he has decided to get involved in politics, and after several years of patiently building up his support base, he won the last parliamentary elections. I hope that just as much as he galvanized Sri Lankan cricketers, his political journey would act as a catalyst for people like Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene to get involved in politics. Cricket has been called a “gentleman’s game.” Whilst politics is far from it!.

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Covid-19 health rules disregarded at entertainment venues?

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Believe me, seeing certain videos, on social media, depicting action, on the dance floor, at some of these entertainment venues, got me wondering whether this Coronavirus pandemic is REAL!

To those having a good time, at these particular venues, and, I guess, the management, as well, what the world is experiencing now doesn’t seem to be their concerned.

Obviously, such irresponsible behaviour could create more problems for those who are battling to halt the spread of Covid-19, and the new viriant of Covid, in our part of the world.

The videos, on display, on social media, show certain venues, packed to capacity – with hardly anyone wearing a mask, and social distancing…only a dream..

How can one think of social distancing while gyrating, on a dance floor, that is over crowded!

If this trend continues, it wouldn’t be a surprise if Coronavirus makes its presence felt…at such venues.

And, then, what happens to the entertainment scene, and those involved in this field, especially the musicians? No work, whatsoever!

Lots of countries have closed nightclubs, and venues, where people gather, in order to curtail the spread of this deadly virus that has already claimed the lives of thousands.

Thailand did it and the country is still having lots of restrictions, where entertainment is concerned, and that is probably the reason why Thailand has been able to control the spread of the Coronavirus.

With a population of over 69 million, they have had (so far), a little over 25,000 cases, and 83 deaths, while we, with a population of around 21 million, have over 80,000 cases, and more than 450 deaths.

I’m not saying we should do away with entertainment – totally – but we need to follow a format, connected with the ‘new normal,’ where masks and social distancing are mandatory requirements at these venues. And, dancing, I believe, should be banned, at least temporarily, as one can’t maintain the required social distance, while on the dance floor, especially after drinks.

Police spokesman DIG Ajith Rohana keeps emphasising, on TV, radio, and in the newspapers, the need to adhere to the health regulations, now in force, and that those who fail to do so would be penalised.

He has also stated that plainclothes officers would move around to apprehend such offenders.

Perhaps, he should instruct his officers to pay surprise visits to some of these entertainment venues.

He would certainly have more than a bus load of offenders to be whisked off for PCR/Rapid Antigen tests!

I need to quote what Dr. H.T. Wickremasinghe said in his article, published in The Island of Tuesday, February 16th, 2021:

“…let me conclude, while emphasising the need to continue our general public health measures, such as wearing masks, social distancing, and avoiding crowded gatherings, to reduce the risk of contact with an infected person.

“There is no science to beat common sense.”

But…do some of our folks have this thing called COMMON SENSE!

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