IT’S NOW OR NEVER

4 August 2013 06:31 pm - 1     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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National Security Advisor of the Indian Government, Mr. Shivashankar Menon returned to India with disappointment.  After holding talks with the Rajapaksa trio in Sri Lanka, he reported to his government that he failed to convince Sri Lanka not to repeal any power in the 13th Amendment to the Constitution (13A).  Whatever told by Sri Lankan leaders to Menon, Sri Lanka however decided to postpone the Constitutional amendment after his visit.

"The resistance to repeal of the powers of the PCs would grow by several folds if the government attempted to repeal the powers after the elections. Hence, if the government was genuinely interested in repealing such powers, it should do so before holding the elections to the NPC."

This decision was clearly reflected at the first meeting of the Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) established to deliberate the issues in respect of devolution of power. As announced by the Chairman of the (Parliamentary Select Committee) PSC at its first meeting, the committee was expected to produce its final report or an interim report only in January 2014.  In other words, Constitutional amendments would take place only after holding the Provincial Council election for the North.
The (Jathika Hela Urumaya) JHU proposed to make five amendments to the Constitution before holding the elections.  The SLFP, the leading partner in the ruling coalition, accepted two out of the five proposals.  Presently, the Parliament has to obtain the consent of all provincial councils to approve a bill on a provincial subject with the simple majority.  The JHU’s proposal to amend it to obtain the consent of the majority councils was accepted by the SLFP.  In addition, it agreed to repeal of the provision for the merger of provinces.  Further, the SLFP leaders publicly admitted the need for repealing land and police powers.  The Fifth Amendment proposed by the JHU was enabling the government to issue directives to the provincial councils as provided in Article 256 & 257 of the Indian Constitution.

Although the SLFP’s positive response to these proposals generated confidence in the public that the amendments would take place in near future, the reality is not so.  Some government leaders are of the view that the timing was not important as long as the government is committed to making these amendments.  This opinion gathered momentum in the government circles because of their ignorance of political realities.
There is a theory in law widely known as “doctrine of legitimate expectation”.  According to this theory, people have an expectation that a public body would retain a longstanding practice or keep a promise.  Accordingly, the TNA would contest the elections and Tamil people would elect the Council with the expectation that the powers presently vested with the Council would remain unchanged.  Repeal of the powers after the election is in violation of the above doctrine.
The TNA may claim that they contested the elections with the expectation that the powers which had been with the provincial councils would remain unchanged.  They would not have contested the elections if they knew in advance that certain powers would be repealed after the elections.  Similarly, Tamil people may say that they would not have voted at the election, if they knew in advance that provincial councils (PCs) would lose certain powers.  In this backdrop, the resistance to repeal of the powers of the PCs would grow by several folds if the government attempted to repeal the powers after the elections. Hence, if the government was genuinely interested in repealing such powers, it should do so before holding the elections to the Northern Provincial Council (NPC).

"When the government depends on the minorities for its survival, it would tolerate any abuse of power by the NPC.  This would be the time for the TNA to use land and police powers for establishing Tamil Eelam"

The people who propose to repeal the powers after the elections say the government should patiently wait until a blunder was committed by the NPC.  The government could then justify the repeal of the powers before the international community.  They expect the future Chief Minister of the NPC to abuse land and police powers to achieve their ultimate goal, i.e. Tamil Eelam, following the footsteps of former Chief Minister of the North & East, Vartharajah Perumal. He unilaterally declared the independence of Tamil Ealam which caused President Premadasa to dissolve the Council.
Nobody should expect the future Chief Minister to repeat the blunder committed by Perumal.  Instead, he would maintain a very cordial relationship with the government, boosting its confidence in the NPC.  The government would praise the conduct of the NPC in the international fora.  They would cohabitate with the government in such a manner that people would laugh at Sinhala nationalists for seeing crocodiles in the tea cup.  However, this honeymoon would not last long. The NPC would act cautiously because they are fully aware of the fact that if it attempted to abuse the powers vested with it, the present government possessed the will and the required majority to repeal any power vested with the PCs.  If the national security was endangered, the government would not hesitate to even abolish the PCs.  Hence, they would wait patiently until the election of a minority dependent government.  
When the glory of the military victory fades away, Sinhala votes which would now have been concentrated with the UPFA would be divided between two major parties.  Minority parties can then re-emerge as the kingmakers.  When the government depends on the minorities for its survival, it would tolerate any abuse of power by the NPC.  This would be the time for the TNA to use land and police powers for establishing Tamil Eelam.  It would then be too late for the government to abolish the PCs, since it would not possess the two-thirds majority.

We had been fighting terrorists for 37 years.  The terrorists were able to survive for such a long period because of the sympathy and support received by them from Indian and western super powers.  India and Norway had to support the terrorists secretly since they had been restricted in supporting terrorism by international covenants and public opinions.  However, if the NPC attempts to establish a separate state in the future, the Sri Lankan military would have to fight its own police force in the North.  Hence, the fighting would be erupted between two official forces.  India and western countries would openly support the police force without any hesitation making their defeat near impossible.  If the war commences again, the supreme sacrifices made by nearly 27,000 war heroes would be of no consequence.
There is a strong belief that repeal of the powers would lead to antagonise India.  Sri Lanka is just 32km away from India.  It is an emerging superpower.   Moreover, India is our one and only border-sharing neighbour.  These are geopolitical realities.  In the light of the above, we should attempt our best to avoid unnecessary provocations.  However, it does not mean that Sri Lanka should be in the good books of India at the expense of peace, security and territorial integrity.
In fact, we presently do not have any risk of losing Indian friendship since India has acted as the worst enemy of Sri Lanka in the recent past.  It is not a recent trend.  Our recorded history of 2,600 years is full of Indian invasions.  Our history is a tale of Indian invasions and our liberation struggles.  Sri Lanka had been able to survive as a sovereign nation for several millennia despite its close proximity to India and its continuous aggressions since we valued our sovereignty more than Indian friendship.

Some argue that the Constitutional amendments should be made after the CHOGM since the repealing the powers of the PCs would make an adverse impact on the summit.  It is of course a valid argument.  Since such amendments antagonised India, it could call for a boycott of the summit.  Although Sri Lanka has not established diplomatic relations with most of the African and Caribbean nations, India has diplomatic presence in every nation in the Commonwealth.  Hence, these nations heavily depend on India to form an opinion about Sri Lanka.

The Commonwealth Summit is undoubtedly a diplomatic victory for Sri Lanka in the backdrop of the LTTE’s attempt to internationally isolate Sri Lanka.  However, nobody could value the summit more than the territorial integrity of Sri Lanka.  Since holding the elections for the NPC without repealing the powers paves the way for the secession, in my opinion, Sri Lanka should go ahead with the Constitutional amendment even risking the success of the CHOGM.
Unless this government takes the bold step to repeal the dangerous provisions in the 13th Amendment, there would be no government to do it since this would be the last government to enjoy two-thirds majority in Parliament.  Political analysts never expected any government to obtain the majority under the Proportionate Representation (PR) method.  In fact, this government was also short of six Parliamentarians to achieve the two-third majoritys.  Nevertheless, it was able to attract opposition members thanks to its immense popularity generated by the military victory.

The first government with two-thirds majority came to power in 1970 under the leadership of Ms Bandaranaike.  She used the special majority to introduce a new Constitution which made Sri Lanka a republic.  Buddhism was given the foremost place in the Constitution.  President Jayawardena also came to power with the two-thirds majority.  He used the special majority to introduce the Executive Presidency and the PR method.  Whatever the weaknesses associated with the Executive Presidency, Sri Lanka would not have defeated terrorism and introduced the free economy without it.  Similarly, pro-separatist Mr. Sampanthan would have been the leader of opposition, if there was no PR method.
The present government is yet to utilise its special majority for the benefit of the people.  The campaign for the repeal of dangerous provisions in the 13th Amendment is a golden opportunity for the government to use it for a historically important and politically popular cause.
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  • Dharmasiri senevirat Wednesday, 07 August 2013 02:05 PM

    scrap p.cs and show how much we can save. make voters understand. govt will get three fourth. then no need to depend on minorities this way mahinda can abolish thesavalamai without any fear and save Sinhala country

    now or never. Scrap police and land powers immediately only power hungry politicians want P.C S. govt should ask tamils whether they need development or war


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