The 13th Amendment has its champions. It also has detractors who point out its illegality, Indian hegemonic moves on Sri Lanka, irrelevance to the matters it sought to address, for pandering to expansionist communal myth-making and for ‘not being enough’.
For years, there has been talk of amending the 13th Amendment or even repealing it, but the political arithmetic if not the will has kept it alive. De-merging the North-East by the Supreme Court remains the biggest blow to the 13th Amendment, apart from the non-implementation of important elements, namely land and police powers.
In general, it is good practice to implement the constitution to the letter, even if there are articles that go against the spirit of democracy or even rob participatory power from the citizenry. On the other hand, the 13th Amendment was essentially imposed from without. There was no ‘by the people’ or ‘with the people’ in it and as for ‘for the people’, the only ‘people’ it has served have been fledgling politicians with big ambitions.
Its virtues have been debated and disputed to the point of boredom. A final decision (in the form of review and if necessary amendment or repeal, or even through a referendum) ought to have been taken in the early nineties when it became apparent that it was essentially an Indian baby given birth to, in Sri Lanka, with the intention of wrecking Sri Lanka from within. Better late than never, though.
The Jathika Hela Urumaya has presented an amendment to the Constitution (the 21st if it passes) that might change all that. Several constituent parties of the ruling coalition have vowed to oppose it, but history has shown that the bark of the small players is far worse than their bite. Some opposition members have expressed support for the 21st Amendment. Earlier, the JHU requested the UNP leadership to accord the privilege of a conscience-vote to its parliamentary group. In this scenario, the requisite two-thirds majority may very well be obtained.
Given the heated debate on the matter of devolving powers to the provinces against a backdrop of Eelamist claims, which have no base in history, and which stubbornly refuses to acknowledge demographic realities, a national referendum on the matter is also possible.
What is perhaps insufferable is the fact that India has had the gumption to entertain a delegation from the TNA that is seeking Indian intervention to stop this Amendment. The TNA, it is clear, has gone out of its way to earn the derision of Sri Lankans by relentlessly acting to compromise the dignity of the nation, over and above doing its best to attack sovereignty and territorial integrity.
India, according to reports, is ‘studying implications’. There are no implications that India need to worry about. What happens in Sri Lanka is Sri Lanka’s business. It has no impact on India. It may have implications for India’s political and strategic need to destabilise Sri Lanka. An IPKF officer once bragged that it was a ‘victory’ to get ‘Trincomalee as the capital of the North-East PC’ despite TULF/LTTE objections – ergo, India never gave a hoot to Tamil aspirations/grievances.
Right now, it’s a Sri Lankan issue, a Parliament decision and possible recovery of the ‘unitary’ character of the state.