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Introduce a new Sedition Act

3 June 2013 06:30 pm - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}


By K. Godage

Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa has stated that electing a Northern Provincial Council (NPC) under the 13th Amendment would pose a threat to the security of the entire country. He has opposed the holding of an election as the Tamil National Alliance is most likely to win the election and this would most definitely pose a security threat to the country, considering the fact that the TNA was the political face or agent of the LTTE. They never ever condemned any actions of the LTTE - not even the cowardly killings of Lakshman Kadirgamar, Neelan Tiruchelvam, President Premadasa, Lalith Athulathmudali or Gamini Dissanayake, the assassinations of 27 Vellala political leaders of the Tamil people, the terrorist acts of the LTTE perpetrated in the south, the attack on the precincts of the sacred Bodhi tree in Anuradhapura or the attempt to blow up the Dalada Maligawa and blowing up a part of it.

Eelamists, though they failed to establish Eelam through terrorism, have not given up their so-called struggle to establish a separate state in this country. The TNA never disassociated itself from the LTTE or their goal. If they win the Northern Provincial Council the first thing they would do is to establish a special relationship with Tamil Nadu. (India already has a Consulate in Jaffna).

Western countries who are today being dictated to in their policy towards Sri Lanka by the hostile Diaspora would also establish undercover special relations with the TNA administration. A hostile Northern Province Provincial Council would without doubt be a threat to the unity, security and territorial integrity of our country.

'" The Tamil people of our land separated from us only by language have also suffered enormously from 1956, when they were virtually disempowered by the Sinhala Only Act "

I have, on no less than three occasions, written on whether the devolution, compared to States in India, which are bigger than almost all 27 countries of the European Union, was necessary for our small country which is smaller than almost all the States in India. We do need to devolve power and make a reality of participatory democracy by ensuring that the people actually have a say in deciding on their destiny and the destiny of the country. But the devolution as perceived in the 13th Amendment as to the Province - there is a concentration of political power at the level of the PC – there is no devolution to the Division or to the Village level. This devolution does not make for real participatory democracy, (I am also against the concentration of power at the centre as it leads to authoritarian dictatorial rule), and as stated earlier, the PC system does not result in participatory democracy and good governance and is not the answer to our problem.

To my mind we have three options –First, amend the 13th Amendment, remove police and land powers and vest such powers with the Central government; Police powers in Malaysia where Sabah and Sarawak are two Islands separate from the Peninsular mainland by long distances, remain with the Centre as in all other ASEAN countries. As we have a two-thirds majority in Parliament the removal of police powers from the PCs, would without doubt be welcomed by all the people of our country, and to deal with the land issue, perhaps create a special Land Commission for the whole country; this should also not present any problem – we could hold a referendum on these two issues for there is no doubt whatsoever that the majority would approve such amendments and that would answer India and the International community. The second option would be to repeal the 13th Amendment and replace it with the District Council system - which makes for better governance. We should introduce the principle of ‘Subsidiarity’ under which decisions are made and implemented at the appropriate level. Such a transfer of power will democratically empower the people from district to village level. District Councils should be introduced along with a second Chamber at the Centre.

Another related issue is that our minorities should not only be well represented, they should have a stake in the decision making process at the Centre and must be well represented in the administration. This could be achieved by having a quota system for admission into the Public Service based on ethnic proportion plus ten per cent for the minorities; there can then never be any charge of discrimination against the minorities. The Tamil people of our land separated from us only by language have also suffered enormously from 1956, when they were virtually disempowered by the Sinhala Only Act.  

" Another related issue is that our minorities should not only be well represented, they should have a stake in the decision making process at the Centre and must be well represented in the administration "

We MUST also introduce a new ‘Sedition Act’. To my mind it is also absolutely important to have a new Sedition Act. The law on Sedition should be similar to and based on the Sedition Act of Malaysia, which is also similar to the Sedition Act of Singapore. Any word or action which is deemed to encourage Separatism must be made a criminal offence and any political party deemed to support Separatism should be banned. The Sedition Act in Malaysia is a law prohibiting discourse deemed as seditious. The act was originally enacted by the colonial authorities of British Malaya in 1948. The act criminalises speech with any “seditious tendency”, including that which would “bring into hatred or contempt or excite disaffection against” or engender “feelings of ill-will and hostility between different races”. We must add to this 'any words or actions direct or indirect that could be interpreted by the authorities as being deemed to affect the unity and territorial integrity of the State' and encourage Separatism and even ill feelings among the different communities in our country. The law must suit local circumstances. The encouragement of Seditious tendencies must be made punishable with a minimum of ten years rigorous imprisonment. Parliament must impose restrictions on the western concept of freedom of speech as has been done in Malaysia and Singapore and in many countries of ASEAN. Dissent must of course be permitted but we must take all precautions against the possibility of the spread of hatred.

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