There are some uncomfortable truths about the 13th Amendment, devolution of power and of course provincial councils. Let’s begin with the here-and-now.
Provincial Council elections haven’t been held in years. It is more than 10 years since the Eastern Provincial Council elections were held and more than nine since they were held for the Northern Provincial Council. Did the people in the Northern and Eastern provinces complain? Did their representatives complain? Did any who have screamed for devolution for the last forty years raise even a whimper? Did those who make a living out of talking democracy, reconciliation, good governance, devolution and conflict resolution complain? Have those who are now, in the name of democracy, agitating for local government elections, ever insisted that PC elections be held? Did anyone say ‘constitutional provisions should be implemented?’
No. Simply, no. Humbuggery, yes.
Let’s go back to 1987. Rajiv Gandhi, the then Prime Minister of India, soon to be assassinated by the very terrorist outfit he and his mother before him funded, trained and armed, in effect held a gun to the head of the then President of Sri Lanka, J R Jayewardene, forcing him to sign the Into-Lanka Accord and thereafter get the then parliament (made of parliamentarians who he forced to sign undated letters of resignation) to pass the 13th Amendment. The people were not consulted. There was no debate. Illegality was written all over the document, its enactment and implementation.
It was an act of thuggery endorsed by a man who had excellent thug-credentials (having bashed heads of striking workers in July 1980, looked aside while thugs from his party’s trade union unleashed violence on Tamils in July 1983 and under whose watch two university students were killed in June 1984). And it was designed to further a cause of a bunch of terrorists. Simply, thuggery.
Most importantly, it wrecked rather than made easy administrative functions a case in point being agriculture, in particular agricultural extension. It has been estimated that on average no less than two-thirds of monies allocated to provincial councils have been used to pay salaries and maintain offices. Some PCs, like the Northern Provincial Council, couldn’t even spend all the money allocated to it in certain years. Simply, a white elephant. Nine of them in fact. Nine rogue white elephants.
Today there’s talk of the 13th Amendment being implemented to the letter, meaning police and land powers would be devolved. First of all, not only was the 13th Amendment imposed by a thug and illegally enacted by thug and his minions for the benefit of another bunch of thugs, it had nothing to do with ground realities. Devolution of power as a remedy to stated grievances is a monumental joke given geographic, economical, historical and demographic realities. We need not elaborate, but if you really believe in the Eelamist lie about ‘traditional homelands,’ you could read up on Raja Raja Chola I and how that particular marauder who had no stake in championing ‘Sinhala chauvinism’ described this island: ‘the land of the warlike Sinhalas,’ no less.
That said it has acquired legitimacy, if not in the circumstances of enactment by affirmation through practice — all major political parties have contested provincial council elections at one time or another. Not because they agreed with the narratives of ‘grievance’ and ‘aspirations,’ but that they saw it as a means to advance political projects, as individual politicians and as collectives.
Two factors may have serves to dispel concerns regarding the 13th Amendment. First, the powers vested in the office of the president was the insurance policy against separatism. Secondly, land and police powers were never devolved. With regard to police powers, several amendments beginning with the 17th, in effect, made such devolution unnecessary. Land was not even talked about.
Now, if we are to go with the intent expressed by President Ranil Wickremesinghe, we could very well see Chief Ministers of Provincial Councils having the kind of sway that even the President does not enjoy with regard to policing in their respective domains. Now there’s also the threat of each Chief Minister having the power to override all central government safeguards with regard to the protection of forests and the preservation of archaeological sites at will.
We do know that certain Chief Ministers belonging to certain ethnic groups have been averse to archaeology perhaps out of fear that wild narratives about what happened and creative historiography will be proven beyond a shadow of doubt to be absolute bunkum. We also know that parties such as the JVP have at various points in their history talked of tearing down stupas so that building materials could be put to other use. We had Sunil Handunnetti recently ridicule Buddhists for their preferred forms of worship. What such people in the role of Chief Minister could do should be reason enough to be wary, extremely wary about devolving land powers.
Forests! There are protected areas in all provinces. Even without land powers being devolved forests are being cut down, partly in the name of development and probably more extensively on the sly. Just imagine nine politicians (and we know that it is a profession favoured by crooks, thugs and the uncivilised) with police and land powers running their own fiefdoms. Pretty? Pretty grim!
A word about the JVP is necessary. The JVP gained much ground riding the general antipathy to Indian intervention and opposition to the 13th amendment. Sixty thousand (60,000) people, INCLUDING JVP LEADERS AND ACTIVISTS died in a period of two years (1988-89). The JVP now wants the 13th Amendment to be fully implemented, i.e. with land and police powers devolved. Perhaps we’ve seen the last ‘Il Maha Samaruma’ of the JVP. Anura Kumara Dissanayake and Co., will have to answer to all the party members, supporters and others who perished during the bheeshanaya. Will Dissanayake say ‘those sahodarayas were a bunch of idiots back then!’
What should be done with a piece of legislation describable as ‘by thugs, with thugs and for thugs’?
Repeal. Simply, repeal.
The pluses and minuses of the 13th Amendment
The 13th Amendment and moral obligations
The forgotten 13th bears upon the 19th and 20th
What of the 13th, 19th, Circular 5/2001 and the MCC Compact?
20th Amendment without repeal of the 13th: a recipe for disaster
The 19th, 20th and sanctimonious humbuggery
Raja Raja Chola and the quicksand of Tamil Chauvinism
The ‘Traditional Homelands’ tells a story