13th amendment of Sri Lankan Constitution is the framework which can help heal the divide in Sri Lanka!

Sydney, 26th Aug, 2014

Sri Lanka FlagSri Lanka is a friendly country to India. India has many commonalities with Sri Lanka MapSri Lanka. Both major ethnic groups-Singhalese and Tamil- have their origins in India. Sri Lanka has a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with India.

Until 2009, it had a ferocious and violent civil war, killing thousands from both sides. After a series of battles, Sri Lankan Army was able to defeat LTTE in 2009. There are allegations that upto 40,000 civilians were killed in the final weeks of this war. Sri Lankan Army and LTTE both have been blamed for killing innocent civilians. UNO has an ongoing enquiry on Human Rights violation in Sri Lanka.

LTTE was a ruthless secessionist group, which invented “Suicide bombings”. Former Indian Prime Minister, Rajiv Gandhi, was assassinated by its cadre in Tamil Nadu in 1991. LTTE had had many chances to achieve reasonable autonomy for Tamils in Northern Sri Lanka, but it mismanaged the campaign, focusing on a maximalist position of Tamil Eelam.

The situation is totally different today. While Sri Lankan Army has defeated LTTE and removed LTTE from the scene, reasonable aspirations of Tamil Sri Lankans can not, and should not, be ignored. Their desire and aspiration to have a right for equality, dignity, justice and self respect can not be ignored or suppressed.

It is in the interest of Sri Lanka too that it deals with these aspirations from one segment of its own people pragmatically and fully. It is indeed in the long term interest of Sri Lanka to do things which will reassure its Tamil people.

Mahinda RajapaksaIt is in this context that 13th Amendment to Sri Lankan Constitution is worth revisiting. This amendment was enacted in 1987, following India-Sri Lanka Accord (Rajiv Gandhi- JR Jayewardene Accord). It created 9 Provincial Councils. Even though the amendmentRajiv Gandhi JR Jayewardene did not provide sufficient powers to elected legislators, ministers and Chief Ministers, it did give some powers to them. It was by no means a great amendment at all because it gave far too much powers to State Governors, appointed by the President. There is some demand from some ruling parties, including President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s brother, Gotabaya Rajapaksa (Defence Secretary) to repeal 13th Amendment . I believe this is a wrong step. If anything, the provisions of this Amendment for devolution of powers to Provincial Councils need to be strengthened, not diluted or repealed, which is what Sri Lanka seems to be heading to.

Because of what the Chief Minister of Northern & Eastern Provincial Council, Annamalai Varadraja Perumal did in March 1990 (he declared Independence of Tamil Eelam), Sri Lankan Govt will be concerned about any extra power to Provincial Councils. I do not believe this concern has any basis, after LTTE has been defeated and removed from the equation. Times and equations have completely changed. There is no chance of anything like what Mr Perumal did in 1990 happening in Sri Lanka anymore.

Sri Lankan Tamils constitute close to 11.2 % of Sri Lankan population. Indian Tamils, who were taken to Sri Lanka by The British Govt in 19th century constitute another 4.2%.  Their grievances need to be looked at rationally and pragmatically.

I believe that not only 13th Amendment should be used to implement devolution of powers to Provincial Councils, the amendment itself should be further modified and strengthened  to give more powers, including Land and Police powers to Provincial Councils.

There is nothing wrong with a federal structure of governance with defined powers to Central Govt and State Govts. Education, Health, Police and Land powers should be with States and obviously, the Defence, Foreign affairs, Communication and others should be in the domain of Federal Govt.

India is a classical example of a federal Governance, where States and Union Govt have delineation of powers and responsibilities in the State, Union and combined lists, set out in the Constitution.

USA is another example of Federal Governance with well defined powers and responsibilities between Union (Federal Govt) Govt and State Govts.

India, as a friendly nation to Sri Lanka, is encouraging Sri Lanka to do everything to devolve powers to State Councils. This was, after all, what is part of India-Sri Lanka Accord 1987.

This was, again, reiterated by Indian Foreign Affairs Minister, Smt Sushma Swaraj and Indian Prime Minister, Sri Narendra Modi a few days ago, when visiting Tamil National Alliance (TNA) delegation, led by TNA MP, R. Sampanthan met them in New Delhi.

I do believe, as do many others, that there is no case for the repeal of 13th Amendment, which, if executed, will cause nothing but further alienation of minorities, which will not help long term interests of Sri Lanka. In contrast, there are many advantages if Sri Lanka implements genuine devolution of powers & responsibilities to elected Provincial Councils on the lines of federal governance in India and USA.

Dr Yadu Singh

http://www.twitter.com/dryadusingh

http://www.facebook.com/dryadusingh

 

Australia, the most charitable nation in the World!

Charities Aid Foundation [CAF] has ranked Australia the most charitable nation. We have a tie with our neighbour, NZ for the top spot. I am not surprised with it as I have seen the charitable nature of Australians from every sphere of life. I have seen it during Victorian Bush fires and Asian Tsunami disaster. I have lived in NZ too for a short time and saw how helpful Kiwis were. Kiwis were also found to be the most honest people in another survey.

CAF’s World giving Index 2010 is an interesting read. Australia/NZ  are both number 1, Canada/Ireland 3rd, Switzerland/USA 5th, UK/Sri Lanka 8th, Lao People’s Democratic Republic 11th, India 134th and China 147th out of the total 153 countries.  

In Australia, this survey found that 70% people give money, 38% time and 64% help strangers. Corresponding numbers for NZ are 68%, 41% and 63% respectively.

In contrast, these numbers are disappointingly low 14%, 12%, and 30% for India. For China, the numbers are even worse at 11%, 4% and 28% respectively.

I was pleasantly surprised to see these numbers for Sri Lanka which has 58%, 52% and 50% under the same categories. Well done Sri Lanka!

I would have expected India and China to be better than what CAF table shows. I don’t know whether this is due to fact that they have a lot of poverty there and they are developing economies. I don’t know whether there are other factors for their low score. May be, Indians and Chinese will take note of this score and do better from now. If Lao People’s Democratic Republic can be at 11th spot, then surely, India and China can be at that spot too, if not better.

http://www.cafonline.org/pdf/0882A_WorldGivingReport_Interactive_070910.pdf

As far as I am concerned and just like other Australians, I take part in charitable activities and contribute generously, whenever possible. I encourage every one to support charities. We never know when we might ourselves be in difficulties and need help.

Yadu Singh/Sydney/10th September, 2010