National security, the national interest and the 13th Amendment
There is nothing that our enemy, the Tiger international network and
the pro-Tiger, pro-Tamil Eelam Tamil Diaspora would like better, than to
see a gap open up in the partnership between Sri Lanka and India; a gap
that they will seek to manipulate in consonance with their Western
patrons and friends.
The non-implementation of the 13th Amendment will open up such a gap.
The implementation of the 13th Amendment is not a give away or dilution
of our military gains. It is the necessary political accompaniment of
them and the guarantee of the consolidation of our military victory. It
is in our national interests and a guarantee of our national security.
Indian Peace-Keeping Force
One of the silliest arguments against the implementation of the 13th
Amendment is that it is a stepping-stone to or somehow related to the
Tamil separatist cause. If that were the case, Prabhakaran would have
accepted it, not rejected it and gone to war against the Indian
Peace-keeping Force, damaging his relations with India and culminating
in the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi, an atrocious crime for which he
paid this May.
At the very least he would have abandoned or suspended the war
against the IPKF that he began in October 1987 and negotiated for
privileged entry into the provincial council.
Prabhakaran took a grave risk and waged this war, his second war,
precisely because he knew that provincial autonomy as envisaged in the
Indo-Lanka Accord and contained in the 13th Amendment a year later, was
a death trap for Tamil secessionism. This is because authentic moderate
reform is a death trap for extremism anywhere, anytime.
Why compromise on the basis of the 13th Amendment, ask the extremists
on both sides of the ethnic divide. The answer is that anything else
would be too risky. Open up the issue again and the Sinhalese may offer
less, the Tamils may ask for more and the world may see an even more
There are two types of people who assert that President Mahinda
Rajapaksa is against the 13th Amendment or does not intend to or will
not implement it. These are the Tamil ultra-nationalists, the Tamil
hawks and their fellow-travelling Sinhala doves, who say that no
devolution will emanate from the Rajapaksa administration, and the
Sinhala hardliners who oppose any kind of devolution and attempt to use
President Rajapaksa’s patriotic profile behind which to hide their
extremism. Some even invoke Mahinda Chinthana, oblivious to the irony
that Mahinda Rajapaksa can be safely trusted to know the letter and
spirit of Mahinda Chinthana better than anyone else.
The position of the President and Government of Sri Lanka on the 13th
Amendment is clearly set out in two contemporary documents, namely the
joint statements of May 21 and 23 issued at the conclusion of the visits
of the high level Indian delegation and that of the UN Secretary General
Both statements reiterated the Government’s commitment indeed one
referred to the President’s ‘firm resolve’ to implement the 13th
Amendment. Both statements also indicated a political dialogue which
would explore further possibilities. I quote:
‘Both sides also emphasized the urgent necessity of arriving at a
lasting political settlement in Sri Lanka. Towards this end, the
Government of Sri Lanka indicated that it will proceed with
implementation of the 13th Amendment. ‘Further, the Government of Sri
Lanka also intends to begin a broader dialogue with all parties
including, the Tamil parties in the new circumstances, for further
enhancement of political arrangements to bring about lasting peace and
reconciliation in Sri Lanka.’ (May 21, 2009)
President Rajapaksa expressed his firm resolve to proceed with the
implementation of the 13th Amendment, as well as to begin a broader
dialogue with all parties, including the Tamil parties in the new
circumstances, to further enhance this process and to bring about
lasting peace and development in Sri Lanka. (May 23, 2009)
Sri Lankan delegation
The statements carried in the Indian media following the reciprocal
recent visit of a top level Sri Lankan delegation to New Delhi shed
light on what GOSL means by going beyond the 13th Amendment. Mention had
been made of a second chamber which would contain and represent the
provinces. The somewhat less authoritative APRC has also been the source
of some newspaper reports of another possibility of movement beyond the
13th Amendment by means of a restructuring of the concurrent list of
powers held conjointly by the Centre and the Provinces. Since this is
speculative at the moment, it need not detain us further.
The confusion arises over three qualifying terms: ‘full’ or ‘fully’,
‘minus’ and ‘plus’, as in full implementation of the 13th Amendment or
not; 13th Amendment minus or 13th Amendment plus. What is forgotten is
that we are already at 13th Amendment minus and is likely to remain
minus in that specific respect, namely the de-merger of the North and
East. So even if we upgrade the 13th Amendment in certain respects
(second chamber, reduced concurrent list), it will never be an
unambiguous plus. It will be plus something, minus merger.
This leaves the issue of the full implementation of the 13th
Amendment. Here too, the question does not arise in one sense because
the de-merger has taken place and what would be implemented is not
the13th Amendment in full.
The discussion, to be frank, is about two other matters: Police
powers and land. Here too the fuss is less than warranted. Even Minister
Muralidharan has said that the devolution of Police powers is not a
matter of urgency and Minister Devananda has made matters even simpler
by saying that all he wants as an immediate step is for the Northern
Province to enjoy the exact same powers as have been devolved to the
other Provincial Councils in the island.
Therefore we do not have to agitate our society with the issue of
Police powers at this moment. However the issue will not go away, and
should be addressed in the interests of national security. It is one
thing for an almost totally mono-ethnic military to defeat an equally
mono-ethnic enemy militia in mid to high intensity warfare.
It is another for a mono-ethnic military to maintain a necessary long
term large scale presence in a territory almost totally inhabited by a
different and disaffected ethnic community, without the benefit of a
local, or should I say home grown intermediary.
Unless and until it becomes ethnically integrated and representative
of the island’s demographics as a whole, the Sri Lankan military must
not be drawn into and bogged down in policing functions which bring them
into possible relations of contradiction with the local inhabitants.
Some commentators have upheld as example India’s military
cantonments, forgetting that India’s is a highly multiethnic military at
all levels. It is therefore in the interests of the Sri Lankan military
to have a local intermediary or auxiliary force and it is equally
necessary that this force work with accountability and discipline,
within a regulatory framework.
The next issue is that of land, which is at the heart of most ethnic
and civic conflicts. The land provisions of the 13th Amendment were
carefully worked out by India and Sri Lanka, as Dr. Sarath Amunugama for
one will testify and it may be less than prudent to seek to unilaterally
roll back that understanding.
Historically this is the best time to effect a political
reconciliation between the Sinhala and Tamil communities in Sri Lanka.
If we do not do so internally, space opens for external interference.
If a minority anywhere in the world remains disaffected and domestic
reconciliation is not forthcoming it is natural that it would look to
co-ethnics elsewhere and to outside powers for support.
Today is the best time to draw or re-draw our political contract in a
way that brings us together. The Sri Lankan Armed Forces have reunited
the entire territory of the island. The Tamil extremists are weakened to
an unprecedented extent by the destruction of their vanguard the LTTE.
They can no longer sustain hard-line positions.
President Rajapaksa has the trust of the Sinhalese to a degree that
none of his predecessors had, thanks to his leadership of the liberation
war against terrorism and separatism. He can therefore carry the
Sinhalese with him into a settlement of the underlying and pre-existing
issues. Thus this is the best time for a moderate compromise.
(These are personal views of the writer)