Sri Lanka Brief Position Paper/July 2013
The provincial council (PC) system in Sri Lanka was established as a result the Indo-Lanka Accord concluded between Sri Lanka and India on July 29, 1987. The 13th Amendment and the provincial council system were conceived as a political solution to the ethnic conflict. Under the amendment Northern and Eastern Provinces were amalgamated. The PC system was the crux of the Accord. On 14 November 1987 the Sri Lankan Parliament passed the 13th Amendment to the Sri Lankan constitution of 1978 and the Provincial Councils Act No 42 of 1987, establishing provincial councils. Nine provincial councils were created by order on 3 February 1988.
Elections for the merged North Eastern Province were held on 19 November 1988 and Eelam People’s Revolutionary Liberation Front (EPRLF) formed the first North and East provincial council. EPRLF collaborated closely with the Indian government. After the Indian Peace Keeping Force left the country the North and East PC was dissolved in 1990. Merger was declared illegal by the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka in 2006 fulfilling a Sinhala Nationalist demand. The province was formally demerged into the Northern and Eastern provinces on 1 January 2007.
The province was ruled directly from Colombo until May 2008 when elections were held for the demerged Eastern Provincial Council. Northern Province had been under Military (Retd) Governors for 17 years, since 1990. At present former Jaffna army commander Major General (Retd) GA Chandrasiri is the governor of the Northern Province.
Ruling coalition captured the power of the Eastern PC in the April 2008 election and the leader of the pro government Tamil Peoples Liberation Tigers (TMVP) was made the Chief Minister.
During and after the war Sri Lanka government and the president Rajapaksha promised to implement the 13th Amendment to the constitution as a political solution to the ethnic conflict. The promise that there will be a political solution after the war was used to obtain international support to during the war as well as after the war:
103.Sri Lanka will take measures for the effective implementation of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution.
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.
Welcoming also the recent reassurance given by the President of Sri Lanka that he does not regard a military solution as a final solution, as well as his commitment to a political solution with implementation of the thirteenth amendment to bring about lasting peace and reconciliation in Sri Lanka
The Prime Minister emphasised that a meaningful devolution package, building upon the 13th Amendment, would create the necessary conditions for a lasting political settlement. The President of Sri Lanka reiterated his determination to evolve a political settlement acceptable to all communities….the President expressed his resolve to continue to implement in particular the relevant provisions of the Constitution.
There have been other instances that Sri Lanka government and its president promised international committee that 13 Amendment will be fully implemented. In July 2012 government announced that Northern provincial election will be held in September 2013. This has been one of the major demands of the international community. The resolution adopted by 22ndsession of the UNHRC (March 2013) welcomed “the announcement by the Government of Sri Lanka to hold elections to the Provincial Council in the Northern Province in September 2013.”
On 06th July 2013 President Rajapaksa issued a proclamation calling for the holding of elections to the Northern Provincial Council to the effect that the election will be held during last week of the September. Meanwhile a political parties and individuals have taken up positions re the election and devolution, campaigning for and against the 13 amendment. A powerful group within the ruling coalition, including the Rajapaksha family, headed by the Sinhala Buddhist nationalists opposes the full implementation of the 13 amendment, One of the contentious issues has been the devolution of police and land powers to the Provincial Councils.
On the other hand a significant sector within the ruling coalition, including Tamil and Muslim parties is opposing any dilution of the 13th amendment/provincial council system. Tamil National alliance and United National Party also oppose any dilution of the 13th amendment/provincial council system.
In this context the government appointed a Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) to seek a consensus on the 13 amendments and provincial council system. As the all members of the PSC belongs to the ruling coalition it has been nicknamed as President’s Select Committee and Government Sub Committee. Opposition parties have refused to take part it in the select committee on various reasons. The PSC has given six months time to produce its report.
A summary of the political party positions given below:
Abolish/Dilute the 13 Amendment and Provincial Council system
The Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) led by President Rajapaksha
The Ruling party the SLFP making its stance on the 13th Amendment to the Constitution for the first time, today said that it sought amendments to key provisions of the 13th Amendment and would await a decision regarding it through the Parliament Select Committee.
Jathika Hela Urumaya led by Minister Champika Ranawaka (JHU)
The Sinhala – Buddhist-Nationalist JHU, one of the strongest opponents to the devolution, has submitted a private member motion to the parliament to abolish the 13 A. The party says it will mobilize masses against the PC system.
People’s Liberation Front led by Samawansa Amarasinghe ( JVP)
The Sinhala – Nationalist – Socialist the JVP has stated that it will not take part in the PSC because 13 A need to be scraped. The JVP led a bloody civil war in the south in 1988 – 1990 with the abolition of the PC system among other demands.
National Freedom Front ( NFF) led by Minister Wimal Weerawansa
The Sinhala – Buddhist Nationalist NFF insists the 13 Amendment should be abolished on the ground it will be a spring board for separation.
Mahajana Eksath Peramuna ( MEP) led by Minister Dinesh Gunawardana
The Sinhala – Buddhist nationalist the MEP wants to abolish the PC system because it has been a failure and it divides the country.
Gotabaya Rajapaksha, Defence Secretary and President’s brother
Mr. Rajapaksha, who seems to be the power behind the Crown, has repeatedly called for abolishing the PC system on the ground that devolution is unnecessary and that it will divide the country. He is emphatic that GoSL should not listen to India on this issue.
Lalith Weeratunga, Secretary to the president
Mr. Weeratunga opposes the 13 A and PC system on the ground that it is administratively obstacle and it was forced on the country without people’s consent
N.K. Illangakoon Inspector General of Police
(IGP) Illangakoon opposes delegation of police power would pose a threat to national security.
Bodu Bala Sena and Sinhala nationalist groups
Some 25 Sinhala – Buddhist organisations including the Bodu Bala Sena, Sihala Ravaya, Jathika Hela Urumaya.the All Ceylon Buddhist Congress, Deshiya Surekeeme Jathika Viyaparaya (headed Ven Elle Gunawansa Thera), Deshapremi Bhikshu Peramuna (Ven Bengamuwe Nalaka Thera), Jathika Sanga Sammelenya (Ven Rajawatte Chappa Thera), Desha Hishaishi Jathika Viyaparaya (Dr. Gunadasa Amarasekara) and the United Three Wheeler Driver’s Association (Lalith Dharmasekara) took part in a public meeting which drew members of the Buddhist clergy from temples countrywide to campaign for abolishing the 13 Amendment.
Do not abolish the 13thAmendment and implement PC system in fully
UNP led by Leader of the opposition Ranil Wikremesinghe
Opposition the United National Party (UNP) opposes any dilution of the 13 A on the grounds that “The Provincial Council system was never seen as a move at separatism. The 13th Amendment is part of the Constitution and the Supreme Court and parliament have approved it ”
Tamil National Alliance (TNA) led by R. Sampathan (M.P.)
The Tamil nationalist TNA which compromises Illangai Thamil Arasu Katchi (ITAK, Federal Party), TELO, EPRLF, TULF & PLOT has categorically stated that it opposes any dilution of the 13th Amendment. And it decided not to participate in the PSC on that ground that it had provided its input for a dialogue on the devolution without any positive response. form the GoSL .
Sri Lanka Muslim Congress led by Minister Rauf Hakeem
UPFA constituent, the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) and the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) are in the process of building a common front to thwart government move to curtail the powers of the provincial councils ahead of the first northern provincial council election scheduled for September.
Three Left parties (CPSL LSSP and DLF) led by Minsters
Leader of the Lanka Sama Samaja Party (LSSP) and Minister of Technology and Research, Prof. Vitarana, General Secretary of the Communist Party (CP) and Minister of Human Resources, D.E.W. Gunasekera, and Leader of the Democratic Left Front (DLF) and Minister of National Languages and Social Integration, Vasudeva Nanayakkara, have expressed solidarity with the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) in fully implementing the 13th Amendment to the Constitution.
Democratic Party led by Gen ( Retd) Sarath Fonseka
Former Army chief Sarath Fonseka says there is no need to abolish the 13th amendment, as wanted by government ministers and officials. The 13th amendment was introduced as a solution to the issues raised by the people of the north and the east, he said.
Democratic People’s Front led by Mano Ganesan
In the written official statement, the Sri Lanka President and the UN Chief jointly stated that they would implement the 13th Amendment and would hold talks with Tamil political parties to further develop it to go beyond the 13th Amendment’ reiterated Ganesan supporting the 13 amendment.
The Upcountry People’s Front (UPF) led by V.S. Radhakrishnan
A plantation Tamil workers party the UPF is opposed to any moves by the government to dilute or amend the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, V.S. Radhakrishnan said… with these amendments, the minorities would lose whatever limited powers they would have in the Provincial Councils, under the present Constitution.
TMVP led by presidential adviser Sivanesathurai Chandrakanthan
Former Chief Minister of the Eastern Provincial Council and Presidential Adviser on Eastern Provincial Affairs, Mr. Chandrakanthan, said his Party, the Tamil Tamil Makkal Viduthalai Pulikal (TMVP), would even join hands with the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) to protect the 13th Amendment and said that moves to dilute the 13th Amendment to the Constitution could not be allowed
Eelam Peoples Democratic Party (EPDP) led by Minister Douglas Devananda
“I have collected the signatures of 38 MPs who say that the 13th Amendment should remain intact,” Minister and EPDP leader Douglas Devananda said.
Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Sri Lanka
The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Sri Lanka have requested the government not to proceed with amending the 13th Amendment or totally repeal it but to discuss with all relevant parties on drawing up a totally new Constitution which is fair by all communities.
The Government of India
Indo – Lanka agreement signed between two sovereign Governments, both the Governments are bound to implement the agreement. Sri Lanka cannot unilaterally cancel the agreement.
National Security Adviser Shivshankar emphasised the need for Colombo to fulfil its commitment to India and the international community regarding a political settlement that would go beyond the 13th Amendment of the country’s Constitution.
Sri Lankan Tamil Diaspora organisations has rejected the 13th amendment on the ground that it will not provide a political solution based on the Tamil Nationhood. British Tamil Forum says that the 13th Amendment cannot be feasible and will not create an enduring peace in Sri Lanka.