Some birds like to chirp the same song. 13th amendment has come to be that song. The singers of course are many though we must wonder whether they have even read the 13th amendment. But, they enjoy nagging about the non-implementation of the 13th amendment at every forum be it at UNHRC, UN delegations or even during the chit chats and handshakes when diplomats and foreign envoys arrive in Sri Lanka. The 13th amendment is quite a fashionable topic and just mentioning the word is meant to scare the day lights out of our politicians.
The 13th amendment comes with the emphasis on devolution of powers and one wonders what the foreigners actually mean by ‘meaningful’ devolution. For devolution to become ‘meaningful’ must it satisfy the foreign entities or should it be relevant and useful to the citizens of Sri Lanka? An answer is rarely given and we hear only the 13tha chorus.
But, we need to get something cleared out with regard to the items that were listed to be devolved.
Firstly, what are to be devolved.
Secondly, how can the items to be devolved be actually devolved. This is important because simply because the 1st says to devolve, the 2nd factor must operate within the legal framework of the Constitution of Sri Lanka (not India, not America’s, not UK’s, not Navi Pillay’s or Canada’s).
Who says that the powers assigned to be devolved have not been devolved?
Executive power is exercised by the Government who is appointed by the President of Sri Lanka and the Legislative powers are exercised by the Provincial Councils.
List 1 contains 37 subjects to be devolved. These subjects come under the legislative powers given to the Provinces. Executive and Legislative powers of the 7 provinces have been devolved and in operation since 1987.
The Government cannot be blamed if the 7 Provincial Councils have been ineffective and while police powers have not been given the efficiency of running the 36 subjects are questioned.
In the case of the Northern and Eastern Provinces, the appointment of Governors had been made since 1987.
Just because the Provincial Councils have not been given Police or Land powers, the Provincial Councils cannot complain that powers have not been devolved. The 36 subjects that have been devolved to them are evidence to deny this claim.
Police powers and Land Powers have NOT BEEN devolved to any of the other provinces. It has been denied for national security reasons.
Moreover, the Supreme Court ruling has held land powers under the Government “State land shall continue to vest in the Republic…”.
What needs to be made clear is that apart from Police powers, all other 36 subjects have been devolved to ALL 9 Councils and they can make statutes and implement the devolved powers on education, local government, roads and bridges, social service, agriculture, agrarian services, rural development, health etc.
In addition, the List III, gives a Concurrent List that the PCs can exercise concurrently with the Central Government.
Why is the Northern Province and Foreign Governments and India insisting on police powers to the North?
When the PC system has been running throughout Sri Lanka ever since 1987 without police and land powers given, why are the foreign governments insisting on police and land powers after the Northern Provincial Council began functioning following the end of terror? Why did India or any of the foreign governments not chirp this song in relation to the other provincial councils of Sri Lanka?
Moreover, is it not relevant too that with more Tamils living outside the Northern Provincial Council, if they can live without land and police powers and have been doing so since 1987, why should Tamils of the Northern Province only seek land and police powers?
Lets not forget that when the first merged North-East elections was held, the EPRLF ran the Provincial Council without land or police powers! India never brought up issue of 13tha with land and police powers then and neither did any of the other foreign governments presently breathing fire down the Government.
Moreover, does it matter who administers law and order, so long as law and order prevails?
Without chirping the 13tha not been implemented song what the international community must start asking is what have the Northern Provincial Council being doing with the subjects that have been devolved and under their purview? This is where our former Supreme Court Judge and Chief Minister will get stuck in answering. What has he and his TNA done for the People of the North ever since they took over the Northern Province with the money that the Government has been allocating? Is this not a better song?
Let’s not forget that if it is the question of 13tha being devolved – it has been since 1987. Simply because certain subjects that have national security interests have not been devolved it is not a case to say that 13tha has not been implemented.
Next is the need to tell the Northern Province that is making the most noise about 13tha not being implemented to get on with what they have first. When people of the North who did not vote for the Members have to put up with them, then Wigneswaran and team must learn to get on with the Governor that the President of Sri Lanka has appointed.
Moreover, given the historical links of the TNA to LTTE terror, any Government will be considered insane to grant police powers and the public continues to question why the Government is hesitant to use 6th amendment against the politicians who make up the TNA for their open canvassing of separatism in Sri Lanka.
What the chorus on 13tha need to also realize is that there is a Constitutional provision to treat all citizens equally which immediately checks the present calls for ONLY Tamils and their aspirations to be addressed. This is something that the Government needs to make clear about in issuing statements at all international forums without simply promising to look into the aspirations of the Tamils and realizing that they cannot because it would undermine the aspirations of the rest of the people in Sri Lanka. The lack of clarity has been one key reason for everyone to be continuously running round the mulberry bush and going round in circles for decades. The handouts engaging Sri Lanka to promise 13tha – full, plus and any other adjectives used should now cease in the light of the ground realities that 36 subjects are well in control of the Provincial Councils and it is really time to stop fooling the public.
– by Shenali D Waduge