India’s continued insisting on 13th Amendment

by S. Akurugoda

(June 15, Melbourne, Sri Lanka Guardian) According to the Joint Declaration issued following the State visit of President Mahind Rajapaksa to India, Indian Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh has emphasized that a meaningful devolution package, building upon the 13th Amendment, would create the necessary conditions for a lasting political settlement. In addition to the variousagreements said to have been reached, mainly granting of loans (to payback with interest and within a specified period by the people of Sri Lanka) for the welfare of the people in the North, East and the Upcountry, two leaders have agreed to establish Consulates General of India in Jaffna and in Hambantota.

The reality of the Rajiv-JR Agreement and the resulted 13th Amendment to the Constitution would have known better by Rajiv Gandhi, the Indian PM, than anyone else since it was the Indian civil servants who were instrumental when drafting the Agreement.

The implementation of 13th Amendment is the beginning of implementation of the Thimpu demands (distinct nationality, traditional homelands, self-determination) as claimed in the following statement of Indian PM Rajiv Gandhi to the Indian Parliament on July 31, 1987.

" The Agreement meets the basic aspirations which have animated the Tamils’ struggle, namely, the desire to be recognised as a distinct ethnic entity; political autonomy for managing their political future; and appropriate devolution of governmental power to meet this objective, the recognition of the Northern and Eastern Provinces of Sri Lanka as areas of historical habitation of the Tamils and the acknowledgment and designation of Tamil as an official language of Sri Lanka.

The Agreement constitutes the Eastern and Northern Provinces of Sri Lanka into one administrative unit with an elected Provincial Council; and a Chief Minister. Powers would be devolved... to ensure a full measure of autonomy to the Provinces in Sri Lanka."

On August 2, 1987, Rajiv Gandhi told a public meeting in Madras that "The Agreement secures everything that the Sri Lankan Tamils had demanded, short of breaking Sri Lanka’s unity. In fact, it goes well beyond the initial demands of the Sri Lankan Tamils. Under the Agreement, approximately one-third of Sri Lankan territory will be made into a single province where the Tamils will have a clear majority. They will have regional autonomy comparable to State governments in India ... "

India became the first country, since independence, to interfere with the internal affairs of Sri Lanka, in mid 1980s. India provided training to separatists to fight against the Sri Lankan security forces. India made Sri Lankan government somewhat obligatory to ‘invite’ Rajiv Gandhi to sign an Accord in 1987 by invading the Sri Lankan air space for the first time and forcing the government to stop operations against the very same terrorists whom they trained.

Although the Indian government undertook to disarm the terrorists group in return of implementing the constitutional amendment imposed on the Sri Lanka government, India has failed miserably to fulfill its obligation as per the agreement. On the other hand, Sri Lankan people had to bear the huge cost of war against terror and the cost of implementing the constitution amendment, thus imposed under the failed agreement, in addition to the loss of lives since 1987.

Since it is the Sri Lankan Security forces who ultimately disarm the terrorists, the moral rights of the Indian government to ask the government of Sri Lanka to implement 13th amendment is highly questionable.

Ironically, thousands of innocent civilians who got injured and surviving relatives of further thousands of those who died as a result of the terrorism abetted by India, we Sri Lankan deserve an apology (at least) from the perpetrators for the losses incurred to us due to terrorism. Instead, it is likely that India will continue to interfere with the internal affairs of Sri Lanka due to the internal politics of Tamil Nadu.

India’s said plans to set up a Consul-General's office in Jaffna to “fully restore connectivity to south India” appears to be another ploy set in this direction. Consul-Generals are normally appointed to various State Governments of Federal form of Governments. Setting up of such offices within the territory of a tiny country like ours will, no doubt, benefit India’s ulterior motives (whatever it could be) and not the people of Sri Lanka. India, after forcing us a certain form of a Federal structure via 13th Amendment to the Constitution, is now working hard to ensure its implementation by other means as well.

Full implementation of the 13th or any other Amendments or the complete overhaul of the entire Constitution of Sri Lanka is a matter for the Citizens of Sri Lanka. Continuous insisting of how we should solve our problem is simply a gross violation of our rights as a sovereign country and a clear example of how the powerful states are bulling the weak and small states.

Segregating people according to communal lines in Sri Lanka, in order to please the demands of hardcore racist elements in Tamil Nadu, under the pretext of reconciliation could only strengthen the hands of separatist movements still alive, both within and outside Sri Lanka, although the military wing of the LTTE is no more.

Persistent effort of the Indian authorities to push Sri Lanka towards Indian solutions based on Thimpu demands of the separatists groups, whom they fed and trained to destabilized the our country, need careful attention of the Sri Lankan Government and its people.