| by Upul Joseph Fernando

"If Northern elections are held without removing police and land powers from the 13th Amendment, I will resign from my ministerial portfolio."
– Wimal Weerawansa
01.05. 2013

( July 17, 2013, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) As is evident now, Mahinda Rajapaksa, is planning to go ahead with the Northern Provincial Council (NPC) elections, with police and land powers intact. Yet, there is no indication of Wimal Weerawansa resigning from the Cabinet, as proclaimed by him in the above quotation.

Weerawansa's conspicuous silence on the issue could be because of two reasons – either he doesn't want to lose his ministerial portfolio by revisiting his promise or Mahinda Rajapaksa may have given a conspiratorial undertaking after the election, action will be taken to withdraw police and land powers from the Northern Provincial Council.

The rumour mills have churned up many a likely scenario in this matter, further compounding the 13A conundrum. Some believe India had warned the government against any pre-election change to the existing provisions of the 13th Amendment; albeit leaving the door open for such action sometime in the future, if needed. A government big wig called it a trap.

However, another stream of thought has a different interpretation of the developing situation. According to him, India wants the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) to win the election and form the provincial government. Thereafter, presumably India believes TNA would claim legitimacy to retaining police and land powers as the people had elected them to a Council having unfettered rights to them. Going another step further, the TNA could as the first official action of the new administration, pass a resolution opposing the removal of police and land powers from the Council. Even Douglas Devananda, who is most likely to be in the opposition of the Council, would vote for it.

Once the council has been set up on electoral success, the administration could even seek India's help to retain police and land powers, as it has a responsibility to do so as the architect of the 13th Amendment.

When President Premadasa planned to bring amendments to the Constitution, to enable him to dissolve the North-Eastern Provincial Council as wished for by the LTTE in 1988, India intervened to thwart him.

India's action
The action is described in great detail in the following extract from Indian Intervention in Sri Lanka.
On India's Republic Day, 26 January, Indian High Commissioner L.L. Mehrotra, referring to the IPKF said:

"Having discharged its responsibility with considerable sacrifice over a period of two years, the IPKF has recommenced de-inductions in the context of the Joint Communiqu├ęs of 28 July and 18 September 1989 and subsequent discussions between our governments in December 1989 and January 1900 in New Delhi. The IPKF does so at a time when all Tamil militant groups have entered the political mainstream or have undertaken to do so and when all efforts are being made to bring about a ceasefire among them. The process of de-inductions is proposed to be completed by 31 March 1990 as stated by the External Affairs Minister of India in the Indian Parliament, recently."

As the date of the withdrawal of the Indian forces from Sri Lanka came near, the relationship between the Government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE strengthened and that with the EPRLF (Eelam People's Revolutionary Liberation Front) weakened. The EPRLF felt that Colombo had taken them as well as the North-East Provincial Council for a ride. They claimed that at the Thimpu talks of 1985, and subsequently, the Sri Lanka Government had promised the Tamils autonomy "which will be in no way less than the powers enjoyed by the states of India." The EPRLF claimed that this formed the basis for the Tamils to have given up their demand for Eelam and accepted the Accord. However, the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, which was for the purpose of setting up "The Provincial Governments fell far short of the aspirations of the Tamils of Sri Lanka."

The EPRLF accused Colombo for having 'concealed' the text of the Amendment from the Tamil parties of Sri Lanka, and "without consulting the Government of India." The EPRLF submitted a document to New Delhi, identifying the areas the Sri Lanka Government had pledged but failed to devolve power to the Tamils. But, New Delhi could not go back on the deadline; therefore, RAW continued to covertly strengthen the TNA, which was gradually falling apart. In context, the point of view of the EPRLF was that, "the Government of Sri Lanka had armed a guerrilla force to destabilize the Provincial Government, a legally constituted and duly elected body. If we took a hard-line that was because the government in Colombo resorted to adventurism of subverting its constitution politically, by not implementing the 13th Amendment to the Constitution and by arming the LTTE."

On 8 February, Foreign Minister Ranjan Wijeratne said at a post Cabinet press briefing that Chief Minister Perumal (Varadaraja) has left the country and returned without informing the government. The minister was referring to the visit of the Chief Minister to India for talks in mid-January and his return on 7 February. Wijeratne said the government will ask him how he left the country. "Action will be taken against him under the normal laws of the country. We will ask the immigration and the customs officials to find out how Perumal left the country and arrived without going through the procedures of the country." Stating that he had not sought the permission to leave the country and that, as Chief Minister, he should have informed the government, Wijeratne said, "We don't know whether the North-Eastern Chief Minister brought gold, drugs, illegal arms or currency. For this reason, he should have been searched on his arrival. He should have gone through the laws of the country." Responding to questions by Sri Lankan and foreign media men, the Minister of Foreign Affairs said, "Perumal gets into an IPKF plane and scoots off. Our officers don't have the opportunity of checking him. This is why we want the IPKF out of our country. Perumal should understand that he is a Sri Lankan."

By February, 2000 CVF (Civilian Volunteer Force) personnel had deserted their posts in the Northeast with the S-84 weapons issued to them by the government. CVF personnel, mostly members of EPRLF, ENDLF and TELO trained by IPKF had left the Northeast in stages coinciding with the withdrawal of the IPKF. Many fled to India. Constituent groups of the TNC privately admitted the 'strategic error' they had made by forcibly conscripting youth for their army. Even though most were self critical of the method.

Of recruitment and not the process itself, others felt that this would have deprived the LTTE, who were also competing for the same pool of Tamil youth to recruit for their movement of these youth. With the departure of the last IPKF contingent from Vadamarachchi, Jaffna on 23 February 1990, the LTTE began their political activity in Vavuniya, Mulativu (Mullaitivu), Mannar, Kilinochchi, Trincomalee, Amparai and Batticaloa. LTTE political activity started in areas bordering the jungles and spread to the towns. Mahattaya, the deputy leader of the party and head of the political wing told Shamindra Fernando, a defence writer who met the LTTE in Omanthai 20 miles from Vavuniya town, "Tigers view that the Indian Government has no further role to play in Sri Lanka, politically or militarily." The LTTE deputy leader had also identified the 1987 food drop over the northern peninsula as interference in Sri Lanka's internal affairs.

Eelam – an ultimatum

On 25 February 1990, the Central Committee of the EPRLF issued a 19 point charter forwarding ".... the conditions that had to be satisfied for the Eelam Tamils to exercise their right to self determination, within a united Sri Lanka." The charter spelt out the "modalities for the formation of an interim provincial government....." On 1 March, Chief Minister Perumal moved a resolution which "converted the North-East Provincial Council into a Constituent State Assembly for the purpose of drafting a constitution of the Eelam Democratic Republic which would take effects from March 1, 1991, if the Sri Lankan Government fails to implement the 19 demands. The demands were:

Powers should be devolved in all the subjects on the North-East Provincial Government, not be less than the powers enjoyed by the Indian States. The relationship in administration and finance between the Central Government and North-East Provincial Government should not be less than the relationship between Indian Central Government and State Governments.

It should be assumed that the North-East Province will not be bifurcated at any stage in any way and it will continue to be one Province;

All State land within the North-East Province shall be vested in the North-East Provincial Government. All land development, land alienation of State land and colonization on State land shall vest in the North-East Government without leaving room for misinterpretation.

(To be continued tomorrow)