| by Pearl Thevanayagam
(August 06, 2013, London, Sri Lanka Guardian) Udaya Gammanpila of the JHU ( Jathika Hela Urumaya) opined the thinking of the majority Sinhalese on the government’s stance pertaining to the 13th Amendment to the constitution and its evolution over the decades by previous governments.
Does Sri Lanka want to mend fences with NE Tamils or does it want to pander to the majority Sinhala Buddhists? Would NPC elections in September sans amendments to 13A satisfy minority Tamils? Or would it lead to another resurgence of Tamil militancy?
What does 13 A portend?
The thrust of the 13th amendment
Section 2. Article 18 of the Constitution of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka (hereinafter referred to as the "Constitution") is hereby amended as follows:-
(a) by the renumbering of that Article as paragraph (1) of that Article;
(b) by the addition immediately after paragraph (1) of that Article of the following paragraphs: -
(2) Tamil shall also be an official language.
(3) English shall be the link language.
(4) Parliament shall by law provide for the implementation of the provisions of this Chapter."
154A (Establishment of Provincial Councils)
(1) Subject to the provisions of the Constitution, a Provincial Council shall be established for every Province specified in the Eighth Schedule with effect from such date or dates as the President may appoint by Order published in the Gazette. Different dates may be appointed in respect of different Provinces.
(2) Every Provincial Council established under paragraph (1) shall be constituted upon the election of the members of such Council in accordance with the law relating to Provincial Council elections.
(3) Notwithstanding anything in the preceding provisions of this Article, Parliament may by, or under, any law provide for two or three adjoining Provinces to form one administrative unit with one elected Provincial Council, one Governor, one Chief Minister and one Board of Ministers and for the manner of determining whether such Provinces should continue to be administered as one administrative unit or whether each such Province should constitute a separate administrative unit with its own Provincial Council, and a separate Governor.
TNA (Tamil National Alliance) comprising stalwarts of Federal Party and other Tamil political parties are fielding former SC Judge C.V. Wigneswaran in the forthcoming NPC elections who they hope will negotiate an amicable and viable solution to the ethnic issue dogging the minorities since independence. Can this gentleman deliver where his predecessors failed?
ITAK leader, son of the slain Kumar Ponnambalam and grandson of G.G.Ponnambalam QC of 50:50 representation call Gajendran Ponnambalam, has opted out of fielding a candidate citing lack of will of the government to secede police and land powers to the PCs.
Where Neelan Thiruchelvam, Lakshman Kadirgamar and much earlier the Valichchal Narambu (hard-veined) S.J.V. Chelvanayakam who sought to satyagraha and made a valiant attempt at declaring a separate state for NE Tamils by printing Tamil stamps and boycotting Sinhala Sri on cars forcibly imposed by the Bandaranaike Government in the late ‘50s and subsequently V.Pirabakaran who chose the militant path when all the Tamil leadership failed through political means, can Tamils pin their hope on this born again Tamil rights redeemer Wigneswaran?
Lakshman Kadirgamar shied away from speaking in Tamil. At press conferences he kept mum when questioned in Tamil. He was hung up on his Oxbridge education and Colombo living. Neelan Thiruchelvam was more at ease with elite Colombites than admit he is from the North. After all he was the neighbour of the Bandaranaike family home in Horton Place and he believed himself to be on par with Colombo elites and also having been married to a Muslim he saw himself as a cosmopolitan and ergo non-racial element in Sri Lankan politics.
Ditto for Wigneswaran who was not hesitant in touting his alliance with Vasudeva Nanayakkara through family ties. Vasu is a show-biz politician and just an upgraded Mervyn Silva. Remember his walking out with the mace of the Speaker to earn media publicity.
To the Kadirgamars and the Thiruchelvams did the the Gypsies sang Love Sama. Tamils need not fear the majority Singhalese. Their nemeses are their erudite Tamil leaders who for whatever reasons and quite rightly to empower themselves and not necessarily the welfare of Tamils chose the path of pandering to ruling politicians while placating the Tamils they are on their side.
The government has an ally in Douglas Devananda in his warped thinking and his prime motive of siding with any government in power to enrich himself and do away with opponents by fair means or foul. His notoriety of white van abductions, his shady business deals from human trafficking to contract killing is well known to the government.
The North is his fiefdom and Devananda is the de facto leader of Northern Province and most of all the government is desperate to have such an ally in him. Devananda will pinch the baby and rock the cradle as it befits him. In short he has no scruples except to better himself and Tamil cause is the furthest from his priorities. He is a mass murderer who has the blessings of successive governments to bump off politicians, activists and journalists.
If Tamils in the North and East are desperately urging the government to remove military presence there, it would be far more crucial to dismantle Devananda’s own paramilitaries who are the real villains holding civilians to ransom with white van abductions, murders and ransom demands.
Visitors to Jaffna from abroad say the soldiers are rather friendly and they do not fear them although this comes as a surprise and must be taken with a pinch of salt given the fact their stay was short and the reports are only from a few this writer had met.
It is quite obvious the PC elections are being held in a mighty hurry to satisfy the impending visit of UNHRC (United Nations Human Rights Council) chief Ms Navi Pillai on August 25, 2013 and the meeting of the Commonwealth heads hosted by Sri Lanka in November. The elections are indeed a ploy to sidetrack the lack of will on the part of the government in implementing the toothless LLRC recommendations which are vague to say the least and fall very short of investigating war crimes.
All these tamashas should not detract the crucial investigation into the war which ended with Tamil genocide in the last few months of the war ruthlessly executed by the government.
Whether provincial elections are held to satisfaction; whether 13A with pluses or minuses are implemented in 2014, the fight to seek redress for the thousands of war victims should be placed on the international agenda and the government made to justify its actions. The war memories are still raw and war wounds would take that much longer to heal if at all.
(The writer has been a journalist for 24 years and worked in national newspapers as sub-editor, news reporter and news editor. She was Colombo Correspondent for Times of India and has contributed to Wall Street Journal where she was on work experience from The Graduate School of Journalism, UC Berkeley, California. Currently residing in UK she is also co-founder of EJN (Exiled Journalists Network) UK in 2005 the membership of which is 200 from 40 countries. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)