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Devolution sans reconciliation

October 17, 2012

DEFENCE Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa has called for the abolition of the 13th Amendment (13-A) to the Constitution in view of threats to national security from pro-LTTE groups....

He has struck a responsive chord with the people averse to the provincial council system. He is likely to draw heavy flak from the defenders of 13-A, which they consider a panacea for all our ethnic ills….

The Rajiv Gandhi government, in 1987... rammed 13-A down President J.R. Jayewardene’s ageing throat. It wanted to appease its Tamil Nadu allies, contain the LTTE … and, above all, tame Sri Lanka drifting towards the US in a world which was still bipolar….

When the provincial councils were set up in the late 1980s … their opponents predicted that 13-A would lead to the division of the country along provincial boundaries …. Their doomsday prophesies have not come true….

The proponents of 13-A promised us the sun and the moon. With power being devolved to the periphery, they told us, people at the grass-roots level would be empowered and the rural backwaters developed…. But, nothing of the sort has happened….

Enemies of 13-A are of two kinds –– its opponents who call for its abolition straightaway and its proponents who want to use it as a stepping stone for fully-blown federalism/secession….

…The time has come for us to have a critical rethink on [the] constitutional amendment foisted on this country … with serious thought given to creating a mechanism to enable power-sharing at the centre. Tamil political parties must stop being swayed by the overseas Tigers and abandon the practice of ‘invoking’ foreign powers to sort out their problems that are essentially domestic, and the government had better sever its links with the southern hardliners who cherish the delusion that they alone own this land….— (Oct 14)