Tamil National Question, 13 A, Long Delayed PC Elections And Ranil’s APC
By M. A. Sumanthiran –
This statement is being issued in order to clarify our position with regard to the political solution for the Tamil National Question, the 13th amendment to the constitution, the conduct of the long delayed provincial council elections and the All Party conferences convened by President Ranil Wickremesinghe.
The Tamil People have, since 1956, consistently given the Tamil political parties a mandate to work towards a political solution to the Tamil National Question by means of a federal arrangement in the North-East, which was recognized as the ‘historical habitation’ of the Tamil speaking people in the Indo-Lanka Accord that was signed on the 29th of July 1987, which provided for a measure of devolution to the provinces, including land and police powers.
The Government of India has actively engaged in this pursuit for the past 40 years after Sri Lanka accepted the good offices offered by India consequent to the 1983 July violence against the Tamils. Most recently too, Indian Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi conveyed to President Ranil Wickremesinghe, India’s hope that the Government of Sri Lanka will fulfill the aspirations of the Tamils and drive the process of rebuilding for Equality, Justice and Peace. He also hoped that Sri Lanka will fulfill its commitment to implement the 13th amendment and conduct the Provincial Council’s Elections ; and will ensure a life of respect and dignity for the Tamil community of Sri Lanka. Later, at the press briefing the Foreign Secretary of India reiterated:
“Nothing could be more explicit in terms of what discussions took place, what we put forward, the fact that India continues to look forward to a political solution that addresses the aspirations of the Tamil community, of course aspirations for equality, Justice and self – respect within the framework of united and prosperous Sri Lanka. Prime Minister also clearly said that… expressed our belief that a meaningful devolution of powers and the full implementation of the 13th amendment are essential components of addressing and facilitating the reconciliation process in Sri Lanka. This has been our consistent position and this was put forward during the meeting between the two leaders”
Our position is that power sharing must be in a federal structure, consistent with the aspirations of the Tamil People expressed at every election since 1956. The 13th amendment to the constitution is part of the constitution of Sri Lanka, and not a separate appendage. The President and all of us have taken an oath to uphold and defend it. Thus the non – implementation of any part of the constitution is a violation of the whole. To that extent, we insist on the full implementation of the devolution arrangement currently extant in our constitution. That however will not meet with the legitimate aspirations of the Tamil People. That we need to make power sharing arrangement meaningful has been recognized both locally through various processes from Mangala Moonesinghe Select Committee until the Constitutional Assembly 2016 – 2019, under then Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, and in at least three separate joint statements made with India, during President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s tenure.
Nine Provincial councils that were functioning, albeit with deficiencies, have ceased to be due to a legal snag in the process of changing the electoral system. The select committee on electoral reform under the chairmanship of Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena in its Report submitted to this Parliament last year has stated that the provincial council elections which has been stalled for more than three years negates the democratic right of the people, and has recommended to hold the election under the PR system that existed previously. It also recommended that suitable legislation be enacted to enable this. I have presented a private member’s Bill in line with this recommendations, the first reading of which is over. This Bill was challenged in the Supreme Court and the Court has ruled that it can be enacted by a simple majority if recommended changes are made to some clauses in the Bill.
The Tamil National Alliance unequivocally conveyed to the President at the very first All Party Conference on 10th December 2022 that Provincial Council elections must be held without further delay. We also discussed measures necessary to make devolution meaningful. Several discussions were held with the President and at the second All Party Conference on 26th January 2023 again we reiterated our position. It was the same position that was conveyed at the last All Party Conference that was held on 26th July 2023. There was absolutely no change of positions by the Tamil National Alliance; nor is there any contradiction between calling for immediate provincial council elections and enhanced and meaningful devolution. In fact one without the other is meaningless.
*On behalf of TNA, M A Sumanthiran, MP, Jaffna District