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Manohara, others warn of inherent dangers of 13-A

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‘That legislation in its entirety is illegal and contrary to the unitary status –Gen Dias

By Shamindra Ferdinando

The full implementation of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution portends massive risks and, therefore, those political parties and alliance seeking to woo Tamil speaking voters should be wary of the threat to the country’s unitary status, top constitutional lawyer Manohara de Silva said yesterday.

The President’s Counsel was commenting on Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) and Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa’s recent declaration in Kilinochchi that the 13th Amendment would be implemented.

President Ranil Wickremesinghe and Jathika Jana Balawegaya (JJB), too, have declared their intention to fully implement the 13th Amendment in line with their overall bid to reach consensus with the Tamil National Alliance (TNA).

Pointing out that discussions on the 13th Amendment often centred on the need to grant land and police powers to the provinces, de Silva said that ancient and historical monuments and records, agriculture, irrigation, education, roads, as well as housing, come within the Provincial Council list.

The ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) is yet to state its position, officially, though about a year ago that party questioned the rationale in the incumbent President declaring his intention to fully implement the 13th Amendment against the backdrop of all previous Presidents having declined to do so.

Political parties shouldn’t, under any circumstance, forget that the concurrent list that included land acquisition, registration of births, renaming of villages, festivals (LTTE commemoration possible), archaeological sites, religious institutions are within the legislative and executive competence of Provincial Councils, the PC said.

When The Island pointed out that the Parliament could intervene to thwart threatening moves on the part of Provincial Councils, the Executive Committee member of the National Joint Committee emphasized that those who reached electoral agreements with the TNA wouldn’t be able to resist the coalition partner.

“Do you really think that the SJB leader, or any other presidential poll candidate, will be allowed, by coalition partners, to override the Provincial Council legislation on the concurrent list,” de Silva asked.

The outspoken lawyer pointed out that former Speaker and Deputy Leader of the UNP Karu Jayasuriya, in his current capacity as the Chairman of the National Movement of Social Justice (NMSJ) and the UK-headquartered Global Tamil Forum (GTF) have declared their support for the SJB’s position.

De Silva said that close on the heels of parliamentarian M.A. Sumanthiran, on behalf of the TNA, publicly regretting its decision to boycott the 2005 Presidential Polls, as directed by the LTTE – a contentious move that deprived Ranil Wickremesinghe of certain victory – Premadasa and JVP Leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake met the TNA leadership on Monday (10) and Tuesday (11), respectively.

The TNA parliamentary group consists of 10 MPs. In parliament, the TNA group is recognized as Illankai Thamil Arasu Kadchchi (ITAK).

De Silva said it would be interesting to see whether President Wickremesinghe, SJB leader Premadasa and JJB leader Dissanayake seek the support of other political parties representing the Northern and Eastern Provinces.

The other Tamil parties are the EPDP (two MPs), AITC (two), TMVP, TMTK (one). Of them, the EPDP and TMVP represent the Wickremesinghe-Rajapaksa government.

Retired General Jagath Dias who had been quite critical, recently, of the moves to fully implement the contentious piece of legislation, told The Island that though the right of political parties to engage in negotiations should be respected they couldn’t, under any circumstances, pursue an agenda inimical to national interests.

“There is absolutely no ambiguity. The 13th Amendment, forced on us by India under the Indo-Lanka Accord signed on July 29, 1987, in its entirety is illegal and contrary to our unitary status. That is the truth,” the war veteran said.

Having served the Army for over 35 years, Dias retired in Dec 2015 as the Chief of Staff. During Eelam War IV (August 2006-May 2009), Dias commanded the 57 Division that was tasked to liberate Kilinochchi.

Recalling the circumstances the 13th Amendment had been enacted, just months after India thwarted ‘Operation Liberation’ intended to clear the Jaffna peninsula of the LTTE, the former combat officer said that the piece of legislation should be constitutionally done away with.

Giving into unjust political demands made by the TNA/ITAK and trying to appease its Indian masters should be considered as a treacherous act, the Gajaba Regiment veteran said. Dias regretted that even 15 years after the eradication of separatist terrorism, the Parliament hadn’t taken into consideration post-war ground realities when addressing, what he called, the North East issues.

Both Manohara de Silva and Jagath Dias emphasized that the Eastern Province couldn’t be merged with the Northern Province just to appease those who still harboured separatist sentiments.

The Supreme Court in Oct 2006 declared that the merger of the two provinces, in line with the Indo-Lanka Accord, was defective and invalid.

The President’s Counsel said that the country’s unitary status, that had been preserved at a tremendous, cost couldn’t be abolished. Referring to recent reports of some group distributing leaflets in the North demanding that the Tamil electorate boycott the Presidential Poll, scheduled to be conducted later this year, until the unitary status is done away with, de Silva said those who genuinely value the eradication of the LTTE conventional fighting capacity should take a collective stand as regards the 13th Amendment.

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