by Mano Ganesan
Mahinda Rajapakse, soon after he became president convened all political parties represented in the Parliament to a conference. It is called the All Party Conference (APC). His stated ‘mantra’ at the first meeting was to discuss and develop a set of new political proposals addressing what is referred as the ethnic problem or the Tamil problem. During the process, he even appointed a sub committee within APC under the chairmanship of Minister Tissa Vitharana, called All Party Representative Committee (APRC). This APRC was told to engage in continued sittings and prepare proposals and submit it to the apex APC for approval.
[Mano Ganesan MP]
Now Mahinda Rajapakse is telling 13th amendment is enough and asks the Tissa Vitharana’s APRC to submit proposals for the implementation of the 13th amendment. This constitutional amendment was made in 1987 as per the Indo-Lanka pact. Sri Lankan governments since then never implemented most part of this amendment or pact. Mahinda Rajapakse had been a vibrant opponent of this Indo-Lanka pact and 13th amendment from the beginning. But now he treats it as ‘god given’ with understandable reasons.
What should be noted here is that there not going to be any new set of proposals this time. This is because thanks to UNP, the 13th amendment is already law. What is pending is the implementation. Therefore by telling Tissa Vitharana to submit proposals to implement 13th amendment, Mahinda is actually changing rules of the APC and APRC.
This is closing one chapter and starting another new chapter. This is nothing but one of Mahinda’s usual ‘time buying’ tactic. He has unitarily canceled the CFA and ‘slapped’ the international community and packed away the SLMM. There is no reason why he will not seek to change rules again in view of 13th amendment and it’s implementation.
If Tissa Vithrana committee is going to submit proposals for on ways to implement what is already law, it cannot anymore be considered as an APC or APRC and with all the song, dance, fanfare and international recognition attached to it. You do not need all that ‘loud talk’ to find ways for the implementation of what is already law. You can do it with a parliamentary select committee or a commission headed by a retired Judge. But since here there are certain ‘jobless’ politicians involved we can call it a parliamentary select committee. Therefore let it be assured that Mahinda Rajapakse has reduced All Party Conference to a Parliamentary Select Committee.
He should be asked on the first place why he created APC and APRC and went on for nearly two years. He needed time for his war agenda. He got it. But Mahinda has come to situation that he cannot anymore carry on without putting something out of APRC. Lately he has antagonized the western nations and the UN. He is now pushed towards India . He thinks by talking of 13th amendment he can keep India happy and also bring ‘something’ out of APRC.
13th amendment did not work in the north and east. It was only an attempt. Tamils as a nationality did not accept it as a pack of proposals or later as law. It’s half-baked implementation is history now. It did not go anywhere near the aspirations of the Tamil nationality living in north and east. It may have given some hope for the Tamil and Muslim minorities living in the southern provinces. It also gave Sinhala people in the provinces some taste of devolution of power. But that’s all.
13th amendment came through Indo-Lanka pact in 1987. There had been many developments later. There were some better features in Chandrik’s year 2000 package and PToms proposals. It also does not reflect the sprit of ‘internal self-determination’, what was spoken during Ranil’s period. Also Indo-Lanka pact brought provincial councils with the amalgamation of north and east. These features are missing now. Therefore it is definitely going behind even in the Sinhala standards.
Therefore India cannot force Tamils to go back 20 years. India and international community should understand that Tamil struggle since 1940s do not deserve this shabby treatment. India has vengeance over LTTE. But it has to be sorted out at a different forum. It cannot be reflected on the Tamil ethnic issue. The very visible feature is that what proposed through 13th amendment are provincial ‘councils’. But what available in India are state ‘governments’.
My party Western Peoples Front (WPF) has a policy on the ethnic issue. We believe it is clear. We refer to the Tamils living in the north and east as Tamil nationality and Tamils living in the rest of the island as Tamil minority. All of us are definitely Tamils by ethnicity but these terminologies are necessary to understand the Tamil problem in Lanka. WPF is based in the south among Tamil minorities. The Tamil people of Indian origin as well those north-east Tamils who have taken shelter or residence in the south are represented by us. We do not run for elections in the north and east hence we do not have any mandate to represent the Tamil nationality living in the north and east. We only democratically support our north-east brethren on their just struggle from outside. It has another logical reason also. Unless and until the problem in north and east is resolved amicably the war will keep on reflecting on us in south in the form of human rights violations which threatens our ‘right to life’. In addition nobody in Lanka can live in peace. No socio-economical developments can take place. Soaring of inflation and down trodden trend of the growth rate are inevitable. So we want an end this war with an acceptable political solution.
We only air our view. But tomorrow the Tamil leadership in the north and east decides to settle down with 13th amendment or something, we will approve it.
(Mano Ganesan is Western Peoples Front leader and Colombo district MP. He is currently in Self – exile due to his security being drastically reduced. Legal recourse has been sought for restoration of security at earlier levels.)