Negative Criticism of the APRC Proposals

By Rajiva Wijesinha

There has been much discussion recently regarding the proposals of the APRC which the Government has decided to implement. Much of this is based on ignorance and illogicality, and is symptomatic of a general tendency to look at matters in a negative frame of mind.

The substance of the proposal

The proposal is based on the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, and it is claimed that from the inception this was deemed inadequate by the Tamil people. This is nonsense. All Tamil parties at the time subscribed to the Indo-Lankan Accord. However the LTTE then reneged. Several attempts were made to placate them, including an interim administration which they could control, but that seemed insufficient and they stood out instead for domination. It was in the dissension created by that determination that finally India decided to take on the Tigers.

It is also alleged that the merger of the North and East was an integral part of the Accord. The demerger means that the 13th Amendment has been substantially weakened. This again is false. According to the 13th Amendment, the President could only proclaim the merger if weapons had been surrendered. Since it was clear that this would not happen, by a Gazette notification this was changed to permit him to proclaim a merger if he was satisfied that the process of surrendering arms had begun.

President Jayewardene, it is known, could declare himself satisfied whatever the situation. Thus, though it was clear that arms were proliferating, he went ahead with the merger-which was in any case contingent on a referendum to be held within a year. That referendum has not as yet taken place, successive governments having put it off with no respect for the actual legal position. Thus the Supreme Court ruling simply restored the existing constitutional position, namely that this is a country which consists of nine provinces,

In practical terms, demerger obviously satisfies a majority of people in the East, inasmuch as one of the most contentious points in all negotiations was satisfactory arrangements for the different communities there. And, as importantly, the Indian government, which had initially brought in the merger as perhaps the only aspect of the Accord which was deeply resented by the Sri Lankan people, has expressed itself satisfied with the current situation.

On the positive side, not only India, but also Sri Lankans concerned with the potential benefits of devolution for our people, recognize that, with demerger, it will be possible to ensure proper devolution. The merger suggested that devolution was about an ethnic based homeland, and that created fears of potential separation. Now it is clear that devolution is simply about allowing communities more control of their lives in areas that do not affect national security.

Thus it will be much less contentious not just to allow but also to encourage provinces to exercise the full extent of powers available under the 13th amendment. It will also be possible to encourage them to take initiatives under the Concurrent List, which was earlier largely avoided, owing to fears of Central Government intervention. Now the Central Government, with no fears of abuse, can gracefully withdraw from areas where it cannot really contribute much, and allow provinces to act freely.

The provenance of the proposal

In addition to criticism of the substance of the proposal, there is contempt for the fact that the APRC, after so long, has based this report on the 13th amendment. The argument is that it could have done this a long time ago.

This however fails to take into account the political reality of the last two decades. The assumption, beginning from the time when President Premadasa decided to resume discussions with the LTTE, thus subverting the Indian efforts to deal forcefully with terrorism that could not be converted, was that any solution had to be acceptable to the LTTE. Thus, since the LTTE had been opposed to the 13th amendment, it made no sense to use this as the main basis of a solution.

This problem was exacerbated by the Ceasefire Agreement of 2002, which seemed to confirm that the only parties to the problem were the Government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE. Former militants who had joined the democratic process in accordance with the 13th amendment were accordingly sidelined.

For over five years three successive governments attempted to negotiate with the LTTE on the basis of the CFA. Not only did the LTTE contemptuously ignore the assumption that a Cease Fire Agreement meant you had to Cease Fire (talking only now of observing this 100%), it soon abandoned the other main aim of the CFA, namely negotiations. The Wickremesinghe government failed to bring them back to talks, the Kumaratunga government does not seem to have tried very hard. The current government did bring it back but, after the LTTE bandoned negotiations in October 2006, it has categorically refused to talk, officially or unofficially.

After over a year therefore, given also continuing acts of terrorism, the government withdrew from the CFA. Those who look on the negative side of things wanted to return to a status quo, failing to realize that this decision was in fact a liberation, liberating the Facilitator to now talk to all parties to the conflict, including the democratic Tamil forces that had been sidelined; and liberating the APRC to look more closely at the 13th Amendment as a basis on which to build.

The 13th Amendment may not be the solution to all problems, but it certainly provides more solutions than many thought. Until recently for instance there was little understanding that a Concurrent List actually empowered Provinces in many areas, and it was unwarranted diffidence that prevented this being used. A government that has the confidence that it will maintain the unity of the country will have fewer qualms about preventing central encroachment on areas best left to provinces.

It would certainly have been difficult for the APRC to propose full implementation of the 13th Amendment as the basis of a solution which would then have to be put to the LTTE, which was what was originally envisaged when the APRC was set up. Since however the LTTE had conclusively removed itself from discussions, and had indeed turned more definitively to military action with its all out assaults in the North and the East in the course of 2006, it made sense for the Government, having allowed time for it to come to its senses and realize that such military action was fruitless, to move to another method of solving our problems. The current support provided by Tamil peoples, even in areas now under LTTE control, for Government initiatives, indicates that the Tamil people not only realize that the LTTE will lead them nowhere (except to forced conscription and death), but are prepared to take action on this realization.

But the government has to make crystal clear its conviction that the political problems which came to a head in the eighties need a political solution. The country cannot wait much longer in this regard. The 13th Amendment can now be implemented more consistently than was thought desirable or possible in the past, and working on such lines is a positive move that should be welcomed.

[Prof Rajiva Wijesinha is Secretary General of Sri Lanka Secretariat for Coordinating the Peace Process]

19 Comments »

  1. dingiri said,

    January 28, 2008 @ 1:13 pm

    Would it not be a good idea to first ask the people of the East if they want to join the North, and then make any decision based on the outcome of this referrandum?

  2. Devinda Fernando said,

    January 28, 2008 @ 4:51 pm

    All those LTTE NOISE MAKERS who now see that the LTTE are being squeezed out of the Political Equation are now trying to grab a conciliatory prize of Devolution and/or Federalism,…They know the LTTE’s plan has backfired on them and that Eelam will not materialize under them so now all that is left to do is try to Whine to the Government to Give them what they were offered in the First Place when the LTTE were asked to the Negotiating Table,…. but now it’s too little too late… The LTTE gambled with YOUR money and YOUR Blood and after all the Carnage they were not able to get you (and themselves) anything better! You TERROR-FELLATORS BACKED THE WRONG HORSE!…. The country will now be Unitary and we’ll be all better off for it.

    Sorry, No special privileges for Tamils, they, like the rest of we Sri Lankans, will just have to settle for being equal under the Sri Lankan Constitution….

  3. Estavez said,

    January 28, 2008 @ 8:47 pm

    The Sinhalese Chauvanistic Instincts of Rajiva has come to the fore since his appointment to SCOPP.
    He himself has written many articles during 1996 – 2001 in forums even in hardcore LTTE support base blogs advising CBK to go for peace talks and a confederal/federal solution to end the misery and destruction of this island nation.
    This is exactly what happens to any Sinhalese,when in outer perimeters of decision-making, they sing a different song. When in the Hot-Seat,they sing Baila…??
    His education and experiences of being a professor of sorts + his take on ethnic question is very much over estimated. Ultimately, Rajiva is a Sinhalese and sang songs to get established as a writer and advisor to the ethnic conflict.
    APRC- 13th Amendment is a gloss over and an extreme make over to please Dr.Manmohan Singh.
    Dr.ManMoahn would be wise to not to mourn his folly of attending the Feb 4th Celebrations.

  4. Estavez said,

    January 28, 2008 @ 8:51 pm

    DUMB..DUMB dinga dinga..!!!
    Stupidity of Sinhala Forces over-estimating their victory over tigers before hand and hence,the, 13th amendment is a preface to the ultimate solution stuffed in Tamil Throats if and when Tigers get annihilated.
    IF Tigers do not get wiped out,then, back to sqaure one. If Tigers win, then, ISGA would be the basis for talks.
    Rajiva would have to hide his face in shame if the third option materializes in the war.
    Rajiva indirectly responsible for the bloodletting of his own people as well as Tamils.

  5. Sen said,

    January 28, 2008 @ 10:49 pm

    In Sri lanka, Peace Secretariat means War secretariat, APRC means, not all party, but All Politicians in a Rajapaksa’s Circus to con the IC. “ignorance and illogicality” applies to this Prof of war !!

  6. Devinda Rebuttal said,

    January 29, 2008 @ 12:52 am

    Mr.Devinda Fernando!
    Please re read the 1996 – 1998 Anuruddha Ratwatte, MCNS high talks of LTTE being on the run from Jaffna to Wanni and that they would wipe out LTTE within 6 months..!!
    What happened was that LTTE grew even faster and battled it out with SL Forces and in 2001, SL Forces were on the run in Jaffna. The same Sarath Fonseka without the guidance of Maj.Janaka Perera wanted to pull back his troops to Palali. It was the International community that saved the day then.
    LTTE has expanded and been preparing for this major battle for 6 years. East was cake walk and SL Forces stuck in Mannar for nearly a year.
    Without LTTE participation, any political solution will see its dead end sooner or later just like N-E Provincial council under Varathrajpermal.
    Don’t speak too soon my friend!!!

  7. R.Goonetilake said,

    January 29, 2008 @ 5:22 am

    Yes, the country “Unitary” and bombs all around or United states of Ceylon and no bombs at all.
    the ball is in the sinhala court.
    Why is that SCOPP still functioning while there’s no CFA or Peace Process?
    Shouldn’t SCOPP be disbanded and Rasjiva sent to his old profession?
    What does SCOPP do anyway?
    WAR is in full swing and everytime only ONE soldier is dead against 17 LTTE Cadres. Wow.!!
    SL Forces are better than the Israeli forces?

  8. Thamilan said,

    January 29, 2008 @ 9:08 am

    Rajiva Wijesinha and Devinda Fernando are on high grade Ganja. Good luck in the real world. Tigers are winning in an arena that they never even set foot on while the government is seem or propagating about winning an arena that Tigers have time and time have made comebacks putting them selves on the driving seat of the Island nation.

  9. soloman said,

    January 29, 2008 @ 11:06 am

    Dingiri, I think we have to ask the people of the North intead !

  10. Devinda Fernando said,

    January 29, 2008 @ 3:32 pm

    *** Please re read the 1996 – 1998 Anuruddha Ratwatte, MCNS high talks of LTTE being on the run from Jaffna to Wanni and that they would wipe out LTTE within 6 months..!! …Don’t speak too soon my friend!!! ***

    Ado Puththa, don’t quote me stuff from 10 years ago,.. 10 years ago LTTE was not considered a International TERRORIST organization by the International Community. 10 years ago LTTE did not have its Diaspora funding cut buy IC in 40 different countries. 10 Years ago LTTE had men to fight, now they have women Children for the most part and most are not voluntary. 10 Years ago NOBODY even knew Prabhakaran’s movements or could even hit him if they did know,.. now it is a matter of time before Israeli Bunker Busters Bombs dig out this Tunnel Rat. 10 years ago SL armed forces did not have cooperation by Tamil Civilians, now look and see… Everybody (except IDIOTS like you) HATES the LTTE and is waiting for them to be Destroyed. 10 Years ago Arms smuggling from Tamil Nadu to Jaffna was out in the Open,… now All LTTE arms smuggling boats are collecting rust at the Bottom of the Indian Ocean…. and 10 years ago, Tamils Diaspora were supporting the LTTE,… Now look and see how they cannot collect anymore money from them… That is why the SL Army walked through the East… You are deluding yourself puththa, if you think that the LTTE can ever be strong again.

  11. Devinda Fernando said,

    January 29, 2008 @ 3:36 pm

    *** Tigers have time and time have made comebacks putting them selves on the driving seat of the Island nation. ***

    You are the one who is High on DRUGS Kiddo…

    With No Money anymore from the Diaspora, and no more people to Fight for them,… what are the Tigers going to do this time…? Most insurgencies fail…(Historic FACT!) No one can fight forever… Prabhakaran is no different… Once he Dies, the LTTE will Die with him….

  12. Dayan Jayatilleka said,

    January 29, 2008 @ 5:56 pm

    dear Thamilan and other readers,

    we can debate the issue of who is winning the war, till the proverbial cows come home, but those who claim the Tigers are winning should read Col Hariharan, B Raman, the most recent editorial of The hindu, western journalistic asssessments etc. all foreign observers conclude that though casualty claims are difficult to confirm, the Sri Lankan forces clearly have the upper hand. Now obviously , this may change, but that is the ground situation as at present.

    as for ” devinda rebuttal”, you hve it very wrong. Gen sarath Fonseka was at kilaly in 2000 where, with a mixed force of 7,000 men, comprisng army and navy combatants, he held off the Tiger offensive. that is recogbised by specialist as the turning point of the 2000 jaffna campaign. i say this as one who had a two hour discussion with retd gen ashok mehta of the ipkf on this subject, and later attended a strategic seminar in delhi ( at which many ex-services chiefs were present) also on this subject. i shan’t name names, but i am well aware of who came to colombo for permission to withdraw the troops from jaffna ( having already lined up buses for the purpose, with the name bords of each unit) and was refused permission and sent back by president chandrika and deputy defemce minister anuruddha ratwatte, who went to jaffna and spent twemty one days there under fire.

  13. Dr.Dayan Jayatilake - Your views? said,

    January 30, 2008 @ 5:12 am

    Dear Mr.Jayatilake.

    As for a media blanket over the war theatre by GOSL, makes even your assumption that SL Forces got the upperhand is SPECULATIVE.
    Just like SL Forces have changed their mode of operation in the war front, LTTE also been anticipating the same and had 6 years to prepare.
    Either way, 150,000 strong SL Forces are held back by a meagre 3000 strong LTTE. The same IPKF which saturated their forces for every meter of the Peninsula, SL Forces would also be spread out wide in the coming months. The point is that the village youth from both sides are made cannon fodder while you and your Tamil brothers who look both the same for us are fighting for what? Just like Preisdential Candidate prospect Barack Obama said, it’s a conflict of the “Other” and not a TERRORIST problem. This has blown the cover of GOSL for wanting a war to end the “Terrorist” problem while the whole world agrees that its a “Political Problem”. Dr.Manmohan singh – Gordon Brown collectively say the same.
    You, a UN official and at best the Chairman for Race Relations committee, airing your view in this forum in favour of the current chauvanistic racist GOSL is down right low class.
    SL forces may have won a few Battles, and the war is still long way.
    I will not write again in this forum until the war is over. If LTTE loses, I will visit you at the UN Building in NY and shout you a beer. Dr. Dayan Jayatilake.
    I still don’t believe that LTTE has been pushed to the wall as they were in 1995 – 96 and had to do a “do or die” and captured Muletivu Camp where 1200 SL Forces perished in 3 days.
    This time around, the “Do or Die” will take along another 30000 sinhalese with them in the south.
    This you can be guaranteed Dr.Jayatilake. The genocide of Tamils since 1956 has to be put in perspective and GOD wouldn’t let Sinhalese get away scot free for their Innocent Tamil blood soaked past. I am sure you will come up with some excuse for the murders, rapes, pogroms that plagued your country since 1956 to date as insignificant and blame LTTE for everything. LTTE is the product of your own doing.
    You created this monster and another been given birth and nurtured in the east in the name of TMVP. Already Karuna loyalists are in the make up of eastern LTTE ranks.
    The death and destruction that Sinhalese like to see occur is mind-boggling let alone amazes their stupidity.
    Enough said, let’s wait and see where the cookie crumbles in the coming years.!!!

  14. Thamilan said,

    January 30, 2008 @ 9:01 am

    Comment # 10 and 12,

    Keep on dreaming. There is nothing wrong with dreaming. Good luck in paying of the debts and cleaning out the mess in the island.

    You will never learn; APRC introducing the 13 amendment as the solution just created a wave of support for the Tigers from the western intellectuals. Let’s see what happens from here.

  15. Devinda Fernando said,

    January 30, 2008 @ 3:16 pm

    *** As for a media blanket over the war theatre by GOSL, makes even your assumption that SL Forces got the upperhand is SPECULATIVE. ***

    Response to #13.

    OK, Let us talk about what we do know for sure.

    Thamilchelvan and Col. Charles (Shanmuganathan Ravishankar)…. They are still scraping the body chunks of these Two TOP level TERRORISTS off the Floors Of Non-Existant Eelam…

    LTTE has lost the East.

    FACTS,….

    Bunker Rat is running for his life… it will be only a matter of time before the Great Sun God departs the Planet…

  16. Devinda Fernando - Rebuttal said,

    January 31, 2008 @ 12:25 am

    “Birds of a feather flock together”. Dr.Dayan and Prof.Rajiv are two well educated and well lived people. The potentials of theirs is there to see by anyone.
    Even them, blinded by their recent appointments have to toe the line of hawkish sinhala chauvunistic GOSL in order to have the WAR going.
    I am sure, Devinda has Tamil hard earned wealth looted during porgroms in his house.
    Devinda, LTTE hasn’t started its game yet. It is in the belief that the IC must be given the time a bit more to sort the GOSL out or, “Anything is fair in war and love” would be its motto.
    Devinda, your SLF moles letting LTTE know of the movements of your SLF heirarchy.
    Devinda can take out one segment of my writing and cannot write anything about the Sinhala violences, rape murders porgroms against INNOCENT TAMIL CIVILIANS for the past 60 years.?????
    The mass graves of Chemmani, Rape and murder of a school girl,etc,etc etc are whose work?
    Those who live by the sword, die by the sword! Sinhalese who resorted to violence and pogroms to suppress Tamil Gandhian agitation for equality and self determination will be delivering the same through violence and war.
    This is the FACT. Two sparrows in the tree does not make a summer. Already news leaking out that SL forces are burying their dead in jungle pits to avoid demoralization. Devinda would refuse to accept this FACT too????

  17. Thamilan said,

    January 31, 2008 @ 9:34 am

    Comment # 15,

    Thanks for admitting that he is a god. I bet you right now that he is probably have Buddha seated in front of him having some fine Ceylon Tea discussing the future of the Sinhalese people.

    After he is done with the discussion, he certainly will be departing the planet to serve his purpose as the Great Sun God.

  18. Sri said,

    February 7, 2008 @ 7:19 am

    Dear Professor Rajiv Wijesinghe

    I agree with you that the implementation of the 13th Amendment could be the first step .not plus or minus.
    This means the 13th Amendment should be implemented in full in letter and sprit. This does not mean that the existing Provincial Councils should continue as they are presently constituted. But the valuable lessons learnt could be taken into account. The Problems experienced in all matters that are crucial in any devolutionary process are funds, functions ,functionaries and freedom

    The problems regarding funds is that funds allocated should be adequate, predictable, timely and not dependant on any whims and fancies of anybody tax sharing is constitutionally impossible alternate arrangements should be made about the smooth flow. It must be norm or formula based.

    Functions should be clear. education and health should not be devalued in the name of national schools and teaching hospitals.Procurement of drugs should be within the Provincial Council. Then the District and Divisional Administration should also brought under the Provincial Councils with all villege level officers like gramasevakas.

    The Provincial council should have their staff under their control and adequate staff be recruited. This means recruitment, disciplinary control etc are within the Provincial Councils.

    The Provincial council should be free from outside interference.
    This is only the first step.

  19. Rajiva Wijesinha said,

    February 17, 2008 @ 11:46 pm

    Fascinating to read so many reactions, though I do not think any response to comments on my original article is necessary – the points are already there for anyone who wishes to read.

    I would however like to emphasize that my views have not changed, from twenty years ago, when the Liberal Party emphatically welcomed devolution under the Indo-Lankan Accord but said that the enforced merger of the North and East was a mistake, Rajiva Wijesinha

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