Grievances should be resolved in keeping
The Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), the main
constituent party in the ruling United People's Freedom Alliance (UPFA),
has invited all political parties to present their proposals to the
Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) on the 13th Amendment, and contest
the forthcoming Northern Provincial Council election. As the SLFP
General Secretary, Minister Maithripala Sirisena has said, the
Government is committed to conduct a transparent, free and fair election
in the three provinces for which elections are scheduled to be held in
The election for the Northern Provincial Council (NPC) is of utmost
importance as the voters in the North had been deprived of exercising
their democratic right due to the LTTE's gun culture. Though the LTTE
had projected itself as the sole representatives of the Tamils, the
terror outfit reposed more faith in the bullet than the ballot.
Now that the Government is going ahead with the NPC elections, there
has been a greater dialogue on the 13th Amendment which had been foisted
on the then J.R. Jayewardene Government under the controversial 1987
President Jayewardene succumbed to Indian pressure by hastily
introducing the 13th Amendment. He kept his entire Cabinet in the dark
when he inked the Indo-Lanka Accord with the then Indian Prime Minister
Rajiv Gandhi, amidst heavy countrywide protests.
One could well imagine the tremendous pressure the late President had
faced at the time - in that he had even ignored whether it was in
keeping with the Constitution or not. The then Jayewardene-led UNP
government introduced the 13th Amendment to the Constitution even
without calling for a referendum in the face of a threat of an invasion.
Hence, there is no doubt whatsoever that the clauses detrimental to
the Constitution or the country's sovereignty and territorial integrity
should be amended. The puppets who supported and rallied round the LTTE
are today clamouring to retain the 13th Amendment and for an election in
the North by putting forward various baseless allegations.
Though the Provincial Council system was introduced in 1987 purely to
decentralise power to address the grievances of the people in the North
and the East, the proper establishment of the NPC had been adversely
affected by LTTE terrorism for over two decades. Hence, conducting
elections to the NPC is a singular achievement since the dawn of peace
after the LTTE leadership was vanquished in May 2009.
Now that the PSC has been appointed by Parliament to study the 13th
Amendment, it is the bounden duty of all political parties to present
their proposals. Rather than shouting at roundabouts to gain petty
political mileage, Opposition politicians must submit concrete proposals
and put the country before self. They should desist from attempting to
gain cheap political gains and make a tangible contribution towards the
success of the PSC.
The Northern poll will be a historic occasion as the Government plans
to consolidate the political rights of people in the North. Their
inalienable right had been suppressed by the LTTE for decades on end. As
a leader who reposes implicit faith in democracy and the people's power,
President Mahinda Rajapaksa is determined to ensure the political rights
of the Northerners.
Hence, all political parties, including the TNA, should participate
in the PSC proceedings and engage in a greater dialogue. There is no
purpose in running to India or turning to the international community to
solve internal problems.
As President Rajapaksa had stressed time and again, no foreign leader
could be more concerned about the people of Sri Lanka than our own
leaders. Hence, the TNA should abandon its 'cry baby tours' to New Delhi
and enter the democratic process through the PSC.
It seems that Velupillai Prabhakaran, at the time of his death at the
Nandikadal lagoon four years ago, had handed over the 'Eelam' baton to
TNA leader R. Sampanthan. When Tiger terrorism was at its peak, the LTTE
projected themselves as the sole representatives of the Tamils.
Sampanthan's TNA is now making that same claim.
Petty-minded Opposition political parties, along with other extremist
groups, are surprisingly hailing Sampanthan in his attempt to carry
forward the 'Eelam' baton. The self-same forces which supported
Prabhakaran in the past are now openly extending their support to
Sampanthan. It is even more baffling as to why certain Opposition
political parties and groups are running to the UNHCR in Geneva to
complain against the government on trivial matters.
All political parties and the international community should bear in
mind that the Government cannot compromise matters pertaining to
national security, sovereignty and territorial integrity.
No country would do so and moreover, is it fair for those countries
to expect Sri Lanka to do something that is not practised by them?
More importantly, it is the paramount duty of all Sri Lankans to
protect the hard-earned peace, achieved through the supreme sacrifices
by the true sons of our soil.
As far as domestic security is concerned, perhaps the most critical
aspect will be achieving national reconciliation and forging a common
Sri Lankan identity. As pointed out by Defence Secretary Gotabaya
Rajapaksa, guarding against potential threats is a sine qua non as
national security is the foundation of the country's freedom and
Escalating terrorism and the resultant mayhem created deep insecurity
amongst the people and it helped foreign powers to meddle in Sri Lanka's
internal affairs. It has now come to light that several INGOs, in the
North and the East, had maintained close links with the LTTE when the
world's deadliest terrorist outfit was at its peak.
The Government was constrained to take precautionary measures to
counter the LTTE terrorist attacks that had been waged against
civilians. That led to the deployment of soldiers on the streets and the
entire country was more or less on a war footing. However, with the dawn
of peace four years ago, the Government has taken every possible step to
reduce the military presence among civilians.
Simultaneously, it must be borne in mind that the removal of military
presence overnight is not feasible for a country which had been plagued
by LTTE terrorism. People in the North still recall those horrifying
days when they were subjected to untold misery due to the LTTE's brutal
terror. Thanks to the Security Forces, they were liberated from the
clutches of LTTE terror.
Although the international community pontificated on peace, it did
precious little to avert thousands of innocent civilians falling prey to
Prabhakaran's unimaginable terror. Despite the international presence
here after the 2002 Ceasefire Agreement, the LTTE blatantly continued to
create instability in the country. It was only after the great
humanitarian operation and the battle against terrorism from 2006 to
2009 that the country achieved peace eventually. Had it continued to
listen to the fairytale peace talks of the West, the country would have
still been at the receiving end of Prabhakaran's merciless terror.
Having eradicated terrorism, it is the prime responsibility of the
Government to ensure national security. It is crystal clear that a
country would not achieve economic development sans national security
and stability. Hence, national security must be perceived within a
unified, single framework that integrates the nation's defence, law and
order, foreign policy as well as its economic policy.
No extraneous elements should try to preach to Sri Lanka on the 13th
Amendment. The Government is ever ready to address the genuine
grievances of the people in the North and the East, but certainly not
those put forward by the Tiger cohorts and LTTE Diaspora. The grievances
of the people in the North and the East are poles apart from the LTTE
Diaspora and Tamils abroad.
Be it the 13th Amendment or otherwise, any solution to address the
grievances of those in the two provinces should be in accordance with
the Constitution and a unitary state. Foreign interlopers would do the
vanishing trick in the event problems surface again. We should not look
at solutions to appease the neighbours or the Western countries. All
internal matters should be resolved in keeping with the country's