Abrogate 13th Amendment – National Joint Committee

The National Joint Committee on Tuesday, February 24 called for an immediate abrogation of the 13th Amendment which India imposed on Sri Lanka 28 years ago.

Participating in the media briefing held at the All Ceylon Buddhist Congress Hall, Colombo were Attorney Manohara R. de Silva PC, Venerable Bengamuwe Nalaka Thera (Secretary, Patriotic Bhikku Front), Venerable Medagama Dhammananda Thera of the Asgiriya Chapter, Venerable Dr. Medagoda Abhayatissa Thera, Dr. Gunadasa Amarasekera and Jivinda de Silva, representative of the Australia-based WAPS (World Alliance for Peace in Sri Lanka).

Addressing the meeting Manohara de Silva warned the present Government’s decision to fully implement the 13th Amendment would be disastrous for the country.  Under this amendment a Provincial Council has the full power to introduce laws on any subject in the PC list.  If the Central Government wants to repeal such a law it needs to a two-third majority in Parliament to do so. It is obviously not an easy task to accomplish, he said.

He drew attention to the fact that 13th Amendment divides the police to two divisions, namely the National Division and the Provincial Divisions for each Province. A Provincial Police Commission composed of three members will handle the recruitment to each Provincial Division. They are the (a) DIG of the Province (b) a person nominated by the Public Service Commission in consultation with the President and (c) a nominee of the Chief Minister of the Province. The problem however is that the Chief Minister has the power to directly control both his nominee and the DIG of the Province.

Although the 17th Amendment to the Constitution depoliticizes the National Police Force by doing away with the Presidential Control of it ensures that Chief Minister controls the Provincial Police Commission. Prior to this amendment the President’s approval was necessary to determine the cadre of the Provincial Police Force.  Now the President’s power has been taken away and the same has been placed in the multiethnic Police Commission.

Thus the Provincial Police Force cadre is determined without any control of the President or the Cabinet of Ministers.    Even if a National Police Unit is operation in a province, they will function under the Chief Minister.

If a serious rioting or an ethnic clash occurs in Provincial village or town the National Police cannot immediately rush to the area to ensure law and order without the permission of the provincial DIG under the Chief Minister’s control. Only if the President is informed of the situation and the latter decides to act according to the provisions under the amendment will the affected people have some redress.  But by the time the matter is brought to the President’s notice and he in consultation with the Cabinet directs the deployment of civil power irreparable damage will have been done, possibly causing death and destruction.

The requirement of the National Police Division seconded to a province to be ordinarily in ‘plain clothes’ (unless when maintaining / restoring law and order) is nothing but an attempt to prevent the public from even identifying a National Police Officer when people are under any threat from the Chief Minister or the Provincial Police, according to Manohara De Silva.

Under the 13the Amendment a police officer in one province cannot enter another province even to arrest a person who has fled to that area after committing a crime.

De Silva wanted to know why this Government which is talking so much about good governance and rule of law is turning a blind eye to all these potential dangers.

He also noted that the regime had so far only expressed regret but failed to respond to the Northern Provincial Council (NPC) resolution accusing successive governments in the island nation of committing ‘genocide’ against Tamils.  De Silva also noted Northern Chief Minister C.V. Vigneswaran’s unsubstantiated allegation that 90,000 Tamil women had been sexually abused during the anti-LTTE military campaign.

De Silva wondered why some of those who were vociferous on the need to abrogate the 13th Amendment, before joining the Government are deafeningly silent today on this crucial issue.

Venerable Dr. Medagoda Abhayatissa Thera, Principal and Administrator of the Sunethra Devi Pirivena, Pepiliyana said that if the country is to be divided on an ethnic basis then Colombo should be first divided into ethnic enclaves of Tamils and Muslims. Both these communities are everywhere in the island including the North and East – except Sinhalese who have been chased away from the North. He stressed that the people did not elect this government to pave the way for bisection of the country under the 13th Amendment.

He appealed to the Venerable Maduluwawe Sobitha and Ven. Athureliye Rathana to focus their attention on these issues too.

Ven. Medagama Dhammananda of the Asgiriya Chapter, Kandy said: “We have no problem with good governance (yaapaalanaya) and elimination of corruption and other misdeeds. We are concerned about the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country – about national security.  We warn the President and the PM not to fall into the separatist racist trap.”

Venerable Bengamuwe Nalaka Thera (Secretary Deshapremi Bhikku Front) said that they had been agitating for abrogation of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution since the time it was introduced. Politicians, he added, are not truly representing the people or the country but are allowing foreign powers (The West and India) and NGOs to dictate terms to them. Provincial Councils have only become training centres for politicians to become future MPs.  No other purpose has been served except wasting public funds.

Dr. Gunadasa Amarasekera recalled that the foreign diplomat who first expressed his pleasure over the signing of the Indo-Lanka Accord in 1987 was the then U.S. Ambassador because Washington’s objective was to use India for dividing Sri Lanka .  President J.R. Jayewardene, according to Dr. Amarasekera swallowed American dead ropes and consequently had to admit: “We have no friends.”

Jeevinda de Silva, representing the World Alliance for Peace in Sri Lanka read out an appeal which the WAPS had made to President Mahinda Rajapaksa in February 2012 calling for the abrogation of the 13th Amendment.  But the former President had ignored the appeal.

By Janaka Perera

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