National integration and 13A
By N.A.De S. Amaratunga
(Courtesy of The Island)
National integration would mean that in a country, which is inhabited by several ethnic communities, everyone would harbour similar feelings and thinking about matters of national interest, like independence, territorial integrity, sovereignty, etc. Development of such sentiments cannot be forced on a people. In this regard, what the Indian philosopher S. Radhakrishna said may be of relevance. He has said national integration cannot be made by brick and mortar but should be allowed to develop through education. Without a mutual feeling of respect for one another’s language, religion and culture among people, national integration, of the type defined above, is impossible to achieve. Such feelings would come only with education. It is perhaps this truism that made Radhakrishna utter those words of wisdom. Laws and Constitutions cannot impose something that only education could instill by a gradual process. There may not be any other method, or substitute, capable of bringing about such a change.
The Constitution of a country should not be an obstacle to the development of such feelings in people of different faiths, languages and cultures. It must ensure that all are equally treated by government institutions, have equal opportunity in education, employment, and space for economic and cultural development. However, the Constitution, whatever form it may take, cannot force national integration on people, whether they are a majority or a minority. A Constitution can only provide for laws that would prevent obstacles being put in the way to national integration. For instance, discrimination of a particular communal group would be an obstacle to national integration. The Constitution must provide for the enactment of laws that act against discrimination.
It is in this context that the 13th Amendment should be viewed. It is often said that the implementation of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, which came into being as a result of the Indo-Lanka Accord, entered into, in July 1987, would result in national integration. The 13th A provides for Provincial Councils which attempt power-sharing at provincial level. As mentioned above, the Constitution, if it is to facilitate national integration, must treat all the ethnic communities equally and must not try to satisfy one group at the expense of another. If it does, it would be an obstacle rather than a facilitator for national integration. This may happen if political power-sharing is attempted with the provinces as the unit of devolution. Most of the Provinces in Sri Lanka have multi-ethnic populations where one ethnic community is in the majority, while there are enclaves of other communities who would be minorities in a particular province. Creation of autonomous territorial units out of these provinces would result in these minority groups losing their umbilical connection with the central government to a significant degree, and being brought under provincial power. In other words, a law which attempts to solve the problems of minority communities would create new minorities with attendant issues in each of these Provinces. For instance, in the Eastern Province, Sinhalese would be a minority with regard to political power and they may be concerned of being discriminated against. Such an eventuality may not facilitate national integration.
Further, several authoritative world-wide surveys have shown that power-sharing measures, as a solution to ethnic conflict have not been successful. There had been 78 countries in Asia, Africa, the Middle East, Eastern Europe, former USSR and the Caribbean which were in intense ethnic conflict during 1980 to 2010. Of these only 20 managed to conclude inter-ethnic power sharing arrangements, many failed, some experienced genocide eh. Rwanda in 1993 and others ended with secession, eg. Sudan in 2005. Only four to six achieved stable arrangements but even these have serious political instability (Horowitz D, 2014).
Following are a few extracts from these research works: ” The core reason why power-sharing cannot resolve ethnic conflict is that it is voluntaristic; it requires conscious decisions by elites to cooperate to avoid ethnic strife. Under conditions of hypernationalist mobilisation and real security threats, group leaders are unlikely to be receptive to compromise and even if they are they, cannot act without being discredited and replaced by harder-line rivals” (Kaufmann, 1997). “Proposals for devolution abound, but more often than not devolution agreements are difficult to reach and once reached soon abort” (Horowitz, 1985).
That Sri Lanka provides ample evidence in support of the above research findings could easily be seen in its experience with its own Provincial Councils. Of the nine PCs, the worst failure was seen in relation to the Northern PC, where it was supposed to be essential for the solution of the ethnic conflict. Its Chief Minister, after willingly contesting for the post, made use of the opportunity to loudly engage in secessionist rhetoric and propaganda. Some Tamil leaders, who engage in such treacherous activity are believed to be funded by pro-LTTE Tamil Diaspora. How could anybody believe that the full implementation of the 13th A would not provide greater opportunity for such secessionist activity, with greater collusion between internal and external separatist elements.
In consideration of the above, what would be more suitable for Sri Lanka is a power-sharing mechanism at the centre, which would suit its geography of ethnicity where in most areas there is a mixture of ethnic groups, and 50% of minorities live outside the North and the East. If all possibility of discrimination of majority or minority communities is avoided, and people are allowed to learn to respect each other’s different cultures, there would develop common feelings and thinking about national issues, which would be the national integration that has eluded us all these years.