Pushing Sri Lanka towards Indian solutions.
(Courtesy of The Island)
According to the news item in The Island under the heading ‘Address Tamils aspirations within united Sri Lanka, and implement 13th Amendment’ on 28th September 2020, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has urged Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa to carry forward the process of reconciliation with the implementation of the Thirteenth Amendment to our Constitution. It further said that PM Modi has offered a grant assistance of US$15 million for the promotion of Buddhist ties between the two countries.
The above advise and the offer of financial assistance remind us how the former Indian PM Dr. Manmohan Singh, too, insisted on implementing of the 13th Amendment in full, while granting of loans (to payback with interest and within a specified period by the people of Sri Lanka) for the welfare of the people in the North, East and the Upcountry, during a State visit of President Mahinda Rajapaksa to India in 2010.
Prime Minister Rajapaksa avoided making any commitment regarding the implementation of the 13th Amendment. Instead, he spoke of the expectations of all ethnic groups, including Tamils, and has stated his intention to take care of national reconciliation, as per the mandate he received from the people of Sri Lanka and the relevant constitutional provisions.
While analyzing the outcome of the virtual summit between the two leaders, former Indian diplomat and analyst of international politics M. K. Bhadrakumar (MKB), in one of his article titled ‘Geopolitics of Sri Lankan Tamil Problem’ appeared in Newsclick.in dated 30th September 2020, quite correctly said, “The virtual summit last week reveals that Sri Lankan nationalism continues to militate against Delhi’s intrusive policy. Delhi has baited the Sri Lankan religious establishment with a US$15 million grant for promotion of Buddhist ties, but Colombo will remain vigilant about Indian intentions in cultivating the powerful Buddhist clergy. The modus operandi in the 2014-2015 period to destabilise the incumbent government must be still fresh in memory.”
Former Indian diplomat MKB, having worked in Sri Lanka as a diplomat in the early and mid-1980s when India was actively promoting the Tamil militant groups, use the words ‘intrusive’ and ‘bait’ when identifying the offer of Delhi, probably, knowing very well the hidden agenda of the grant of US$15 million (LKR 2700 million) for promoting Buddhist ties.
The said article describes in detail how and why the external powers orchestrated a regime change in Colombo ousting Rajapaksa who was perceived as “pro-China” in Delhi and Washington. (https://www.newsclick.in /Geopolitics-of-Sri-Lankan-Tamil-Problem)
Let us compare the said Indian financial assistance with the amount of expenditure that the government of Sri Lanka had spent to maintain the Provincial Councils (PC) established under the 13th A. Sri Lanka’s PCs expenditure was reported at 286,031.000 LKR million in 2017. This records an increase from the previous number of 276,147.000 LKR million for 2016. The expenditure averaged 103,769.000 LKR million from Dec 1996 to 2017. The data reached an all-time high of 286,031,000 LKR million in 2017 and a record low of 22,128,000 LKR million in 1996. (https://www.ceicdata.com/en/sri-lanka/provincial-councils-revenue-and-expenditure/provincial-councils-expenditure)
It would be interesting to find out whether there is any benefit to the general public on spending such a large sum of funds, and how many millions of rupees have been saved from the public funds for not activating the PCs during the last two years.
As per the media reports, Northern PC under the Chief Minister Wigneshwaran passed more than 100 resolutions (including one seeking an UN inquiry to investigate the genocide of the Tamil people) inciting racial tension, and several others which are harmful to the country as a whole. During the establishment of Eastern Provincial Council, we witnessed how elections were manipulated by the political parties formed and named on communal basis, and how the positions were claimed purely on a communal basis by the very same groups. Thus segregating people according to communal lines under the name of devolution, reconciliation etc could only strengthen the hands of separatist movements still alive in various parts of the country.
India became the first country, since independence, to interfere with the internal affairs of Sri Lanka, in the mid-1980s. There are several write-ups available on how India provided training to Tamil separatists to fight against the Sri Lankan security forces, and how India made the Sri Lankan government somewhat obligatory to ‘invite’ Rajiv Gandhi to sign an Accord in 1987, by invading the Sri Lankan air space for the first time and forcing the government to stop operations against the very same terrorists whom they trained.
Although the Indian government undertook to disarm the terrorists group in return of implementing the constitutional amendment imposed on the Sri Lanka government, Delhi failed miserably to fulfill its obligation as per the agreement. On the other hand, Sri Lankan people had to bear the huge cost of the war against terror and the cost of implementing the constitution amendment, thus imposed under the failed agreement, in addition to the loss of lives since 1987.
Since it is the Sri Lankan Security Forces who ultimately disarmed the terrorists, the moral rights of the Indian government to ask the government of Sri Lanka to implement the 13th amendment is highly questionable.
Ironically, thousands of innocent civilians who got injured and surviving relatives of further thousands of those who died as a result of the terrorism abetted by India, we Sri Lankan deserve an apology (at least) from the perpetrators for the losses incurred to us due to terrorism. Instead, it is likely that India will continue to interfere with the internal affairs of Sri Lanka, not only due to the internal politics of Tamil Nadu, but to satisfy the geopolitical interests as described in the said article titled ‘Geopolitics of Sri Lankan Tamil Problem’.
Full implementation of the 13th or any other Amendments, or the complete overhaul of the entire Constitution of Sri Lanka, is a matter for the Citizens of Sri Lanka and its elected leaders. Continuous insisting of how we should solve our problem and to push Sri Lanka towards Indian solutions is simply a gross violation of our rights as a sovereign country and a clear example of how powerful states are bullying the weak and small states to achieve their own geopolitical interests.
By Sangadasa Akurugoda