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Written by Amali Dissanayaka
Published on Sunday, 21 July 2013 08:43

Sunday Pol logo*No solution 30 years after Black July
*JVP’s solution to the national question to be released

Sunday Politics
With Mandana Ismail Abeywickrema

“Every government must consider the security of the country. That is just part of the responsibilities of any government. But true security can only come out of unity within a country where there are so many ethnic nationalities.” – Aung San Suu Kyi

Tuesday (23) will mark three decades since the 1983 Black July that resulted in a long drawn bloody battle between brothers of one nation. As the country marks the 30th anniversary of the pogrom in 1983 it is unfortunate that successive governments that ruled the country since have been unable to satisfactorily address the national issue.

The seeds of hatred that were planted in 1983 have since been nurtured by the string of rulers in some way to become a fully fledges with roots that are now deep seated in society.

“I am not worried about the opinion of the Jaffna people... now we cannot think of them, not about their lives or their opinion... the more you put pressure in the north, the happier the Sinhala people will be here... Really if I starve the Tamils out, the Sinhala people will be happy,” President J.R. Jayewardene was quoted as saying in the Daily Telegraph in July 1983.

Jayewardene’s statement 30 years ago is indicative of the apathy of the then administration to effectively address the grievances of an ethnic group in the country.

Although the country has witnessed policies of UNP and SLFP led governments since 1983, neither one of the parties have successfully resolved the national question.

The Mahinda Rajapaksa government that has had the best opportunity at reconciliation following the end of the war in 2009 has managed to squander the prospect. It is somewhat baffling to understand how an administration that has had a golden opportunity to make right what was done wrong several decades ago, manages to simply let go of it.

The Rajapaksa government instead of initiating a genuine reconciliation process in post war Sri Lanka is now turning a blind eye at the religious extremism that seems to be raising its ugly head from time to time in various parts of the country.

Religious and ethnic extremist in the country is now a simmering pot that is waiting to explode and most likely at the face of the Rajapaksa regime.

However, the 30th anniversary of the 1983 Black July would undoubtedly have an impact on the Rajapaksa government and the country where the international community is concerned, especially due to the government’s failures in addressing the national issue.

Protest marches have been organized in countries with active Tamil Diaspora to mark Black July.

The British Tamils Forum on Friday announced that it would hold a mass rally opposite Downing Street from 4pm to 7pm on Tuesday (23) to mark the 30th anniversary of the Black July.

British Tamils Forum has encouraged all those who stand in support of the Tamils in Sri Lanka – who continue to face violence, theft of their lands, rape, disappearance and military subjugation – to attend this rally, to commemorate those who lost their lives and livelihoods 30 years ago and to call on the UK government to stop supporting the Sri Lankan state while its genocide of the Tamil people continues.

While the Rajapaksa government is grappling to implement the recommendations of its very own Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC), the nation is fast losing its chance at a long standing reconciliation process.

Adamant to change 13A

The Rajapaksa government’s resoluteness in amending the 13th Amendment to the Constitution that forms the basis of the devolution of power in the country is viewed by ethnic minorities and the international community, especially neighboring India as a stumbling block on Sri Lanka’s path to reconciliation.

An article published in The Hindu newspaper last week quoting President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s envoy to India, Minister Basil Rajapaksa revealed the extent to which absence of trust remains an obstacle to ethnic reconciliation in the country.

Basil has told The Hindu that Sri Lanka would never risk a provincial government forming its own “army” through devolved police powers.

Referring to the Tamil National Army — a militant outfit raised by the beleaguered 1988 EPRLF government in the North-Eastern Province in a futile attempt to protect itself against the LTTE that had rejected the Amendment and boycotted the election — he has said there was no ruling out that a future Northern provincial government would not do the same: “If (the NPC) form another army, can we afford another war now?”
He has dismissed arguments that armed struggle by the Tamils was now a thing of the past, and that the 13th Amendment in any case gave the President overriding powers over the province.
Well ahead of the elections, the minister was already certain that a TNA government in the North would be on collision course with the central government.
The Rajapaksa government, he has said, had given the Tamil people, “everything” — roads, railways, water, electricity, schools and hospitals. With nothing left to promise, the minister said, a TNA provincial government would whip up other “emotional issues” that neither it nor the government would be able to deliver.
Giving a new twist to the Indo-Lanka Accord of 1987, which resulted in the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, Basil has said devolving police powers would actually amount to going against Accord.
He has pointed to section 2.10 of the Accord which calls for the government to use the “same organizations and mechanisms” for law enforcement and security in the Northern and Eastern provinces as in the rest of the country, saying this meant that there could not be more than one police force for the whole country.

“It is very clear in the Accord. It says police powers have to be with one police, there is no separate mechanism. So you can’t have a separate police force in the provinces,” Basil has said.

Meanwhile, in a new development in relation to the land issues in the North, Land and Land Development Minister Janaka Bandara Tennakoon has said the Ministry would make the final decision on the lands in the Northern and Eastern Provinces before the end of 2014.

Tennakoon has said the final decision on 250,000 plots of land would be made according to the recommendations of the LLRC.

He has observed that the government has decided to acquire 6,387 acres of land in the North under the programme to expand the Palaly airport and the Kankasanthurai Harbor.

However, the Minister has said that the landowners would be compensated and alternative lands would be provided. An official evaluation of the land to be taken will be carried out and the owner will be compensated accordingly, the Minister has said.

According to Tennakoon, the government could acquire private lands for development or national security purposes, but proper compensation and alternative lands should be provided to the landowners.
Basil’s and Tennakoon’s comments clearly indicate the level of commitment of the Rajapaksa government to renege the Indo-Lanka Accord signed in 1987.

The Rajapaksa government despite receiving threats of severe consequences by the Indian government is sending out clear signals that changes to the 13th Amendment were imminent.

The President who promised 13A Plus is now working towards a 13A Minus situation with the help of a parliamentary select committee (PSC) comprising only of governing party members.

However, all changes are to come into effect after the September sessions of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) sessions and President secures the chair of the Commonwealth this November.

Such is the commitment of the Rajapaksa government towards achieving a lasting solution to the national question.


JVP’s solution

With the Rajapaksa government engaged in internal power battles and self-glorifications, the JVP is to release this week a set of proposals aimed at solving the long-standing national question.

A team of JVP leaders headed by party leader Somawansa Amerasinghe has now finalized the document and it is to be launched at a ceremony at the Sri Lanka Foundation Institute (SLFI) on Wednesday (24) morning.

The JVP said it is presenting the series of proposals as a means to end the semi-military administration that exists in the North, to solve immediately the social and economic issues of those people and as an approach for the solution of the national question.

Party sources said that the proposal would be used during its campaign for the Northern Provincial Council election.

“The Rajapaksa government’s commitment to national reconciliation is limited to its survival tactics. When it sees a threat to its existence, the government is prepared to let go of any reconciliation process,” a senior JVP member said.
The JVP last week alleged that the country’s politics and the economy are decided on the whims and fancies of India and India is pressuring Sri Lankan government to adopt its agenda on governing the country.

JVP Propaganda Secretary and parliamentarian Vijitha Herath said the “government is dancing to the tune played by India.” 

He noted that recently, political partners of the ruling party carried out a campaign that land and police powers in the 13th Amendment to the Constitution should be abolished before holding the elections for the Northern Provincial Council and the government appointed a PSC to pass the required legislature.
However, following the visit to New Delhi by Minister Basil Rajapaksa and the visit of India’s National Security Adviser Shiv Shankar Menon to Colombo, the government has put off the issue.

According to Herath, when the PSC was appointed it was stated that a report would be presented within two weeks.

However, it has been put off by six months now, he said, explaining that the report would now be available only after the elections for the Northern PC in September and Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in November have been held.

The MP accused the President Mahinda Rajapaksa of bowing to the pressure to get the CHOGM chairmanship. Sunday Pol pix-July 7 2013

Be that as it may, the TNA has reportedly briefed India on the latest developments in the run up to the Northern Provincial Council elections.

A meeting had taken place between TNA General Secretary, parliamentarian Mavai Senathirajah and the Indian Consul General in Jaffna Shri V. Mahalingam.

While details of the discussion have not been made public it is understood the Indian official was briefed on the selection of former Supreme Court judge C V Wigneswaran as the TNA Chief Ministerial candidate for the North.

EU’s call

Meanwhile, the European Union (EU) has called for the implementation of the 13th Amendment.
A visiting EU delegation has also said it hoped the Sri Lankan government fully implements the LLRC recommendations.
Jean Lambert, Chair of the European Parliament Delegation for Relations with the Countries of South Asia, has observed that the EU is concerned over the army involvement in civilian activities in the North.
Lambert has said she hopes the elections in the North will be free and fair.
“It is important too (elections) because it reflects the statements made by the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission and the Government of Sri Lanka with regard to implementing the 13th Amendment. The Northern provincial council election represents the fulfillment of those promises,” she has observed.
Lambert has said that on the political front there is still a lot Sri Lanka need to do and she also noted that land issues in the north, disappearances and accountability must be addressed.
The EU, had earlier this year, said it wants an independent investigation and evaluation into the final years of the war in Sri Lanka, in addition to the national inquiries.
The EU had said it remains concerned about reports of threats and attacks on human rights defenders and journalists in Sri Lanka, and encouraged authorities to hold those responsible accountable.
The European Parliament had also passed a resolution ahead of the UNHRC session in Geneva in March, re-emphasizing the need for accountability and reconciliation in Sri Lanka.
The EU parliamentary delegation also visited the North during their visit to the country. However, Lambert has also noted that EU poll observers would not be present to monitor the Northern Provincial Council election.

No to India

However, opposition political parties have requested the Elections Commissioner to invite foreign poll observers to monitor the Northern elections.
Interestingly, neighboring India, which has shown great interest in the holding of provincial council elections in the North, would not be asked to send poll observers during the September elections.
Elections Commissioner has last week assured political party secretaries that foreign poll observers would be invited to observe the forthcoming provincial council election, but they would not be from countries that voted against Sri Lanka at the UNHRC in March this year.
According to Election Commissioner Mahinda Deshapriya, monitors from India will not be invited since the country voted in favor of the resolution on Sri Lanka at the UNHRC.
He has said 22 observers have been invited from the Association of Asian Election Authority.
However, the Commissioner’s comment would mean that observers from Argentina, Austria, Benin, Brazil, Costa Rica, Estonia, Germany, Guatemala, Ireland, Italy, Peru, Monte Grave, Poland, Moldova, Rumania, Sierra Leone, Spain, South Korea, Switzerland and America, would not be invited as they had cast their votes against Sri Lanka at the UNHRC in Geneva last March.
Nevertheless, all political parties are now in the process of preparing their nominations lists for the Northern, Central and North Western Provincial Councils.

Last Updated on Sunday, 21 July 2013 08:47