The Thirteenth Amendment (13A) to the Constitution of Sri Lanka is based on the Indo- Sri Lanka Accord which was signed between the Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and Sri Lankan President H.R. Jayewardene, which incorporated the devolution of powers to provinces. The amendment aims at creating Provincial Councils in Sri Lanka and enables Sinhalese and Tamil as national languages while preserving English as the link language.
The need for the amendment comes from the struggle of Tamils in Sri Lanka for their pride and dignity. Tamil ethnicity in the island nation is well known. The nation which has come to occupy a strategic position in South Asia unfortunately still has Tamil speaking people struggling for their freedom. While the North and East provinces have been able to grab media attention due to the long ethnic war, however the plantation workers in the serene regions of tea estates are still living in subhuman conditions. The outcome of the injustice done to Plantation workers lingers in the minds of Tamil people who are compelled to serve their masters in Plantations without any basic comforts, despite getting citizenship in 1980s.
Thus the Sri Lankan regime while embarking on a fresh nation building process needs to launch the requisite democratic processes which are appreciated by the global community. The regime at Colombo must understand that there should be a thrust on availability of equal opportunities and equal status for people irrespective of religion or ethnicity. Rehabilitation measures should be delivered to the victims of war and concerted efforts need to be taken for the peaceful restoration of democracy. Each and every citizen of Sri Lanka should contribute their individual might for Peace in their nation.
The 13th amendment, along with finding support from some sections of the society has also been subjected to various forms of opposition. Those who oppose the 13th Amendment believe that it is a colossal waste of public funds as the people in these provinces receive no benefit whatsoever. Also, there are fears that the amendment will be a danger to the unity and the territorial integrity of Sri Lanka if police and land powers are transferred to the Northern Provincial Council. Sri Lanka’s Marxist party Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) has come out stating that the current debate on the 13th Amendment to the Constitution needs to be stopped since it supports communalism in the country.
What under these conditions should be India’s stand on the issue? Unfortunately India hasn’t tried to understand the situations prevailing in Sri Lanka, its initiatives for rehabilitations, its political proliferations etc. India’s ruling front UPA has opportunely prompted the coalition partner DMK to stumble on the timely ‘Sri Lankan issue’, which in one form or other has always come handy as a shrouded election tactic for three decades.
While the situation in Sri Lanka is this, can India again poke into its issues especially when the issue itself is to condemn India’s interference and the suspected clandestine efforts to weaken the sovereignty of the tiny island nation? Though India has a pre-emptive right to ask Sri Lanka to implement the 13th Amendment’s proposals based on the Indo-Lankan Accord, it is desirable that India play a low key in the current issues happening in the island nation. Currently, India, particularly Tamil Nadu can hardly interfere or prevail on their establishments and initiate political maneuvering. Any primary moves from India will be construed only as interference and will adversely make things worse in Sri Lanka. Probably India cannot do anything if the regime in Sri Lanka heeds to the pressure of the opposition and terminates the amendment.
Can India remain aloof from these developments and the possible termination of the 13th amendment ?