Comments on Articles on New Constitution

by Veluppilai Thangavelu, October 23, 2017

from Thamilvaddam discussion group # 4708

Veluppillai-Thangavelu

Veluppillai Thangavelu

COMMENT on ‘Battling for a New Constitution’

In the first place Jayampathy Wickremaratne is not a Minister. He is an
appointed MP. So why quote Jayampathy Wickremaratne and why not quote
Mahinda Rajapaksa, former President, has said about the current
constitutional process? That will provide all the answers to the questions
raised by Tamil nationalists of the far right. Tamils should not waste
their time in semantics. The words unitary and federal have undergone
changes. There are countries with unitary constitution like UK but with
federal features. Scotland has its own parliament, central bank, currency,
tax system, its own flag etc. etc. A powerful Scottish Parliament controls
more than £27 billion of spending – around 60% of all public spending in
Scotland. The Scottish Parliament has the power to make and change the law
to meet Scottish needs and aspirations on childcare; education; training and
skills; enterprise; health and social care; justice and policing; housing;
the environment; agriculture, fisheries and rural affairs; and the arts,
culture and sport.

The current constitution process is neither unitary nor federal. It
is”unitary” with federal features. It is quasi federal. The 13th A itself
makes the constitution quasi-federal, because there are not one but two
centres of power. The current constitution goes beyond 13A because powers
transferred to the provincial councils cannot be withdrawn unless the bill
is passed by a 2/3 majority in parliament, 2/3 majority in the proposed
Senate. There is also a super majority. If 3 members from the province
oppose the bill, then the bill is dead. The current concurrent list will be
abolished. Land alienation will be a provincial council subject. A
provincial police service will be in place. Executive powers of the Governor
will be transferred to the Board of Ministers of the province. We should
look at the paniyaaram and not silu siluppai. The aim is maximum devolution
under a united Ceylon. Like the Oslo Declaration of 2002, the current
constriction is also aiming at maximum devolution under a quasi federal
structure of provinces. We have missed opportunities to arrive a fair
settlement in the past. Let us not repeat history by crying wolf!

——

from Sangam comment section after JS Tissainayagam’s article at http://sangam.org/sri-lankas-tamil-party-selling-tamil-people/

JS Tissainayagam is a visionary and a day dreamer. He is wearing blinkers after emigrating to US. He is totally ignorant of the ground situation, especially after the defeat of the LTTE in May, 2009. Even the LTTE was prepared to compromise on its demand for Eelam. In fact, the Norway brokered peace talks between the government and the LTTE was on condition the latter abandons its quest for Tamil Eelam. This is why at the OSLO Declaration in December 2002, the LTTE asked for maximum autonomy. The LTTE agreed to explore a political solution founded on the principle of internal self-determination in Areas of historical habitation of the Tamil-speaking peoples, based on a federal structure within a UNITED SRI LANKA. The parties acknowledged that the solution has to be acceptable to all communities. This is exactly what the TNA is demanding.

I don’t know how proficient JS Tissainayagam is in Tamil language. Thiruvalluvar in his magnum opus Thirukkural says in chapter 48 – Kural 471 that “Let a (king) weigh the strength of his own strength, the strength of his enemy and the strength of his allies (of both) and then act.”
The Sinhalese have their own chauvinists like Wimal Weerawansa who vows to stop the constitutional process come what may. His clones among the Tamils are also swearing that there is nothing in the Steering Committee’s Interim report and it deserves to be rejected. It is a complete sell out and Sampanthan and Sumanthiran have capitulated to UNP-SLFP machinations and manipulations.

My humble request to him is please read the press release issued by the former President Mahinda Rajapaksa that appeared in the media and received wide publicity. (http://www.omlanka.net/news/9238-abandon-destructive-proposal-for-new-constitution-mahinda-tells-govt.html)
Briefly Mahinda Rajapaksa makes the following assertions:
(1) It has been proposed to devolve to the provinces all powers and functions that can be carried out at the level of the province on the basis of the principle of ‘subsidiarity’. It is on the basis of a similar conceptual framework that the separatists have been agitating for an independent state in the northern and eastern provinces since 1972.
(2) Once powers are devolved to the provinces on the basis of ‘subsidiarity’, it has been proposed that Parliament should not have the power (even with a two thirds majority) to make any changes to that arrangement without the consent of each and every provincial unit. It has also been proposed that Parliament should not have the power to legislate into law, national standards and national policies without the consent of the proposed second chamber of parliament which would consist mostly of representatives of the provincial units.
(3) It has been proposed that the list of concurrent powers which confers a certain leadership role on the central government be abolished and those powers also be transferred to the provinces. In addition to all that, the implementation of certain matters coming under the central government is to be assigned to the provinces, thus greatly reducing the role of the central government as befits a federal system.
(4) The executive powers of the provincial Governors are to be transferred to the provincial boards of ministers and the Governors are to carry out their duties on the advice of the former to the extent where the Governor will not have the authority even to inform the central government of an emergency situation that has arisen in a province without instructions from the chief minister. Furthermore the time given to the Governors and thereafter to the President to either assent to a provincial statute or refer it to the Supreme Court for a determination on its constitutionality is to be fixed at two weeks and upon the expiry of this period, the statute would automatically be considered to have received executive assent.

It is true that Mahinda Rajapaksa’s observations are based on proposals, recommendations and suggestions contained the interim report. Yet he makes some valid points on the basis of the Interim Report.

Some may like to dismiss Mahinda Rajapaksa’s condemnation of the Interim Report as political gimmicks. Such people must read the press statement by BASL that appeared in the media (http://www.island.lk/index.php?page_cat=article-details&page=article-details&code_title=173819 today. Bar Association of Sri Lanka express its grave concern about the proposed amendments to Articles 1 and 2 of the present Constitution.

The Bar Council also noted that proposed amendments in the Interim of the Constitutional Assembly of Sri Lanka had the effect of converting the Unitary character of the State to a FEDERAL structure.

In the past Tamils lost a few opportunities to secure political emancipation. One example is the demise of the Interim Council proposed by JR Jayewardene in 1987. Nitpicking by LTTE over the chairmanship of the Interim Council. Secondly the boycott of the parliamentary elections held in 1994 and the unofficial boycott of the presidential elections held in 2005. More can be cited.

So let us not rock the boat. If the Sinhalese politicians reject outright the proposal to offer Tamils maximum autonomy in areas of their traditional habitat, let them do so at their peril.

 

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