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APRC: Key to Peace or an Albatross?

by TamilNet, January 20, 2008

"In sum, executive power in relation to provincial matters, will be exercised by a Governor who will be appointed by the President, who will hold office 'during the pleasure' of the President, and who will exercise his executive powers as the faithful and loyal servant of the Executive President of Sri Lanka. That is the naked political and constitutional reality of the character of a Provincial Governor under the 13th Amendment."


J.R. Jayawardena's Government claimed that the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution passed in August 1987 fulfilled the promises made in the Indo-Sri Lanka Accord, to 'devolve power' to the Tamil people. The Liberation Tigers dismissed the legislation outright, and said it allowed "perpetuation of the domination, oppression and exploitation of the Tamil masses by the racist Sinhala state," and N. Satyendra, a constitutional scholar and attorney who represented ex-militants in Sri Lanka trials, ridiculed the legislation as a "comic opera."

On the 13th Amendment, the LTTE said in 1988, "With Presidential authority exerting rigid control over the functions of the Provincial Councils, the powers accorded to Parliament to amend or repeal the chapter pertaining to the P.C's make this 'devolution package' a mockery.

Albatross

Click for larger image (Adapted from Economist of Jun 28th 2007)

"The legislative powers devolved to the Councils become meaningless and impotent since Parliament retains the power to legislate even on matters allotted to Provincial Councils. In brief, the provisions

of these Bills, having effectively constrained devolutional power, allow the perpetuation of the tyranny of the Parliamentary majority which has been the medium of repressive racist policies against the Tamil people," LTTE said in its report.

Now, Sri Lanka's President has given an ultimatum to the the All Party Representative Committee (APRC), appointed by him in June 2006, and tasked to produce a consensus of the South in devolving power, to deliver by the 23rd January, a proposal based on the 13th Amendment.

Rajapakse aims to achieve two political objectives with this effort. First, he intends to placate India and to encourage a visit by the Indian Prime Minister to attend the 4th February Independence day celebrations. Secondly, Colombo is under severe international pressure to present a political solution to the Tamils, the abrogation of the CFA by Colombo making this matter even more urgent. Rajapakse appears to believe that this effort will help to convince the international community of the bona fides of his peace motives.

He needs “something” from APRC's report to be handed over to him on Wednesday [23rd January deadline] as “everybody expects us to put a political package on the table,” Sunday Times quoted Rajapakse as telling APRC members.

APRC, from past to present, with its inability to produce a consensus proposal to resolve the ethnic conflict, has become more an albatross than a key to peace, a committee that hinders political progress with its duplicitous conduct reacting to external political exigencies.

Sumanasiri Liyanage who teaches political economy at University of Peradeniya says in a recent article: "Although the full implementation of the 13th Amendment is a positive step, this proposal is a backward one. Why? For two reasons. First, the full implementation of 13th Amendment today means something less than the 13th Amendment of 1987 because of the Supreme Court decision to de-merge Northern and Eastern provinces. Secondly, many powers initially devolved to the provincial councils have already been taken back by the center government. Now the provincial councils have lesser number of schools, hospitals, and many other institutions."

PDF IconMs Shanthi Satchithanandam on
13th Amendment @4:25 min

Ms. Satchithanantham, a prominent civil activist, echoes this view, and doubts the ability of Colombo in genuinely implementing any proposal, and says there is no political will to even sorting out the "concurrent list" in the 13th Amendment to fully devolve power.

The provisions of the 13th Amendment are impossibly "burlesque and farcical," Satyendra says.

While derisively calling the Provincial Governor, the Provincial Board of Ministers with a Chief Minister, and the Provincial Council "a trinity of marvels, he adds, "In sum, executive power in relation to provincial matters, will be exercised by a Governor who will be appointed by the President, who will hold office 'during the pleasure' of the President, and who will exercise his executive powers as the faithful and loyal servant of the Executive President of Sri Lanka. That is the naked political and constitutional reality of the character of a Provincial Governor under the 13th Amendment."

Late Dharmeratnam Sivaram, a popular military analyst, and senior editor at TamilNet, said the 13th Amendment did not provide even a "loin cloth" to the Tamils even after a decade of its existence.

But APRC is speculated to present a 'parallel' set of proposals to lay claim the need for "further discussions." Without the participation of UNP, JVP, and TNA.

Chronology:
20.01.08  APRC: key to peace or an albatross?
06.01.08  JVP noose around APRC neck
27.10.07  APRC on hiatus
16.08.07  APRC is dead, says UNP
05.05.07  SLFP proposals, an outrageous offer, says Edirisin..
21.04.07  SLFP political package, not of APRC - Tissa Vitara..
05.04.07  ‘Mahinda Chinthana’ to be basis for government’s p..
03.04.07  Panchayat Raj brought back in Rajapakse deliberati..
01.04.07  JVP boycott of APRC helps LTTE- Vitarane
26.02.07  JHU decides against submitting proposal to APRC
20.02.07  UNP demands SLFP to finalize political proposal
19.02.07  Remove Tissa Vitarane from cabinet- JVP
09.02.07  UNP decides to boycott APRC
01.01.07  UNP to submit fifth proposal to APRC
13.12.06  Leaked Expert panel's reports trigger controversy
13.12.06  APRC to continue without JVP
12.12.06  JVP quits from APC deliberation
07.10.06  Political package to be prepared before GoSL-LTTE ..
28.07.06  WPPF quits All Party Conference
20.07.06  APC, an exercise to buy time?- Saravanamuttu
19.07.06  APC, a political drama to dress-up unitary constit..
16.07.06  Rajapakse's new agenda, a tactic to derail progres..
11.07.06  SL President Rajapakse addresses APC, Expert panel
09.07.06  UNP to re-evaluate support to UPFA, Rajapakse

Related Articles:
15.01.08   Tamils respect Pirapaharan's single-minded commitment- civil..
12.03.05   Indo-Sri Lanka Agreement

External Links:

TamilNation:   Thirteenth Amendment to Sri Lanka Constitution - Devolution or Comic Opera
FI:   APRC in Quandary Over Future by DBS Jeyaraj
GroundViews:   What Can We Expect from the APRC? Sumanasiri Liyanage