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  • Shivaji asked: What exactly is the 13th Amendment to the Sri Lankan Constitution? What is President Rajapaksa's promise of ‘13th Amendment Plus’ approach?

    Gulbin Sultana replies: The Sri Lankan Parliament passed the Thirteenth Amendment to the constitution on November 14, 1987 with the objective of creating provincial councils based on the provisions of the Indo-Sri Lanka Accord of July 1987; also, the establishment of a high court in each province, and to make Tamil one of the official languages with English as the link language. In this regard, Article 18, 138, 155 and 170 of the 1978 Constitution were amended and Chapter XVII A consisting of Article 154A to 154T and Eighth and Ninth schedule were added by the Thirteenth Amendment.

    The Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution provides for:

    • The establishment of Provincial Councils
    • The appointment and powers of the Governor of Provinces
    • Membership and tenure of Provincial Councils
    • The appointment and powers of the Board of Ministers
    • The legislative powers of the Provincial Councils
    • Alternative arrangements where there is a failure in the administrative machinery
    • The establishment of the Finance Commission.
    • Tamil as an official language
    • English as a link language
    • The establishment of the High Court of the Province

    ‘13th Amendment Plus’
    After the defeat of the LTTE, Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa had given assurance to India as well as the international community that the government would go beyond the Thirteenth Amendment to devolve substantial powers to the Tamil majority areas under ‘13th Amendment Plus.’ However, President Rajapaksa never made it clear what exactly he meant by ‘13th Amendment Plus.’ Rajapaksa had also talked about creating an upper house to the parliament or a senate to ensure more minority participation. Interestingly, it was said that when former Indian Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon asked President Rajapaksa whether ‘13th amendment plus’ meant establishing a senate to the parliament, the latter had nodded in affirmation.

    However, given the continuing opposition of the Sinhala nationalist parties to the Thirteenth Amendment, Rajapaksa Government now wants to dilute the amendment by not implementing the provisions which provide limited land and police powers to the provincial council. Thus, though the president had promised for ‘13th Amendment Plus,’ but technically speaking, he is now talking about ‘13th Amendment Minus.’ As of now, he has left the final decision to the Parliament Select Committee appointed for reviewing the provisions of the Thirteenth Amendment.

    Posted on January 20, 2014

    Post-CHOGM Dilemmas of Rajapaksa

    There is a view in Lanka that CHOGM did more harm than good and many, in fact, are questioning the wisdom of the government to host the meet. However, the pro-government media is defiant with editorials strongly denouncing the threat of international investigation as interference of Sri Lanka’s internal affairs and it is expected to galvanize popular support for Rajapaksa.

    January 15, 2014

    A Year-end Security Review of Southern Asia

    It has been a year of unstable regional security with the endless conflict in Afghanistan, Pakistan’s half-hearted struggle against the remnants of the al Qaeda, Sri Lanka’s inability to find a lasting solution to its ethnic problems and Nepal’s new found inclination to seek neutrality between India and China.

    December 31, 2013

    Stability and Growth in South Asia

    Stability and Growth in South Asia
    • Publisher: Pentagon Press

    This book examines the forces and processes which have led to relative political stability or unleashed trends in that direction in some countries of South Asia. It also delves into the factors that have stimulated economic growth in some countries, and impeded economic growth in others. Eminent authors from the region examine how far the positive political and economic trends in the region are irreversible or lend themselves to internal convulsions or external influences. There is also a focus on how far inter-state relations within the region have led to stronger intra-regional co-operation, particularly in the economic field.

    • ISBN 978-81-8274-748-7,
    • Price: ₹. 995/-
    • E-copy available

    Provincial polls in Sri Lanka: A new dawn?

    Post-elections, one can now expect a meaningful political dialogue between the Sri Lankan government and the TNA on the feasible interpretation and application of the autonomy measures under the 13th Amendment.

    October 04, 2013

    Hussain Dilshi asked: Briefly explain how the situation in Sri Lanka changed after the end of the Cold War, and thereafter, since the end of the civil war?

    Gulbin Sultana replies: End of the Cold War signified the loss of Sri Lanka’s strategic importance in regional politics. During the Cold War period, while India was following ‘Indira Doctrine’, Sri Lanka was trying to use its strategic location to manoeuvre against India. Therefore, India followed an interventionist policy towards Sri Lanka. However, end of the Cold War effectively removed India’s apprehensions and security concerns over the status of Trincomalee harbour. The changing security perception of the Indian leadership in the post-Cold War period, made India pursue a “hands‐off” policy towards the civil war in Sri Lanka. It also led to tremendous improvement in economic relations as both the countries signed a Free Trade Agreement and a major oil terminal was also given on lease to the Indian Oil Corporation.

    However, armed ethnic conflict continued to pose a major challenge for Sri Lanka. To meet these challenges, Sri Lanka diversified its foreign policy in the post-Cold War period to which India did not raise any objection, be it the involvement of external actors in Sri Lanka or its growing reliance on China and Pakistan for supply of arms, initiating peace process with Norwegian mediation or the extensive presence of US naval warships to assist the tsunami victims in 2004. In the absence of the bloc politics and the changing world order, Sri Lanka managed to get support from the international community including USA, Russia, China, India and Pakistan in its war against the LTTE, which could not have been possible during the Cold War era.

    Later, the end of the civil war provided an opportunity to the Sri Lankan Government to bring lasting peace to the country. Unfortunately, even four years after the end of the Eelam war, no mechanism for political resolution of the conflict and addressing the legitimate grievances of the minority communities has come up. However, there has been a notable progress in infrastructure development all over Sri Lanka including the north and east. Carpet roads are being constructed with Chinese assistance, railway lines are being constructed with Indian assistance, and the Northern Province has been linked with the national power grid. Development of infrastructure has had a positive impact on the tourism industry. It also renewed hopes for increased foreign investment in the country. However, after two years of economic boom in 2010-11, Sri Lanka in 2012 experienced an economic decline.

    The developmental activities have not helped much in winning the hearts of the Tamil people in Sri Lanka, as their concerns and grievances remain unaddressed. While no step has been initiated to accommodate minority rights, attempts are being made to establish Buddhist and Sinhala supremacy over the minorities. Post civil war, Sri Lanka has also been experiencing communal clashes between the Buddhists and Muslims. At the political front, with the consolidation of power in the hands of the president, opposition continues to lose ground. While the main opposition party has been suffering from internal problems, Tamils too have not been able to raise a common voice.

    At the international level, Sri Lanka has come under severe criticism for alleged violation of human rights during the last phase of the war and thereafter. Except China, all the major trading partners of Sri Lanka like the US, EU, India and the UK have been critical of its human rights record. Sri Lanka is also disappointed about India voting twice against it in the UNHRC and also because of its insistence on political devolution, which the Sri Lankan leadership considers as unnecessary interference in its domestic affairs.

    Religious Tensions in Sri Lanka

    A series of anti-Muslim campaigns particularly after the end of the Eelam War is giving an impression that the Sri Lankan Muslims are becoming the next scapegoats of majoritarianism.

    April 22, 2013

    The Sri Lanka File at the UNHRC: Need for India to Adopt a Balanced and Firm Approach

    It will be in keeping with the normative principles of India’s foreign policy to support a resolution that does not undermine Sri Lanka’s sovereignty but stipulates a time-bound and monitorable implementation by the SLG as well as UNHRC of remedial measures in accordance with the LLRC recommendations.

    March 12, 2013