The influential Sri Lankan Defence Secretary, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, has said Sri Lanka should jettison the system of devolution contained in the India-inspired 13th Amendment of the country’s constitution, irrespective of India’s reaction.
“Just because India or some other country will get angry, we cannot stop doing what is good for our country,” Gotabaya told the Tamil daily Sudar Oli on Sunday.
He was asked if his statements against the devolution of power to the provinces would not irk India, which was responsible for the promulgation of the existing devolution system through the India-Sri Lanka Accord of 1987 and the 13th constitutional amendment which followed it. Indian Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid had recently expressed displeasure over Lanka’s attempts to prune the 13th amendment to deny the provinces powers over land and police.
Gotabaya expressed the fear that if the Tamil majority Northern Province went into the hands of the pro-LTTE Tamil National Alliance (TNA) following the September 2013 elections to the Northern Provincial Council (NPC), that province would demand power over land and police and jeopardize national integrity and security.
He recalled that the 13th amendment did not have the people’s support when it was enacted in 1987. The Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna had “set fire to the whole country,” and the LTTE leader Prabhakaran had rejected it, he pointed out.
“Why should we implement it merely because it meets India’s needs?” Gotabaya asked.
According to him some forces were trying to weaken Lanka’s Central Executive by divesting it of powers of land and the police; demanding independent commissions to make official appointments; and promoting an independent judiciary. Gotabaya, who is President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s sibling, suggested that Tamils, Sinhalese and Muslims, should all “forget” about the 13th amendment and think about a “reasonable” solution to the ethnic question.
However, according to “The Sunday Times” President Rajapaksa had told the cabinet that the NPC elections should be held as scheduled in September, and under the existing constitutional arrangement. Perhaps, Rajapaksa does not want to ruffle feathers in India and the West ahead of the Commonwealth summit scheduled to be held in Colombo in November.