India’s Waterloo?

Friday, 21 June 2013 09:33 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

REMARKS by Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh about being “dismayed” by the Sri Lankan Government’s plans to roll back the 13th Amendment and curtail the powers of provincial councils will give pause to moderate citizens though it will fall on the administration’s deaf ears The Prime Minister had conveyed to the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) delegation that he was dismayed by reports suggesting that the Sri Lankan Government is planning to dilute certain key provisions of the 13th Amendment ahead of the Northern Provincial Council elections. According to media reports, the proposed changes raised doubts about the commitments made by the Sri Lankan Government to India and the international community, including the United Nations, on a political settlement in Sri Lanka that would go beyond the 13th Amendment. The changes would also be incompatible with the recommendation of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC), set up by the Sri Lankan Government, calling for a political settlement based on the devolution of power to the provinces, the PM has noted. The Prime Minister has also said that he was deeply concerned about the welfare and wellbeing of the Tamil community in Sri Lanka. Disturbingly, Colombo has reversed gears on the important aspect of power devolution, demilitarisation, human rights, investigations on disappearances and abductions or even a broad pledge of security for the Tamil people of the north. Free and fair elections or the 13th Amendment and the chance to govern themselves were all pointedly absent from recent rhetoric that skipped nimbly over these all-important snags for the Rajapaksa Government. Implementation of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC), high security zones and even resolving the sensitive land grabbing issues ahead of the elections were blithely ignored. It was as if the problems faded into the palmyrah shadows before the effervescent spin of the Government. But it is unlikely they will stay that way. Media Minister and Cabinet Spokesman Keheliya Rambukwella on Thursday admitted that the Government was moving ahead with plans to cull provincial powers and insisted that any agreements with India or the UN took a backseat to the sovereignty of the people. His reasoning was that the people had a right to decide on the 13th Amendment but these “people” did not seem to include the Tamil minority who would not be able to win though if the Government decides on a national referendum. Trapped in a game of mixed interests, little attention is being paid to the positive results from the division of powers including police. For example, as the recent arrest of DIG Vass Gunewardana has shown what all Sri Lankans have known all along – the corruption within the highest ranks of police. Therefore, it stands to reason that a provincial police force may have the capacity to counter corruption at the centre, especially given the fact that division of power is the core of democracy. After all the Executive, Parliament, Judiciary and media counterbalance each other, of should in a competent democracy. Similar arguments can be made against reducing corruption and targeting development where a competent provincial system can make decisions that best impact their constituents, especially in the case of minorities. Yet, India will find it next to impossible to bring across such points to the Sri Lankan Government.