Misspoken, Mistaken, and Misunderstood 13th Plus ?


The recent utterances attributed to the Government display its indecisiveness on the 13th Amendment and its incapacity to rectify a miscommunication, which caused a misinterpretation that led to a misunderstanding.

The selection of a faulty phrase in the course of a discussion was pounced on by the Indian Foreign Minister Krishna to carry home an offering that sounded sweet to India. Not that he replayed it mischievously- the words and phrases amounted to indeed what he heard and repeated. But that was not what the president truly meant.

The difference lies in the oft-repeated 13 plus of the past with the designed 13 plus of the present. Sadly the nuances were not conveyed to the Indian foreign minister properly. It’s a 13 plus and minus situation - to be accurate less than more to be precise. 13A is such crap it matters not whether it is more or less.

The need was for a clarification that should have been made public - which never came. So sloppy is the government it knows not what to say or do and when in trouble conveniently says or does nothing. This gives rise to unfavorable conjecture. Such is the guidance offered by their voodoo advisors?

It is stupid to please a few people momentarily by making conflicting and contradictory statements creating distrust permanently among most people. Credibility means much. Lose it and then don’t expect Sri Lanka’s word to be taken seriously across borders. This is most harmful at a time goodwill is paramount to the national interest. Naturally India would not like being served with what tastes like fudge.

Double barrel talk can skew the esteem of a nation. Nixon’s White House in an attempt to cover Watergate had to utilize the phrase ‘misspoke’; George Orwell in his day referred to it as ‘Mis-speak’ or ‘Un-lies’ and more recently Hillary Clinton expanded it by saying "if I misspoke that was a misstatement". The cumulative effect is such statements carry the laundry label of toxic untruths.

The preferred option is to lay the cards on the table as the president once did by asserting that police and land powers cannot be vested in the provincial councils. This was a message transmitted up front to India. India did not raise any objection. It is not India’s business to interfere in the governance of Sri Lanka - something it often does. Mystical India with its mysterious ways strives to be misunderstood in the region opening doors for China to enter.

Then why hold out to the Indian foreign minister that the devolution package will be based on a 13 plus formula? It’s more than a marketing error. Without a reservation it obviously includes police and land powers on a plain reading as set out in the constitution. If it is not in the pipeline it’s unfair to take India for a ride. After the president makes such an assertion, the foreign minister cannot be blamed having to resort to verbal gymnastics at a press conference to overcome a thorny situation.

Under no circumstance, in the interest of national security and to safeguard sovereignty, can police and land powers be devolved. The UPFA government knows it, having extended the writ of the central government to all corners of the island after banishing a terrorist outfit.

If terrorism raises it head, and it can happen if police and land powers are conferred, the personal security of the leadership will be more in peril than the sovereignty of the nation. Therefore for their own survival - personal and political - police and land powers will never be devolved under a MahindaRajapaksa regime.

Even if the TNA leadership cries for it till their dying day it will remain non-negotiable in the national interest. It requires another J.R. Jayewardene to indulge in infamy. Ranil Wickremesinghe will not commit such a treacherous act.

The president to his credit will never sell the country after regaining it unlike Ranil Wickremesinghe who holds an invisible power of attorney for the West. The president is not in the league of hurrah boys in a hospitality tent unlike some of his ministers from the Left who shift positions in their policy to acquire portfolios. Police and land powers remaining with the center is an attribute of Rajapaksa’s political career.

How safe are their constituents if the chief ministers go berserk with armed men at their beck and call? It’s best it remains in the hands of the head of the executive because all presidents have acted with responsibility in exercising police powers. The lands that for years were safeguarded as State lands would be distributed amongst friends and relations of provincial politicians. Land sales at dubious prices will become prolific. Not that such practice is unknown in the central government but it is more in check as the media spotlight is permanently focused on it.

In the North with land at the disposal of the chief minister, in the event of another insurrection no premise will be available to house the military in security zones. Land will be at the mercy of hostile forces. The army will be compelled to do amphibious maneuvers in absence of land.

Then why deliver an ambiguous message to India? Stupidity has no end. If India finds us speaking with a forked tongue there is greater likelihood of a hostile reaction.

If the recommendations on legitimate Tamil grievances in the LLRC report are addressed without delay, police and land powers will become a non-issue. With the LLRC report in hand non-implementation of its recommendations can give rise to a call for international judicial intervention again.

The issue of the Senate is another misspoke of Keheliya Rambukwella. The LLRC recommended a chamber for ameliorating minority grievances speedily. The Senate abolished by the 1972 Constitution was not revived by the 1979 Constitution which instead introduced the concept of appointed MPs’ to Parliament through the National List.

The Senate is another vehicle that will act as a rest room for servile political sycophants resulting in the wastage of public funds. It will not serve to ameliorate any of the minority grievances or align the center with the periphery. With such stupid substitutes, the Government alienates the minorities and assists the TNA in hindering national integration.

The president was an achiever in the first term but that form has deserted him in the second.

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