13-A: A response

I refer to the letter of Gamini Gunawardana appearing in your issue of 27th March, 2013 under the caption Positive of Geneva Resolution that the Government immediately proceed to do away with the obnoxious 13th amendment. He has also very correctly stated that Sri Lanka seize this opportunity and immediately abolish the 13th amendment. While totally endorsing the views expressed by Mr. Gunawardana, may I be permitted to make the following observations on this subject.

Way back in 1982, a referendum was held covering the entire island to get the approval of the voters to extend the period of the Parliament by six years, without holding a general election. The people endorsed the extension of the period of the parliament. Extending the period of the Parliament by six years, fades into total insignificance when compared with the far reaching changes made to the Constitution by the 13th amendment. Thus, a referendum would have been an absolute necessity, to ascertain the views of the voters with regard to the 13th amendment. Moreover, when the 13th amendment was referred to a Constitutional Court, the nine judge bench returned a 5-4 verdict, in favour of the amendment, It was wafer thin majority, where four eminent Judges were not satisfied with the 13th amendment. In an ordinary trial by jury consisting of seven members, if the Jury brings a 4-3 verdict, then the presiding Judge asks the Jury to reconsider their decision. If the Jury, thereafter, returns the same verdict, then the Jury is dissolved and the case will get heard before a fresh jury. Thus, the 13th amendment is bad in law on two counts. i.e 1. Not holding a referendum and 2 Wafer thin Majority of the judges referred to.

Be that as it may, there is another salient feature on this subject which appears to have been totally ignored by all concerned, either purposely or through ignorance. Way back on January 8, 1966, Tamil Languages Special Provision Bill was approved by Parliament where all Tamil M.P’s who adorned the government benches voted for the bill. But, people of the caliber of Dr. Colvin R. de Silva, who, in 1956 said "One language two nations and two languages one nation" voted against this Bill and they went in procession against this Bill and Ven. Dambarawe Ratanasra who was in the procession got killed somewhere at Kollupitlya when the Police tried to control the crowd. The Bill was approved and the people thought that the problem has been solved. Not so. Rumblings started once again and District Council bill was approved by Parliament in 1982, as a form of devolution and again everybody thought that the problem has been solved and peace has dawned at last. But, five years later, the 13th amendment was approved and again every body thought that the problem has been solved and that peace has dawned at last. Now the talk is about thirteen plus. Are we to keep on granting solutions ad infinitum? Where do we stop’? Judging from the events in the past, what guarantee is there that any further solution given now will not suffer the same fate as the previous ones? Apparently, the international community who talks, of thirteen plus, should be appraised of what happened in the past. While talking of purported injustice to Tamils, it is most unfortunate that nobody is talking about the injustice caused to the Buddhists, details of which could be ascertained from the book written by Ven. Ellawala Medhananda, titled "Our Heritage in the North and the East" and the book written by late Mr. Cyril Mathew titled, "Sihaluni Budu Sasuna Beraganivu", Ven. Gangodawila Soma Thera who was in -the forefront in highlighting the sufferings of the Buddhists in the East, passed away and the actual cause of his death is not known. In fact, a fresh amendment should be brought to the Constitution to redress the grievances of the Buddhists, referred to above.

D. Siriratna

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