NPC election not the  panacea for problems facing Tamil speaking people

Dy. Minister Musthapha draws attention to dangers ahead

Deputy Minister Faizer Musthapha yesterday said that the proposed Northern Provuncial Council election wouldn’t help solve problems faced by the Tamil speaking people. Instead, it could worsen the situation, he said, while urging the government to review its position.

The following is the full text of the statement issued by Deputy Minister Musthapha: "The 13th Amendment to the Constitution has once again attracted statements, responses and counter responses mainly from politicians belonging to several parties. This time the subject is debated with the recent announcement made by the government stating that elections to the Northern Provincial Council would be held in September this year.

However, the recent statements made by a high powered public official, the Secretary in charge of Defence matters, Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, warning the government of the potentiality of adverse consequences that the country might have to face cannot be treated lightly in case the Northern Provincial Council is established and subsequently elections held. Therefore, the concerns of the Secretary to the Ministry of Defence and Urban Development have to be treated with utmost concern and seriousness.

There were several other organisations such as the Organisation of Professional Associations which had warned the government of dire consequences that could befall the country through the full implementation of the 13th Amendment.

The Executive Council of the Organisation of Professional Associations of Sri Lanka (OPA) adopted a resolution on the 13th Amendment at its meeting held on November 22, 2012.

At this meeting among other things the OPA expressed the view that -

"(a) Provincial Councils or any alike system, as was shown in the first North-East Provincial Council, is a temptation to separatism and also segregation of the people;

(b) 13th Amendment is a threat to the sovereignty, independence and unitary status of Sri Lanka;"

Thus it should dawn on everybody’s mind that the opposition to the 13th Amendment does not originate from a politically biased situation but it runs deeper and portray the public opinion against it.

The statement attributed to the Secretary, Ministry of Defence and Urban Development, inter-alia states "that the government should carefully examine the 13th Amendment to the Constitution without succumbing to international and domestic pressure."

It demands us to ascertain whether the government of the day particularly, and the subsequent governments generally had at any time carefully examined the impact of the 13th Amendment.

The ongoing debate on the abolition or otherwise of the 13th Amendment is largely focused on the granting of Police and Land powers to the Provinces. In this context, there are two factors which we need to take cognizance of.

First, the Provincial Council system has been in existence for more than two decades, without any of those councils exercising Lands or Police powers.

Second, if any Provincial Council decides to act independently, even going against government policy, the 13th Amendment provides legal protection.

The 13th Amendment is a poorly drafted instrument of legislation as it does not address the aspirations of the people of this country. The main reason being that it is more or less a duplicate of the Indian Constitution.

The provisions relating to the lands and Police powers are identical with the relevant sections of the Indian Constitution to the very letter and comma.

If Land and Police powers are also to be granted, any Provincial Council desirous of having an administrative enclave of its own will have a legal right to manage its demarcated land and also use its Police force to insulate such enclave from external interference. In practicality it is separation.

The statement made by the Secretary, Ministry of Defence and Urban Development has to be weighed with due consideration of the above dangers hanging over the country and the nation.

The Unilateral Declaration of Independence by the Chief Minister of the North-East Provincial Council, Mr. Varatharaja Perumal of the Eelam People’s Revolutionary Liberation Front (EPRLF) provides adequate proof to ascertain the potential danger a Provincial Council could pose on the integrity and sovereignty of the nation.

A section of the international community duped by misinformation and distorted propaganda carried out by the LTTE on the incidents of ‘black July’ have since grown into a formidable power-bloc after the defeat of the LTTE. This group groomed and supported by some powerful countries is ever looking for even a tiny space to dislodge Mahinda Rajapaksa from the presidency.

In the backdrop of the above developments, if a Provincial Council in the North, repeats what Varatharaja Perumal did in 1990 the repercussions could be disastrous.

The Northern Province, in the aftermath of the defeat of the LTTE is yet to create the ideal conditions for a democratically elected Provincial Council.

During nearly three decades of armed conflict the demography has changed. More than 100,000 Muslims were driven out overnight by the LTTE in their process of ethnic cleansing. The Sinhala population were forced leave the North in the wake of repeated attacks on Sinhala villages. Even a large number Tamils had fled the area either as refugees to other countries or to other areas within the country as internally displaced persons.

Therefore, the need of the hour is not to resurrect the Northern Provincial Council but to address the underlying issue regarding the devolution of power by way of reaching consensus among all stake holders to device a home grown solution which really fulfill the aspirations of all the people."

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