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Cast off the devolution ghost



"..All the water in the ocean


Can never turn the swan’s black legs to white…"


It was only the other day that Sri Lanka defeated the separatist terrorists who destabilised Sri Lanka for more than 4 decades. More than 26,000 members of the defence forces had to lay their life for the victory while further tens of thousands of civilians were killed by the terrorists whose objective was to establish a separate country based on mythical Tamil claims.


Now, Sri Lanka is bombarded with periodic messages from India and the followers of Indian prescription based on notorious Indo-Sri Lanka pact of 1978 to devolve powers to ‘Tamil people’ and "Tamil areas". It is strange but true that many including the chief physician, India who prescribe devolution as the panacea for all Sri Lankan national problems have ignored the lethal effect it has on Sri Lanka.


It may not be fair to come into conclusions on the practical effects of devolving power by merely focussing on the countries where the political power is shared by regions or states. However, a comparative study will enable us to arrive at an assessment whether the devolution of power has served the countries and their citizens as expected by the framers of such constitutions.


India, the principal mover of the devolution based on ethnicity for Sri Lanka has practically failed to derive the desired effects in the North-East regions, Punjab and Kashmir while in a number of other Indian states ethnic and religious violence is not uncommon.


The religious and ethnic activists in Gujarat, Maharashtra, Punjab.Tamil Nadu , NE region, and Kashmir have forced the Centre to intervene on a numerous occasions to prevent anarchy and extreme civil disturbances, Further, in regard to economic development and the delivery of services to the citizens, the Indian model has almost failed as 80% of the Indians live in abject poverty while a small band of upper middle class and the super rich have benefited.


The politics of many Indian states have come in for severe criticism by the civic organizations. The dispossessed and the poor in the Indian states have joined the extreme political groups and according to learned commentators their growth is directly related to the index of poverty and is a serious threat to the law and order in India.


In short, the conclusion is that the Indian system of devolution of power to the States has become a tool in the hands of the rich and the corrupt nullifying the oft repeated benefits to people. To be fair by Sri Lanka, India should at least advise why she cannot settle the Kashmir issue.


The most potent forces which keep India together is the iron will of the central Indian Government to intervene to protect the Union and the strength of the Indian defence Establishment. The survival of One India depends mainly on the strong central Government.


In an essay on "Devolution of Powers to the Territorial entities in Sri Lanka: an overview late Desamanaya H.L.DE Silva states…" The entire scheme for devolution proposed was seriously flawed and suffered from structural defects that stemmed from a failure to grasp the nature of political power and how it impinged on governance in the contemporary context.


It was the result of a failure to gain an adequate understanding of recent constitutional developments in other countries in the field of federal governments which the Government of Sri Lanka was clearly veering. For instance, it was at variance with a recent study of American federation in its practical working which had concluded ..:"the only aspect of state governments that is beyond the reach of Washington is the very existence of the States with their present boundaries.." In other words, CENTRALIZATION HAS BEEN THE DOMINANT TREND IN SOME OF THE SUCCESSFUL FEDERAL SYSTEMS"


India in 1978 not only forced on Sri Lanka an additional tier of government, a white elephant in the form of Provincial Councils costing millions of additional funds but, also forced the then President to violate the article 1544 (3) when read with the Provincial Council Act no 42 of 1987 section 37 (1), (10) in manipulating the merger of the North with the East. The whole exercise was to accept the claims of racist Tamil elements and to accommodate Indian geo-political aims in buying over Sri Lankan Tamil extremists to ensure a weak Sri Lankan state south of India.


All Sri Lankans looking forward to a period of peace and prosperity should never forget the last 40 years when the armed separatists called the shots. If not for the determination of President Rajapakse, the defence establishment and the backing received from the patriotic Sri Lankans our fate would have been similar to that of Sudan or Rawanda.


We need to plan at least for the next 200 years to be stable and strong so that scars of last 50 years can be remedied. Let us cast off the ghost of devolution leading to instability, poverty and shaky development. Let us re-examine the adversarial Westminster model of Government. Let us empower all groups by sharing power at the centre adopting the Ministerial Committee system.


Let us get rid of the Provincial Councils and think seriously of District Development Councils with the participation of local representatives for effective delivery of services to the PEOPLE to empower and strengthen them.


Say no to ethnic based devolution of power. Let us bury this kokatath thailaya- so called panacea for misdiagnosed Sri Lankan political disease Do not allow India or the blind folded followers of the Indian proposal to break or weaken Sri Lanka as finally it will be the Sri Lankan people irrespective of ethnic and other identities that will be compelled to carry the can.


Ranjith Soysa


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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