Colombo, Constitutional Reform, Politics and Governance


The devolution debate has been sharpened by the highly interesting and significant results of the public opinion poll recently conducted in Tamil Nadu, with regard to Sri Lanka’s ethnic issue and its internal arrangements.

The poll has had the effect of strengthening both pro and anti-devolution camps in their chosen opinions.

I suggest that a realist reading should result in a more nuanced approach to devolution, which escapes the trap of overreaction in either direction, namely allergic rejection and imitative appeasement. With or without the new data from Tamil Nadu, the debate on devolution in Sri Lanka reveals roughly seven and possibly eight points of view or “lines”. These are:

  1. Zero or small unit devolution: Abolition of the 13th amendment and Provincial Councils, replacement with District level devolution, if at all.
  2. 13th amendment Minus or Provincial Councils Lite: Retention of Provincial Councils, but deduction or non-implementation of even those powers granted by the 13th amendment.
  3. 13th amendment Classic: The full and speediest possible implementation of the existing 13th amendment, meaning the full devolution of those powers already granted by the 13th amendment.  
  4. 13th amendment Plus: the enhancement of the powers of the 13th amendment by relocating or partially redistributing the powers of the Concurrent list. This position subdivides between those who are willing to risk a constitutional amendment and those who seek only that which is possible without one.
  5. The Indian model: quasi-federalism; powers no less than those of an Indian state.
  6. Full or classic federalism.
  7. ISGA/Confederation of two states.
  8. No ethnic based federalism or two unit model; a radical reform of the state, citizenship and identity, reflecting hybridity, secularism and pluralism. 

Positions 1-7 are present to varying degrees in the political domain, national and international (including the twin Diasporas) while the last arises from within the civil society intelligentsia (Prof Nira Wickremesingha in Open Democracy). 

While administrative decentralisation is needed for purposes of development, devolution or transfer of some measure of power from centre to second order units at the periphery, is needed as a bridge between the North and South, the Tamils and the Sinhalese.

Therefore any and all devolution proposals must pass the test of enjoying the support of some segment of both communities. It must at the least, be at the interface of the two “sets”, namely Sinhala and Tamil opinion.

No sustainable solution can be unilaterally imposed upon either the Sinhalese or the Tamils.  

Positions 1 & 2 (abolish or weaken Provincial Councils) have no takers outside the Sinhala community, and therefore fails the test of acceptability by at least some Tamils.

The international and regional blowback of any such move (which would have many powerful opponents and no supporters whatsoever outside the island), would be disastrous for our military efforts and our overall stability and security. 

Similarly, Positions 6 and 7 (federalism, con-federalism) have no takers among the Sinhalese, going by public opinion polls, the results of which, ranging from the 1997 polling by Research International Pvt Ltd, up to today’s CPA polls, have been remarkably consistent.

Position 5 that of Indian model quasi federalism, enjoys, according to the CPA (and much to its regret) 5% support among the majority Sinhala community- that’s 5% of 74%. No mainstream political party or candidate in a competitive electoral democracy (and that includes Senator Obama) would treat as anything other than radioactive, a position that was so hopelessly unpopular. And yet, otherwise sensible Tamil politicians expect the two main Southern parties to agree on this. If there were any such possibility, President Kumaratunga’s 1995and 1997 “union of regions” packages, or her admirable August 2000 draft Constitution would have obtained bipartisan support, instead of suffering the highly visible fates they did.

The new argument, basing itself on the Ananda Vikatan opinion poll, is that Sri Lanka can best protect itself from pro-Tamil Eelam sentiment by adopting the Indian model of quasi-federalism.

This argument runs up against several counter-considerations.

Firstly, by the same logic, Cuba can best protect itself from the extreme anti-Cuban Revolution sentiments of Florida-and by extension Washington DC, since Florida has a significant influence on American elections– by adopting an economic and political model such as that which prevails in the USA. Any self -respecting Cuban, and there is an island full of them, would reject that argument with the contempt it deserves. 

Secondly, by what logic do 50 million ethnic Tamils in Tamil Nadu and a tiny fraction of that number in Sri Lanka require the same quantum and therefore model of devolution?

Thirdly, by what measure is the opinion of the citizens of Tamil Nadu of greater validity with regard to the internal arrangements of Sri Lanka, than those of over 95 % of Sinhalese citizens of this country, comprising 74% of the population, who oppose Indian model quasi-federalism?

Fourthly, this pro-Tamil separatist opinion in Tamil Nadu is a news flash? It would not have been so to generations of Sinhalese going back millennia, into antiquity. The anti-Sri Lankan and anti-Sinhala sentiment in Tamil Nadu represents an existential threat of long historical duration, which we must permanently protect ourselves against.

The new polling data must neither be ignored and brushed aside as irrelevant, nor appeased by mimicry of models.   

Many Tamil politicians and liberal commentators forget Sri Lanka’s bitter experience with the Vardharajaperumal administration (from which I had resigned a year before, alarmed at the trends behind the scene), which made an Unilateral Declaration of Independence but could not be instantly dissolved by the Government without first bringing amending legislation which made that possible. 

What is needed by way of response is neither a model that is so tightly closed and claustrophobic that it generates irredentist sentiment, nor one that is so carelessly open that it permits irredentism.

This brings us to positions 3, 4 and 8. The last is probably the most attractive but seems unrealistic at the moment. The lamentable fate of the Equal Rights Bill presented by President Kumaratunga in 2000, withdrawn in the face of agitation by alumni of certain leading (boys and girls) schools in Colombo and the JVP run Inter University Students and Bhikku Federations, shows how far we are from that level of enlightened consciousness. As Mr Anandasangaree correctly reminds us, the easy abolition of Section 29, the anti-discrimination clause of the Soulbury Constitution, gives the minorities no reason to trust a solution devoid of political space and some measure of self governance.

That leaves Positions 3 and 4: 13th amendment Classic and 13th amendment Plus.

Position 3 and possibly 4 are the only ones with significant support from the Sinhala public and some support from some Tamils (both North and East). Thus 13th amendment Classic passes the test. (Arguably, so does 4, but this is a stretch).

Most recently at the SAARC summit, President Rajapakse has rightly re-iterated his government’s commitment to Position 3, “the comprehensive implementation of the 13th amendment“, drawing attention to the Eastern process with its elected Chief Minister and expressing his belief that the Northern Province will similarly possess a Chief Minister. Given that the Sri Lankan armed forces have gained the strategic initiative and are on the strategic offensive, this is a prospect for the foreseeable future. In his remarks the President also left room for submissions by the APRC.

Recent retrospectives surrounding the Karadzic trial regarding the events in former Yugoslavia recall the disaster of the holding of a referendum in Bosnia in 1992, with the Serbs abstaining and the Bosnian Muslims voting in favour. This was the schism that resulted in civil war. Bosnia shows the absolute imperative on avoiding a referendum in an ethnically or ethno-religiously polarised society, and therefore the imperative of avoiding any proposals that require a referendum.

This is why the only man with a roadmap, Douglas Devananda, has embraced President Rajapakse’s “comprehensive implementation of the 13th amendment” as the  only feasible start, while placing the 13th amendment Plus, and even consideration of the Indian model, as subsequent stages of political evolution. Between the various stages of his gradualist formula lie periods of the broadening of consensus and the building up of trust between the communities over time and through practical experience.

  • The Under Dog

    Seems the govt. is implementing option 2, 13th amendment lite without police and land powers. Ministers Dilan Perera and Rajitha Senaratne have just formed a group to lobby for full implementation. JHU/JVP/NPF and assorted nationalist groups have said they will oppose them, and Basil Rajapaksha, in a recent interview stated that it is only people in Colombo that want police and land powers given to the east (according to him Pillaiyan is satisfied with what he has). Basil is clearly signaling (and I assume Aiya goes along with him) that option 3 is off the table, even though they may pay it some lip service.

    Do you think we have lessons to learn from the current conflict between Russia and Georgia over Ossetia? (think India=Russia; Sri Lanka=Georgia, Northern province=Ossetia). IF the BJP adopts a a more hyper version of their Hindu nationalism for the next election, they might adopt a very aggressive stand towards us to suck up to Tamil Nadu opinion. Narayanan is also firing a few shots across our bow about the post-Wanni battle scenario. A BBC article said of Georgia’s actions, that if you’re going to hit a bear on the nose, make sure it is tied down. In the post-Wanni battle time period, if we aren’t careful about curtailing the Sinhala supremacists, they just might rouse our neighbouring bear into action.

  • Dayan Jayatilleka

    I’m in broad agreement with UnderDog’s cautionary second paragraph, though i can’t quite concur with his first para, not least because there ‘s no source for his quotes, or basis for his assumption. why assume that the president agrees with what someone else said (however close that someone is) rather than what he himself said? the same dynamic that re-instated the province as the unit of devolution will see to the full implementation of the 13th amendment.

  • The Under Dog

    Sorry, should have inserted links:
    Movement for devolution:

    Basil’s interview:
    The important excerpt:
    Q: Don’t you think police powers should be vested with the provinces?
    A: Again, this is not a concern for the people living there. I think this matter is a concern only for the people in Colombo but the people at the provincial level are enjoying the powers. The people down the line have other issues to look into. They are not worried about these powers.

  • Your opposition to a referendum is very weak. If Serbs did not vote in a referendum, the lesson to be learnt is that all traditional inhabitants of the disputed areas should be encouraged to participate in a referendum – not that referendums are bad.

    Referendums have been used successfully all over the world and will continue to be used as it is the only method giving a voice to the affected people. Please stop clutching at straws in opposing a referendum.

    And, just in case you dont get it: A referendum is the only just way known to man to solve the Sri Lankan ethnic conflict. Whether Sri Lanka (and India) will work to deny justice to the Tamils is a different issue.


  • wijayapala

    Reposting my response at

    “Position 3 and possibly 4 are the only ones with significant support from the Sinhala public and some support from some Tamils (both North and East). Thus 13th amendment Classic passes the test.”

    The problem with Dayan’s enthusiastic support for the status quo solution (“13th amendment Classic”) is that neither Sinhalese nor Tamils share his enthusiasm for the 13th Amendment. As Dayan very well knows, the 13th Amendment was imposed by India and JR with zero input from any community, and it should come to no surprise that it led to BOTH the JVP uprising and the Tamil rejection of the ill-fated NEPC.

    “13th amendment Classic,” in other words, is a solution where both Sinhalese and Tamils will walk away feeling cheated. Any subsequent misgovernance could be pinned on this solution by either community. It is a recipe for disaster in the long-term, if not the near-term.

    Dayan shares the same problem of most SL political commentators in that he sees a political solution in LINEAR terms (ie along a spectrum from no devolution to confederalism/separatism, with the exception of solution #8). If he has any serious interest in a political solution, he and his fellow travelers will have to think outside of the box.

  • Ekcol

    Dayan and his govt are IN THE BOX. It is not fair to ask him or the Rajapakses “to think outside the BOX. If Dayan had access outside the box, he would not be dreaming about Post Vanni scenarios.
    Pillayan does not want SL police powers because he has his own police powers.

    As the 13th amendment was not put to a referendum, I challenge Dayan to get the President to put, “Full implementation of the 13th Amendment to an unbinding referendum of the people to know what percent of the Sinhala voters would say yes to it. The answer is known to everyone.

  • dayan jayatilleka


    no referenda. that’s a bottom line. the full implementation of the 13th amendment, or 13 plus with a right-sized plus (but within the unitary framework) is as good as its gonna get. and where is pillaiyan quoted as saying he doesn’t want it?

    as for the box, one person’s box is another’s ground reality. check the CPA sponsored irish studies centre polling data.

  • The Under Dog

    The general anathema to federalism amongst the majority of Sinhala is largely because it has been marketed to them purely as a solution to the ethnic problem, and not as a solution to their own every-day problems of governance. When you distill the problem to its bare innards, the issue has always been that government operates from Colombo, and so the rest of the country gets neglected–out of sight, out of mind. Education, health care, infrastructure–the disparity between the standards in the western province in comparison to the other provinces is glaring. Even in sport: the National cricket team was mostly made up of colombo-school graduates, until Sanath turned up and then there was a mad rush to find talent in the rest of the country. We get a President from the south and all of a sudden there’s development in the south. The North central province will have to wait till they have their man/woman as president to get some attention to their needs.

    Why was the southern youth so ready to join violent insurrection? The Sinhala masses also need to have their government closer to them and made up of them (at the provincial level, with real powers to effect real development). But few politicians have attempted to sell federalism to the masses as a solution to these issues. It’s a shame, especially since politics is supposed to be the art of the possible. Without diluting it (which will satisfy some and piss off others), Federalism proper (with innards intact) needs to be relaunched under a new brand, new logo, new mission statement, and we just might finally sell it. Mahinda could do it. He’s the Sinhala poster boy; he’s also got the guile and the political acumen. Does he have the will? That’s where people like Dayan who are on the inside come in (and I know Dayan takes a lot of flak for being on the inside, but I’m glad people like him are there). Dayan needs to promote this to the President. The Sinhala supremacists have his ear right now, so Dayan, it’s up to you to shout some sense into the other ear. Good luck!

  • Dayan Jayatilleka

    Thanks. Except i’m not sold on federalism right now, either.

    As I’ve said else where, if devolution within a unitary state is good enough for Northern Ireland’s Catholics, after decades of romantic struggle, it should be good enough for Sri Lanka’s Tamils.

  • Ekcol

    If you want to know who said what from your govt’s propaganda machinery, hire somebody to keep track. One of the govt personal said that Pillayan did not watn police powers and he did not know why those living in Colombo want police powers for the East. I gave you my answer why Pillayan did not want police powers!!! Get it!

  • wijayapala

    Dear Ekcol,

    “Dayan and his govt are IN THE BOX.”

    I think I may have been unclear in my comment. My words were not simply directed at Dayan and the govt. (actually most people in the govt. are totally clueless politicians and don’t even have a box to think within!). I was thinking of the pro-federalists among the liberal Sinhalese (i.e. “civil society”) and the Tamil moderates.

    The pro-federalists share the same intellectual box as Dayan, they only have different positions within that box. Dayan occupies position 3, his buddy Douglas is position 4, the less-mercenary Tamil moderates like Anandasangaree and the APRC Majority are position 5, and Colombo theorists like Edrisinha and Asanga Welikala are position 6. I think they would all agree that devolution MUST follow one position along this no devolution-confederation spectrum. They lack the ability to think OUTSIDE this spectrum, to see devolution in qualitative (what kind of devolution) as opposed to quantitative (how much devolution of power) terms.

    Recent scholarship indicates that federal stability (or devolution stability if you prefer) rests not on how much power is devolved but rather the political dynamics and relationship between the national and subnational levels of government. In English, this comes down to 1) the nature of the party system (i.e. are the same major parties at the national level also competitive at the regional level?) and 2) the fiscal relations between the national and regional levels. For example, in most of the chitter-chatter on the “devolution debate,” no one really talks about what kind of taxation powers the regional governments should have.

  • wijayapala

    Dear The Under Dog,

    “Federalism proper (with innards intact) needs to be relaunched under a new brand, new logo, new mission statement, and we just might finally sell it. ”

    You are 100% correct in arguing that the Sinhalese reject federalism because they don’t see what’s in it for them (i.e. governance). I applaud you for acknowledging what the pro-federalists have generally missed or ignored.

    What needs to be added, though, is the unfortunate reality that federalism really does not have much to offer, and according to modern scholarship it will **NOT** guarantee better governance than a unitary system. A scholar named Erik Wibbels wrote a very ground-breaking book called Federalism and the Market entirely on this topic. He basically argues that most of the hype that federalism/devolution = democratic development is based on studies of Western and wealthy federations.

    When you look at developing federations, though, you will find that they tend to have poorer macroeconomic performance and be more vulnerable to economic crises. This is because unlike Western federations, developing federations tend to be post-colonial constructs featuring a developed metropolis (i.e. Colombo) surrounded by a grossly underdeveloped hinterland (Uva, Hambantota, Wanni, Eastern Province), the latter often financially dependent on the metropolis.

    When such states become federations, the regions having the metropolis will have a far greater advantage than the hinterland regions, be self-sufficient, and will oppose sharing their resources with the poorer regions. The hinterland regions conversely will be dependent on the central government for handouts, and thus their elected leaders will follow the tune of the central government and not be accountable to their electorates.

    This trend is patently visible in Dayan’s current “13th amendment Classic.” Why do you think PC elections get such a low turnout compared with Presidential or parliamentary elections?

  • dayan jayatilleka

    haven’t all you guys missed my listing of a position outside the box, namely perspective No 8, argued for most recently and lucidly by prof Nira Wickramasingha?

  • dayan jayatilleka


    you can’t come up with the most outrageous sayings and not back them with a source. that makes them pure fiction. obviously you are neither a good journalist nor decent academic, because those two categories are innoculated against such procedures.

  • The Under Dog

    Wijayapala: as before, an enlightening point. But, I think (hope) the imbalances could be rectified in a good free market economy. Colombo is the center of economic activity mostly because of the port, so historically all business has revolved around it. But what if John Keells (which company is registered in colombo) had to pay taxes from their hotels to the provinces they are located in; what if the rice basket areas added a sales tax to the rice going to the other provinces, etc. Also, I think untapped resources could be tapped if the provinces are given full control of them–such as the ports in the east, south (maybe even the north). Perhaps the north might consider building a bridge to Tamil Nadu (won’t that scare the nationalists!). The point is there’s a lot of neglected opportunities, simply because the center didn’t see the need for it. Why have another port when you can simply expand the existing one (whereas the eastern province would think, let’s compete with colombo port and take some business away; let’s improve our infrastructure so that it is cheaper for manufacturers to set up in our province etc. The competition will be good for Sri Lanka). Above all, the feeling that they are in control of their destiny. Also, perhaps we could have a federal tax of some sort that goes to the central government, which hopefully would send more money to the places needing it (assuming there is balanced representation in the center too). Couldn’t federalism be made to work with some tweaks?

  • Lord Mansfield once said “true liberty can exists only when justice is equally administered to all”. The problem we have in Sri Lanka(SL) is the oppression arising from political injustices, in various forms, to the Tamils citizens in general and to the people of North East (NE) in particular. The first major injustice arose from the adamant refusal to grant self rule through Federalism.

    Therefore, any political solution we suggest or think should restore the injustices inflicted to the Tamils thus far, from the year 1956.

    Any people cannot restore any inflicted injustices unless they know genuinely the wrong done to someone else. Self analysis is vital for remorsefulness.

    The Sinhalese politicos and the Sinhalese owned media have developed, over the past 60 years, a “culture of injustice” to Tamils and are arrogantly holding on to it. Resultantly, there is a united Sinhalese refusal to grant the legitimate right of the people of NE to rule themselves. SL is deaf to any advise from others.

    SL was thrown out of the UN Human Rights Council because the government and the Sinhalese do not want to listen to anybody, even if it is pertaining to justice to grant human rights to Tamils. IIGEP experts, appointed by the Commonwealth, with a view to install a proper and equitable justice system, had to abandon their work for lack of willingness from the government.

    When the Sinhalese are unable or unwilling to think justly and walk humbly, liberty cannot come at all to the people living in the areas of NE.

    We all should understand clearly that what happened in 1948, when Ceylon became a dominion under Britain was the creation of the union of three earlier kingdoms. The union was a marriage brokered by Britain.

    When the South unilaterally declared SL to be a republic in 1972, with constitutional contents unjust to Tamils, the Tamils realised that the marriage was not working at all and decided in 1977, by popular vote, to create Tamil Eelam. The marriage was not working because of “a dominant and stubborn husband”. From 1977 upto now there are no meanigful signs that the marriage would ever work. Because of failure to institue timely divorce, the husband is even cruely beating up the wife and children !!! There is a violent and cruel War.

    There are only two possible options when nations come to a “point of no return” in unworkable marraiges of nations.

    Firstly, there is the option of an “amicable divorce”. More than 100 years ago Norway and Sweden boldly took that decision. That decision was highly appreciated by Lenin. About 50 years ago Malaysia and Singapore took the same decision for an “amicable divorce”. All the “divorced” countries are doing very well now. SL has the option to decide as to whether NE should be amicably divorced.

    Secondly, there is the option of “violent break up”. If amicable divorce fails, the second option becomes inevitable, if the husband nation is adamant and stubborn. This happened within 50 years in the former Soviet Union and Yugoslavia. SL should realise that the second option is more hurting than the first one.

    Courage and wisdom are required to bring about “amicable divorce” in the island instead of doing things for “a violent break up” resulting in hatred, enmity and destruction. The pertinent question is “Do we have a strong leader capable of doing just that? My answer to the question is an unequivocal “NO” .

  • nihal pathirana

    Sam the people in the East does not want a seperation Karuna and Pillayan has categorically stated they do not want eelam give what colombo gets. The TULF leader former Member of the parliament for Killinochchi is one of the signitary to the Vaddukkoddy convention has appealed to Prbhakren to to give up this unachievable dream of Ellam refer island (2o/02/08 ). The sinhalese Tamils and Muslims and other groups have each others hospitality for generations and it is only the imagination of Prabhakaren that Sinhalese are immersed in the poison of racism and blaming Prabhakaren spitting communal venom for personal gains claming that he is the sole reprasentive of the Tamils.
    Sam hatred cannot be ceased by hatred only way is to show compassion and forgiveness. Pillayan is being touch with kindness when he knew that the Sinhala woman whose husband was murdered by the LTTE offered him food while he was hungry starving in the jungle.
    A new star has reborn in the East the North too will be liberated soon

  • wijayapala

    Dear The Under Dog,

    “I think (hope) the imbalances could be rectified in a good free market economy.”

    Believe me I don’t get any joy or delight out of disagreeing with you- if you were correct and federalism is a magical solution that will synchronize all communities and class groups into harmony and remove all misgovernance then I would be a total federalist fanatic. My skepticism if not total opposition to federalism is not based out of any fear of Tamils but rather the growing research on federalism and governance in the developing world.

    Erik Wibbels wrote his book ENTIRELY to demolish the myth that federalism and free market are a magical winning combination for developing countries (incidentally his specialty is Latin America and he probably is not familiar with Sri Lanka.. also he is not a leftwing socialist). If you have a serious interest in federalism then I would highly recommend reading either his book (which is unfortunately very expensively available on, maybe a nearby university library will have it) OR a book by Jonathan Rodden called “Hamilton’s Paradox” which covers a lot of the same ground and is much cheaper (although I prefer Wibbels’s book).

    “But what if John Keells (which company is registered in colombo) had to pay taxes from their hotels to the provinces they are located in; what if the rice basket areas added a sales tax to the rice going to the other provinces, etc. Also, I think untapped resources could be tapped if the provinces are given full control of them–such as the ports in the east, south (maybe even the north).”

    Your suggestion that tax authority should be highly devolved to the regions resonates with Wibbels’s and Rodden’s prescriptions- the regions must have the ability to levy and collect (not merely collect) their owntaxes to pay for their spending and rely as little as possible on the central govt. Imagination at the regional level is necessary for the regional govts. to find revenue sources. Unfortunately, there is a catch:

    The raising of all these various taxes does not jive with the free-market ideal of less taxes. If John Keells had a choice between investing in a unitary state where it would have to pay only the central govt. versus a federation where it has to pay off two separate governments, which country would it choose? Additionally, how would poor regions like Uva which have neither natural resources or tourism for a tax base be able to fend for themselves?

    To put it in very simple terms, federalism is expensive: you have to pay for not one government but multiple governments with all the attendent extra overhead, administration etc. that makes federations overall more inefficient than unitary states. Now don’t get me wrong- if this inefficiency is acceptable for all the communities- Tamils, Sinhalas, Muslims etc.- then I think it is a price worth paying. But nobody, not even the Tamils will support a system which is inefficient to the point of uselessness (i.e. Dayan’s 13th Amendment Classic).

    “Perhaps the north might consider building a bridge to Tamil Nadu (won’t that scare the nationalists!).”

    Actually most of the SL Tamils I know would totally oppose this and one friend even told me that he would blow it up if it occurred. I don’t know what the TN Tamils would think but those in the Tuticorin area would prefer to dredge the Sethusamudram Canal than build a bridge.

    “Also, perhaps we could have a federal tax of some sort that goes to the central government, which hopefully would send more money to the places needing it (assuming there is balanced representation in the center too)”

    This is exactly the sort of thing which Wibbels and Rodden say would ruin a developing federation. Regardless of whether “balanced representation” (if such a thing is realistically possible) exists and apportions central revenue “fairly,” any revenue which the central govt. hands over will be treated as “free money” by the regional governments, and there will be little accountability in how such money will be spent. Instead of being used for sustainable development, regional governments in poor countries tend to waste it to provide jobs and contracts for cronies. The same thing happens at the central level when the govt. gets free handouts from the IMF, World Bank, ADB etc., but the central govt. tends to have less-politicized bureaucracies than regional governments.

    Take a look at ANY federation (rich or poor) and you will see that the poorer regions tend to be more corrupt and wasteful. The reason is NOT that poor people are stupid and like to vote for criminals. The reason is that these poor regions tend to be more reliant on outside aid and the people will vote for those who have the best access to resources.

    Rodden in his book had a case study of GERMANY of all countries, a fabulously wealthy nation that has the highest subnational debt in the EU and is having problems upholding its commitments to Maastricht. That is because the Lander (regional governments) get all their money from the central govt. and the poor regions like Saarland and Bremen are more wasteful.

  • wijayapala

    Dear dayan,

    “haven’t all you guys missed my listing of a position outside the box, namely perspective No 8, argued for most recently and lucidly by prof Nira Wickramasingha?”

    Actually if you look closely at my first post, you will see that I did not miss #8. However, in your own article you said:

    “This brings us to positions 3, 4 and 8. The last is probably the most attractive but seems unrealistic at the moment.”

    I saw no point in discussing an idea that you yourself had rejected. That left us with 3 & 4, a choice between the totally failed status quo that nobody in SL likes yet you endorsed, and an enhancement of the totally failed status quo which you called a “stretch.”

    I will say this about Nira Wickramasinghe’s ideas- if the Tamils feel that they are a 2nd class or inferior community in SL due to Sinhala apathy/ignorance, then you can forget about any sort of devolution or 13th Amendment as a conflict resolution mechanism. We would be better off with no devolution and retrieving the pre-13th Amendment unitary state.

    The basic structure of the 13th Amendment fails to address many things, including: 1) the unit of devolution and 2) how these units will be self-sustainable and not dependent on Colombo (see my post to The Under Dog). The Province is not the ideal unit for many reasons. It was originally designed by the British in the 19th century to administer the colony and was later replaced/updated by the District to better serve the people. Today the administrative machinery of the country is located at the District and Division level, not the Province. Nor is there any sense of Provincial identity- a “North-Central pride” or “Uva identity” that merits devolution based on Province.

    For the Tamil perspective, the 13th Amendment plus or minus does not answer the question of N-E merger or demerger. The Province, much like the rest of the 13th Amendment, is useless.

  • nihal pathirana

    Dayan Please refer to Karunas latest interview with sunday observer (17/08/08)and also President Rajapakses interview with India today magazine on (7 /02/08]. Karuna has said no need of addtional police powers, in my opnion 13th A is quite enough adressing our issues and all powers should be vested with central goverment., areas what they need is economic devlopment. President Rajapakse in his IndiaToday magazine intervied by Raj Cengappa” Why not have a fedreal systom like india. He said fedrelism is out it is a suspicious word linked to seperatism maximum devolution is under a unitary state is the mandate he got from the people. What i think is fedrealism is anethma to the sinhalese is due to sinister intensions of india as they wanted srilanka to be one of their prtotecterates.The maximum devolution under a unitary state is the best for srilanka

  • Ekcol

    Federalism is like a hammer in the hands of a child. He will hit everything in sight. Sri Lanka need a unique solution based on the lessons learnt from the past. The fears of the Sinhala on the consequences of a federal solution makes it unworkable. Fundamentally the two communities have gone so far apart that the connecting tissues are broken and petrified. Separation is our only option. But that will not happen without the consent of the Sinhala or the IC.
    Seriously, can you propose something, in or out of the box, that is reasonable which the Tamils and Sinhala will agree on???

  • wijayapala

    Dear nihal pathirana,

    “Karuna has said no need of addtional police powers, in my opnion 13th A is quite enough adressing our issues and all powers should be vested with central goverment., areas what they need is economic devlopment.”

    Although I do not consider Karuna an expert of constitutional matters, he is correct that economic development is key to winning back the east. The problem is that the 13th Amendment, enhanced or otherwise will not bring development to the east or any other part of Sri Lanka.

  • wijayapala


    “Seriously, can you propose something, in or out of the box, that is reasonable which the Tamils and Sinhala will agree on???”


    The Sinhalese ideally want no devolution, because for them devolution adds another layer of useless politicians who waste precious resources. The Tamils want devolution for their areas, but they have not thought out very well what form it should take (which is one reason among many why there are stuck with the LTTE).

    What is needed is a flexible model of devolution that will give devolution to ***only those areas which desire it.*** To my knowledge there are two countries that have followed this concept- UK and Spain. Both are unitary states which pursued devolution to meet minorities’ needs. In my view Spain’s example has the most to offer SL.

  • Nihal

    The problem with Sinhalese is they “buy out” Tamil politicos in position. If the South is sure that the Tamils do not want Tamil Eelam, why can’t the governemnt ask the UN to hold a referendum in the North East to see the popular demand of the people there ?

    You know the answer. That is why you do not speak about it.

    Karuna and Pillayan has categorically will have to say that they do not want Eelam because they are the mouth piece of Mahinda Rajapakse, who popped him from nowhere to power.

    .They want the Colombo to decide what North East Tamils should get. Don’t you see a slave there !! He is not interested in rights of even his own people. He is only interested in pleasing the master !!!

    You say that the ” TULF leader former Member of the parliament for Killinochchi is one of the signitary to the Vaddukkoddy convention has appealed to Prbhakren to to give up this unachievable dream of Ellam”

    If he did not believe in Tamil Eelam why did he sign it in the first instance ? Is he not a real fake ? It is such fakes that have made Tamils to be more slaves and the Sinhalese to be very oppressive. The problem has deteriorated to this level because of such fake politicos.

    He is not the “leader of TULF” per se. He is a rebel who holds that position because of the “judiciary” of the goverenment. If he does not say it he will fail to make the Tamils to be more slaves.

    Starngely, you see only few rebels who support your views. I repeat again let us ask for a referendum in the North East to see what the people want. Pillayan, Karuna and Sangaree are not the only persons living in the North East.

    The East is yet to be liberated. It is in the hands of a prar military. North East will be liberated only when people there start to rule themselves under a sovereign Tamil Eelam. As I said earlier, let us wait and see what would happen.

  • Ekcol

    Am Amb Blake may think 95 percent of Tamils may accept such a solution, but that is Am propaganda and no one pays attention to it. But when well informed person like you say Tamils will accept any solution under a unitary state I have to assume that there is no solution in sight. Tamils know from recent history that Sri Lanka is no UK or Spain. Sinhala Sri Lanka policies, democratic or otherwise suit it, but it has no conception of what is it to consider the Tamil community as equals and share power.

    I am surprised that you still use the term minorities to denote a community of people. Tamils are not anybody’s minority. Nor are Sinhala a minority language in Asia. A language is a language, so are communities irrespective of their numbers. It is best, in discussion of ethnic conflict, to let the term “minority” to voting in parliaments or any other group meetings where those who lost have less votes than who won.

    The concept of devolution of powers assume that, in the case of Sri lanka, the powers are visted in the Sinhala majority that forms the gosl. “Sharing of Powers” is a better term because it assumes sharing between equals. To me it is commonsense. I think many others have expressed these ideas elsewhere. I think Sanjana does not use the term minorities when he refers to the Tamils in Sri Lanka.

  • nihal pathirana

    Sam its silly to say why cant the Srilankan goverment ask the UN to call for a referandum in the NE surely your Tamil diaspora could convence and do it with your powerful lobby in the UN
    Sam i understand you live in sydney enjoying the hospitality of the Australian goverment and getting a good education for your children due to unfortunate event in 1983 which you all had to leave Srlanka for foreign countries, which all polliticians of Tamils and Sinhalese have to take the blame for spitting communal venom for political gains. I do not think your second generation of your people living in foreign would ever go to Tamil eelam and work with their foreign accent under Prabhakren. The innocent tamil children in the north of srilanka who has never gone to school being used as cannon fodder, where as children of tamil diaspora enjoying going to foreign schools and universities dying daily for Eelam which is only a dream.The tamil girls used as suicide bombers its like destroying your future generation.

    Why i say Annandasagaree now belives Eelam is not acheivable , the day that LTTE assasinated Shri Rajive Ghandhi the greatest son of India, when his body was in flames he knew the corpse of Eelam too went with the same flames.
    Well the International community earlier had sympathy soon after 1983,all that is lost now, for killing innocent pilgrims at Anuradhapura bombing secred tooth relic in kandy,massurcering innocent civilians and mothers and babies, while sleeping in their villages during nights,killing buddhist priests at Arantalawa, the international community fully aware its the Tamil tigers who are responsible. The Eropean Union branded LTTE as trrrorist organisation after killing the oxford educated Kadragammer who is a Tamil respected by presidents and priministers of all over the world.The IC knows the tiger do human smuggling,drug trafficing arms dealings, fraudsters of credit card all over the world, and are languishing in jails today.please refer Dr Ranjan hoole adress to the Tamil diaspora in canada which i quoted from Srlanka Guardian 19/08/08.
    Iam quite happy that atleast Kauna, Pillayan who is responsible for many murders in the east now have embraced democracy, as they know that terrorism is not accepted in a civilised society to achieve goals.

    Sam your Eelam is only a dream , for your informationthere will be many sovereign states in india if call for referandums and plebicites, read Dr. Ranjan Hoole s adress to the Canadian Tamils, he is a interlectual man go for some settlement that is acceptable to tamils muslims and sinhalese so that all can live together Tamils are my friends we lived togther in Batticalo for many years at Bar road which i cannot forget.

  • Ekcol

    Nihal Pathirana,
    Can you suggest a solution that you think the two warring communities will accept? Please do not suggest the same solution that Dayan and others have suggested that either one or both communities have already rejected. Why can’t the two communities govern themselves and lay the foundation for cooperation, peaceful coexistence and work slowly towards a unity in the near future?

  • dayan jayatilleka

    why bother with all this speculation when the answers are already on this website, in the form of the centre for irish studies’ opinion poll, and the director’s own reading of the results?

  • The great fear of the sinhalese is that if tamils are allowed to manage their own affairs, especially in education and finance, they will progress far beyond the sinhalese and achieve prosperity long before them.
    This will happen as tamils are disciplined, hardworking, incorruptible and consider education as most important in their lives. These traits along with honesty and trustworthyness are why the english colonial rulers entrusted many of them with tasks in their governance.
    After 1948, the canard was spread that tamils were “favoured” by the english rulers.
    When disproportionate numbers of tamils qualified for and passed out of, university during Sirimavo’s Regime a hue and cry arose that tamil dons favoured tamil students ! The infamous “mediawise standardisation” was thrust on tamils. This along with “sinhala only” and periodical attacks on tamil citizens, strengthened tamils’ cry for separation.
    The british “favoured” the sinhalse too – by entrusting them with supplying their troops with beef and other logistcs and rewarded them with titles and vast tracts of land.
    Hence full devolution under the 13th Amendment will never be granted by any sinhala dominated state.
    What is happening in the “liberated east” is a military government run by paramilitaries of the TMVP, EPDP and the STF with Pillayan as the figurehead
    The same happens in the north with Devananda as the figurehead.
    Noone dares to complain about anything.

  • dayan jayatilleka

    let’s get off this sinhala-tamil kick for a while. the perils of excessive provincial/ regional autonomy are on full view of the world in the form of the current events in Bolivia.

    so, from a strictly political science perspective (reinforced by my exerience with the vardarajah perumeal adminstration) i oppose tokenistic devolution as well as excessive devolution.

    let’s stick to — and push for — the full implementation of “13”.

  • Vichara

    13th Amendment goes beyond the powers enjoyed by an Indian State. Please read the three part article titled “13th Amendment is Indian Constitution Plus” which was carried in the Island News Paper, starting from Saturday the 8th.

  • aadhavan

    That is absolute rubbish. Pure unadulterated politically illiterate garbage. If you want to contest this, state your case.