Among proponents of devolution as a means of power-sharing in Sri Lanka, one of the key bones of contention about the Thirteenth Amendment has been the Concurrent List. This is the list of competences, or ‘subjects’ as they are called in the constitution, over which powers are shared between the central government and the Provincial Councils. This list is part of the broader distribution of powers and functions that are arranged in three lists in the Thirteenth Amendment, the other two being the Reserved List and the Provincial Council List. This tripartite arrangement was no doubt influenced by the Indian constitution, which was the sole comparative referent during the drafting of the scheme of devolution in 1987. The significant difference of course was that devolution in Sri Lanka was intended to function within the hierarchy of norms and institutions dictated by the foundational constitutional concept of the Sri Lankan republic, the unitary state, whereas the Indian system operates according to a federal logic.

In the years since, the manner in which the Thirteenth Amendment was implemented, or more accurately, improperly and incompletely implemented, led devolutionists to identify a range of design defects in this framework. These included the powers and functions of the provincial governor, the fiscal and financial framework, the ‘National Policy’ clause, and the Concurrent List. These criticisms, which were and are legitimate in the context of the reluctant and parsimonious way in which successive Sri Lankan governments, and it might be added, the higher bureaucracy and judiciary, have approached devolution, added to the rejection of the Thirteenth Amendment by Tamil nationalist parties on other more fundamental political grounds. Eminent constitutional lawyers like the late Dr Neelan Tiruchelvam and Dr Jayampathy Wickramaratne, and other experts associated with the Majority Report of the APRC’s experts’ panel, have all reflected the position that the Concurrent List is a major impediment to devolution. Minister Tissa Vitharana’s consensus document based on the APRC deliberations also recommended the abolition of the Concurrent List. Likewise, in a thorough and well-informed analysis of the constitutional politics involved in the TNA’s potential participation in the Parliamentary Select Committee proposed by the President, D.B.S. Jeyaraj has recently argued for the removal of the Concurrent List as a core requirement of that process.

I have long felt, however, that these wholly valid criticisms of (a) the particular design of the Concurrent List in the Thirteenth Amendment, and (b) the numerous examples of the way in which the Concurrent List has been abused by the central government so as to denude provincial autonomy, do not add up to a persuasive case for the wholesale removal of the concept of concurrency itself from our constitution and system of devolution. Thus while I agree with the criticisms of the Thirteenth Amendment’s Concurrent List, I believe that responding to the resulting need for reform by abolishing the principle of concurrency itself is akin to using a sledgehammer to crack a nut. This position derives from a conceptual understanding of concurrency as an important element of constitutional interdependence within a devolved polity, as well as constitutional democracy more generally. I will elaborate on this in a moment, but first we need to understand the specific character of concurrent powers as established in the Thirteenth Amendment.

The Concurrent List (List III) enumerates 36 subjects, with some items further elaborated in sub-items. It includes planning (Item 1), education, educational services and higher education (Items 2, 3 and 4, except to the extent specified in Items 3 and 4 of List I), housing and construction (Item 5), acquisition and requisitioning of property (Item 6), social services and rehabilitation (Item 7), agricultural and agrarian services (Item 8), health (Item 9), co-operatives (Item 15), irrigation (Item 17), fisheries within territorial waters (Item 19), tourism (Item 22), food and drug standards (Items 30 and 31), and prevention of infectious diseases (Item 35).

From the perspective of constitutional design, it is quite easy to see why these policy areas have been demarcated as concurrent competences: infectious diseases, for example, do not recognise provincial boundaries and it is necessary therefore that governmental responses to them are co-ordinated between both central and provincial levels. And from the perspective of effective devolution and provincial autonomy, it is better that the constitutional framework designates these areas as concurrent jurisdictions, forcing central and provincial levels to work together (at least notionally), rather than vesting the subject entirely in one level or the other. The latter approach almost always favours centralisation rather than provincial autonomy.

The concept of concurrency in the Thirteenth Amendment is one of ‘central field pre-emption’. That is, central legislation over concurrent subjects prevails over provincial statutes when Parliament unilaterally deems it so. It is this unilateral power of override given to Parliament that attracts the criticism that concurrent powers are nothing more than an extension of the powers of the central government to the disadvantage of the provinces. While this is true, as the reasoning of the Supreme Court in the In re the Thirteenth Amendment case (1987) indicates, it is difficult to see how devolution can be made to fit within the overarching constraints of the unitary state and specific constitutional provisions (some of them entrenched) that give effect to it, without providing Parliament with such a power.

This of course opens up the biggest constitutional issue there is in post-war Sri Lanka: the question of the future of the unitary state. The Thirteenth Amendment probably reflects the maximum extent of provincial devolution that is theoretically possible within the particular conception of the unitary state that is enshrined in the present constitution, and even this is arguable when Justice Wanasundera’s powerful dissent in In re the Thirteenth Amendment is taken into account. Thus any serious traversal down the path of ‘Thirteenth Amendment Plus,’ to the extent it denotes an enhancement of the powers of Provincial Councils, would seem to require substantive changes to the unitary state, even if purely formally or symbolically it retains its place upon the constitutional text. If on the other hand Thirteenth Amendment Plus merely means the addition of a second chamber to the central legislature while retaining the existing or reduced range of provincial powers (i.e., minus police and state land powers), then a different set of political and legal questions arise. These are all interesting constitutional conundrums, but they must await discussion on another day. I am here only concerned with the more specific question about whether the solution to the problems of the Thirteenth Amendment’s Concurrent List lies in the abolition of concurrency, or in its reform.

Under the Thirteenth Amendment, both Parliament and Provincial Councils are empowered to legislate in respect of concurrent subjects. Provincial Council statutes on concurrent subjects may prevail over pre-existing central legislation, but Parliament can by resolution override the application of such statutes. Any future central legislation on a concurrent subject has pre-eminence over a provincial statute. This is obviously an extremely vulnerable framework that renders the notion of ‘concurrent’ competence virtually meaningless by allowing Parliament to legislate over Provinces at will. Even the weak safeguard in Article 154G (5) (a) that Parliament should consult Provincial Councils before legislating on the Concurrent List has almost entirely been observed in the breach. It is for these reasons that devolutionists feel that the Concurrent List should be abolished.

However, to reiterate the point made at the beginning: while criticisms of the particular design of concurrent powers as reflected in the Thirteenth Amendment are valid, it does not follow that the concept of concurrency itself is something that is necessarily contrary to devolution. Neither does it necessarily follow that the solution to this problem is a system of exclusive competences, which presages competition rather than co-operation between the central and provincial levels. It is likely that institutionalising such a competitive logic in the devolution framework would ultimately work in favour of the (by definition) more powerful central government, thereby frustrating the very provincial autonomy that devolutionists seek to protect.

The question of pre-eminence in the concurrent field need not be resolved by constitutionally privileging legislation of one or other tier of government, as in the case of the Thirteenth Amendment, where central legislation has automatic pre-eminence over provincial statutes. A genuine framework of real concurrence or shared competence would be one which enables decisions on which tier should prevail to be made on a case by case basis, by reference to democratically legitimate and constitutionally established principles such as subsidiarity, effectiveness, efficiency and so on. The example of education policy serves to illustrate how a sophisticated use of concurrency in a devolved system can help promote not only provincial autonomy together with state-wide co-operation, but also more generally enhance the quality of democratic government.

If we take secondary education as a policy concern in a democratic society, we see that policy-making must reconcile several layers of competing interests. Local government authorities, the level of government closest to the public, have an interest in the location of schools due to implications they have for local services. The provincial level may have another set of interests in secondary education such as the promotion of a regional language and culture. The central government has the responsibility for the protection of a further set of interests, including the assurance of state-wide educational standards and the regulation of examinations and qualifications. Seen this way, it becomes clear that policy formulation, legislation and executive implementation in regard to secondary education could be undertaken with optimum delivery on democratic expectations if institutions are designed not only to ensure representation for these multiple interests, but also to ensure that they work together. Locating secondary education in a well-designed field of concurrent jurisdiction therefore commends itself over exclusively privileging one tier of government, as the means by which participatory and representative democracy can be maximised.

From the viewpoint of democratic government, such a system seems to be preferable to both the over-centralisation that we see in Sri Lanka today (in which it is assumed, despite clear evidence to the contrary, that only the central government is capable of efficient delivery) or a system of exclusive competences. Obviously, not all policy areas need to be located and regulated within a field of concurrency. Large areas of policy would still belong within exclusive provincial or central competence. But this brief example I hope serves to demonstrate the general utility of the concept of concurrency, over and beyond the specific defects of the Concurrent List in the Thirteenth Amendment.

Even if concurrent powers are not designed by reference to a federal logic that presumes a co-equality of central and provincial institutions, it is possible to build in better safeguards for provincial autonomy. Such safeguards maybe both substantive and procedural, as well as institutional. Thus there needs to a better and clearer articulation of concurrent responsibilities in the constitutional text, which would minimise the opportunities for encroachment. There needs to be a more balanced method of determining pre-eminence within the concurrent field, by reference to clearly articulated principles such as subsidiarity and co-operation, rather than blunt assertions of central supremacy or provincial exceptionalism. Institutional safeguards could include formalised roles for the provincial level in central legislative and policy-making processes such as through a second chamber, and in the executive through inter-ministerial councils.

All multi-level systems, whether devolved unitary states or federal states, reflect a particular institutional configuration between self-rule at the periphery and shared-rule at the centre that answers to specific democratic requirements of each society. In post-war Sri Lanka, the central compulsion and requisite of constitutional reform is to discover this elusive balance, both with regard to the meta-constitutional norms of democracy and power-sharing as well as the particular forms and structures through which we give effect to them. While greater provincial autonomy is clearly needed, and over-centralisation drastically reduced, we should not lose sight of the shared-rule dimension in envisioning a future constitutional order that unites the peoples of Sri Lanka while guaranteeing their autonomy. Many may feel that this is an esoteric debate, and some may feel that the emphasis is misplaced, to the extent that the key focus of moderates, progressives and liberals in the context of the post-Eighteenth Amendment constitution and the problem of hyper-centralisation, should be stronger provincial autonomy. In this view, the democracy rationale only adds impetus to the older power-sharing imperative in the advocacy of greater devolution. I agree, but as I have argued, the debate about the forms and extent of stronger provincial autonomy cannot, and should not be conducted without regard to the way shared institutions are designed to function.

In this regard, in addition to other devices such as a second chamber, I strongly believe that the retention of a field of concurrent jurisdiction – understood as both a key organising principle of a devolved polity and as a norm of constitutional democracy – is particularly desirable. The concept of concurrency supports a co-operative rather than a competitive culture of multi-level governance. Its removal to make way for an exclusive division of subjects between the centre and the provinces may not necessarily ensure the desired protection of provincial autonomy. On the contrary, given the zero-sum nature of our political culture, an exclusive division of powers may well serve to institutionalise a deleterious culture of antagonism between different tiers of government, a tendency to which the crucial relationship between the Tamil-speaking provinces and the central government is especially vulnerable. The resulting constitutional deadlock and failure would be disastrous for our post-war society.

In redressing the problems encountered with the Thirteenth Amendment’s Concurrent List, therefore, we should be careful to avoid throwing the baby out with the bathwater, or if preferred, the champagne out with the cork.

 

  • Dr Dayan Jayatilleka

    A toast then (Dom Perignon of course), to Welikala’s essay! This is not only one of the best, but one of the most important interventions in the Sri Lankan policy debate that I have read in recent years.

    There is no higher compliment I can pay than to observe that Asanga’s analytical essay and its argument constitute the only feasible formula for the negotiated settlement of Sri Lanka’s ethnonational Question, certainly at this (postwar) stage of history.

    Asanga has homed in on and demarcated the only subject area that can and must be negotiated today. This is what the talks must be about and agreement can be about, and it always was for the last quarter century. The failure to grasp this was a cause of considerable bloodhsed and horror. It must not be repeated.

    I urge the translation of Asanga’s essay into Sinhala and Tamil and its widest possible publication in the mainstream media.

    Even more pressingly, it should be circulated as its stands, to all MPs, especially those who may participate in the Parliamentary Select Committee.

  • Thass

    Devolution is similar to delegation of responsibility in management terms. It is a more democratic model of governance where the stakeholders at grass roots level i.e. the people living in those areas, have a greater say in their futures. So it is a more user friendly format to govern the various provinces taking cognizance of their sensitivities, language etc. Governance by the people for the people.
    The Central model results in a top heavy unwieldy bureaucracy, which is remote from the people and more general in approach which may give rise to failures of governance at the periphery.
    Unfortunately in Sri Lanka we have half implemented the Provincial model whilst retaining the powers at the Center. So we have an unsatisfactory with duplicate Ministers and Powers resulting in various conflicts, corruption etc.
    So it is necessary for the Center to let go of the Provinces and allow them to work. At the same time the Center needs to trim its powers and cut down on the jumbo cabinet and members of Parliament who would become redundant.
    Purpose of having a second chamber is to have eminent people from all communities to filter any legislation passed by parliament. This would be useless if all the powers are retained by the Executive and having yes men in both houses. So repeal of 18A and other draconian legislation which reduced the powers of the legislature is called for.

    • wijayapala

      Dear Thass

      It is a more democratic model of governance where the stakeholders at grass roots level i.e. the people living in those areas, have a greater say in their futures.

      Actually the people do not gain a greater say. It is the local politicians who will get stronger through devolution.

      The Central model results in a top heavy unwieldy bureaucracy, which is remote from the people and more general in approach which may give rise to failures of governance at the periphery.

      But the devolution model replaces one unwieldy bureaucracy with many unwieldy bureaucracies with overlapping functions and inefficient redundancies. It increases the failures of governance at periphery.

      So it is necessary for the Center to let go of the Provinces and allow them to work.

      What if they do not work? Then Center will have to do work!

      So repeal of 18A and other draconian legislation which reduced the powers of the legislature is called for.

      Why not also repeal 13A as well?

      • Thass

        “Actually the people do not gain a greater say. It is the local politicians who will get stronger through devolution.”

        It is better to have local politicians than outsiders who have no contact with people of the area.

        “But the devolution model replaces one unwieldy bureaucracy with many unwieldy bureaucracies with overlapping functions and inefficient redundancies. It increases the failures of governance at periphery.”

        The bureaucracy at the pheriphery is already in place and is more accessible to the people than the central govt. Employs people of the area and has lesser overheads and costs.

        “What if they do not work? Then Center will have to do work!”

        Pure conjecture. Does the center do any effective work? There may be a few hiccups but can be fine tuned, no doubt.

        “Why not also repeal 13A as well?”

        For what reason?

      • wijayapala

        Dear Thass

        It is better to have local politicians than outsiders who have no contact with people of the area.

        Why would the local politicians have contact with people?

        The bureaucracy at the pheriphery is already in place and is more accessible to the people than the central govt. Employs people of the area and has lesser overheads and costs.

        But the provincial bureaucracy does not deliver services. Tell me, if you have children would you send them to a central government school or an underfunded and neglected provincial-run school where the teachers and administrators have little expertise?

        Does the center do any effective work?

        If it does not do any effective work, then how come the demand for devolution is next to non-existent in Sri Lanka?

      • Thass

        “Why would the local politicians have contact with people?”

        For instance I live in Maharagama. I can meet Shanti Kodikara and solve any problem without much hassle.

        “But the provincial bureaucracy does not deliver services. Tell me, if you have children would you send them to a central government school or an underfunded and neglected provincial-run school where the teachers and administrators have little expertise?”

        For instance I can visit the Pardeshiya Sabha at Maharagama and get any work done in 10-15 mts. To get your car revenue license it tokk me only 5 mts at the divisional secretariate Maharagama. I had a problem with my neighbour and solved by visiting my area Grama Sevaka.
        What I noticed is the provincial organisations are not allocated neccesary funds or facilities. Gramasevaka does not even have a fan in her office.
        Have you noticed the number of school vans entering Colombo every day. Why? Because the Central Govt is not allocating enough funds to develop the provincial schools. Who wants to send children to Colombo if there are good schools in their neighbourhood. Schools are there, buildings are their but no facilities, no teachers. Why? Please ask the Minister of Education.

        “If it does not do any effective work, then how come the demand for devolution is next to non-existent in Sri Lanka?”

        Center is a huge drag on the economy. Some 100 odd Ministers running around the countryside in SUV’s with back up vehicles. Kudu Karayas and thugs. See what nonsense they talk in parliment. Utter waste of taxpayers money.

      • Thass

        PS

        I would like the people living in Jaffna, Killinochchi, Batticalo, Amapara to have the same facilities, freedom and accessability we enjoy in Colombo and the Suburbs.

      • wijayapala

        Thass, sorry I had missed your earlier note.

        What I noticed is the provincial organisations are not allocated neccesary funds or facilities.

        If a provincial administration is elected, then it should collect the funds from the electorate. It should not receive funds from Colombo or other provinces.

        Center is a huge drag on the economy.

        You still did not answer my question- then how come the people do not support devolution?

        Some 100 odd Ministers running around the countryside in SUV’s with back up vehicles. Kudu Karayas and thugs. See what nonsense they talk in parliment.

        So it will be better with 500 odd provincial councillors in their own SUVs? Do they talk better nonsense in the Provincial Councils?

  • Dr.Rajasingham Narendran

    Asanga Welikala has made a good case for revisiting issues relating to devolution and power sharing with an open mind by those representing the majority and minority communities in Sri Lanka. We have been taught many lessons by our post-independence history, but are adamant that we will not learn our lessons.

    What is good for Sri Lanka as a nation should be the prime consideration. Should Sri Lanka be looked at as a nation of citizens or as a nation with diverse communities, with the Sinhalese being the overwhelming majority? Do the minorities need protection because the Sinhalese are the overwhelming majority? Do the Sinhalese need protection from the minorities? Should all citizens be equal in law and in fact, irrespective of their communal linkages? Do the minorities need communal enclaves to ensure their protection and survival? How could the minority identities be protected and treasured as an important part of our national mosaic? Should the state be identified with any one community, though it be the majority. These are the questions that need to be addressed seriously.

    May 18th/19th’09 should be a watershed in our history. The time is ripe for us to revisit our post-independence history and see where and why we have gone wrong. What is wrong with our present constitution and those that preceded it? What can we learn from other nations and their constitutional arrangements? If the present republican constitution is part of our political evolution, how can we correct it to become wholesome, balanced, accountable and more effective? How can we ensure greater checks and balances in our constitution?

    The 13th amendment is not sacrosanct. However, the reasons and circumstances why it became part of our constitution are sacrosanct. The 13th amendment may be the dirty bathwater, while the reason it became necessary is the baby. Do we need fresh and clean bath water, or continue to use the contaminated water and pretend it is good for the baby? Should the dirty bath water be filtered or be replaced? Do we need palliatives or drastic surgery?

    Can we address our problems honestly and sincerely? Should there be a mechanism working in parallel with the Parliamentary select Committee (PSC), such as a ‘ Constitutional Commission’ of eminent men and women, to make recommendations to the PSC. Should constitution making or re-making be left to the politicians alone? Are our politicians capable of becoming the ‘Founding fathers and mothers’ of a resurgent, modern, progressive,just, humane, scrupulously fair and compassionate Sri Lanka? Should we rely on the politicians to correct their mistakes and get rid of a system they have designed to serve their own ends? Can our politicians become statesmen/women? How can we redesign our constitution to transcend petty politics? Should we make constitutions/laws to serve our current short-term interests or to serve our long terms interest as one nation?

    While the armed forces have defeated separatism for now, it is the constitution, laws and how we conduct ourselves that will determine in the long term whether the ugly history will not repeat. It is also important for Sri Lanka to decide whether it wants to be vibrant mosaic of peoples and cultures or a mono-culture of one people, one language and one culture. It is time for Sri Lanka to decide whether it wants to be a great, though small nation or a mean, nasty, self-destructive little nation out of tune with this century.

    Dr.Rajasingham Narendran

  • Off the Cuff

    Dear Assanga Welikala,

    This is unquestionably the best thought provoking essay I have read on the subject of the 13th amendment and devolution on GV.

    Congratulations and thank you for initiating an inward look at the 13A.

    I see another dimension to the problem of devolution in the absence of a concurrent list sans central field pre-emption.

    How do we ensure that each citizen has an equal share of the country’s resources?

    Let’s look at Fisheries in territorial waters (item 19). We have several Land locked provinces. Can access to fisheries be restricted to these provinces via provincial legislation? It seems possible unless the Central Government has over riding power to establish a balance.

    Similarly the land locked provinces in the hill country has almost exclusive control of the rivers that originate within them. Hence they would be able to control Hydro power generation, Irrigation (item 17), Agriculture and Agrarian services (item 8), etc. Could they hold the other provinces to ransom by provincial legislation?

    Land is a Scarce Resource (it cannot be created). 85% of Land in Lanka is publicly owned. 54% of that Land is situated in the North and East. How do we ensure equitable distribution of that land amongst the Lankan Citizenry if the provinces have exclusive legislative control over it? This impinges on a wide range of the current concurrent list which depends on the use of land.

    Central Funding of any project that falls exclusively within provincial control cannot be justified as that would mean that citizens of other provinces will carry the burden without any benefit accruing to them.

    Foreign funds too cannot be used for any project that is within the exclusive control of a province as that would entail passing the burden of debt to those living outside the province.

    As we look into devolution and 13A in detail more vexed issues would surface.

    I believe that devolution should not compromise the birthright of each citizen to equally benefit from Lanka’s Resources. I believe that the inviolate underlying principle of devolution should be the safeguarding of that birthright.

  • Dr.Rajasingham Narendran

    The structural weaknesses in the Provincial Councils system are:

    1. The Governor: The only person who has direct executive power deriving from the constitution. He is appointed by the President and is his representative. All executive actions are taken in the name of the President. The Governor can exercise his powers directly OR through board of Ministers OR through the officers subordinate to him.

    2.Board of Ministers: Aid and advice the Governor in the exercise of his functions.

    3. Concurrent list: When parliament desires to pass an Act on a subject in this list it can do so provided however that it would consult the Provincial Councils. Here again, it is not mandatory for Parliament to give effect to the opinions expressed by the Provincial Councils,

    4. Provincial Council list: The subjects are considered FULLY DEVOLVED to the Provincisl Councils, SUBJECT to the national policy on each subject. PCs can pass statutes on these subjects. However, if any provision is inconsistent with the provision of any Act of Parliament passed after the 13th amendment, it will be invalid.

    Is it possible to redesign the PC system to make devolution meaningful? What is the likelihood of doing so? What are the alternatives?

    Dr.Rajasingham Narendran

    • Off the Cuff

      Dear Dr.Rajasingham Narendran,

      If a Constitution can be devised that will ensure that every citizen will enjoy Lanka’s resources equally and with equitably, which is their birthright, there would not be any need for a concurrent list.

      If National Policy holds the above Birthright as inviolate, then there could not be any valid objection by any PC in falling in line with National Policy.

      If the above can be met then there is no need to withhold executive power from the PC Board of Ministers and the powers of the Governor can be limited to ensuring the compliance of the above.

      It must be remembered that Parliament represents all citizens of Lanka and not just that of a Province.

      What in your opinion stands in the way of ensuring that every Sri Lankan enjoys their Birthright equitably and equally?

      • Dr.Rajasingham Narendran

        Off the cuff,
        “What in your opinion stands in the way of ensuring that every Sri Lankan enjoys their Birthright equitably and equally?”

        In my opinion the factors that stand in the way are:
        1. Our skewed political culture, where the state has come to be identified with the majority community in the country.
        2. Over politicization of all aspects of life and institutions in the country
        3. Constitutions with lofty words, but with plenty of loop holes to serve the needs of short-sighted and vicious politicians.
        4. Enfeeblement of all institutions including the law enforcment and justice systems.
        5. Third rate ,corrupt, violence-prone and self-seeking politicians without any lofty ideals, wisdom and intellectual capabiities/honesty.
        6. A third rate and mostly corrupt bureaucracy, which is seldom held to account.
        7. The abandonment of the principle of merit and performance as important considerations in public life. Boot licking of politicians has become the most important qualification and is now a fine art in Sri Lanka.
        8. A largely sectarian media, without an all encompassing nation building ideal.
        9. A failed education system that churns out tens and thousands of ‘non-thinking’, but literate persons
        10. Peoples who do not understand the meaning of democracy and without the guts to stand up for what is right.

        We are a people in search of impossible and hence elusive solutions to obvious problems. If there is good, honest and principled governance, we need not seek solutions through devolution, power sharing and constititutional changes. I feel that in the absence of the will to correct what is obviously wrong, with the mechanisms at hand, tinkering with the system will not produce the required solutions.

        Dr.Rajasingham Narendran

      • Off the Cuff

        Dr.Rajasingham Narendran,

        You wrote “If there is good, honest and principled governance, we need not seek solutions through devolution, power sharing and constititutional changes.”

        As you have pointed out yourself (with which I agree) we do not have principled governance. This means that we have to move in that direction. If the country as a whole does not have principled governance a start should be made at a lower level. So why not start with a province?

        To start with a province we should have a constitution that allows it to provide good governance.
        I refer you back to my previous post. The current constitutional provisions towards devolution are flawed. These flaws exist because of certain demands that gives rise to mistrust. The flaws are visible within the concurrent list, National Policy and the concentration of executive power in the governor instead of sharing same with the board of ministers.

        What are the demands that you identify as leading to this state of affairs?

        I believe that we should have devolution and shared power but not at the expense of any citizen being called upon to give up their birthright in favour of another. Equality has to be homogeneous.

        I expected Assanga Welikala to fertilise this discussion with his considerable knowledge. It is disappointing to note his absence, from the discussion he himself initiated.

  • Dr.Rajasingham Narendran

    Off the cuff,

    Devolution should be viewed as a tool for efficient management of the country. The communal factor or considerations should be taken out of the equation.

    Power sharing on the other hand should involve the minorities , villages, districts and provinces /regions, in governance at the centre and decision making. Here too, the emphasis should be on participatory democracy, rather than on communal identities.

    While the majority, in our instance the Sinahalese would have a major say in who or which party governs us, governance should not be majoritarian in nature and approach. What would be good for the citizens, irrespective of their communal identities should be the only consideration in governance. The concerns of identifiable minorities, should be taken into consideration in decision making. Democracy should protect the weak and the vulnerable. It cannot be rule by the bull-doser!

    Ultimately, what everything boils down to is good governance. This can be done with even the present constitution, if those in power know what needs to be done and how it should be done. The on-going investments in infra-structure development in the north and east is an example of how things can be done in the right way. This is a huge departure from what the situation was in the pre-Tamil militancy years.

    If we can establish the right precedence and acceptable conventions, we may succeed in overcoming our problems in all aspects of governance. The UK has no written constitution, but is an example today of democratic governance. What we need is a government responsive to the needs of all citizens and which has the mechanisms to perceive these needs, before they become a problem.

    Dr.Rajasingham Narendran