Voicing concern over the fate of the 13th Amendment to Sri Lankan Constitution that agreed to devolve some authority to provinces, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa today called for a “bold stand” by India, saying it cannot remain a “passive bystander.” In a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, she referred to the March 27, 2013 resolution by the state assembly and reiterated her demand for the Centre moving a resolution in the United Nations Security Council for a referendum on ‘Tamil Ealam’ (homeland).
The 13th Amendment is part of the Indo-Sri Lanka Accord of 1987, whereby Colombo agreed to devolve some authority to provinces but that government had been giving indications of late that it may repeal it despite New Delhi’s concerns. Jayalalithaa told Singh that there were “disturbing signs” about Sri Lankan government not being serious about Tamils’ rehabilitation, besides its attempts to dilute 13th Amendment.
She said “our worst fears” on the intentions and motives of the present Sri Lankan regime appeared to be coming true, while referring to setting up of a Parliamentary Select Committee by President Mahinda Rajapakse to review the 13th Amendment. ”The hawkish Sinhalese right wing groups have been resorting to agitations and protests to pressure the Sri Lankan Government to repeal the 13th Amendment prior to the elections to the Northern Provincial Council proposed to be held in September later this year. In public statements, the Sri Lankan Defence Secretary, Gotabhaya Rajapakse has directly called for the repeal of the 13th Amendment,” she said.
She said a delegation led by Sri Lankan Minister Basil Rajapakse had also met External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid, “presumably to justify their stand in this matter.” Jayalalithaa said people of the state and elswehere are “justifiably alarmed” over the move and charged the Lankan government with never being serious about genuine devolution of powers.
The merger of Northern and Eastern provinces into one administrative unit as contemplated in the accord was ”dismantled” by the Lankan Government in 2007, following an order of the Sri Lankan Supreme Court nullifying it, she said. ”The demerger of the North Eastern Council has to be construed as a serious setback to the Indo Sri Lankan accord and, perhaps, as a sinister first step leading to the eventual abrogation and repeal of the 13th Amendment, which has starkly appeared on the agenda now,” she said.
Jayalalithaa said India cannot afford to be a “passive bystander at this juncture,” saying “we have a commitment to protect the life and liberties of Tamils in Sri Lanka, whose distinct identity and cultural presence in Sri Lanka, particularly in the Northern and Eastern regions, was the guiding principle behind the accord that led to notification of the 13th Amendment to the Sri Lankan Constitution.”
India should see to it that reconciliation, rehabilitation and reconstruction of Tamils, by establishment of democratic institutions of Self-Government, was “not derailed by the insidious attempts now being made by the Sri Lankan Government to jettison the 13th Amendment,” she said.
Such a development would spell doom for the lives and liberties of Lankan Tamils, who will again face the prospect of a return to thraldom (bondage, slavery, servitude) under the Sinhalese military and majority, she said while expressing fears of impact to the security in the region. “In the present turn of events, when the Sri Lankan Government is acting with impunity to take away even the limited political rights available to the Tamils, I strongly urge Government of India to take all possible steps to bring pressure to bear upon the Sri Lankan Government not to take any steps to repeal or even dilute the 13th Amendment in any manner,” she said.
New Delhi should ensure the process of democratic decentralization, integral to the survival of Tamils in Sri Lanka, was in no way jeopardised. “I hope that the Government of India, as a leader in the region and as a champion of human rights and democracy, will decisively take a bold stand in support of the much discriminated against and long suffering Tamil minorities in Sri Lanka,” she said.
Jayalalithaa also referred to the Mar 27, 2013 resolution adopted by the Assembly and said she wished to reiterate it. The Assembly had adopted a strongly-worded resolution demanding a referendum for a separate Tamil Eelam (homeland) in the United Nations Security Council.