Three speeches last week revealed our future. Each concerned an aspect of this island’s fate.Together they show the whole. The Prime Minister announced that the country will have a new political system next year. That change has to be understood within a geopolitical and geo-strategic context signalled in two speeches, by an Indian Minister and a senior US official.
“India’s Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari informed Lokh Sabha yesterday that India will construct a bridge and tunnel linking Rameswaram in India with Sri Lanka…The project was also discussed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi with his counterpart during the latter’s recent visit, Gadkari said”.
(The Hindu, Dec 17, 2015)
Senior US official Thomas Shannon revealed in his Kadirgamar Institute lecture, the factor animating Washington’s Lanka policy: “To put it simply, stability and prosperity of the entire world is dependent on the stability of these vital energy and trade routes. And Sri Lanka is at the centre of this.”
The 2016 Constitution must be located at this intersection of Indo-US perspectives. It envisages the most drastic disruption of the Sri Lankan State formation arguably since 1833. The rupture would change the very type of State, implanting a new political matrix. We are being constitutionally reshaped to be integrated as a ‘chip’ into the Indo-US grand strategic matrix.
The PM’s Sujatha Jayawardena Memorial Oration contains the blueprint:
1. “…work within the structure of the 13th Amendment to the 1977 Constitution a unitary structure with further devolution of powers…The…task is to identify the additional powers to be devolved to the Provincial Councils…”
2. “…subjects and functions once devolved to the Provincial Councils should not revert to the Central Government even when Parliament legislates on national policies in regard to devolved subjects…”
3. “the future emphasis on devolution should be on the exercise of executive powers by the Provincial Ministers…enlarged executive power can be devolved to the Provincial Councils…[through] the apportionment of Executive Power between the Cabinet of Ministers and the Provincial Boards of Ministers”.
4. “…the Austrian system of devolution…would be a useful model”.
Having stated that “The emerging consensus is to work within the structure of the 13th Amendment “the PM admits later in his speech that” the apportionment of Executive Power between the Cabinet of Ministers and the Provincial Boards of Ministers” marks “a radical departure from the 13th Amendment”. How can one “work within” something (13A) and make a “radical departure” from it at the same time?
There can be “further devolution of powers”, i.e. “additional powers devolved to the provincial councils”, but this cannot be done “within a unitary structure” because the Supreme Court narrowly ruled in 1987 that the 13th amendment barely remained within the unitary structure, and that too because of the Executive Presidency which exercised executive power through the Provincial Governor. Any “further devolution of powers” would destroy the unitary structure.
Devolution means certain powers are transferred outwards/downwards by Parliament, which retains the right to retrieve such powers in exceptional situations, without which Parliament would not be sovereign.The PM’s description of the change he hopes to implement as well as the model he explicitly evokes, aren’t unitary. The PM’s model of devolution, Austria, is an explicitly, unambiguously FEDERAL State.
The 13th Amendment already has a concurrent list of powers shared between the centre and the provinces, in addition to powers which are the exclusive preserve of one or the other. The PM’s plan would make most powers either concurrent (shared) or devolved to the provinces, while powers enjoyed exclusively by the national legislature, representing the people of the country as a whole, will be few. If the powers wielded by the national Parliament are restricted to Defence, Foreign Affairs and Finance, that is a federal model.
What if the provincial legislature passes laws on subjects which the national Parliament too legislates on, but in the opposite direction from and in contradiction to the national Parliament? In the PM’s vision, the powers of that Provincial assembly will not be repealed.
However, badly the Northern or Eastern Province behaves (e.g. towards the Sinhala minority in Trincomalee and Ampara) its powers cannot be revoked by the national government under the new constitution. Our North is 19 miles from a huge landmass with 70-80 million co-ethnics, whose Chief Minister Jayalalitha handed an official note to Prime Minister Modi calling for support for Tamil Eelam. Soon it would be connected by a bridge, road and tunnel to Tamil Nadu, allegedly with our PM’s concurrence.
With the island constitutionally carved like a cake into self-governing segments, Sinhala national consciousness will atomize and disintegrate. Simultaneously the Constitution will facilitate and empower Tamil consciousness which is not merely provincial but sub-regional (Tamil Nadu) and global (South Africa, Malaysia, Singapore Diaspora). The new model would aggregate the North and East and pan-Tamilianism, while disaggregating the South and the Sinhalese.
Economic independence for provinces,shrinkage of the role of central government and neo-liberal privatization will impoverish some and enrich others,under-developing the largely rural Sinhala majority provinces. While they will be unable to compete, Western and Indian patronage and Tamil Nadu and Diaspora capital will flood the North and East.
The coming Constitution’s underlying logic is not national reconciliation,since deliberately deepened provincialism/regionalism will surely doom any Lankan consciousness.The real logic is (I) rewire and reprogram Sinhala consciousness so we can never win another war (II) ‘divide and rule’ the majority through hardcore provincialism (III) weaken the national state through multi-polarity. This will dismantle state barriers to Western and Indian politico-economic penetration, ownership and control.
Just as the Portuguese invaders’ fortress in Kotte was about to be overrun by Sitawaka Rajasinghe’s men when the rivalry between the Kotte and Kandyan kingdoms put paid to the siege, the new self-ruling provinces will be manipulable and pitted against each other by external powers, preventing unified national action.
Converting to the perennially pro-Western, pro-Indian doctrine of the Federal Party, the regime has crucified the island on the Indo-US axis. Tamil nationalism is logically pro-Western and pro-Indian because the Tamil Diaspora and Tamil Nadu are stakeholders in those societies — just as the West and India tilt to the Tamils for that reason.The national majority, including the national bourgeoisie,enjoys no such leverage.
This regime strategically de-linked from China’s counter-power which enabled us to win the war and rebuild as a modern country. It is the agenda of the Tamil bourgeoisie including the Diaspora capitalists, reflecting its interests, which pilots or guides the new regime. The regime serves the interests not of the organic national majority but of the minority elites with dense cross-border, transnational affiliations, networks and loyalties.
Under-secretary Shannon’s statement shows that the West wants us for where we are. It wants the regime to midwife a Tamil Kurdistan to serve as permanent proxy. The client regime aims to deliver that by changing who we are, destroying the memory of who we were and robbing us of what we won. Suckered by Western flattery, the client regime would produce a client Constitution to create a client State and citizenry.
The Wickremesinghe-Kumaratunga Constitution would murder the unitary State. The ‘national’ would be reduced to the mere arithmetical aggregate of self-ruling provinces. The Constitution will bear closest resemblance to the ideas and programme of SJV Chelvanayakam, founder-leader of the Federal Party.
When the Austrian-model constitution and the Special Courts for “war crimes” are unveiled in 2016, it is he, the father of federalism, Tamil national self-determination and Tamil Eelam, who will have proved the ultimate victor. It is his ‘virtual’ statue that would stand in front of the new constitutional, political and legal order erected upon the rubble of the monuments of our national leaders. It is this coming Constitution that is a “system crime”.