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Letter from Tamil politicos to Modi on 13A today

  • Requests India to urge GoSL to fully implement 13A, hold PC polls
  • TPA, ACMC, SLMC opt out of signing

BY Pamodi Waravita

A letter by seven political parties representing the Tamil-speaking people in the North and the East (N-E), to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, requesting that the Indian Government urge the Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL) to fully implement the 13th Amendment (13A) to the Constitution, will most likely be sent today (11).

“The letter, signed by seven of the Tamil political parties, will most likely be sent to Modi tomorrow (11). Our main requests are that the 13th Amendment to the Constitution be fully implemented, and that the Provincial Council (PC) Elections be held,” Thamil Makkal Thesiya Kuttani (TMTK) Leader and Parliamentarian C.V. Wigneswaran told The Morning yesterday (10).

The letter, as seen by The Morning, notes that: “Since Sri Lanka gained independence in 1948, the Tamil-speaking people have been demanding meaningful power sharing from all the successive governments that came to power. The political leadership of the Tamil-speaking people wanted a solution in accordance with internationally accepted principles recognising their legitimate aspirations. Although many attempts were made to find a solution internally as well as with the assistance of the international community, the Tamil-speaking people’s national question remains unresolved to date. We remain committed to a political solution based on a federal structure that recognises our legitimate aspirations.

“The Tamil-speaking people have always been the majority in the North and East. The Indian Government offered its good offices in 1983, which was accepted by the GoSL and consequently the Indo-Lanka Accord was signed on 29 July 1987. Thereafter, the 13th Amendment to the Constitution was introduced, establishing a PC system that envisaged the devolution of powers to the provinces. But the Amendment was introduced into a unitary Constitution making the exercise one of decentralisation instead of devolution. It is against this backdrop that every effort made thereafter moved in the direction of surpassing the 13th Amendment to the Constitution towards a federal structure.”

In addition to the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, the letter has also highlighted that the 16th Amendment to the Constitution, pertaining to language rights, be implemented in “word and spirit”. Commenting on alleged land grabbing taking place in the North and East, the letter requested that “all attempts to systematically change the demographic pattern of the North and the East, acting contrary to the provisions and spirit of the Bandaranaike-Chelvanayakam Pact (1957), the Dudley-Chelvanayakam Pact (1965), and the Indo-Lanka Accord (1987) should stop forthwith”.

“All activities and attempts by the Archaeology Department, the Mahaweli Authority, the Forest Department, the Wildlife Conservation Department, the Tourist Board, and the Defence Ministry to destroy and pervert evidences that confirm the historical habitation of the North and the East as the traditional homelands of the Tamils must immediately cease. The Archaeology Department must recognise the antiquity of the Tamils from pre-Buddhistic times, accept that it was the Tamils who received Buddhism (Tamil Buddhists) into Sri Lanka, and act accordingly instead of perverting history and prevaricating on history. Tamil villages in the border areas between the Northern and Eastern Provinces are altered by either attaching them to Sinhala areas or bringing Sinhala villages into Tamil areas, thereby altering the ethnic composition to make Tamils minorities in their own areas. This will prevent Tamil people from obtaining political representation in the local government, PCs, and the Parliament. Such pernicious practices must be discontinued,” the letter mentions.

The party leaders have also requested that Sri Lankan Tamil people of Indian origin be given full citizenship, and that the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act No. 48 of 1979 (PTA) be immediately repealed. They have further requested that the “proportional representation (PR)” electoral system be implemented in the country and that the newly appointed “One Country, One Law” Presidential Task Force (PTF) be dissolved.

The letter has been signed by Wigneswaran, Tamil National Alliance (TNA) Leader and MP R. Sampanthan, Illankai Tamil Arasu Kachchi (ITAK) Leader Mavai Senathirajah, Tamil Eelam Liberation Organisation (TELO) Leader A. Adaikalanathan, Democratic People’s Liberation Front (DPLF) President Dharmalingam Sithadthan, Eelam People’s Revolutionary Liberation Front (EPRLF) President K. Premachandran, and Tamil National Party (TNP) Leader N. Srikantha.

The discussions relating to the aforementioned letter initially involved the Tamil Progressive Alliance (TPA) (representing mostly Tamils of Indian origin in the upcountry areas), the All Ceylon Makkal Congress (ACMC), and the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC). However, Wigneswaran said that these three parties had decided not to sign the letter as the “problems of the Tamils from the North and the East are different to those of the upcountry Tamils and the Tamil speaking Muslims”.

He claimed that whilst the TPA had feared that the Sinhala-speaking population in the upcountry areas may get “upset” over the letter’s push for federalism, the two parties representing the Muslim population had been concerned over discussions to merge the North and the East which could potentially affect their electoral representation.

Speaking to The Morning yesterday, TPA Leader and MP Mano Ganesan said that whilst the TPA still extends their support to the other parties representing the Tamil-speaking people, and joins the call for the implementation of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution and holding the PC Elections, the TPA has “other concerns”. “The discussion process began with the idea of requesting the Indian Government to assist in the GoSL implementing the 13th Amendment to the Constitution and the conduct of the PC Elections. However, other elements were brought into the drafted letter which was initially supposed to be only one-and-a-half pages long (the final letter stands at eight pages). The TPA and the parties representing the Muslim population are compiling a separate letter,” he added.