( January 29, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) “The Indian government is committed to work with the Sri Lanka government for consolidation of peace, prosperity and development of this country and enrichment of our bilateral ties,” This was indeed a very auspicious note which Minister Krishna struck on this his second visit to this country.
|Minister S.M. Krishna – File Photo|
The minister has gone on to state “I think it goes without saying that Article 13 plus should be implemented in a very visible manner – implementation of the assurances given to the people of Sri Lanka and during the talks we have had,” he said on his way back home. “We are looking forward to the implementation of the Article 13.”
Krishna had said he was reassured by President Rajapaksa that he was committed to implementing the amendment to end the ethnic crisis. A foreign diplomat stationed in Colombo has stated that the President has stated this before and even spoken in terms of ‘13 plus’ when what most of the people of this country are demanding is not 13 plus but 13 minus – wanting police powers and the subject of land excised from the 13th Amendment. Their position has consistently been that the 13th Amendment which is based on the powers devolved to States in India —- (almost all of them being bigger than countries in Europe), was foisted on this country which is the size of a local government district in Uttar Pradesh or Rajasthan and wholly unsuitable for our small country.
The people of this country support decentralization but are allergic to any form of Devolution and Federalism and this need to be understood by the Indian establishment. It is seen as a step towards separation; whatever maybe the experience of India we need to relate to the local perception. The Indian establishment must know that the Tamil politicians even today are softly peddling “their right to self determination” even though there are more Tamil people living in the south than in the north.
India which played the role of midwife at the birth of Bangladesh must know the ephemeral nature of our world particularly as she is seized herself with issues such as Kashmir, and the states of North-east India; India must also not also forget the 20 million Muslims living in their country (the population of our country) and of the rise of Islamic radicalism that has given rise to Islam phobia in non-Islamic countries. We too need to be concerned now that it has been revealed that there were 160 Muslim clerics overstaying their visas (why so many?). Were they preaching hope, love and moderation, or hatred and intolerance as some of them are said to have been doing elsewhere and setting countries on fire?
As stated earlier, India should not be seen as encouraging any form of Federalism for that would give rise to aspirations of autonomy and statehood; we have many examples not only from Eastern Europe, not to forget Kosovo and Chechnya but also South Sudan and nearer home, Timor which was a part of Indonesia – leave alone the aspirations and ambitions of the states of North East India and Tibet of course
There is no question that the Tamil people who are also our people must live in dignity as equal citizens, enjoying equality of opportunity as our president himself recently stated; they should also be deciding on their destiny at all levels of government. But as to whether empowering them and all Provincial Councils with police powers is what is required is debatable; to put it mildly, it is ‘DANGEROUS’ for the security and unity of the country and the well being of our people.
Yes the Tamil people must be brought into the mainstream and must be in the cabinet of ministers and should hold national ministries; and we could also have a second chamber. But is this the answer to the problem? There is no doubt in my mind that the government should remove land and police powers from the 13th Amendment and then implement 13A and introduce the principle of subsidiarity where decisions are made at the lowest level at which they could be made. After that the government must see whether it makes for participatory democracy for that is what we really want.
We should also change our electoral system of the country which is a caricature of one and breeds corruption; we must also ensure that conniving politicians of the TNA do not seek to make the Provincial Council a stepping stone to setting up a separate state. We need to bring in legislation against sedition in all its forms and manifestations. As stated before there are more Tamil people living in the south amongst us than in the Northern Province, so their interest must also be factored in —- this is an absolute imperative.
The other imperative is that we should shrink our little country. The Northern Province must be brought within a few hours from Colombo – we most urgently need a highway. For a start Jaffna should be reachable in an hour and half from Anuradhapura; Vavunia, which is just a half an hour drive from A’pura and Mannar should be an hour and half away on a highway from A’pura. There should be a new highway to the East too. This would physically unite the country in a manner as never before.
Minister Krishna and India should take care not to send the wrong signal to the world that it supports any form of self-determination for that has been the demand of the LTTE and their supporters the TNA. As it is, India too has had Tamil Nadu seeking to cede – that situation changed with the attack by China in 1962 but Tamil nationalism is such that if Eelam became a reality that would certainly have given an impetus to Tamil Nadu to seek the status of a nation state.
Considering the fact that India has almost 20 million Muslims, as many as our entire population, and Muslim extremism in West Asia, spreading to other parts of the Muslim world, India cannot afford to be complacent. We too in this country pray for a stable India which by 2020 would be a developed country and perhaps a Super Power. There are however many countries who would not wish India well and hope that she too breaks up; but as far as we are concerned we hope that she grows from strength to strength but of course that she does not interfere in the internal affairs of our country (over 1,200 Indian soldiers died as a result of the last intervention).
The Indian establishment probably sought to ‘Bhutanize’ our country, judging by the terms of the “letters” President Jayewardene was required to exchange with Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. The people of our country will not forget that it was India and Indira Gandhi who armed and trained Tamil militants and let them loose on our country and transformed a low intensity conflict into a terrorist war which almost destroyed Sri Lanka. It has only now been saved after 30 years of terrorism and war by the leadership given by President Mahinda Rajapakse and his brother Gotabhaya, for which the people are grateful no doubt.
Our people have a blood relationship with India and we do hope that India lives up to our expectations and respects our independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity at all times.