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‘We reject the 13th amendment and the provincial councils created by it’ See more at

‘We reject the 13th amendment and the provincial councils created by it’ See more at

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Published by Thavam

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Published by: Thavam on Jul 19, 2013
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05/14/2014

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By Paul Newman-20 Jul 2013
Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam is a third generation Tamil politician from Sri Lanka.He hails from a family of well known lawyers. His father Kumar Ponnambalam, whochampioned the cause of Tamils in a racist milieu, was gunned down in Colombo in2000 by unidentified assailants. A former Member of Sri Lankan Parliament (2001- 2010) and leader of a politicalparty, the Tamil National Peoples' Front (TNPF), Gajen as he is fondly called, is anarticulate, out spoken young politician. He is a qualified lawyer, educated in England.
Gajen says India should recognize the Eelam Tamils as a distinct nation
Gajen is a marked man now. His call foran internationally backed Transitional Administration in Tamil areas of Sri Lanka, andhis fearless crusade for Tamil rights, often taking contrarian positions to that of President Mahinda Rajapaksa, has earned him many enemies.In May 2013, four unidentified masked men surveyed his house. The obvious message
 
to him is, “back off, or else…”But the 39-year-old Gajen is not the one to heed to such threats. He gave an exclusiveinterview to The Weekend Leader, and spoke to Paul Newman on wide ranging issues.Thefirst part of the interview 
 
 was carried last week.Here, we are publishing excerpts from the second part of the interview.India still feels the 13th amendment (to the Sri Lankan constitution) is the final answerto the Tamil problems and keeps pushing for it. Why are you against it?The 13th amendment purports to provide devolution within the unitary framework structure of the Sri Lankan State. The term “unitary” has very specific legalconnotations under constitutional law. All legislative and executive powersare vested in one power centre in a unitary state. Inother words, the unitary state structure cannot provide for devolution of power.The 13th amendment only provides the mirage of devolution.The provincial councils that were created by the 13th amendment are mereappendages to the central government. As several constitutional experts haveobserved, the relationship between the central government and the provincial councilis akin to a principal – agent relationship.Simply put, thecentral government and the governor appointed by the presidentultimately control all the so-called powers that are to be vested in the provincialcouncil.The provincial council’s elected chief minister and the board of ministers’ official rolecan at best be described as advisors to the governor, who is appointed by the president.They hold no power. What is actually happening in Sri Lanka is a systematic genocide of the Tamil nation.That is the conflict between the Tamils and the Sinhala Buddhist State. As far as Tamils are concerned, the solution lies in not only recognizing Tamilnationhood, but also preventing any future undermining of its existence. Then thequestion must be asked, given the nature of the 13th amendment, how on earth is itgoing to be a basis for a solution to the Tamil National question?The truth is that the 13th amendment and the provincial councils were forced on theTamils by both India and the Sri Lankan State.This happened after India managed to use the Tamil liberation struggle as aconvenient pressure point to get the then JR Jayawardena government to coursecorrect its shift towards the USA and firmly commit to India’s sphere of influenceinstead.
 
This commitment to India by Sri Lanka can be clearly seen in the Letters of Exchangeannexed to the Indo – Sri Lanka accord (of 1987).The quid pro quo of Sri Lanka committing to India’s sphere of influence was that theTamils were asked to effectively surrender their struggle.The Tamils, my party and I personally, have repeatedly stated that we are India’snatural allies. We are not against the provisions in the Indo – Lanka Accord that safeguard India’snational security and strategic interests. What we cannot accept is the part thatprescribes a solution to the ethnic conflict in the form of the 13thamendment and theprovincial councils. We have in the past, and we will in the future too, do our utmost to safeguard India’sinterests in Sri Lanka. But India must not merely look to safeguard her own interestsat our expense. That is just not acceptable.Do you believe India can play a concrete role in getting justice for the Tamils? If so what do you expect India to do?Of course, India can play a concrete role. I would go further and say that India mustplay a concrete role. But that role cannot be played in a constructive and honestmanner as long as India only seeks to safeguard its interests in Sri Lanka. As starting point, India should recognize the Eelam Tamils as a distinct nation withour own sovereignty and right to self-determination. India must urge the Sinhalanation to negotiate with the Tamils to arrive at a solution that re-envisions Sri Lankainto a new plurinational state that is mutually beneficial for both nations.But as a matter of urgency though, India must play the key role in setting up aTransitional Administration in the North – East of Sri Lanka.Given the animosity between the Tamils and the Muslims who live in the north andeast, how do you propose to work with them in future?I cannot agree with the view that there is animosity between the Tamils and theMuslims in the North and East.There have been unfortunate mistakes made by the Tamils (against Muslims). TheTamils have unreservedly apologized for those mistakes. We are keen to make sure they are never repeated. As far as the TNPF is concerned,the North-East is as much the homeland of the Muslims as it is for the Tamils. Therecan be no questions about it.My party however refuses to speak on behalf of the Muslim people. They don’t like us

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