The Indian Express said talks of implementing the 13th Amendment, as discussed between Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Sri Lankan Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, is a “charade that isn’t going anywhere” in its editorial last week, as it criticised the “lip service” that both governments pay to resolve the Tamil national question.
During the meeting, Modi pushed Sri Lanka to take forwards “the process of reconciliation with the implementation of the 13th Amendment” to which the Sri Lankan PM responded noncommittally maintaining that Sri Lanka would “work towards realising the expectations of all ethnic groups, including Tamils, by achieving reconciliation nurtured as per the mandate of the people of Sri Lanka and implementation of the constitutional provisions”.
Indian Express's editorial expressed scepticism over the statements, writing:
“It is as if both sides now know they must pay lip service to Sri Lanka’s yet unresolved Tamil question while being aware that it is a charade that isn’t going anywhere”.
In their editorial, they note, that when Rajapaksa returned to Colombo, he issued a separate statement with no reference to the Tamil issue.
The Indian Express further notes that despite strong cultural links between Eelam Tamils and India;
“Joint statement mentions offer no guarantee that the situation on the ground in Sri Lanka will change […] The Rajapaksas, who speak the language of militaristic Sinhalese nationalism, are here to stay for the foreseeable future”.
They also note India’s frustration with Colombo’s close connections with Beijing. Since July 2017, the Modi government has not been able to get any infrastructure projects moving.
The 13th Amendment
In tracing the history behind the amendment, India Express notes that since 1988 India has pushed Sri Lanka to implement the 13th Amendment which would devolve political power to the North-East, the Tamil homeland.
The amendment was a result of the 1987 India-Sri Lanka Accord and was subsequently followed by the intervention of the Indian Peace Keeping Force into Sri Lanka where Indian forces are accused of committing numerous atrocities including wide-scale sexual violence against civilians.
The amendment, India Express writes, “remains the only constitutional measure that gives the Tamil minority a smidgeon of autonomy within a unitary constitution”. However, even within this, they note that, in the North-East, citizens were not permitted to elect councils until a few years ago and even then, with curtailed powers.
Sri Lanka officials are now discussing abolishing the amendment with Sri Lanka’s State Minister of Provincial Councils and Local Government Sarath Weerasekara pledging to strip the 13th Amendment of clauses that would be crucial to establishing local control and provincial councils.
Weerasekara, who is a retired rear admiral in the military, maintained “we will not devolve police and land powers to the provincial councils”.
Read more here: Sri Lankan minister pledges to strip 13th Amendment
Read the full Editorial by Indian Express here.