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Tamilnation > Struggle for Tamil Eelam > Conflict Resolution - Tamil Eelam - Sri Lanka > Norwegian Peace Initiative Geneva Talks & After > Maximum devolution envisaged:Sri Lanka pact avoids unitary model says B. Muralidhar Reddy in Brahmin controlled Hindu

Tracking the Norwegian Conflict Resolution Initiative

Maximum devolution envisaged: Sri Lanka pact avoids unitary model
says B. Muralidhar Reddy in Brahmin controlled Hindu

25 October 2006

[comment by tamilnation.org  "The ' theatre of spin' staged by the Brahmin controlled Hindu will not come as a surprise to the Tamil people - not because it is Brahmin controlled but because, at all times during the past several years, the Hindu has been concerned to advance New Delhi's perceived geo political strategic interests in the Indian ocean region, whilst expressing seeming concern for the suffering of the Tamil people in the island of Sri Lanka. In this way the Hindu and New Delhi seek to secure their ability to play the 'Tamil card' through the likes of Anandasangaree et al.  The Hindu would have us believe that the UNP/SLFP pact provides 'maximum devolution'. And the Hindu headline states that the UNP/SLFP pact avoids the 'unitary model'. What the pact does is to avoid mentioning the word 'unitary'  and that is a somewhat different matter. The pact provides for regional 'administrators'. Actually, in the 1987 Provincial Councils Act,  the Tamils had the benefit of not simply 'administrators' but  even 'Governors' - Governors who would 'administer' the provinces. The undeniable constitutional reality is that the Sri Lanka constitution vests  executive power in the President  and it was this which underpinned the 'comic opera' reforms of 1987. The regional Governor was a servant of the Executive President.  The UNP/SLFP pact does not seek to abolish the Executive Presidency. Neither does it provide for the repeal of the current Sri Lanka unitary constitution. At least, Richard A. Boucher, US Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs  avoided 'spin' when he declared  

" We are pleased that the government and the LTTE are committed to peace talks, to go to Geneva and to begin discussions again. We think it is important to discuss all the issues. It is also important to begin a process that can lead to a serious negotiation, and eventually, to a political solution with legitimate interest of all the communities: of Tamils, of Muslims, of Sinhalese. It can be accommodated with a unitary Sri Lanka."

Having said that, it appears that the UNP/SLFP pact is intent on continuing with the 'comic opera' - whilst Tamil Eelam burns. Some hundred years ago in 1907,  the British combined their attack on rising Indian militancy (Baghat Singh et al) with the offer of  the Morley Minto constitutional 'reforms'. It was the usual mixture of stick and carrot.  The carrot was directed to diffuse popular resistance to alien rule. The Morley Minto 'reforms' created a constitutional frame within which colonial rule may be perpetuated with the assistance of collaborators from the ruled. It was the tried and tested gambit of a colonial power when called upon to contend with a rising national consciousness - a gambit which is not without significance today. The 'reform' proposals sought to set up provincial legislatures (with very limited jurisdiction) where the majority would be nominees of the British government  - whilst at the same time securing that executive power remained vested in the British Viceroy in New Delhi. Aurobindo's response was immediate and caustic. He wrote in Bande Mataram in June 1907, under the title 'Comic Opera Reforms':

"Mr.Morley has made his pronouncement and a long expectant world may now go about its ordinary business with the satisfactory conviction that the conditions of political life in India will be precisely the same as before... We find it impossible to discuss Mr.Morley's reforms seriously, they are so impossibly burlesque and farcical. Yet they have their serious aspect. They show that British despotism, like all despotisms in the same predicament, is making the time honoured, ineffectual effort to evade a settlement of the real question by throwing belated and now unacceptable sops to Demogorgnon." ]

COLOMBO: Monday's agreement, signed by the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) and the United National Party (UNP), to resolve the ethnic conflict in the north and east, subject to further discussion and ratification, envisages maximum devolution of powers to the "regional administrators."

The tentative agreement, a copy of which is in the possession of The Hindu , avoids any reference to either a unitary or federal model. It does not even touch the much-debated "Indian model."  Instead, it says that under the "power-sharing" arrangement, the role of the Central Government should be confined to subjects such as defence and security, foreign affairs, finance, elections, national planning and shipping.

The relevant paragraph reads:

"The basic assumption underlying an equitable framework for power-sharing is that the Central Government would be invested with all the powers, functions and responsibilities essential for the effective conduct of the national policy in all fields [principally including, but not limited to defence and security, foreign relations, the national budget, monetary policy, elections, immigration and emigration, national planning, shipping and navigation and related matters], while other matters will fall within the purview of regional administrators."

It says particular attention should be paid to fiscal considerations. Also, the regional administrators should have access to adequate resources for effectively discharging their duties.

The document says that the cornerstone of the political solution is power-sharing on the basis acceptable to the Sinhala, Tamil and Muslim communities and reflecting the experience in the past five decades.



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