The President’s decision on the 13th constitutional amendment is a positive and optimistic step for the future of the country
– State Minister for Higher Education Mr. Suren Raghavan
State Minister of Higher Education, Mr Suren Raghavan, stated that President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s proposal to implement the 13th Amendment of the Constitution without police powers as a measure to foster national harmony may not be popular, but it is a forward-looking decision for the future of the country.
Additionally, Minister Raghavan, highlighted that this decision was taken despite the considerable risk involved, in order to pave the way for a new political journey anticipated by the young people who have been actively engaged in the ‘Aragalaya’.
He conveyed these perspectives while addressing a Press briefing themed ‘Collective Path to a Stable Country’ at the Presidential Media Centre (PMC) yesterday(28).
During his remarks, the State Minister asserted that a national dialogue has once again emerged regarding the 13th Amendment of the Constitution. He clarified misconceptions about the current president’s approach to this matter, emphasizing that all former presidents have previously discussed the issue. He pointed out that the country is now transitioning into a post-war phase.
Mr. Suren Raghavan made it clear that while he does not consider himself a participant in any on-going struggle, the essence of the struggle is evident. He stressed the significance of renewing the agreement between the citizens and the state, a sentiment echoed by the people of the country and the younger generation poised to shape its future. Emphasizing the state’s responsibility, he underscored the need to address the aspirations and social needs of all citizens in order to revitalize the nation.
“At present, President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s actions may not be widely supported, as it is a known fact that elections are on the horizon. Typically, popular decisions are made during such times to garner public favour.” State Minister of Higher Education, Mr. Suren Raghavan, suggested that providing essential necessities like free bread, dal, gas, and electricity, or making promises to do so, could be a favourable approach during this period.
Despite the potential risks involved, President Ranil Wickremesinghe has shown boldness in initiating this discourse during his political tenure. It is evident that the President holds a deep belief in democracy and firmly believes that even if a decision is not popular, it must be the right thing to do. The President embarked on this task with the hope of resolving the issue without burdening future generations.
During a discussion with party leaders and opposition ministers in parliament, President Ranil Wickremesinghe raised the question of whether they support the 13th Constitutional Amendment. It was pointed out that this amendment has been a part of the constitution for several decades, and significant funds, around Rs. 300 billion per year, are allocated to the Northern Provincial Council alone. This has led to a crucial question regarding the meaningfulness of maintaining the provincial council at such a substantial financial cost.
Furthermore, the President made it clear that if the 13th Amendment is not accepted politically, Parliament should step in and take action to abolish it. The Tamil political elite also face internal disunity, with varying opinions and stances on the matter. Some members are abstaining from the discussion and refuse to accept any solution that does not involve federalism. On the other hand, when others request a solution, they do not actively work towards finding one. This lack of consensus and commitment from certain factions within the Tamil political elite poses a challenge to the nation’s progress on this issue.
In light of the situation, adopting a dialogical democracy appears to be the most suitable approach. The enforcement of the 13th Constitutional Amendment, as proposed, should not be further delayed. Moreover, some parties advocate for 13+, as discussed with Mr. Mahinda Rajapaksa, and given the prolonged postponement of provincial council elections for nearly seven years, resolving the underlying issues is essential before holding the election.
One critical matter raised is whether all the powers outlined in the 13th Constitutional Amendment will be granted. Specifically, there is an on-going discussion regarding the granting of police powers. While the amendment mentions police powers, it has not been implemented due to mutual suspicions. Hence, there is a pressing need for a constructive dialogue to establish a new consensus between the state and its citizens, particularly concerning the Tamil people.
‘As a former governor, I have observed that 95% of the Tamil-speaking population faces daily struggles for survival, encompassing essential aspects like access to clean drinking water, healthcare, education, transportation, security, and economic opportunities. It is imperative to address these challenges promptly’.
It is equally important not to exploit the existing differences among Tamil leaders for political gains. Instead, we must focus on genuine efforts to win the hearts of the Tamil people and foster a unified approach towards building a prosperous and inclusive future for all citizens.