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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2704

Heart to Heart With Somawansa Amerasinghe (1)

13th Amendment, Referendum of 1982 and Provincial Councils Illegal: Amerasinghe Analyses Political Situation

By K T Rajasingham

Colombo, 03 February, ( Asian Tribune begins a five part series of “heart to heart chats” with JVP Leader Somawamsa Amerasinghe providing a deep insight into the current political impasse in Sri Lanka. Answering my question how you view the political situation in the country, Amaresinghe urged the need to assess the situation and prepare a conducive backdrop before rushing into any drastic changes. The full text of the question and answer session is given below. Somawansa Amerasinghe:  APRC proposal -  We reject this,  because it is not an all party proposal,  and the 14 parties do not have at least 50% of the people with them.  So it is wrong to call it as an all party representative committee. Then the other thing, this one is based on the thirteenth amendment in 1987 constitution."Somawansa Amerasinghe: APRC proposal - We reject this, because it is not an all party proposal, and the 14 parties do not have at least 50% of the people with them. So it is wrong to call it as an all party representative committee. Then the other thing, this one is based on the thirteenth amendment in 1987 constitution."

Somawansa Amerasinghe : We should not bring amendments to the present constitution or create a new constitution hastily. Before thinking about a new constitution, we have to create an environment which is conducive to hold elections. Holding a referendum and also initiating a dialogue, would give the people the opportunity to express themselves freely. That is what is needed. We need not worry about time constraints. We have to take the preparatory steps one by one, and reach towards the ultimate goal.

K.T.Rajasingham: So you desire a conducive environment before any constitutional amendments are thrust on the people as stipulated in Clause 1.1 of the APRC proposal?

1.1 The APRC was mandated by the President to prepare a set of proposals that would be the basis for a solution to the national question. After 63 sittings over a period of 1½ years, the consensus document is being finalized and it should be possible to hand it over to the President in the very near future. The outcome would be a basis for appropriate constitutional arrangements. Implementation of this, of course, would require amendments to present Constitution, and in respect of some Articles, and also approval by the People at a referendum. This would of course take time, once a favorable climate is established.

Somawansa Amerasinghe : Exactly, a peaceful, free and democratic environment that is what Mahinda Chintana says. This is the mandate of the people to the President at the Presidential Election 2005. I have the Mahinda Chintana with me now and I am reading from page 34: it read: proposals, to defeat terrorism literally and ask them to renounce separatism then demilitarization, then entering into discussion towards a final solution. In addition, the implementation of such solution.

K.T.Rajasingham: All these things you are describing have to do with the Tamil Tigers?

Somawansa Amerasinghe : Yes, of course dealing with terrorism.

K.T.Rajasingham: But the thing is this, it should be borne in mind that LTTE is different and Tamils are different. All these things what you have told to do with the Tamil Tigers or Terrorists, as you call, but what about the Tamils? What do you propose to do with them? Are you telling that the Tamils should wait till you finish with the terrorists, to do something about the Tamils?

Somawansa Amerasinghe : No, I will come up with my solution and at the end I will give you my road map to achieve peace and annihilate terrorism, yest I will give you that. Now lets us go back to the LTTE and APRC proposal - we reject this, because it is not an all party proposal, and the 14 parties do not have at least 50% of the people with them. So it is wrong to call it as an all party representative committee. Then the other thing, this one is based on the thirteenth amendment in 1987 constitution.

According to the Clause 1.3 of the APRC proposal –

1.3 The 13th Amendment to the 1978 Constitution was enacted following the Indo Sri Lanka Agreement of July 1987. It resulted in the setting up of Provincial Councils throughout Sri Lanka and it devolved power to the Provinces under the unitary Constitution. The powers devolved fall under a Provincial List and a Concurrent List. All other powers were reserved for the Centre through a Reserved List. Further, any subject or function not included in any of the three Lists will also be deemed to be a subject or function in the Reserved List.

One must remember very nuch that Sri Lanka Freedom Party opposed the 13th Amendment of 1987 and if I can remember correctly, they boycotted the provincial council elections.

K.T.Rajasingham: JVP also?

Somawansa Amerasinghe : K.T.Rajasingham: I have treated that part of the event in my e-book called “Sri Lanka: The Untold Story”.

Somawansa Amerasinghe : Thank you very much.

K.T.Rajasingham: Very clearly.

Somawansa Amerasinghe : So we were proscribed; we have been fighting for democracy from the day we were banned. I will come to that later. According to Clause 1.2 of the APRC proposal -

1.2 Under the circumstances, the APRC taking into consideration its own proposals, has identified a course of action to achieve maximum and effective devolution of powers to the provinces in the short term.

The emphasis would be on meeting the aspirations of the Tamil speaking peoples, especially in the North and East. This would be done within the framework of the present Constitution, that is, the 1978 Constitution. The course of action proposed by the APRC are deemed to be implementable with immediate effect, and envisages an interim arrangement pending the restoration of democratically elected Provincial Councils in the North and East.

Now what are the aspirations they are talking of ? Aspirations have no limit what so ever. So that cannot be satisfied and no one can satisfy aspirations.

K.T.Rajasingham: It has to be said as basic genuine aspirations?

Somawansa Amerasinghe : No, let us discuss what is there already written. Aspirations are different from person to person, different from ethnic group to ethnic group, different from province to province. So we cannot satisfy all. The 13 Amendment was brought to meet the aspirations but failed completely. What we should do is address the grievances. To do, we have to first differentiates between aspirations and grievances. And try to understand, try to study, try to come to a conclusion about the grievances. So far not a single political party other than JVP understood or learnt about the grievances. So that is the problem here, so we reject this clause 1.2

K.T.Rajasingham: So you say, No one can satisfy aspirations except maybe the grievances?

Somawansa Amerasinghe:Yes, aspirations of any ethnic groups in Sri Lanka or anywhere in the world. Now lets us go to the 13 amendment, this is going to be the basis, so let us go to 13 amendment how it was passed. During that time the parliament that enabled 13th Amendment to pass was not legitimate.

K.T.Rajasingham: In 1982? Somawansa Amerasinghe :Why? Because the parliament term was extended?

Somawansa Amerasinghe :Exactly, exactly.

K.T.Rajasingham: After 1982

Somawansa Amerasinghe : They prolonged the period of the parliament by 5 years by a fraudulent referendum on 22nd December 1982.

K.T.Rajasingham: This is your opinion Sir?

Somawansa Amerasinghe : No not opinion. I am referring to the report of then Election Commissioner and not my observations. We challenged the referendum at the court of law and that was one of the reasons for Mr. J.R. Jayewardene to ban our party.

K.T.Rajasingham: JVP challenged it in the court of law?

Somawansa Amerasinghe : Exactly, only the JVP did it.

K.T.Rajasingham: What was the court verdict?

Somawansa Amerasinghe : No, there was no verdict, because we were banned before doing anything. In 1983, I think in January or so we filed the case.

K.T.Rajasingham: File the case where, in the Supreme Court?

Somawansa Amerasinghe : Yes, in the Court of Appeal and we had two or three sittings and in July we were banned. The people who filed the case could not come out. That was the end. We challenged it and that parliament was not legitimate. And one must not forget that India twisted J.R. Jayewardene’s hand and forced him to sign the Indo-Sri Lanka Accord.

K.T.Rajasingham: All these are your opinions?

Somawansa Amerasinghe : No it is not my opinion, please refer J.N. Dixit Assignment to Colombo, all these details are given very well there.. If you can wait till tomorrow until I go to the office to get the book and read for you.

K.T.Rajasingham: Dixit book Assignment Colombo, I have it.

Somawansa Amerasinghe : You have it, OK, if I can remember please go to page number130, it says what Dixit did when he was in Sri Lanka. Everybody knows that. Everybody knows that. India was threatening our sovereignty, violated our sovereignty and also please do not forget that he taught a lesson to J.R.Jeyawardene, who was a ‘Yankee’ lackey in Sri Lanka, so to oppose his foreign policy . Of course we were also against his foreign policy, he was posing a threat to India, and then we thought it was wrong for India to give arms and arms training and to give every support political and economic support to the Sri Lanka Tamil separatist organizations in India. They had camps, they had training and they are trained by Indian army and this was the first instance of cross border terrorism.

K.T.Rajasingham: Cross border terrorism was launched in the shores of Sri Lanka?

Somawansa Amerasinghe : Yes, in Sri Lanka in the region of South Asia.

K.T.Rajasingham: Before that in 1971, there was a problem with Bangladesh?

Somawansa Amerasinghe : No, it was really not a problem; the Indian Army did not train any Bangladeshi people in their training camps. They did not provide anything , they did not provide money, they did not provide accommodations, they did not have them in their camps, it was a completely a different problem.

In this case, India violated the sovereignty of Sri Lanka, so we opposed it vehemently during that time. We asked the people to boycott Indian products and till now we do not accept the 13th Amendment as a legitimate piece of law in Sri Lanka.

K.T.Rajasingham: Whatever said and done, it has been embodied in the constitution of the country?

Somawansa Amerasinghe : Yes, they can embody anything under force, under threat in an undemocratic environment. But we have been opposing this for the last 21 years.

K.T.Rajasingham: You said that you filed a case in 1983 and you were proscribed and those people who filed could not come out and we don’t know what happened to your case subsequently.

Somawansa Amerasinghe : Definitely, it could have been dismissed and would have been not heard after that.

K.T.Rajasingham:We don’t know what happened and we don’t know what was the verdict of that case?

Somawansa Amerasinghe : When the person who filed the case, Comrade Rohana Jeyaveera was to be taken into custody, then do you think that he was able to go courts?

K.T.Rajasingham:That is what I am saying, after you have been proscribed you don’t know what happened to the case that you have filed? Even though there have been 3 to 4 court hearings?

Somawansa Amerasinghe : Exactly, before proscription there have been 3 or 4 court hearings. Who is the fool who will go to court when he was going to be arrested?

K.T.Rajasingham:Yes, sir then your proscriptions was removed? When was your proscriptions removed?

Somawansa Amerasinghe : Proscription was not removed officially until it came to an end due to the withdrawal of the emergency regulations in 1994.

K.T.Rajasingham:1994, and you started contesting in 1994, you entered the democratic mainstream of politics?

Somawansa Amerasinghe : Exactly, the first chance we got after the emergency was lifted and the prosecution came to an end. After that we achieved conductive political climate. We contested the political election.

K.T.Rajasingham:Since 1994 up to 2007, you were not under any contingency arrangement by the Government to be arrested or anything, but so after 1994, up to now you have never challenged the 13th Amendment in the court of law. You had every opportunity to challenge it but you did not do it?

Somawansa Amerasinghe : Wait, wait, I will tell you we did not challenge the 13 amendment, remember we challenged the referendum. If the referrendum was challenged……

K.T.Rajasingham: The 1982 referendum?

Somawansa Amerasinghe : Yes, yes, we challenged the referendum. There was a limited stipulated period of 3 months after the referendum, for anyone to challenge the results of the referendum. But then how can we challenge the 13th amendment?

K.T.Rajasingham: After 1982? Sir you mean to say that the 13th Amendment was illegal?

Somawansa Amerasinghe : The 13th Amendment was not legitimate and definitely illegal.

K.T.Rajasingham:You had the ample opportunity to challenge it in the court of law?

Somawansa Amerasinghe : No, no, there was no opportunity. We had the opportunityas it was enacted. We wanted to challenge it from the very beginning. This 13th Amendment was not the beginning of the problem. The beginning of the problem was the referendum.

K.T.Rajasingham:You challenged it and you could not get a decision from the appeal court as you people were unable to come out to do so?

Somawansa Amerasinghe : Exactly, exactly. Felix Diaz Bandaranaike was one of our legal advisors.

K.T.Rajasingham:He was one of my best friends those days.

Somawansa Amerasinghe : Yes I know. The SLFP he represented did not oppose the referendum. During the referendum they have not done anything. If they were active, if the SFLP were active, we could have worked together to defeat the government because that time the government was very unpopular. But Mrs. Srimavo Bandaranayke thought differently, she was not enjoying her civic right, they had been revoked, she thought why people should have it.

K.T.Rajasingham:Ha .. ha.. ha

Somawansa Amerasinghe : That is she thought and dealt with the problem.

K.T.Rajasingham:Ok, if you say so.

Somawansa Amerasinghe : I am not finished, after the result of the referendum when we approached Mr.Felix Diaz Bandaranayke to go to courts. Then Mr. Prins Gunasekara was ready; we asked whether Mr. Felix Diaz Bandaranayke was also ready? He said, we made the mistake, and he said at least we must correct ourselves now. So he undertook the job and both of them appeared on behalf of JVP. On behalf of Mr. Rohana Wijeyweera, who was the only person who boldly challenged the referrendum. There was lot of election officials who were prepared to give evidence in favor of our petition in the courts. So it was not our fault. We have challenged the referendum, as soon as possible within the prescribed period of time. The 13th Amendment came later.

K.T.Rajasingham: The 13th Amendment came later; now on 31 January 2008 you said that the 13th Amendment is illegal. Why you did not challenge the 13th Amendment when you had the opportunity to do it?

Somawansa Amerasinghe : Ok, I would like to tell you ... Asian Tribune that we have been throughout saying this during the last 21 years from the day it was passed in the parliament that the Parliament was not legitimate, it was not democratic. Parliament did not truly represent the people. The people were denied the 1983 general elections to the parliament. So that itself is the proof that we have been fighting against the 13th Amendment continuously.

K.T.Rajasingham:Yes, sir, but you had recourse to go before the Supreme Court as you have done about the merger of the North and East. That is a question you have to answer.

Somawansa Amerasinghe : That is also, connected with the 13th Amendment. When we are talking about the merger before the court we have been challenging this also that 13th Amendment was wrong as a result the merger was wrong. The merger was not correct, not legal and not democratic.

K.T.Rajasingham:We can continue to argue on this subject as this is a contestable issue.

Somawansa Amerasinghe : No, no, you may write

K.T.Rajasingham:Yes, sir, I am going to write what you say only.

Somawansa Amerasinghe : Thank you. We challenged this amendment and we have been talking about this for the last 21 years. Whenever necessary, especially whenever they were having the provincial council elections we have been saying this to the people that we are taking part in an election to vote in the provincial council which is not passed by a legitimate parliament.

K.T.Rajasingham:I want to ask you a question and then we will go after that to our subject. Have you ever said this in any of your party manifestos?

Somawansa Amerasinghe : Yes, we have said in our party programme in 1994, no…no in our 2000 election manifesto, we have clearly said that we will abolish the provincial councils if we come to power. That is the manifestation of our opposition to the 13th Amendment.

K.T.Rajasingham:You have not said what I asked; I have asked you whether you have said anything about abrogating of the 13th Amendment?

Somawansa Amerasinghe : Why not? Why not?

K.T.Rajasingham:Where in your party manifesto.

- To be continued -

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