Indian PM Expresses Hope for 13th Amendment Implementation During Sri Lanka President’s Visit

Indian PM Expresses Hope for 13th Amendment Implementation During Sri Lanka President's Visit
Indian PM Expresses Hope for 13th Amendment Implementation During Sri Lanka President's Visit

During the visit of Sri Lanka’s President to India, the Indian Prime Minister conveyed his optimistic vision for the implementation of the 13th Amendment to the Sri Lanka Constitution. The origins of this amendment can be traced back to the Indo-Sri Lanka Accord of 1987, which sought to address the escalating conflict in Sri Lanka and pave the way for a constitutional resolution to the civil war.

The roots of the Sri Lankan conflict date back to its independence from British rule in 1948, when legislative measures perceived as discriminatory against the Tamil minority population were passed by the Sinhala majority government. The 1970s witnessed the emergence of the Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF), a coalition of major Tamil parties, advocating for a separate Tamil state within the North and East regions of Sri Lanka, with greater autonomy.

However, the enactment of the sixth amendment to the Sri Lanka Constitution in August 1983 rendered the TULF ineffective, escalating ethnic divisions into a violent civil war. In response to the intensifying conflict, the Indo-Sri Lanka Accord was signed in 1987 between Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and President J. R. Jayewardene in Colombo, Sri Lanka.

The main goal of the accord was to amend the constitution and devolve certain powers, such as agriculture and health, to the country’s nine provinces. Additionally, it aimed to find a constitutional solution to the civil war that had plagued the nation for years.

Key provisions of the Indo-Sri Lanka Accord included the adoption of Tamil and English as official languages alongside Sinhala, the lifting of emergency in the Eastern and Northern Provinces by August 15, 1987, the surrender of arms by military groups, and a general amnesty to political prisoners held under emergency laws.

The 13th Amendment brought about greater autonomy for provinces across Sri Lanka. However, concerns arose regarding the retention of land and police powers by the central government, while elected provincial councils were granted legislative authority over subjects like agriculture, housing, road transport, education, and health.

Despite these efforts, hardline nationalists expressed alarm over the perceived weakening of the central government’s authority, while Sinhala nationalists opposed the 13th Amendment, viewing it as an imposition by India.

Critics argue that the regions for which devolution was intended, particularly the North and East, did not significantly benefit from the amendment, as they remained under the control of the central government for an extended period.

Over the years, Tamil groups in Sri Lanka have appealed to India on multiple occasions to ensure the full implementation of the Accord and the 13th Amendment, underscoring the importance of finding a lasting and inclusive resolution to the complex issues surrounding Sri Lanka’s governance and regional autonomy.