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Ken Balendra’s impact on John Keells



By Sanjeewa Jayaweera

Much information is available in the public domain about Deshamanya Ken Balendra (KB), the visionary Chairman of the John Keells Holdings Group (JKH) from 1990 to 2000, who recently celebrated his 81st birthday. For quite some time, I have wanted to pen a tribute to the great man but hesitated to do so as I felt many others ranging from his close friends from school days to those who worked closely with him, are more qualified than I to write about him.

However, given his advancing age and health challenges, I felt that it was my duty as a former employee of the JKH Group of over twenty-five years to express my admiration and appreciation to a man under whose leadership JKH forged to be the largest conglomerate in the country.

Leader par Excellence and Numbers Savvy

Great leaders are a rare breed, whether in politics, sports or business. Arjuna Ranatunga is acknowledged to have been an inspirational leader. He was not the best batsman in the team. However, he galvanised others to perform to their maximum capability, created an ethos of self-belief and risk-taking and used his instincts to strategize a winning formula and backed potential players. Under his astute leadership, a world cup winning team was assembled. I do not think too many will disagree that KB did the same with JKH over a more extended period and left a solid foundation upon which his successors could take JKH to even greater heights. Just as Arjuna is synonymous with Sri Lanka cricket KB will always be synonymous with JKH.

Having joined the JKH Group in 1993 as an Assistant Manager, I was appointed as a director of a subsidiary company only about a year before KB retired in 2000. My day-to-day interactions with him, therefore, were minimal. Still, his influence and leadership style were ever-present in the working environment. My early recollections of him were how he smiled and greeted whomever he met when walking along the corridor. Despite his stature, he seemed friendly.

However, I soon realized that most of my superiors were pretty nervous or even petrified when preparing for meetings with him. As a member of the finance team of the hotel sector, I remember extensively collating figures and information for them before a meeting. They all knew that KB was pretty savvy with figures. In the book “They call him Ken”, authored by Savithri Rodrigo (SR), the former Group Finance Director Anushya Coomaraswamy expresses her amazement at KB’s grasp of numbers despite not having formal financial training. She further states, “He expected answers for questions he brings up and stops you peremptorily in the corridor if he wants an answer. So, you had to have the facts and figures at your fingertips. That is the kind of training which keeps you on the ball. If you didn’t have the data he wanted, he was not happy, and he showed it!”

Work Ethic and Super Sense

of Humour

The JKH culture was built around the principle “play hard, play smart, play together and have fun.” The Chairman was undoubtedly an embodiment of such a work ethic. Moreover, his sense of humour was legendry amongst those who worked closely with him. Many anecdotes are chronicled in the book referred to in the previous paragraph and Richard Simon’s account of JKH titled “Legacy”.

The one that I enjoy the most is how KB as a board director, had requested David Blackler (DB), the then deputy chairman, to get board approval to buy a new vehicle for the company trading in diamonds to replace the sad-looking Sri Lankan assembled Upali Mazda. KB felt this was necessary to be on equal footing with the wealthy gem merchants who used to turn up in rather expensive cars. However, DB had said that this would not be possible as the board was, in any case, weary of the project. So, the story goes about how KB then proposed that DB, a white Englishman, dress up as KB’s chauffeur as none of the gem merchants had a white chauffeur! KB had felt that this should negate the disadvantage of arriving in a dilapidated car! I am sure the story has undergone a few alterations over the years, but hopefully, the readers will appreciate KB’s humour.

Succession Planning

One of KB’s most profound and far-reaching decisions early into his tenure as Chairman of JKH was appointing Susantha Ratnayake, Ajit Gunewardene and Anushya Coomaraswamy, all in their early thirties, to the Board of John Keells Holdings Plc. It was highly unusual for Sri Lankan companies or, for that matter, anywhere else in the world to appoint people as young as that to the Main Board of the holding company that was also listed. As SR in her book says, “His perceptive judgement of people has proven to be spot on.”

No doubt in appointing them, he was thinking of succession planning, a crucial but often neglected aspect of leadership. He undoubtedly would have been pleased when Susantha and Ajit took over as Chairman and Deputy Chairman in 2005 and successfully steered the group to even greater performance for nearly 15 years.

During KB’s tenure, senior management was structured into three layers known as “A” team, “B” team, and Team 2020. Although it might sound hierarchical, it was more a case of fitting people to slots where the seniors could mentor them and also give them an indication of their future path in the group as long as they kept performing. Team 2020 comprised talented youngsters he believed would be in senior management of JKH by 2020. Coincidently when I retired in 2018, nearly 80 per cent of the twenty senior-most had been at JKH for more than two decades.

Significant Investments and Initiatives during the decade

The substantial investments and initiatives JKH undertook under KB’s leadership are explained below. They have all stood the test of time and have contributed significantly to the company’s bottom line over an extended period.

The acquisition of the Whittalls Group in 1991 for Rs 300 million was to prove an excellent decision. At the time, however, the investment was considered risky by many in the private sector. The two Whittals hotels were in financial difficulties due to the civil war raging from 1984. In addition, Ceylon Cold Stores (CCS) was under government control, and the unions were ruling the roost.

Nevertheless, the deal gave JKH ownership of two hotels (291 rooms) in Bentota and Hikkaduwa, and CCS, the manufacturer of Elephant House soft drinks and ice creams and nine acres of prime land in Colombo. Despite severe challenges, particularly from the unions, the JKH team comprising Sumithra Gunasekera, Raji Goonewardena and Jit Guneratne slowly but surely brought about the necessary changes to CCS to be a highly profitable enterprise and compete on equal footing with Coca Cola on market share. As a result, I believe the initial investment was recovered in less than five years.

In 1994 JKH raised US$ 35 million by issuing Global Depositary Receipts (GDR) from overseas investors. It was a first of its kind by a Sri Lankan company, and its success was a feather in the cap of JKH and KB and his team comprising Kailasapillai, the deputy chairman, Ajith and Anushya. The issue of GDR taking place amidst a civil war speaks volumes of KB’s vision and confidence in JKH and, of course, the investors in JKH. The JKH share has been the most sought after by foreign investors, and until recently, nearly 50 per cent of the shareholding was with foreign investors.

In 1995 the JKH Employee Share Option scheme was introduced and launched. I believe we were one of the first to introduce this rewards scheme in Sri Lanka. Once again, it was a brilliant initiative to bring a sense of ownership and loyalty amongst the management staff. Undoubtedly, the scheme’s success in the ensuing years enabled many of us who worked at JKH in that era to build a secure financial future for ourselves.

In 1996 JKH invested in the Maldives by acquiring an 80-bedroom hotel. It was our first overseas investment, and I was fortunate to be involved in the acquisition. Our management team comprising of less than ten quickly transformed a “dead” hotel into a thriving property. When I joined JKH, I realized that one of JKH’s great strengths was its systems and procedures and was thrilled to see how seamlessly they were implanted in the Maldives. Jagath Fernando, the then MD of the Leisure Sector and Jayantissa Kehelpannala, the Head of Sales, Marketing and Operations, provided excellent leadership that contributed to our success. As a result, the investment was recovered in a record quick time of fewer than four years. Given the lucrative returns, JKH quickly added more properties to the portfolio in the Maldives and it is now a significant contributor to the group.

In 1999 JKH and P&O, a renowned international shipping line, and several others entered into an agreement with GOSL and the SLPA to develop the South Asia Gateway Terminal (SAGT). This was after four years of arduous negotiations. The project was the brainchild of Susantha Ratnayake, the then head of the transport and logistics sector of JKH. A great story that is part of JKH folklore is how when Lord Sterling, the Chairman of P&O, had said, “Ken, do you know that the issued capital of this company is going to be about a hundred million dollars and we from P&O are putting in twenty-six million dollars. What can you do?”

Without batting an eyelid, KB had said, “We’ll match it.” Vivendra Lintotawella, the then Deputy Chairman and Susantha had a shock and thought, ‘Chairman, has gone bonkers.’ However, KB explains in the book ‘Legacy’ that JKH had the money from the GDR issue. That SAGT has been a highly successful investment is to state the obvious.

Retirement from JKH and the Legacy

On 31st December 2000, KB retired from JKH and handed over the baton to Lintotawela. It was the end of an era for us all who had worked with him. During his tenure, JKH had grown to be a highly diversified conglomerate with the highest market capitalization on the Colombo Stock Exchange. In its December 1998 edition, Fortune magazine listed JKH among the top 10 stocks in Asia.

However, for most of us, his impact as the first Sri Lankan born Chairman of JKH went way beyond just numbers. His skills as a visionary leader, combined with his uncanny ability to select and promote people who can deliver, made many of us perform that extra bit which is the difference between being good and excellent. He made us believe that anything is possible and wanted his team to “think big.” It was a way of life. For many of us, JKH was “the family.”

In her book, Savithri sums it up quite appropriately “What most old hands cannot forget is that Ken was inextricably linked with both the past leadership and pending legacy of John Keells. Some would even venture to say that John Keells is what it is in the present largely because of Ken – an assumption that Ken, with his usual modesty, dismisses lightly.”

In my view, the ethos that he created has resulted in JKH being voted as “the most admired” corporate entity in Sri Lanka for decades. Undoubtedly, those who succeeded him have continued his excellent work and even built on them. I was mighty pleased to read recently that the JKH Annual Report was voted the most transparent. I am not surprised because that is the culture that has existed in the group.

Charming, Charismatic yet Outspoken Statesmen

Despite being a hard taskmaster, as his former boss, David Blackler, says, ” Bala’s personality was a fine blend of charm and charisma, an asset that was a much sought after commodity in a rapidly expanding and diversifying conglomerate.” No doubt a quality that benefitted JKH immensely over the years when dealing with politicians, overseas business partners, diplomats and even tricky superiors and subordinates! Given JKH’s significant exposure to the leisure industry, relationships with our overseas business partners during the civil war were crucial.

Romesh David of JKH says in the book, ” In the chaotic aftermath of the 1983 riots saw major charter tour operators, many of which were global giants, retain their commitments to Sri Lanka based solely on the assurances given by Ken, driven by the confidence and close personal rapport they had with him. Being articulate, personable, warm, and friendly added to his charm and the building of some strong business relationships in his time.”

The book by SR includes a pictorial representation of a Reuter report titled ” Private sector needs guts.” The article, I believe, was published in 1994. It states, ” Mr Balendra, who as the chief executive officer, has guided the fortunes of the 125-year old company since 1990, is one of the few private-sector bosses unafraid to express strong views on the country’s political, economic and social fabric.”

KB had said, ‘The private sector should openly be able to criticize the government, suggest policies. That does not mean we are in politics,’ The report goes on to say, “His outspoken views have probably caused the company trouble. It fell foul of former president Ranasinghe Premadasa two years ago and was the target of a vicious campaign by rivals and state-owned media.”

I doubt my article has done sufficient justice to Mr Balendra. I feel I have just touched the tip of the iceberg. I am sure many will write with greater authority about the Corporate Colossus, who was voted by LMD in 2003 as the most effective business leader in Sri Lanka since the country’s independence in 1948.

I wish to acknowledge Ms Savithri Rodrigo, the author of the book ” They Call him Ken.” From which I have quoted in my article.

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Full implementation of 13A– Final solution to ‘national problem’ or end of unitary state? – Part VII



by Kalyananda Tiranagama

Executive Director
Lawyers for Human Rights and Development

(Continued from yesterday (03 Oct.)

President Wickremesinghe’s solution

From the statements made by President Ranil Wickremesinghe before Parliament and at public fora at different times it appears that he believes that the most urgent task before him is providing a solution to the ethnic Issue acceptable to the Tamil political parties in the North-East. Soon after assuming duties as the Prime Minister in Gotabaya Rajapaksa government in May 2022, he declared in Parliament that he would take steps to address the grievances of the People in the North and the East for meaningful devolution of power through Constitutional amendments with the consensus of other political parties. Addressing the Convocation of Kotelawala National Defence College in September 2022, he declared that he would provide a final solution to the Tamil People’s problem within the next few months and that he had already commenced discussions with Tamil MPs. In his discussions in London with the leaders of the Tamil Diaspora Groups he had told them that he would provide a solution to the Tamil People’s problem acceptable to them and sought their support for economic development in Sri Lanka. Winding up the Budget Debate in Parliament on November 22, 2022, President Wickremesinghe said that he believed that he would be able to provide a solution to the Tamil national problem satisfactory to the Tamil People, with the support of all the political parties, before the 31st of December 2022 and that it was his wish to celebrate the 75th Anniversary of National Independence on February 4, 2023 with the participation of people belonging to all nationalities in a country free from ethnic problems.

On August 9, 2023, addressing the All Party Conference in Parliament, President Wickremesinghe said that the 13th Amendment is part of the Constitution, they all are bound to give effect to all the provisions in the Constitution, and that he is ready to fully implement the 13th Amendment, granting all powers, except Police powers, to the Provincial Councils.

However, when we carefully go through his speech, we can see that he is not only standing for the implementation of the 13th Amendment fully, but is taking steps to grant powers going far beyond the 13th Amendment, and in the guise of addressing issues faced by the Provincial Councils in the implementation of their powers, is planning to enact new laws for implementation of several key proposals in the Reports of the Steering Committee and the Sub-committee on Centre – Periphery Relations of the 2016 Constitutional Assembly.

Let us examine President Wickremesinghe’s Address to All Party Conference on August 9, 2023:

‘‘The devolution of power within provincial councils is governed by the 13th Constitutional Amendment, which holds the status of the highest law of our nation. We cannot afford to disregard it. Both the executive and the legislature are obligated to execute its provisions…

‘‘Numerous issues surround the implementation of the 13th Amendment, as well as the functioning of provincial councils. … If our nation is to progress, these issues must be addressed. The 13th Amendment needs to be implemented in a manner that aligns with our country’s development and future. This can only be achieved if all parliament members come to a consensus after a thorough and open-minded discussion.

‘‘The division of power and authority between provincial councils, central government and local governing bodies lacks clarity. Consequently, subjects overlap between provincial councils and the central government, resulting in duplication of efforts and delayed actions. Instead of resolving people’s issues, problems are escalating due to these inefficiencies.

‘‘Today, I present my proposals and forthcoming actions concerning the 13th Amendment and devolution of powers to this House.

‘‘In recent years, numerous Committees associated with the Parliament have produced several documents that thoroughly examine the subject of provincial councils and their prospective trajectory. Among these documents is the interim report released on September 21, 2017 by the Steering Committee of the Constitutional Council of SL under my leadership. Importantly, all parties represented in Parliament endorsed the recommendations outlined in this interim report.

· This statement is far from the truth. Many parties represented in Parliament had their reservations on the recommendations in the Interim Report.

‘‘The Interim Report offers recommendations concerning amendments to Articles 3, 4 and 5 of the Constitution. We now bring forward these proposed constitutional amendments for consideration by the Parliament….

· Here the President speaks of recommendations in the Interim Report for amendment of Articles 3, 4 and 5 of the Constitution. Articles 3 and 5 being entrenched clauses, they cannot be amended without the approval of the people at a Referendum. Article 4, not being an entrenched clause, can be amended by two thirds majority in Parliament, without a Referendum.

· Article 4, though it is not entrenched, is a most important and vital Article in the Constitution describing in detail how the sovereignty of the people, powers of government are exercised by different organs of government – the Legislature, the Executive and the Judiciary – and enjoyed by the people.

· In many Judgements our Supreme Court has held that Articles 3 and 4 must be read and considered together in determining the constitutionality of Bills of Parliament.

· The formulation of Article 4 proposed in the Interim Report is as follows: ‘The legislative, executive and judicial power of the people shall be exercised as provided for by the Constitution.’

· At a glance this formulation appears to be innocuous. This is a crafty formulation drafted by cunning politicians enabling them to achieve their sinister motives detrimental to the people and the country to enact laws without touching Article 3.

· There is nothing in this proposed formulation of Article 4 that needs to be considered together with Article 3 in the Constitution and all the said Supreme Court Judgements will become irrelevant and the Govt would be able to pass Bills which it could not hitherto pass without being declared inconsistent with the Constitution.

The President is planning to give effect to the recommendations in the report of the Sub-committee on Centre – Periphery Relations. The following are among the main Recommendations in the Report of the Sub-committee on Centre – Periphery Relations:

(1) This Report recommends to do away with Item 1 in the Reserved List of the present Constitution ‘National Policy on all Subjects and Functions’ and make provision to ensure a consultative mechanism, involving the participation of the provincial representatives in the formulation of national policy.’

The President says: ‘‘In formulating National Policy on matters contained in the Provincial List the Central Government shall adopt a participatory process with the Provincial Council. No transfer of decentralized powers to the Central Government through the creation of national policies related to the topics within the Provincial List nor any impact on the executive and administrative powers under the jurisdiction of the Provincial Council. The executive and administrative powers required to enact the decentralised subject will remain under the jurisdiction of the Provincial Councils. The Province will retain the executive and administrative powers (implementation powers) with regard to the said power.’’

The President had stated that he would present the above proposals to Parliament as Constitutional amendments so the House could take it forward for necessary action.

· When this is done, the Provincial Council will get all the powers- legislative, executive and administrative – in respect of the devolved subject. He has craftily used the phrase – to enact the decentralised subject – instead of openly saying powers to enact legislation on the devolved subject, to cover up the real intention and the effect. Now the subject is fully devolved, the Provincial Council can pass any statute required for its implementation. The Parliament has no power to pass any legislation on the subject as it is no longer a subject in the National List.

· The Governor’s power to withhold statutes for consideration by the President also automatically disappears as there is no need for that.

In his speech the President states: ‘‘Furthermore, attention should be directed towards the report of the committee established to examine the relationship between the Parliament and the Provincial Councils, as well as the report from the Sub-committee on Centre – Periphery Relations.

‘‘Through these documents, the provincial council system is affirmed as an institutional framework that cannot be excluded from our governance system. Even parties like the JVP and JHU, which do not view provincial councils as a solution to ethnic conflicts as units of decentralization have acknowledged the need for specific amendments within the provincial council system and its unchanged aspects.

‘‘This reinforces the notion that the provincial council has become an enduring component that cannot be excised from Sri Lanka’s governmental structure or political landscape. ‘‘It is important to note that provincial councils were established not exclusively in the Northern and Eastern Provinces but across all nine provinces.’’

However, other than saying that the Provincial Councils were established and governed under the 13th Amendment to the Constitution and that they have become an enduring component that cannot be excised from Sri Lanka’s governmental structure, in his speech, the President has not given any reason as to why they should be continued or any example as to what benefit the people have received from the Provincial Councils. Nor has he pointed out how they would bring about national unity and national reconciliation through the proposed amendments.

In his own words, Provincial Councils have resulted in a colossal wastage of public funds that could have been used for the benefit of the people. This is what the President says:

‘‘Our annual expenditure on provincial councils amounts around Rs. 550 billion. Have these councils justified this investment? Has this substantial funding truly benefited the populace? This is an aspect that deserves attention. We spend Rs. 22,000 for each person every year. We are spending Rs. 22,000 that could be spent on our students for provincial councils. That is Rs. 88,000 that can be spent on a family of four. Are we getting benefits from it?’’

Provincial Councils are functioning without elected representatives and Board of Ministers since 2017. In the 9 Provincial Councils there are 9 Chief Ministers, 36 PC Ministers and 408 PC Members. The Chief Minister is entitled to the salary, perks and other benefits of a Cabinet Minister, a PC Minister entitled to the salary, perks and other benefits of a State Minister and a PC Member is entitled to half the salary, perks and other benefits of a Member of Parliament. Most probably, the above amount of Rs. 500 billion may have been calculated without calculating this expenditure. This would almost amount to the same cost required for the maintenance of the Diyawannawa lot. If this cost is also added to Rs. 500 billion one can imagine the amount of loss caused to the country.

(To be continued)

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Lies, damned lies and statistics



Cartoon courtesy

Statistics are undoubtedly valuable for revealing patterns, relationships, and comparisons, within a given situation between groups and variables, and they operate within a realm of probabilities at various levels of significance. However, it’s important to note that statistical analysis can only expose the symptoms or manifestations of a phenomenon; it cannot delve into the underlying root causes.

The phrase “Lies, damned lies, and statistics” is often used to highlight the potential for manipulation or misrepresentation of data through statistics. It doesn’t necessarily mean that statistics are worse than outright lies; rather, it underscores how statistics can be presented in a way that is intentionally deceptive or misleading.

The context in which this statement is commonly attributed is in discussions about the use of statistics in persuasive or political discourse. While the origin of the phrase is somewhat unclear, it gained popularity through the writings and speeches of various individuals, including Mark Twain and Benjamin Disraeli. Its purpose is to caution against blindly accepting statistical data without critical evaluation, as statistics can be shaped or presented in a manner that serves a particular agenda or biases.

Reality, of course, is often not as clear as numbers lead us to believe. Winston Churchill once reportedly said that “the only statistics you can trust are the ones you have falsified yourself”.

If they were living today, Churchill and Disraeli would probably say as much about Greece’s membership in the Euro zone. People are upset because the leadership in Athens submitted forged statistics with the goal of joining Europe’s monetary union. But their European colleagues are to blame, too. They did not review the application strictly. Greek Euro membership was politically welcome.

The example of the Euro shows all too clearly that statistics are not just rhetorical instruments. When used correctly, they are a means of control. They help us gain insights. Without sound statistics, structural imbalances in the global economy cannot be understood, much less remedied. Such imbalances are among the causes of the current global financial crisis. It is still far too early to tell whether the leaders of the G20, the 20 largest national economies, are up to the task. Nor do we know whether the EU will manage its own crisis well. It is also rooted in imbalances. Global macroeconomics is not the only field where policymakers need sound data, of course.

Without reliable statistics, it is impossible to run national education or health systems efficiently. Even public transport management for a midsized town depends on correct figures. Private sector leaders are number crunchers, too. To understand market trends, they need macroeconomic data (inflation and growth rates, for instance) and microeconomic information. What is the purchasing power of a specific segment of consumers? Companies conduct scientific market research to avoid risks and grasp opportunities.

Basic statistics are part of the social infrastructure governments must provide. Censuses matter a lot. In order to extrapolate accurately from samples, one needs to know the exact size of the total population. Social-science students learn in their first semesters that a census should be held every ten years. That is especially important wherever state authorities do not keep other kinds of systematic records, of course.

Statistics are undoubtedly valuable for revealing patterns, relationships, and comparisons within a given situation between groups and variables, and they operate within a realm of probabilities at various levels of significance. However, it’s important to note that statistical analysis can only expose the symptoms or manifestations of a phenomenon; it cannot delve into the underlying root causes.

Nonetheless, many scholars across the globe prefer to conduct their research studies using quantitative methods, which often involve statistical analysis. There are several reasons for this preference. Firstly, quantitative research allows for relatively straightforward conclusions and robust findings. These findings are generally less subjective and reproducible, meaning that if different researchers employ the same dataset and methods, they are likely to arrive at similar results. This objectivity and reproducibility make it easier to defend research findings, a crucial aspect when aiming to publish in international indexed journals.

So, what’s the significance of publishing in these so-called international academic journals and achieving indexing? Until recent times, university staff might not have placed a strong emphasis on publishing their research in such journals. All our universities in Sri Lanka have been ranked

How do you know what you know?

The question, “How do you know what you know?”, is raised by Norman K. Denzin and Yvonna S. Lincoln to delve into the field of epistemology, which explores the science and art of acquiring knowledge. This inquiry highlights the methodology employed in the process of uncovering knowledge, ultimately aiming to persuade the audience regarding the credibility and validity of the research findings. Norman K. Denzin and Yvonna S. Lincoln are influential figures in the field of qualitative research methodology.

However, to truly uncover the root causes behind these statistical findings, researchers often need to complement quantitative research with qualitative research methods. Qualitative research involves asking “why” and “how” questions repeatedly and in-depth, probing as deeply as possible until a thorough understanding is reached, even if it means hitting a point where further insights seem elusive.

In summary, while statistics provide valuable insights and facilitate publication in international academic journals, they primarily deal with observable patterns and relationships. To unearth the underlying root causes, researchers often turn to qualitative research methods, which allow for a more comprehensive exploration of the “why” and “how” aspects of the phenomena under investigation.

University rankings

It’s quite astonishing to discover that, based on the Webometrics ranking system, all universities, with the exception of the University of Colombo, are positioned below 2000 in the rankings. (See table)

The process of knowledge discovery and research plays a crucial role in the context of university rankings. University rankings are often influenced by the quality and impact of the research conducted by universities. Here’s how they are connected:

Research Output: One of the key factors considered in university rankings is the volume and impact of research output. Universities that produce high-quality research, publish in reputable journals, and contribute to advancements in various fields, tend to rank higher.

Academic Reputation: The reputation of a university is closely tied to its research contributions. Universities with a strong track record of groundbreaking research tend to have a better academic reputation, which can positively affect their ranking.

Funding and Resources: Universities with robust research programmes often receive more funding and resources. These resources can be used to attract top faculty and researchers, further enhancing the institution’s research capabilities and overall standing in rankings.

International Collaboration: Collaboration with international researchers and institutions is common in the world of research. Such collaborations can boost a university’s global presence and, consequently, its ranking on the international stage.

Student Attraction: High-ranking universities are often more attractive to prospective students. Students seek institutions that offer cutting-edge research opportunities, which can lead to an increase in applications and enrollment.

Innovation and Impact: Research can lead to innovations that benefit society and the economy. Universities contributing to innovation and societal impact tend to be recognized in rankings for their contributions to the broader community.

Therefore, it is clear that research and knowledge discovery are intertwined with university rankings. The quality, quantity, and impact of a university’s research output significantly influence its position in global and national university rankings, making research a fundamental component of a university’s reputation and standing in the academic world.

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Full implementation of 13A – Final solution to ‘national problem’ or end of unitary state? – Part VI



President Jayewardene in New Delhi in November 1987 for talks with Indian Prime Minister Gandhi

by Kalyananda Tiranagama
Executive Director
Lawyers for Human Rights and Development

(Part V of this article appeared in The Island of 02 Oct. 2023)

Six months later, in July 1986, further talks were held between the Sri Lankan government and an Indian delegation led by P Chidambaram, Minister of State, a person from Tamil Nadu. Based on those talks, a detailed Note prepared containing observations of the Indian government on the proposals of the Sri Lanka government as the Framework was sent to the Indian Government.

The following three paragraphs from this Note were cited in the Judgement of Wanasundara J in the 13th Amendment Case as relevant for its determination:

1. A Provincial Council shall be established in each Province. Law-making and Executive (including Financial) powers shall be devolved upon the Provincial Councils by suitable constitutional amendments, without resort to a referendum. After further discussions subjects broadly corresponding to the proposals contained in Annexe 1 to the Draft Framework of Accord and Undertaking and the entries in List ll and List III of the Seventh Schedule of the Indian Constitution shall be devolved upon Provincial Councils.

It is strange that this paragraph suggests to bring constitutional amendments to devolve Law-making and Executive (including Financial) powers on the Provincial Councils, without resort to a referendum. It is not clear on whose suggestion this phrase – without resort to a referendum – was included, Sri Lanka or India? But it is most likely that it was India, feeling the sentiments of the vast majority of the people in the South and knowing the most probable outcome of a referendum.

Inclusion of this phrase – without resort to a referendum – may have had some impact on the minds of the Judges in arriving at a determination on the Bills.

There can be no doubt that the phrase – the entries in List ll and List III of the Seventh Schedule of the Indian Constitution shall be devolved upon Provincial Councils – included on the suggestion of Indian side.

2. In the Northern Province and in the Eastern Province the Provincial Councils shall be deemed to be constituted immediately after the constitutional amendments come into force……..

What does this mean? Can they come into being even before the Provincial Councils Bill and the Provincial Councils Elections Bill are passed and the Elections held? Where is People’s sovereignty? This also appears to be an Indian demand.

3. ‘‘In a preamble to this Note, it was agreed that suitable constitutional and legal arrangements would be made for those two Provinces to act in co-ordination. In consequence of these talks a constitutional amendment took shape and form and three lists – (1) The Reserved List (List II), (2) The Provincial List (List I); and (3) The Concurrent List (List Ill) too were formulated.’’

‘Suitable constitutional and legal arrangements to be made for those two Provinces to act in co-ordination’. This is another subtle and mild formulation used to convey the idea that the Northern and Eastern Provinces would be merged into one unit.

Mr. Chidambaram may have seen to it that the aspirations of the TULF are incorporated into the agreement to a certain extent.

‘‘The Bangalore discussions held between President J. R. Jayewardene and Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in November 1986 were the next stage of the discussions. At the Bangalore discussions Sri Lanka had to agree to all the Cardinal Principles of the TULF and other Tamil militant groups, which Sri Lanka had totally refused even to discuss at Thimphu talks and not included in the Draft Terms of Accord and Understanding reached in New Delhi in September 1985.

The Sri Lanka government’s observations on the Working Paper on Bangalore Discussion dated 26th November 1986 show that the following suggestions made by the Indian Government were substantially adopted:

Recognition that the Northern and Eastern Provinces have been areas of historical habitation of Sri Lankan Tamil speaking peoples who have at all times hitherto lived together in the territory with other ethnic groups;

Northern and Eastern Provinces should form one administrative unit for an interim period and that its continuance should depend on a Referendum;

The Governor shall have the same powers as the Governor of a State in India.

India had also proposed to the Sri Lankan government that

the Governor should only act on the advice of the Board of Ministers and should explore the possibility of further curtailing the Governor’s discretionary powers;

provision be made on the lines of Article 249 of the Indian Constitution on the question of Parliament’s power to legislate on matters in the Provincial list;

Article 254 of the Indian Constitution be adopted in regard to the Provincial Council’s power to make a law before or after a parliamentary law in respect of a matter in the Concurrent List.

To ensure that the Government of Sri Lanka would comply with these suggestions in enacting laws for the implementation of these suggestions, the two most crucial suggestions were included in the Indo Lanka Accord signed by President J. R. Jayewardene and Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi on the 29th July 1987 in Colombo.

The First part of the Indo-Lanka Accord reaffirmed what was agreed at Bangalore that (a) the Northern and Eastern Provinces have been areas of historical habitation of Sri Lanka Tamil Speaking people who at all times hitherto lived together in the territory with other ethnic groups. It also provided for (b) these two Provinces to form one administrative unit for an interim period and (c) for elections to the Provincial Council to be held before 31st December 1987.

From the above material, it clearly appears beyond any doubt that the 13th Amendment and the Provincial Councils are not a solution reached through consensus between two independent states following free negotiations, but something forcibly imposed on Sri Lanka by India, with a view to placating the demands of the TULF and the other Tamil groups, contrary to the wishes of the Govt of Sri Lanka.

This explains why Indian political leaders and high officials of the Indian Govt frequently visit Sri Lanka and meet our political leaders demanding the full implementation of the 13th Amendment. That is why leaders of our Tamil Political Parties frequently rush to the Indian High Commission complaining of their grievances and requesting the Indian High Commissioner to bring pressure on our Govt to grant their demands.

As shown above, due to India’s pressure, Sri Lanka had to adopt the three main proposals made by India at the Bangalore discussions. If Sri Lanka had adopted all the proposals as suggested by India and implemented them it would have been the end of the Unitary State of Sri Lanka and created a fully Federal State. However, President Jayewardene, as a shrewd and far-sighting politician, has taken care not to give effect to some of the proposals at the implementation stage.

President Jayewardene has not adopted the Indian proposal that ‘the Governor should only act on the advice of the Board of Ministers and should explore the possibility of further curtailing the Governor’s discretionary powers’. Under the 13th Amendment the Governor, as the representative of the President, is vested with undiminished power of exercising his discretion, not on the advice of the Board of Ministers of the Provincial Council, but as directed by the President. It is this Governor’s unfettered discretion that has prevented Sri Lanka from becoming a full Federal State, with Provincial Councils as federal units.

The majority Judgement in the 13th Amendment case explains how this Governor’s discretion has prevented Sri Lanka from becoming a fully federal state, thus:

‘‘With respect to executive powers an examination of the relevant provisions of the Bill underscores the fact that in exercising their executive power, the Provincial Councils are subject to the control of the Centre and are not sovereign bodies.

‘‘Article 154C provides that the executive power extending to the matters with respect to which a Provincial Council has power to make statutes shall be exercised by the Governor of the Province either directly or through Ministers of the Board of Ministers or through officers subordinate to him, in accordance with Article 154F.

‘‘Article 154F states that the Governor shall, in the exercise of his functions, act in accordance with such advice, except in so far as he is by or under the Constitution required to exercise his functions or any of them in his discretion.

‘‘The Governor is appointed by the President and holds office in accordance with Article 4(b) which provides that the executive power of the People shall be exercised by the President of the Republic, during the pleasure of the President (Article 154B (2)). The Governor derived his authority from the President and exercises the executive power vested in him as a delegate of the President. It is open to the President therefore by virtue of Article 4(b) of the Constitution to give directions and monitor the Governor’s exercise of this executive power vested in him.

‘‘ Although he is required by Article 154F(1) to exercise his functions in accordance with the advice of the Board of Ministers, this is subject to the qualification “except in so far as he is by or under the Constitution required to exercise his functions or any of them in his discretion.” Under the Constitution the Governor as a representative of the President is required to act in his discretion in accordance with the instructions and directions of the President.

‘‘ Article 154F(2) mandates that the Governor’s discretion shall be on the President’s directions and that the decision of the Governor as to what is in his discretion shall be final and not be called in question in any court on the ground that he ought or ought not to have acted on his discretion.

‘‘ So long as the President retains, the power to give directions to the Governor regarding the exercise of his executive functions, and the Governor is bound by such directions superseding the advice of the Board of Ministers and where the failure of the Governor or Provincial Council to comply with or give effect to any directions given to the Governor or such Council by the President under Chapter XVII of the Constitution will entitle the President to hold that a situation has arisen in which the administration of the Province cannot be carried on in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution and take over the functions and powers of the Provincial Council (Article 154K and 154L), there can be no gainsaying the fact that the President remains supreme or sovereign in the executive field and the Provincial Council is only a body subordinate to him.’’ (Pp. 322 – 323)

That is why the Tamil political parties stand for the abolition of Executive Presidency.

(To be continued)

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