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National integration and 13A

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National integration would mean that in a country, which is inhabited by several ethnic communities, everyone would harbour similar feelings and thinking about matters of national interest, like independence, territorial integrity, sovereignty, etc. Development of such sentiments cannot be forced on a people. In this regard, what the Indian philosopher S. Radhakrishna said may be of relevance. He has said national integration cannot be made by brick and mortar but should be allowed to develop through education. Without a mutual feeling of respect for one another’s language, religion and culture among people, national integration, of the type defined above, is impossible to achieve. Such feelings would come only with education. It is perhaps this truism that made Radhakrishna utter those words of wisdom. Laws and Constitutions cannot impose something that only education could instill by a gradual process. There may not be any other method, or substitute, capable of bringing about such a change.

The Constitution of a country should not be an obstacle to the development of such feelings in people of different faiths, languages and cultures. It must ensure that all are equally treated by government institutions, have equal opportunity in education, employment, and space for economic and cultural development. However, the Constitution, whatever form it may take, cannot force national integration on people, whether they are a majority or a minority. A Constitution can only provide for laws that would prevent obstacles being put in the way to national integration. For instance, discrimination of a particular communal group would be an obstacle to national integration. The Constitution must provide for the enactment of laws that act against discrimination.

It is in this context that the 13th Amendment should be viewed. It is often said that the implementation of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, which came into being as a result of the Indo-Lanka Accord, entered into, in July 1987, would result in national integration. The 13th A provides for Provincial Councils which attempt power-sharing at provincial level. As mentioned above, the Constitution, if it is to facilitate national integration, must treat all the ethnic communities equally and must not try to satisfy one group at the expense of another. If it does, it would be an obstacle rather than a facilitator for national integration. This may happen if political power-sharing is attempted with the provinces as the unit of devolution. Most of the Provinces in Sri Lanka have multi-ethnic populations where one ethnic community is in the majority, while there are enclaves of other communities who would be minorities in a particular province. Creation of autonomous territorial units out of these provinces would result in these minority groups losing their umbilical connection with the central government to a significant degree, and being brought under provincial power. In other words, a law which attempts to solve the problems of minority communities would create new minorities with attendant issues in each of these Provinces. For instance, in the Eastern Province, Sinhalese would be a minority with regard to political power and they may be concerned of being discriminated against. Such an eventuality may not facilitate national integration.

Further, several authoritative world-wide surveys have shown that power-sharing measures, as a solution to ethnic conflict have not been successful. There had been 78 countries in Asia, Africa, the Middle East, Eastern Europe, former USSR and the Caribbean which were in intense ethnic conflict during 1980 to 2010. Of these only 20 managed to conclude inter-ethnic power sharing arrangements, many failed, some experienced genocide eh. Rwanda in 1993 and others ended with secession, eg. Sudan in 2005. Only four to six achieved stable arrangements but even these have serious political instability (Horowitz D, 2014).

Following are a few extracts from these research works: ” The core reason why power-sharing cannot resolve ethnic conflict is that it is voluntaristic; it requires conscious decisions by elites to cooperate to avoid ethnic strife. Under conditions of hypernationalist mobilisation and real security threats, group leaders are unlikely to be receptive to compromise and even if they are they, cannot act without being discredited and replaced by harder-line rivals” (Kaufmann, 1997). “Proposals for devolution abound, but more often than not devolution agreements are difficult to reach and once reached soon abort” (Horowitz, 1985).

That Sri Lanka provides ample evidence in support of the above research findings could easily be seen in its experience with its own Provincial Councils. Of the nine PCs, the worst failure was seen in relation to the Northern PC, where it was supposed to be essential for the solution of the ethnic conflict. Its Chief Minister, after willingly contesting for the post, made use of the opportunity to loudly engage in secessionist rhetoric and propaganda. Some Tamil leaders, who engage in such treacherous activity are believed to be funded by pro-LTTE Tamil Diaspora. How could anybody believe that the full implementation of the 13th A would not provide greater opportunity for such secessionist activity, with greater collusion between internal and external separatist elements.

In consideration of the above, what would be more suitable for Sri Lanka is a power-sharing mechanism at the centre, which would suit its geography of ethnicity where in most areas there is a mixture of ethnic groups, and 50% of minorities live outside the North and the East. If all possibility of discrimination of majority or minority communities is avoided, and people are allowed to learn to respect each other’s different cultures, there would develop common feelings and thinking about national issues, which would be the national integration that has eluded us all these years.

 

N.A.de S. AMARATUNGA



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Opinion

Right to travel

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A.G. Noorani

VERY few would dispute that travel broadens the mind. But in the developing nations of this world, the state asserts that it can determine whether its citizen has the right to go abroad or not. The supreme court may take its own time to decide whether or not a citizen — even if he or she lives in a country that claims itself to be a democracy — has the right to possess a passport. Even if that is allowed as an essential travel document, the authorities might decide who can use it or who cannot. The government of India, regardless of which party is in power, seems to have assumed the right to decide whether or not to let a chief minister travel abroad.

The victim is the chief minister of Delhi, Arvind Kejriwal, who was to speak at the World Cities Summit in Singapore. But the BJP-ruled government, headed by Narendra Modi, felt that he could not go and did not give him clearance. Its approach was nonsensical.

By now, most of the countries of the Third World have ratified the United Nations. International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966). This is an international treaty in law while the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) is, in law, just a resolution of the United Nations General Assembly. Article 12(2) of the covenant provides that “Everyone shall be free to leave any county including his own” — in other words, there should be no restrictions on travelling abroad.

The covenant sets up a human rights committee of distinguished persons who are not representatives of the government but are individuals of note who have “high moral character” and are elected by the states, who have ratified the covenant.Parties to the covenant have to file reports to the committee on their observance of the stipulations contained within. States send mostly their attorney general to defend their reports. Members of the committee grill representative of the states. They do not publicise much of the report within their own countries or the contents of their reports. Both err on the side of exaggeration.

Unfortunately, civil liberties movements in the Third World are generally not articulate nor well-equipped. The exception that stands out is the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan based in Lahore whose prominent chairperson, the late Mr I.A. Rehman, never failed to stand up for civil rights.

In India, following Indira Gandhi’s defeat in the election in 1977, a liberal government came to power which ratified the UN covenant in March 1979. They ratified it only with certain conditions but these did not concern Article 21 of the constitution of India that says very clearly that “No person shall be deprived of his life and personal liberty except according to the procedure established by law”.

The Indian supreme court has ruled that fundamental rights can be exercised outside the country. In 1978, the apex court had to deal with Maneka Gandhi’s case concerning the impounding of her passport. The supreme court held:

“…[F]reedom to go abroad is one of such rights, for the nature of man as a free agent necessarily involves free movement on his part. There can be no doubt that if the purpose and the sense of state is to protect personality and its development, as indeed it should be of any liberal democratic state, freedom to go abroad must be given its due place amongst the basic rights.

“This right is an important basic human right for it nourishes independent and self-determining creative character of the individual, not only by extending his freedoms of action, but also by extending the scope of his experience. It is a right which gives intellectual and creative workers in particular the opportunity of extending their spiritual and intellectual horizon through study at foreign universities, through contact with foreign colleagues and through participation in discussions and conferences.

“The right also extends to private life; marriage, family and friendship are humanities which can be rarely affected through refusal of freedom to go abroad and clearly show that this freedom is a genuine human right.

“Moreover, this freedom would be a highly valuable right where man finds himself obliged to flee: (a) because he is unable to serve his God as he wished at the previous place of residence, (b) because his personal freedom is threatened for reasons which do not constitute a crime in the usual meaning of the word and many were such cases during the emergency, or (c) because his life is threatened either for religious or political reasons or through the threat to the maintenance of minimum standard of living compatible with human dignity.” This ruling has stood the test of time.

(The Dawn/ANN)
The writer is an author and a lawyer based in Mumbai.

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Opinion

If visitors pay USD at airport, no fuel queues for them

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The above statement was made by Manusha Nanayakkara our Labour & Foreign Employment Minister. How the Minister is going to do it is not known.I wish to make a few suggestions to the Minister for his consideration to implement his proposal. Tourists, migrant workers and the dual citizens were the people whom the Minister referred to in his proposal. Many expat Sri Lankans of whom some could be dual citizens visit home once a year to spend their holidays with their families. Since Covid this might have slowed down.

With the Covid jabs even though one could catch Covid people have started to travel. Travelling to Colombo again will slow down due to the pathetic situation that exist with a shortage of everything, particularly fuel, gas and medicines. The Minister’s statement is some encouragement, but he must place his plan for the consideration of the prospective travellers and shoe by action.

The Bank Of Ceylon Branch at the Airport can sell a Dollar debit card to expats, migrant workers and tourists or in other words those who arrive with a return ticket. The minimum value can be USD 500 with provision to put more dollars attending any BOC Branch. When selling the card, a separate certificate in a little booklet format can be given with the Passport details of the traveller entered. The registration details of the vehicle the traveller intends to use can be entered in the booklet by any BOC branch after the traveller finds the vehicle, that is hired or owned by a relation. If the traveller changes the vehicle the new vehicle details can be entered only after 3 days of the first registration. This will help to prevent misusing the debit card.

The traveller must be able to purchase fuel and other rare commodities on production of the certificate to pay by the debit card referred to in the certificate.

Expats and the tourists visit to travel, and fuel must be available at petrol stations, at least one station ear marked in every town with stock always available for this category. Purchase of fuel can be restricted to at least 15 litres per day that will be good to run about 150kms approximately.

I have suggested the above as a base for the Minster to work out a reasonable plan. Once it is made and implemented whether it works smoothly or with hiccups will be known to prospective travellers through the newspapers. If the system works well, the travellers will have confidence in visiting Sri Lanka and there will be many wanting to visit in the near future.

Hemal Perera

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Opinion

‘CEB restructure must be apolitical says CEBEU’ – a reply

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The above captioned news item appearing in your Sunday issue quotes CEBEU mentions that Cabinet approval has been granted to commence restructuring of Ceylon Electricity Board [C EB] and a committee has been appointed to submit its recommendations within a month; a very important and urgent action indeed seeing and learning the mismanagement and conflicting views and action taken to serve two masters viz, the Ministry for Power and Energy and the Public Utilities Commission of Sri Lanka [PUCSL] and also political interferences as correctly stated by CEB engineers –”The engineers stressed that political non-interferences is of paramount importance”. The interference of the Minister to award a tender for the construction pf 350 Mw LNG plant at Kerawalapitiya to a Chinese construction Company as against the recommendation of the Tender Board, causing a delay of over four years, and the cabinet approval for a wind farm in the north by an Indian company without consulting CEB are a couple worthy of mentioning. It should be emphatically stated, CEB has knowledgeable expert electrical engineers and I believe there are none outside, other than those retired CEB engineers who have set up lucrative consultancy firms, internationally recognized. During my time serving this sector for nearly two decades, with directives by the Ministry, in electrical engineering, administrative and financial matters, the CEB ran to the satisfaction of consumers and also invested elsewhere which made the Treasury to compel CEB to invest on Treasury Bills. The interferences in the administration and matters were directly settled by CEB and also directives of the Ministry have now to obtain the approval of PUCSL.

I remember that the PUCSL called for tenders to remove electric poles, a minor job done by area engineers. There was an instance where the PUCSL sought legal action against CEB for not consulting the PUCSL on a certain matter. Recently, the PUCSL has reduced the tariff worked out by expert proposed by the CEB. What does this mean, the CEB will have to cut down or cancel certain items which it had, to accommodate PUCSL reduction. For efficient running of the CEB, the committee should recommend an end to PUCSL interference with CEB. Do not forget consumers of electricity, commuters etc., could directly place their grievances to the authorities or through organizations, associations concerned and Trade Union, to get redress. The interference I mentioned is not my not my view alone. This was a request made by former Ministry for Power and Energy, Dallas Alahapperuma to the then President Gotabaya Rajapaksa; it was approved but overruled by the then Prime Minister and Minister for Finance, Mahinda Rajapaksa. For reasons perhaps ut ab ordine – chaos from order.

It is hoped the Committee appointed will look into what is stated above and make recommendations accordingly.

G. A. D.S irimal
BORALESGAMUWA
Former Assistant Secretary, SLAS, Ministry P&E.

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