Chief Minister of Sri Lanka’s Northern Province C.V. Wigneswaran on Monday called upon India to ensure that the spirit behind the 13th Constitutional Amendment be retained in the new Constitution.
“When I say the spirit of the 13th Amendment, it means ‘federal features’, which have to be made an integral part of the new Constitution,” Wigneswaran told The Hindu on the phone from Jaffna.
The 13th Amendment, an outcome of the 1987 India-Sri Lanka accord, is the “only document” through which India could function as the “guarantor” of interests and rights of Tamils in Sri Lanka, he said. But with the enactment of the Provincial Councils Act of 1987, “what was granted [to Provincial Councils] under the Amendment has been taken away”. This is why the demand is being made for the repeal of the Provincial Councils Act and adherence to the original character of the Amendment.
Asked whether New Delhi could make any suggestion to Colombo on the Amendment issue under the given circumstances, Wigneswaran recalled how Constitutional experts from India got involved in the process of drafting the 13th Amendment.
A few days ago, while addressing an event to felicitate 25 students of the Northern Province who pursued higher studies in India under the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation, Wigneswaran had said India alone could get “defect-free federal system.” He clarified that his suggestion was nothing new as he had made this when Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Sri Lanka a year ago.
To another question whether it was realistic to expect the new Constitution to be federal, the Chief Minister said there had been a perception among sections of Sinhalese that federalism meant separation.
It was only to allay the apprehension that he took the initiative of organising a workshop recently on federalism with the participation of authorities from Switzerland. He explained how federal features were part of the constitutional schemes in several countries such as India, U.S., Canada and Switzerland. Asked about the traditional welcome to he gave to Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe in January, the Chief Minister replied that he was making efforts to get “misunderstanding” cleared with the Central government.