Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU), a Sinhalese-Buddhist party, which is part of the Mahinda Rajapaksa government, on Wednesday submitted a bill to jettison the 13th Amendment of the Sri Lankan Constitution and nullify the devolution of power to the country’s provinces.
Ven Athuraliye Rathana Thero, a Buddhist monk and a prominent JHU MP, handed over the draft bill, entitled ‘19th Constitutional Amendment Bill’, to the Secretary of Parliament.
JHU’s legal advisor and Agriculture Minister in the Western Province, Udaya Gammanpilla, told Express that the 19th Amendment bill had to be introduced as the 13th Amendment had become a threat to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Sri Lanka, especially in the context of the possibility that the pro-LTTE Tamil National Alliance (TNA) might come to power in the Tamil-dominated Northern Province, following elections to the Northern Provincial Council (NPC) scheduled to be held in September this year.
“The NPC under the TNA might seek powers over land and police as per the 13th Amendment - powers which other provinces have never sought, keeping in view the national interest. If the TNA claims these powers, as it is expected to, the country’s unity and sovereignty will be in jeopardy,” Gammanpilla said.
The JHU leader however added that his party was ready for some amendments, if the general opinion in parliament was that the 13th Amendment should not be thrown out lock, stock and barrel.
Some parties and MPs do believe in devolution, while others are anxious not to annoy India, which had brought about the 13th Amendment through the Indo-Lanka Accord of July 1987.
“Our basic demands are as follows: deletion of power over land and police from the list of provincial subjects; abrogation of the provision for the amalgamation of two or more provinces; and removal of the condition that every Provincial Council must agree, if the national parliament wants to legislate on a subject in the Provincial List. The assent of 50 percent of the Provincial Councils should do,” Gammanpilla said.