Kolkata (The Statesman/ANN) - Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the powerful defence secretary and brother of Sri Lanka President Mahinda Rajapaksa, has called for a repeal of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution of the island nation. The amendment was a result of the 1987 Indo-Sri Lanka Agreement signed by Rajiv Gandhi and J.R. Jayawardene. Though the present Sri Lankan leadership claims the agreement was imposed on Colombo by New Delhi, the truth is quite different. The Jayawardene government was facing attacks from the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) in the north and the Janata Vimukti Perumana in the south and the then armed forces of the nation were unable to cope with the situation which coincided with India's efforts to find a solution to the ethnic strife. Jayawardene agreed to India's proposal to amend the Constitution to create provincial councils with autonomous powers; to merge the Northern and the Eastern Provinces, traditional homeland of the ethnic Tamils, and to devolve powers to the merged Province. The Jayawardene government passed the 13th Amendment to the Constitution and India in return sent the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) to Sri Lanka. That enabled the Sri Lankan armed forces to put down the insurrection of Marxist political party Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna in the south. While the IPKF succeeded to a large extent in disarming the LTTE, it was asked to leave before completing its task by President Premadasa, Jayawardene's successor, who also rearmed the LTTE for reasons best known to him. The 13th Amendment remains unimplemented to this date.
The Rajapaksa government has undone the merger of the Northern and the Eastern Provinces through a judicial order and managed to hold provincial council elections in the Eastern Province twice and established a government of its choice. The situation in the Northern Province is entirely different. Even three years after the defeat and liquidation of the LTTE, Rajapaksa is unable to hold elections to the Northern Provincial Council as he is in no mood to let the Tamil National Alliance comprising the Tamil United Liberation Front, All-Ceylon Tamil Congress, Tamil Eelam Liberation Organisation, and the Eelam People's Revolutionary Liberation Front capture power.
New Delhi's invitation to the TNA leaders and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's assurance to them that India would ensure that elections are held in the Northern Province and power devolved to the elected council in accordance with the 13th Amendment has unnerved President Rajapaksa. Gotabaya's demand to repeal the 13th Amendment, which is gathering momentum among the Sinhala masses, is a clever move to save his brother from an embarrassing situation. As a civil servant, it is not given to Gotabaya to lay down government policy. The President's silence to the repeal demand is intriguing. He has given assurances so many times to Manmohan Singh, External Affairs Minister SM Krishna, former national security adviser M.K. Narayanan and the present incumbent Shivshankar Menon that he will implement 13th Amendment and more; now his brother wants it repealed. Will Manmohan Singh remain a silent spectator, as he did when innocent Tamil civilians including women and children were butchered by the Sri Lankan armed forces in the closing days of the war against the LTTE?