Some 36 years later, the government of President Ranil Wickremesinghe is trying to resurrect the Indo-Lanka Accord to its full potential.

President J.R Jayewardene and Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi reached a consensus to sign the Accord aimed at resolving the ethnic conflict that has plagued the country for many years. It failed to achieve its short-term objectives when the LTTE failed to surrender arms as expected and in terms of the Accord.

However, the J.R. Jayewardene regime enacted the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution which gave effect to the Provincial Councils. Nevertheless, the last five years saw provincial councils become defunct and non-functional due to elections not being held because of a legal hiatus.

The Tamil political parties that were dominant in the North and the East were restless by the day and their relentless call was to hold elections for provincial councils which would give them some sort of autonomy to handle their affairs within the framework of a unitary constitution.

The President’s All-Party Conference on Wednesday, convened to discuss the National Reconciliation Programme, was a failed attempt where nothing concrete came out. The Tamil National Alliance (TNA) criticised the President for saying that they should decide whether the provincial council election or the 13th Amendment should take precedence.

The TNA’s M.A. Sumanthiran said he could not understand what the President was trying to say. In short, they were baffled why the President could not discuss two critical interconnected issues.

Sumanthiran, who is also the TNA’s spokesperson, said they participated in the discussion with doubts and misgivings. ‘The President eventually confirmed the concerns we had. He showed his utter dismay and reluctance as soon as the topic of elections was brought to the table’, said Sumanthiran.

‘The President said if the 13th Amendment’s provisions remain in the constitution either it must be implemented or done away with. He made his observations and moved to conclude the first session of the meeting’, explained Sumanthiran. He went on to state that the conference was a flop and there were no reasons to contend. ‘It appears there is a tug-of-war between two sections of the government regarding the implementation of the 13th Amendment.

Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna General Secretary Sagara Kariyawasam believes the 13th Amendment was part and parcel of the constitution during the tenure of seven Presidents who did not want to implement certain provisions therein. ‘Therefore, it is imperative to explore the reasons behind its non-implementation, especially the devolution of police powers to the provinces’, pointed out Kariyawasam. He also said there should be a broad discussion among various sections of the people and the clergy- the Maha Sangha- before such provisions are implemented. The SLPP which came to power with the Sinhala Buddhist vote didn’t want to budge an inch from their declared and stagnant position. Hence the SLPP denied minorities their right to self-determination within a unitary framework.

This is because the SLPP panders to the Sinhala Buddhist vote that got them elected. Instead, they are focused on ensuring equal rights and representation for all communities and religions in the unitary state structure without the right to self-determination.

It appears that Sri Lanka will dilly-dally until another insurrection brews in the country with the help of international players who support the minority’s claims that they were discriminated against by the majority. Some of these countries commemorated the 1983 pogrom where minority Tamils were subjected to harsh realities of where they were born as legitimate citizens. The majority pushed them relentlessly and aggressively, compelling them to seek a haven elsewhere in the world. Many countries in the world have opened their doors to Tamil refugees because they were treated harshly by people who looked down upon them. Even today Tamil people in the North and East face tough realities of life when government officials under the guise of protecting ancient Buddhist heritage encroach on their lands and religious places trying to spread the Sinhala hegemony in Tamil majority areas.

At the All Party Conference on Wednesday Sri Lanka Freedom Party General Secretary Dayasiri Jayasekara said that the government should come up with their proposal before requesting other political parties to contribute with their inputs regarding the matter. Though the President said he had discussed the matter with the Cabinet, no consensus was reached, according to the SLPP General Secretary. He maintained that there was no such consensus between the President and the SLPP cabinet.

Mahinda Rajapaksa said he would grant minority Tamils the 13+ to resolve the issue. However, all that rhetoric was limited to hollow words. Under the circumstances, President Ranil Wickremesinghe faces a tough time if he chooses to do everything to secure the Tamil vote at the next presidential election scheduled for late next year. The main reason for the hullabaloo the country is facing today is due to dishonest political games played by reputed politicians who masquerade as politicians with integrity.

Sajith Premadasa the opposition leader who attended the meeting said if the government was genuine about the devolution of power it should hold the provincial council elections first. He also suggested that the government should come up with a comprehensive proposal so that the opposition can present their proposals later on. He has also said that the government should show its bona fides by presenting genuine proposals aimed at resolving the crisis.

Samagi Jana Balawegaya Secretary Ranjith Madduma Bandara later said the APC amply displayed the division between the President and his supporters and the SLPP faction in the government.

Madduma Bandara said that seven months ago the President convened an APC and he was unaware why he summoned another one. ‘Everything is there in the 13th Amendment. What he and the Cabinet must do is implement the 13th Amendment and complete the devolution package’, said Madduma Bandara.

Madduma Bandara pointed out that the President left the meeting when everybody asked for an election for the provincial councils. ‘The government aims to confer power without elections’, pointed out Madduma Bandara.

Nevertheless, the government presented a paper to the All Party conference. This paper prescribed several measures including several amendments to the existing legislation and to the constitution to strengthen the provincial councils. However, this is without full police powers and gives nominal powers to control traffic and crowds. The rest of the powers are centred. The Tamil political parties have rejected it with contempt. However, the centre fears that a devolution of full police powers may lead to chaos and mayhem in the long run.

Political analysts point out that both the government and opposition are equally responsible for putting forward their proposals to end this lingering problem. They should have genuine intentions of resolving the crisis at hand without procrastination. The entire country might suffer economically and otherwise if Parliament doesn’t recognize the current situation. It might also bring about a just solution that plagued the country for so long at least since 1956. If there is a will the present Parliament could resolve the ethnic crisis without passing it down to another generation. It is the ultimate responsibility of all political parties that represent their constituents. Though the Gotabaya Rajapaksa government had set up a panel to draft a revised constitution sans the 13th Amendment it would only cause confusion among lawmakers and further complicate the existing situation.