(Dr Vickramabahu Karunaratne) The rally held at Hyde Park in support of General Sarath Fonseka by the United Bhikku Front (UBF), the dissident Buddhist monks’ wing of the UNP, was a turning point. As we expected, the campaign for the removal of 13th Amendment surged forward with this event.
Mere changes – no solution
True, the general did not put forward that slogan. Addressing the gathering, the former army commander said that mere changes of governments would not bring any solution to the problems which are currently faced by the public and called upon people to rally around him and the Bhikku front to change the prevailing political culture in the country. Outlining that the rule of law no more prevails in the country, he reiterated the necessity of abolishing the executive presidency. Thus, he limited the campaign to the latter issue. He also criticized the present leadership of the country, and claimed the prevalence of child abuse, murders, frauds and several other crimes are due to the dictatorial Mahinda regime. These ills and harms should be rooted out. His entire speech was devoted to this and no word about peace, rehabilitation and reconstruction. Nor did he explain his views on the LLRC recommendations. But this mobilization gave new energy to Sinhala chauvinist camps. Champika, Weerawansa, Somawansa and others denounced the 13th Amendment and put up posters demanding repeal of the 13th Amendment. On the other hand the petition against the Divineguma bill became a mobilization against these forces. Though the chauvinist within the government claimed that the bill is for poverty alleviation, the Minister of Economic Development Basil Rajapaksa said that the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) has no rights to comment on the Divineguma bill. The chauvinists want to force this bill through parliament as it arrests part of the devolution given in the 13th Amendment.
Mobilizing against CoL
Meanwhile, the UNP announced that they had called a meeting of opposition political parties, trade unions and civil organizations aimed at mobilizing people against the cost of living. Accordingly, they are to meet on October 30 to decide what action is to be taken unless relief is granted in the budget that is to be tabled on November 8. In the VV, the protest of the opposition, the press conference on Sunday 21, all parties there committed to defend the 13th Amendment and press for the implementation of the LLRC recommendation. While Sumanthiran and Kumar Gurubaran condemned the attitude of the government towards the Tamil national problem, the UNP deputy general secretary Jayalath said: “We started devolution in Lanka and we shall defend this against all obstacles.”
This in contrast to what Gotabaya said recently by calling for the abolition of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution without further delay. Stating that the 13th Amendment is nothing but an impediment to the post-war development process, Gotabaya asserted that the SLFP-led UPFA should either do away with the 13th Amendment or amend it taking into considering ground realities. He was supported by Wimal Weerawansa, the Minister of Construction, Engineering Services, Housing and Common Amenities.
He has requested President Mahinda Rajapaksa to hold a referendum to repeal the Provincial Council system. In a letter to the president, the leader of the government’s coalition partner, the National Freedom Front has suggested replacing the Provincial Council system with a devolution unit based on the district.
It is interesting to note that the JVP also clearly indicated their support to the chauvinist wing of the government. They will support the abolition of 13th Amendment. At the same time they are eager to join the campaign of the general. According to one media report, Tilvin has asserted: “If it was really to speak over the abolition of the Executive Presidency, they should have invited the JVP too. But, what happened here were a few UNP frontrunners and the UNP’s Bhikku Front, which have issues with the party leadership, showing their agitation.” All these developments show that as the crisis intensifies the political parties take strong stands on the basis of Tamil national problem. The protest of the opposition, VV, has attracted all anti government forces irrespective of race, religion or creed, while Fonseka’s movement will attract all other who are eager to build a patriotic front committed to anti corruption and Sinhala tradition.