02 June 2014

Playing the ‘Modi Card’

It’s seasonal.  Devolutionists have their ‘on’ days and ‘off’ days.  There was a time way back in the early 1990s when Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu was scared to use the word ‘federal’.  He called it ‘The F Word’.  Then there came a time when those who were not impressed by the ‘F-Word’ were called war-mongers, hawks, Sinhala Buddhist extremists and other such names.  After May 2009, when the biggest objectors to the unitary state, the LTTE that is, were defeated, reduced circumstances forced such people to operate with lesser aspirations. No ‘F Words’ thereafter, but there was a concerted effort to resurrect the 13th Amendment to the Constitution. 

With the rise of Narendra Modi and the Indian Prime Minister’s friendly-looking but nevertheless stern ‘advice’ to President Rajapaksa that Sri Lanka should implement the 13th Amendment to the letter and go even beyond that document, there has been an understandable joy among devolution-wallahs. 

Some make much of President Rajapaksa’s ’13 Plus promise’ made to Modi’s predecessor.  No mention is made of the context, i.e. a critical stage of the struggle to eliminate the LTTE in a political environment of intense international pressure including then Indian Premier Manmohan Singh’s need to adjust tone and word to keep Tamil Nadu happy considering upcoming elections.  Those who want to push President Rajapaksa into a corner based on this promise, naturally adopting a holier-than-thou tone and a principled-strut, say nothing of promises made and broken by India with respect to the Indo-Lanka Accord which essentially birthed the 13th Amendment in the first place. 

While these little machinations show up the ‘principled’ none of this really matters in politics.  It is, after all, not about truth, justice and fair play but about power.  On the other hand, sleight of hand has to be called just that.  These pathetic morality moves (shall we say?) are often accompanied by undisguised fear-mongering, another tactic frequently used to push agenda through. 

‘Modi is not Singh, BEWARE!’ people scream.  ‘Time is running out!’ they add.  ‘Do it or else!’ they warn.  Absolutely nothing is said of a) the violation of sovereignty by the Indo-Lanka Accord, b) the irrelevance of the 13th Amendment in the matter of responding to any ‘minority grievance’ (that can be substantiated) or ‘aspiration’  (that is ‘reasonable’) and c) the total eviction of the majority of Sri Lankans in the entire decision-making process.  In other words, what’s called for is akin to kicking Sri Lankans in their behind and letting India call all the shots.  Put another way, it amounts to turning Sri Lanka into a client state of India, ‘the Bhutanization of Sri Lanka’ as Rajiv Gandhi envisaged in undisguised salivation when the Indo-Lanka Accord was thrust down Sri Lanka’s throat.

President Rajapaksa, at this point, can call the bluff decisively.  He can tell all those who toss around words like democracy, representation and accountability at every turn that he will put the issue to the people.  He can have a referendum on the 13th Amendment.  That would win back some degree of respectable citizenship for the people of Sri Lanka.

He can also make capital out of Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe’s call for the scrapping of the 1977 Constitution (along with amendments, the 13th included, let us not forget) and get cracking on writing a new document.  That would be a fresh start for everyone, those in power and those aspiring to unseat them.  He has the numbers but he would do well in these times of bickering and besieging to come up with something that not just has two-thirds support in Parliament but the unanimous approval of all parties.  Indeed, if he is brave enough, he could ask Ranil Wickremesinghe to chair a ‘Constitutional Council’ tasked to write a fresh document.

That would also amount to playing the ‘Modi Card’ for Sri Lanka’s benefit.  It would also stump those who would have President Rajapaksa see Modi as some kind of gonibilla. 



Anonymous said...

True that Malinda. SL should make a stand on its own matters, not Modi nor some other third party with their own agendas.