Opinion

The 13th Amendment obstructs development and is a stepping stone to division

Summary

I have in several of my Papers detailed as to Why the 13 the Amendment should be abolished. I have detailed my experiences in my eighteen years’ service in the Administrative Service implementing development programs islandwide.

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I have in several of my Papers detailed as to  Why the 13 the Amendment should be abolished. I have detailed my experiences in my eighteen years’ service in the Administrative Service implementing development programs islandwide. To state briefly if I were to work in either the agricultural marketing sector, the agrarian extension sector or the small industries sector I will not be able to achieve any target purely because the subjects are devolved(not decentralized) and the implementation of any policy determined by the Minister working at the Centre, on policies laid down by the Houses of Parliament  will depend on the whims and fancies of the Provincial Ministers. Officers in the provinces take orders from him.

The full effect of the 13th Amendment even without devolving land and police powers has not yet been felt because the Provincial Ministers have not asserted their full rights.

I am most thankful to Cecil Dharmasena of the Department of Agriculture, for his insightful article that appeared in The Island of 22/4/2013. Let me quote a few of his words, which fully support my above statement:

Referring to agricultural extension today he states:

The lack of an organized and coordinated extension and advisory system today as we had in the past(prior to the Provincial Administration System) where the Department of Agriculture through its comprehensive islandwide extension Division provided an efficient service appears to be the biggest drawback in agriculture at present.”

 The situation today he says is that all types of agencies of the Provincial Councils and private sector offer confusing services” .

 He details what happened to the Department of Agriculture after the implementation of the 13 th Amendment. The Department was broken up, the research division broken into independent institutes, the extension service given to the Provincial Councils and the seed farms sold to the private sector.

 Harking back to my days ”…” up to 1973, the Department of Agriculture had full control over the technical side of Agriculture. At the divisional level there was an Agricultural Instructor, an officer who had two years’s study at the Agricultural School. Under him were several  Overseers- Krushi Vyapti Sevakas at the village level. They had an year’s training in agriculture. This was an effective service. In addition, after the Paddy Lands Act was enforced in came the Agrarian Services Department with cultivation committees at the grass roots level. This Department had Divisional Officers at the Divisional level and Overseers at the village level. The Overseers had an years’ training in agriculture. The Cultivation Committees took over grass roots level planning. Today the Paddy Lands Act is no more and the cultivation committees do not exist.

 Another important change that took place is that the  Overseers of the Agriculture Department- the Krushi Vyapti Sevakas were all promoted as Grama Sevakas (now Grama Niladharis) during the time of President Premadasa. No official trained in agriculture took their place.  After a few years’ lapse when the Agricultural Instructor at the Divisional Level did not have a single Overseer Assistant, during the days of President Kumaranatunge , O Level qualified youths were appointed as Niyamakas.

 This was the extension system that was bequeathed to the Provincial Councils. Cecil Dharmasena has stated that the efficiency of the extension system depended entirely in the hands of the Provincial Minister of Agriculture.

 My own experience with the agricultural extension system under the Provincial Council administration is detailed in my book: How the IMF Ruined Sri Lanka.& Alternate Programs of Success” .(Godages):

The entire  agriculture department has to get a bone shake which I hope can get done. In about 1997, running my small family farm I had the occasion to visit the extension centers at Kadawata and Delgoda. The officers there did not know the exact amount of fertilizer that I should use and when. At my insistence they raked their files and provided me with details. The circular advised the use of  ammonium sulphate and urea  at the basal stage  and no mention was made of the top dressing.  About a year later I dropped into one of these Centers and to my amazement  I found that even then  the top dressing had not been incorporated into the advice. In our inefficiency we are wasting fertilizer.” . This fully supports Cecil Dharmasena’s statement that the extension system is in shambles. My comments pertain to the late Nineties while Dharmasena speaks of the extension service of today.

 Sri Lanka is a small country which is smaller than a State in India and there is no necessity to devolve any subject in administration. Under the 13 th Amendment we have devolved many subjects and accordingly the extension sections of the Department of Agriculture and the Department oif Agrarian Services has been handed over to the Provincial Councils.

 In my days in the Agrarian Services, I was once in charge of fertilizer distribution and we sent out the first circular on fertilizer use for the entire island and this was immediately enforced through the cultivation committees. Not so any more. The futility of devolution is easily realized when one realizes that the Kegalla and Ratnapura Districts which come under the Sabaragamuwa Province is only some 25 miles away from the City of Colombo. It is inimical for Provinces situated in close proximity to have an extension service that is not coordinated. In my days if a circular left the main department signed by the Commissioner or his Deputy it had to be effective. Not so now because one will have to contact the Provincial Ministers and cajole them. In my days as a Senior Assistant Commissioner any communication from me was acted on in the entire island on the next day. Not so now my paper will sit on the Provincial Minister’s desk and mind you there are  a number of them. 

 It is also well known and not disputed by anyone that the 13 th Amendment was drafted by India and imposed on our country under duress by Rajiv Gandhi, the Prime Minister of India. Though President Jayawardena shivered in his boots and gave in and forced his Members of Parliament to vote for it. The fact remains that President Jayawardena held all his members of parliament incarcerated in a Five Star Hotel and they were all marched to parliament to vote. What Democracy! This fact is proved because the Finance Minister Ronnie de Mel shouted and stated that he was not among the incarcerated.   Though the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka, also under duress (judges quarters were stoned), gave legitimacy to it, the 13 th Amendment remains a foreign appendage to our Constitution.

I am certain that if any Provincial Council asserts itself, the working of all Government Departments will totally cease from the Centre and the implementation of the policies laid down by Acts of Parliament can no longer be a reality.This will be the situation once a TNA which is pro Tamil Nadu and also following the LTTE agenda of separation is elected.  The Government will be faced with a crisis of severe dimension, a situation that will eventually lead to the formation of a separate State.

All this is not surmise. As an experienced administrator with four decades’ experience, I can sense what will happen.

The abolition of the 13 th Amendment is the only option if we are to remain a sovereign country.

The International Community, India and the LTTE Diaspora whom we are trying to please by retaining the 13th Amendment and implementing it are having their act cut and dry. Their one aim is to enable a separate State in the North and the East of Sri Lanka and it is hoped that our leaders will realize this fact before it is too late.

 It is up to our leaders to decide for our sovereignty.

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