Colombo, January 17: Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa Tuesday assured Indian External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna that he was committed to giving local powers to the ethnic Tamils for achieving a lasting political solution in the island nation.
“The President assured me that he stands by his commitment to pursuing the 13th amendment to the Sri Lankan Constitution and building on it to achieve meaningful devolution of powers,” Krishna said here.
The 13th Amendment of the 1987 Indo-Lanka accord seeks to devolve powers to the provincial councils, especially in the northern and eastern regions of the country where Tamil-speaking minorities live.
When made into law, the 13th amendment will empower the ethnic Tamils to administer their lands and exercise police powers.
“It is our hope that the vision and leadership that resulted in an end to the armed conflict will now be employed in the quest for a genuine political reconciliation,” Krishna said about his hour-long breakfast meeting with Rajapaksa at the President’s House earlier in the day.
Hoping for an early political settlement of the vexed ethnic issue in the aftermath of the three decade-old armed conflict, Krishna assured Rajapaksa of India’s help in taking the reconciliation process forward in a spirit of partnership and cooperation.
“We believe that continuation of the dialogue process between the Sri Lankan government and the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) will pave the way for the political settlement, including the rubric of the parliamentary select committee.
Sri Lankan Foreign Minister G.L. Peiris, however, appealed to the TNA to nominate its members for the proposed parliamentary select committee to deliberate on the various provisions of the 13th amendment.
“It is not correct to say that we have called off the talks with the TNA. We are waiting for it to recommend names for setting up the parliamentary panel on the contentious issue,” Peiris said at the joint press conference held after both the ministers held official talks on bilateral issues.
Clarifying that the dialogue process had to be inclusive, Peiris said a lasting settlement cannot be achieved without considering the political opinion of the vast majority.
“The focus should be on the implementation and both sides should move forward towards a set of proposals that could be implemented,” Peiris asserted.
The negotiations for reconciliation hit a roadblock after the TNA insisted on vesting its provincial government with land and police powers as envisaged in the 13th amendment.