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Wednesday, August 04, 2021

Jaishankar discusses role of provincial councils with Tamil leaders in Sri Lanka

The meeting assumed significance in the backdrop of moves by the ruling Sri Lanka People's Party (SLPP) allies to mount a public campaign for abolition of the country's provincial council system.

By: PTI | Colombo |
Updated: January 7, 2021 6:27:34 pm
External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar waves to the media as he leaves with his Sri Lankan counterpart Dinesh Gunawardena after addressing a joint media briefing in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021. (AP)

External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Thursday met the Tamil leadership in Sri Lanka and discussed issues pertaining to the development and devolution and the role of provincial councils as part of national reconciliation.

The meeting assumed significance in the backdrop of moves by the ruling Sri Lanka People’s Party (SLPP) allies to mount a public campaign for abolition of the country’s provincial council system. The SLPP’s Sinhala majority hardliners have been advocating a total abolition of the provincial council system established in 1987. There are nine provincial councils in Lanka.

“Glad to meet the TNA delegation led by Thiru Sampanthan. Discussed issues pertaining to development & devolution and the role of Provincial Councils,” Jaishankar tweeted after the meeting.

Tamil National Alliance (TNA) is the main Tamil party in the island nation.

Jaishankar also met a delegation of the Tamil Progressive Alliance.

“Pleased to meet the TPA delegation. Appreciate their positive sentiments about our development programmes. This will remain an important facet of India’s commitment,” he tweeted.

Jaishankar is on a three-day visit to Lanka from January 5-7 on the invitation of Lanka foreign minister Dinesh Gunawardena. It is his first overseas visit of the year.

On Wednesday, Jaishankar spoke on the need to ensure aspirations of the minority Tamils are addressed within a united Sri Lanka.

Addressing a joint media interaction with Gunawardena, he underlined India’s backing for Lanka’s reconciliation process and an ?inclusive political outlook? that encourages ethnic harmony.

“As we promote peace and well-being in the region, India has been strongly committed to the unity, stability and territorial integrity of Sri Lanka. Our support for the reconciliation process in Sri Lanka is longstanding, as indeed for an inclusive political outlook that encourages ethnic harmony,” Jaishankar said.

“It is in Sri Lanka’s own interest that the expectations of the Tamil people for equality, justice, peace and dignity within a united Sri Lanka are fulfilled. That applies equally to the commitments made by the Sri Lankan government on meaningful devolution, including the 13th Amendment to the Constitution,” he added.

The 13th Amendment provides for devolution of power to the Tamil community. India has been pressing Sri Lanka to implement the 13th amendment which was brought in after the Indo-Sri Lankan agreement of 1987.

Jaishankar also met Fisheries Minister Douglas Devananda.

“A productive meeting with Fisheries Minister Douglas Devananda. Reviewed our cooperation in fisheries after the recent Joint Working Group session. Look forward to working with him closely,” he tweeted.

Jaishankar discussed India-Lanka bilateral ties with the Leader of Opposition, Sajith Premadasa.

During a meeting with former prime minister and the leader of United National Party Ranil Wickeremesinghe, Jaishankar appreciated his long-standing support for the bilateral relationship.

He also interacted with business leaders of Lanka and appreciated their insights and suggestions on economic cooperation.

Jaishankar also met State Minister of Estate Housing and Community Infrastructure Jeevan Thondaman and discussed development programmes in plantation areas.

He also interacted with Sathasivam Viyalendiran, State Minister for Backward Rural Areas Development and Promotion of Domestic Animal Husbandry and Minor Economic Crop Cultivation.

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