Overruling India’s concerns,Sri Lanka may go ahead with its proposed plans to amend the 13th amendment ahead of the provincial polls in Tamil-dominated northern areas in September,a top minister has hinted. Basil Rajapaksa,the younger brother of President Mahinda Rajapaksa and the Economic Development Minister,who returned here from New Delhi after talks with Indian leaders,was non-committal about any conditions that New Delhi might have pushed for. “When we bring in a Bill we wouldn’t normally retract. We will go back only if the people wanted us to go back. There are examples when we have done so on people’s will”,he told reporters when asked about India’s concerns.
However,Basil strictly refused to say whether the Indian Government insists on Sri Lanka consulting it before changing the 13th Amendment. He maintained,instead,that some things must necessarily remain secret as they would be between “husband and wife”,the Sunday Times reported. As per the 13th amendment that followed the Indo-Sri Lankan Accord of July 1987,Sri Lankan government had agreed to devolve some authority to the provinces. India has emphasised to Sri Lanka the need to fully implement the constitutional provision dealing with devolution of powers to provinces without dilution and to go beyond it to ensure meaningful development there to Rajapaksa.
During a meeting on Thursday in New Delhi,External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid conveyed India’s concerns on the 13th amendment and urged Basil not to do anything to dilute its provisions. However,Sri Lanka has made it clear that they want to dilute the police and land powers for the nine provincial councils. The move comes ahead of the September’s northern provincial council polls where the main Tamil party,Tamil National Alliance (TNA),stands a good chance of victory. Asked about his talks in New Delhi Basil,speaking in Sinhala,said,”It was a good exchange of views.” Basil said Indians wished to see the full participation of all political parties in the Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) announced by Colombo to review the 13A.
“PSC is the best forum for all the parties to raise ideas and come to agreement. Democracy is the best way and India is of the opinion that all parties that respect democracy must participate in it (PSC),including the Tamil National Alliance. They told us that they notified the TNA severaltimes of this and that they will do so even in future,” Rajapaksa was quoted as saying by the Sunday Times. The government’s nationalist allies warn that TNA gaining control of the north with control over police and land matters would lead to separation of the province.
The opposition,Tamil and Muslim minority parties are objecting to the amendments,saying they violate the powers conferred on devolved provincial administrations by the 1987 accord. TNA has said it will not take part in the proposed PSC proceedings to review the 13A,saying it has been convened to strip provincial council of powers.