13th Amendment dilution bid by Lanka worries India

Published: 12th June 2013 08:07 AM  |   Last Updated: 12th June 2013 08:07 AM   |  A+A-

India is concerned about the efforts being made by the Sri Lankan Government to dilute key provisions of the 13th Amendment, a key to reach a political settlement with Lankan Tamils, thus casting a shadow over the credibility of the forthcoming Northern Provincial elections.

Last Thursday, two notes were circulated among the Lankan cabinet members for modifying the Constitution. Firstly, the cabinet note proposed changes that would allow for a simple parliamentary majority to approve legislation related to subjects under provinces, provided majority of nine provincial councils agreed. The second proposal would take away the power of the President to approve the merger of two or more provinces. The provisions were not passed mainly due to differences within the ruling United People’s Freedom Alliance, with the Sri Lankan Muslim Congress (SLMC) strongly opposing it. Faced with opposition, Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa had reportedly asked them to put their position in writing at the next cabinet meeting, likely to be held later this week.

The Left parties and smaller Buddhist parties are also opposed to the move to change the Constitution. Even if the proposal is passed by the cabinet, it will require a two-thirds majority in Parliament. The opposition UNP has plans to oppose it.

The observers in New Delhi are increasingly convinced about the determination of Colombo to dilute the provisions of the 13th Amendment, before the Northern Provincial elections of September. Sources said India has been in touch with Colombo to express its concerns about the move to take away powers of the provincial councils.

It is understood that the international community is also keenly watching the way Sri Lanka conducts the elections to take a further call on the November meeting of Commonwealth Heads of Government in Colombo.

If the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) decided to boycott the polls -- it has threatened to do so if the 13th Amendment is modified -- then the polls will be meaningless, the observers noted.

Though no international observers have been called to monitor the polls so far, sources said there is an expectation that if the TNA does participate, it would win at least 65 per cent of the votes. This assessment is based on its performance in recent local polls and the elections in the Eastern Province.

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