India should take “measures” to ensure that the Sri Lankan government does not succeed in robbing provincial councils of certain powers under the 13th amendment, a delegation of Sri Lankan parliamentarians said here on Wednesday.
“We hope that India will take measures to arrest the trend and reverse the process and hold Sri Lanka to its word (of going beyond the 13th amendment),” M A Sumanthiran, member of the six-member Tamil National Alliance delegation, told Express.
When asked by Indian officials about the situation on ground Sumanthiran said, “The abolition of the 13th amendment is not happening in a vacuum... It’s happening as part of a larger agenda, which has many parts.”
The delegation, led by veteran Sri Lankan Tamil leader R Sampanthan, met with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Tuesday evening. They had earlier met with External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid and National Security Advisor Shivshankar Menon.
Following their meeting, the External Affairs Ministry issued a strongly-worded statement that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was “dismayed” at the Mahinda Rajapaksa government for trying to remove key powers of the provincial councils just before elections to the Tamil-majority northern provincial council in September.
MEA spokesperson further added that such proposals raised “doubts” about the commitment made by the Sri Lankan government to India and international community of reaching a political settlement that would go beyond the 13th amendment.
The Lankan government announced last week that it will present an “urgent bill” in Parliament this week to make the Cabinet-approved changes, which will make it impossible to merge two or more provinces. The Tamil-majority northern and eastern provinces were merged following the Rajiv-Jayawardane pact. The merger was declared illegal by the Sri Lankan Supreme Court in 2006.
“The Sri Lankan government from the word go was never interested (in devolution of power). The victory in the war meant take it all,” Sumanthiran, an MP and lawyer said.
Meanwhile, in a Twitter chat on Wednesday, Sri Lankan President’s secretary Lalith Weeratunga justified the dilution of powers by claiming that provincial councils have not served any purpose.
“If PCs have not worked so far, then why has this discovery not taken place all these years?” the TNA leader asked. “Only when the Tamil people were going to vote did they decided that provincial councils are not required... This shows their malfeasance,” he added.
During their meeting with Indian leaders, the TNA members also reiterated their position that Sri Lanka was in breach of the Commonwealth charter and therefore, it was “inappropriate” for the Commonwealth Heads of Government of Meeting to be held in Colombo.
“But, what India actually does about (participation in CHOGM) is for India to decide,” he said.