Worried that Colombo may be undermining the special powers of provincial council ahead of elections, External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid dialled Colombo’s number to convey that it should not make any move to dilute the 13th Amendment.
Sri Lanka had announced that it planned to hold elections to the Northern Provincial Council in September, mainly under pressure from India.
But, as time ticks away quickly, there have been voices in the Sri Lankan ruling coalition talking about trimming away land and police powers from the provinces, which would mean amending the 13th Amendment.
According to official sources, Khurshid called and spoke to his Sri Lankan counterpart G L Peiris to warn against any such move.
Khurshid expressed concern based on media reports that said that “some consideration was being given to removal of land and police powers from the provinces prior to the elections.”
“In this context, he urged the Sri Lankan Government not to take any step in the light of its own commitments relating to the 13th Amendment and their expressed intention to build upon it,” he said.
The 13th Amendment had been introduced following the 1987 Indo-Sri Lanka accord, which devolves powers to the provincial council.
But, the implementation of the amendment has been a contentious one, even after Colombo won the civil war against Tamil Tigers.
The proposed Northern Provincial Council elections have a barometer for the international community to assess the sincerity of the Sri Lankan government.
It has been mentioned in several joint statements during visits of Sri Lankan dignitaries, and was also mentioned in the recent United Nations Human Rights Commission (UNHRC) resolution in March.
But, with reports that the ruling coalition is divided, with a key political party announcing that it plans to move parliament to abolish the thirteenth amendment, as well as oppose the provincial elections.
Further, Khurshid also referred to reports that the Sri Lankan army was acquiring private land in the northern province for high security zones.
“Salman Khurshid emphasised that this would not be in accordance with the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) recommendations and such a move would not be helpful,” said official sources.
The Indian minister also raised the issue of 26 Indian fishermen who remain in detention in Sri Lanka since April and sought their early release. He also mentioned the case of five other Indian fishermen who are in custody since last November and sought their release at an early date.
The Sri Lankan foreign minister suggested it would be useful to have a meeting of the two fishermen associations to try and resolve issues among the primary stakeholders in the matter.