COLOMBO: Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa did not give any assurance to the Indian parliamentary delegation that he would devolve power to the Tamil minority on the basis of the 13th Amendment of the Constitution and even go beyond it, The Island daily said on Tuesday.
“The Lankan government has strongly denied a statement attributed to the Indian Opposition Leader, Sushma Swaraj, that her delegation had received an assurance from President Mahinda Rajapaksa of his commitment to the 13th Amendment and his readiness to go even beyond it,” the paper said.
Assurance Not Sought
Quoting un-named official sources, The Island claimed that “such an assurance was never given or asked for,” in the two meetings Rajapaksa had with Swaraj last Friday and Saturday. During Saturday’s breakfast meeting Rajapaksa had recalled how, in 1987, India had “forced” the 13th Amendment on the then President, J R Jayewardene. Rajapaksa told Swaraj and her colleagues that even the leader of the Indian Origin Tamils in Sri Lanka, Arumugan Thondaman, said that he would not be comfortable with land and police powers being vested in provincial Chief Ministers as envisaged by the 13th Amendment.
The Island quoted sources in the government saying that the Indian High Commissioner, Ashok K Kantha, was engaged in a “stepped-up campaign” for the full implementation of the 13th Amendment to the constitution. The sources alleged that an attempt was being made to “pressure” the Lankan government over the devolution process ever since a resolution critical of Sri Lanka was passed at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva in March.
The 13th Amendment of the Lankan constitution, enacted after the India-Sri Lanka Accord of July 1987, gives the provinces a certain degree of autonomy. However, successive Lankan governments have refused to implement the devolution package in full.
The reasons for this are: 80 per cent of the land in Sri Lanka is owned by the Central government, and the rest is owned by private parties. The provincial governments have no control over the land they govern! The Centre is unwilling to loosen this hold because Tamil-speaking provinces like the Northern and Eastern provinces may use the ownership of land to declare independence.