After promising to go beyond the 13th Amendment to the Sri Lankan Constitution to find a solution to the Tamil ethnic problem, President Mahinda Rajapaksa has done a U-turn and said the Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) would now have to suggest a solution.
At an interaction on Monday with the country’s editors at Temple Trees, the President’s official residence, Mr. Rajapaksa “denied that he ever told India [this],” The Island newspaper reported on Tuesday.
Asked if his comments, reported in the newspaper, meant that the Indian side lied about his purported promise during his meeting with Indian Foreign Minister S.M. Krishna, Mr. Rajapaksa said: “This is not the first time that I am saying it [that I am for implementing the 13th Amendment]. In the beginning I said I have no objection. But Tamil parties should come and give their names to the PSC and decide on it…what they want. So the PSC advises and tells me ‘this is what you must do,’ we have no objection. Parliament should do it. This is not my personal issue…I am ready to accept anything that Parliament gives me. Because Parliament consists of all parties…so they have to decide on this…Let all the official parties, the TNA, and all these people get together…”
Mr. Rajapaksa made the comments at an interaction with foreign correspondents stationed in Colombo at his official residence.
As per the 13th Amendment, a product of the Indo-Sri Lanka accord of 1987, Colombo agreed to devolve some powers to the provinces. Largely drawing on the Indian federal set-up, it has three lists which detailed power-sharing between Colombo and the provinces. Broadly, it provided for merger of the Northern and the Eastern provinces, and for certain financial provisions for the provinces. The provinces would have an elected council, and a chief minister and ministers.
After a meeting with Mr. Rajapaksa on January 17, Mr. Krishna said in a statement: “I discussed this matter [political solution for Tamils] with His Excellency the President this morning. The President assured me that he stands by his commitment to pursuing the 13th Amendment [to the Sri Lankan Constitution] plus approach.”
A joint statement issued at the end of the May 2011 meet between the Foreign Ministers in New Delhi too made the same commitment: “A devolution package, building upon the 13th Amendment, would contribute towards creating the necessary conditions for such reconciliation.”
R. K. Radhakrishnan