The Government is working out a 19th Amendment to the Constitution to incorporate a new devolution package to address Tamil grievances and replace the existing Provincial Council system.
A draft of this amendment is to be presented to a Parliamentary Select Committee which the Government wants to appoint. “It is up to the Tamil National Alliance to join. We will give it time. Otherwise we will have to go ahead,” Economic Development Minister Basil Rajapaksa told the Sunday Times.
In effect, the proposed 19th Amendment will replace the existing 13th Amendment to the Constitution. At least two ministers who lead constituent parties of the UPFA Government have already launched a campaign for the repeal of the 13th Amendment.
The first hint that a change was being planned came from President Mahinda Rajapaksa, when he presented the budget last Thursday as Minister of Finance.
He told Parliament, “A change in the prevailing Provincial Council system is necessary to make devolution more meaningful to our people. He said, “Devolution should not be a political reform that will lead us to separation but instead it should be one that unifies all of us.” Pointing out that “national standards” were the main weapon for national reconciliation, he said, the Government remaind committed to ensure that these “aspirations of our people will be fulfilled.”
“There is a need to empower the people through a change in the Provincial Council system. It has to unite the people and the country,” President Rajapaksa added.
Barely 72 hours after President Rajapaksa’s remarks, Minister Wimal Weerawansa, a strong advocate of
UPFA causes, met a delegation of the United National Party (UNP) in Parliament. It was to call for the main opposition party’s support to repeal the 13th Amendment. Others present were John Ameratunga, Lakshman Kiriella, Joseph Michael Perera, Ravi Karunanayake and Lakshman Kiriella.
Mr. Weerawansa said his party would file a petition in the Supreme Court tomorrow in a bid to seek the repeal of the 13th Amendment. This is in much the same way he had filed a petition before then Chief Justice Sarath N. Silva for the demerger of the Northern and Eastern Provinces.
- Sunday Times