Defence Secretary gives a new interpretation to 13 +
India had been informed of Sri Lanka’s decision not to devolve police powers to provinces at the height of the conflict, Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa said yesterday.
The Defence Secretary said that both, President Mahinda Rajapaksa and he, had emphasised during deliberations with senior Indian officials that devolution of police powers would be inimical to the national interest as well as political stability. “We made our position clear during talks involving top level delegations from Sri Lanka and India”, he told The Island.
The three-member delegation comprised Presidential Secretary Lalith Weeratunga, then Senior Presidential Advisor Basil Rajapaksa and the Defence Secretary. The troika functioned as an informal group on behalf of President Mahinda Rajapaksa to inform and interact with all those who matter, within and outside the country, in general and on events unfolding in Sri Lanka from time to time and visited New Delhi several times during the war.
India was represented by National Security Advisor M. K. Narayanan, Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon and Defence Secretary Vijay Singh.
The Defence Secretary was responding to Indian media reports of Indian Premier Manmohan Singh expressing concern over President Rajapaksa’s decision to amend the 13th Amendment to the Constitution.
The Defence Secretary said vesting provinces with police powers would be inimical to the interests of minorities. Recollecting a discussion they had in New Delhi, Rajapaksa said that when Narayanan queried from Singh what he thought of Rajapaksa’s opposition to police powers being devolved to provinces, the Indian Defence Secretary had agreed fully with him.
When it was pointed out that President Rajapaksa had assured India as well as other countries that his government would offer 13th Amendment plus, the Defence Secretary said that what the President had meant was that he would give a better solution acceptable to all communities. It would be nothing but foolish to misinterpret the President’s assurance to propagate the falsehood that the government was ready to implement the 13th Amendment, which was forced on the then President JRJ.
Responding to allegations that Sri Lanka had gone back on its promise to implement the 13th Amendment after the conclusion of the conflict, the Defence Secretary alleged that it was the government of India that voted for the US-led resolution against Sri Lanka at the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) after having promised to throw its weight behind Sri Lanka. “India let us down in Geneva, very badly,” the Defence Secretary said.
Commenting on the proposed Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) to study the national issue and make recommendations, the Defence Secretary said that the tangible actions would have to be taken to ensure the 13th Amendment wouldn’t be the cause for further chaos. If implemented fully as it is it could create a volatile situation not only in the Northern Province but other regions as well, the Defence Secretary said.
By Shamindra Ferdinando