Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa has told Indian National Security Advisor Shiv Shanker Menon that devolution of police powers under the 13th Amendment to the Constitution would be inimical to Sri Lanka’s national security interests and therefore the issue was not negotiable.
The Defence Secretary had reiterated the government’s position at a one-on-one meeting with Menon, one-time India’s High Commissioner in Colombo at the Ministry of Defence in Colombo last Monday (July 8).
Authoritative sources told The Sunday Island that the meeting took place on the sidelines of the second National Security Advisor (NSA) level meeting on trilateral cooperation on maritime security among India, the Maldives and Sri Lanka. The first meeting took place in the Maldives.
There hadn’t been any reference to the one-on-one meeting in official statements issued by the governments of India and Sri Lanka.
Secretary Rajapaksa has emphasized that the devolution of police powers wouldn’t benefit Tamil speaking community. Instead it would only create turmoil, he has asserted.
While acknowledging the Defence Secretary’s concerns, Menon has said that there should a separate mechanism to address the issue due to the Indian factor.
Contrary to some media reports, the contentious issue of Indian fishermen poaching in Sri Lankan waters hadn’t been taken up at the Rajapaksa-Menon meeting. However, the Defence Secretary emphasized the need to take tangible measures to stop poaching during trilateral talks involving Indian, Maldivian and Sri Lankan delegates. The Maldives was represented by Mohamed Nazim, Minister of Defence and National Security.This meeting took place before the visiting dignitary met President Mahinda Rajapaksa and External Affairs Minister Prof. G. Peiris at the President’s House. A spokesperson for the President’s Office quoted President Rajapaksa as having said that devolution of police as well as land powers to provinces would cause problems. Economic Affairs Minister Basil Rajapaksa and EPDP leader Douglas Devananda too attended that meeting.
Menon was here for two days at the beginning of last week. The third NSV level meeting will take place in New Delhi next year.
Addressing a group of journalists at Temple Trees recently, President Rajapaksa said that Menon was coming here for NSA-level trilateral talks though a section of the media portrayed the visit as one to discuss the current political developments, particularly the 13th Amendment to the Constitution.
India’s Ministry of External Affairs didn’t make any reference to specific concerns expressed by Defence Secretary Rajapaksa though a press statement issued by the ministry referred to discussions Menon had held with the Rajapaksa brothers, Mahinda, Basil and Gotabhaya. The ministry said that the discussions focused on post-war Indian led projects implemented in Sri Lanka, the fishermen’s issue, national reconciliation through meaningful devolution and Sri Lanka’s commitment to go beyond the 13th Amendment to the Constitution in accordance with commitment given to India and rest of the international community.
Tamil National Alliance (TNA) leader R. Sampanthan reiterated the demand for 13 A plus when he met President Rajapaksa close on the heels of Menon-President Rajapaksa meet.
A senior government spokesman told The Sunday Island that India shouldn’t forget the circumstances under which the 13th Amendment had been forced on the then President Jayewardene in July 1987. Unfortunately the present UNP leadership too had conveniently forgotten how India deprived it of an outright battlefield victory over terrorism way back in May-June 1987.
The official said that had President JRJ being allowed to proceed with Operation Liberation spearheaded by Brigadier Denzil Kobbekaduwa and Colonel Wijaya Wimalaratne, the UNP would have had the honour of defeating terrorism.
During his stay here, Menon also met UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe, TNA leader Sampanthan as well as SLMC leader Rauff Hakeem.
All three parties have declared their support for the 13th Amendment with UNP leader Wickremesinghe launching a public agitation campaign in Colombo in defense of the controversial amendment.
by Shamindra Ferdinando