[Sri Lankan Prime Ministers Ranil Wickremasinghe. (AP)]
Meera Srinivasan –
The Sri Lankan government will implement the 13th Amendment to its Constitution within a unitary state, Prime Minister Ranil Wickramasinghe has said.
Implementation of the 13th Amendment — born out of the Indo-Lanka Accord of 1987 — has remained a long-pending demand of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), the main party representing the island’s Northern Tamils. The Amendment envisages substantive devolution of political powers to the provinces.
In his first parliamentary address after assuming charge as Prime Minister — following the Sri Lanka’s January 8 presidential elections — Mr. Wickramasinghe said: “We will implement the 13th Amendment within a unitary state.”
Given that the TNA backed President Sirisena in the elections, the Northern Tamils — who voted against President Rajapaksa in large numbers — would expect the new government to be sensitive to their demands.
In a gesture that sections perceive as President Maithripala Sirisena’s willingness to engage with the Tamils’ demands, he recently replaced the former Northern Province Governor, a military man, with a seasoned diplomat.
It is also learnt that orders have been passed to transfer the Chief Secretary of the Province who was on a collision course with Chief Minister C.V. Wigneswaran.
Mr. Wickramasinghe also outlined the newly-formed government’s plan for the first 100 days. The government would set up independent commissions to run the police, the public service, the judiciary and the elections department, he said.
The new government had presented its 100-day plan ahead of the elections promising a host of measures, including the abolition of executive presidency, which former President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s critics saw as being a huge impediment to democracy during his two terms. Mr. Wickramasinghe, appointed Prime Minister by President Sirisena, said the new government would also pass a Right to Information Act.
Rajapaksa’s home raided
Meanwhile Sri Lanka’s former President Mahinda Rajapaksa on Tuesday asked the new government to stop “revenge”, a day after police raided his country-side home in the southern district of Hambantota.
“Our family has been in politics since 1931. But never our homes came to be searched. I ask them to stop this political revenge,” local media quoted Mr. Rajapaksa as saying. The police were reportedly looking for a Lamborghini sports car and launched a raid following a court warrant, but the search drew a blank.