Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe today said his government was ready to devolve power to minority Tamils under a new Constitution and vowed to bring to justice all perpetrators of war crimes committed towards the end of the country’s civil war.
Wickremesinghe, in his address on the occasion of the Pongal festival in Jaffna, said more civilian lands will be freed from military control soon and the official language policy will be implemented where Sinhala and Tamil would be accorded the official language status.
“We are ready to devolve power (to minority Tamils) and protect democracy,” Wickremesinghe said.
“The Constitutional Assembly will discuss with all, including (Tamil-dominated) provincial councils to have a new constitution. We will do that in a transparent manner,” he said in a nationally televised ceremony that was attended by British Foreign Office Minister Hugo Swire.
He pledged his government’s commitment to address all concerns of the island’s Tamil minority.
Wickremesinghe’s remarks came in response to the criticism by Northern Province Chief Minister C V Wigneswaran who blamed the government in his address.
Wigneswaran said the Tamils remain unhappy with the slow progress of the reconciliation effort. He said more Tamil civilian lands remain under military control and the government interfered in the administration of the northern provincial council.
Wigneswaran also complained about a letter sent to him in Sinhala language.
Wickremesinghe, in his response, said the government keeps talking to the military about de-escalating its presence. He also pledged to recruit 500 more Tamils in the police service.
On the war crimes allegations, Wickremesinghe said the government would go ahead in setting up the mechanism for investigation. “All perpetrators will be dealt with.”
“Who has violated (humanitarian law), it could the security forces or the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam). We will take action accordingly,” the Premier said.
Wickremesinghe also said that the time has now come to look at the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA).
“We will look at a new arrangement,” he said.
The Tamil rights groups have demanded the repealing of PTA as large numbers have been detained under the Act.
Sri Lankan government has begun drafting a new Constitution aimed at resolving the ethnic conflict and achieving reconciliation with Tamils so that there is no repeat of the nearly three decades-long civil war which ended in 2009 and claimed 100,000 lives.