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Monday, December 11, 2023

Govt. to amend 13th Amendment – Land, police powers cannot be granted in toto – Keheliya

Zacki Jabbar –  Despite India and the Tamil National Alliance insisting that the 13th Amendment to the Sri Lankan Constitution be implemented in toto, the Mahinda Rajapaksa government said yesterday that in view of the LLRC’s recommendations, the 13th Amendment, which was a sequel to the Indo-Lanka Accord, would have to be modified.

Asked when the amendment was due, Media Minister and Cabinet spokesman Keheliya Rambukwella told The Island, in an interview, that a time frame could not be given since a Select Committee on the National Question had been appointed, talks with the TNA were continuing and the LLRC had released its recommendations, which had to be considered. 

When told that India and the TNA wanted the 13th Amendment implemented in full, he said “India understands Sri Lanka better than anyone else and we have an ongoing dialogue with them. Our message to the TNA is that it should participate in the Select Committee

Govt. to amend…on the National Question, so that a solution acceptable to all communities could be found.”

Q:- The Tamil National Alliance wants land and police powers to be implemented in terms of the 13th Amendment. Is the government agreeable?

A:- We have serious concerns about granting land and police powers in toto.

Q:- In other words it cannot be given?

A:-Not necessarily. What I mean is that a compromise can be reached on the extent of land and police powers that could be devolved. It is something that can be discussed. The 13th Amendment grants blanket powers over land and the police. So we need to talk. Powers in certain areas can be granted to the provinces.

Q:- Like community police powers, etc?

 A:-Quite so. If the Tamil National Alliance is genuine, will they want the Chief Ministers of the North and East to possess powers that grant them the right to prevent the Head of State from visiting those provinces. Will the Tamils accept such a situation?

Q:- So, you will be amending the 13th Amendment to the Constitution?
 A: – Yes, we have to in view of the LLRC’s recommendations, on going discussions with the TNA and establishment of the Select Committee on the National Question.

Q:- The amendment would obviously dilute land and police powers?

A:-Not necessarily, you can’t use the word dilution. We need to evolve a practical solution acceptable to all communities in Sri Lanka.

Q:- When will the amendment to the 13th Amendment be presented to parliament?

A:-I cannot give a time frame since there is a Select Committee on the National Question, talks are continuing with the TNA, which is a major political party and there is also the LLRC report to be considered.

Q:- The TNA says 13th Amendment in toto and nothing less and India is backing them. What has the government got to say?

A:-Fine, but we are open to discussions. India understands Sri Lanka better than anyone else and there is an ongoing  dialogue with them.



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