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Reconciliation process faces serious challenges partly due to contradictory statements by government

After the 1st meeting with GoSL

There is little doubt that besides Sampanthan’s controversial remarks last week, there are some serious credibility issues between the TNA and the Government. A letter obtained by the Sunday Times confirms that the delegation that talked with the TNA was indeed from the Government of Sri Lanka.
The letter, on a letterhead of the Presidential Secretariat (See facsimile on this page) is dated January 5, 2011 and is signed by Sajin de Vass Gunawardena, MP, in his capacity as Co-ordinating Secretary to the President. It is addressed to M.A. Sumanthiran, Member of Parliament, Sri Jayawardenapura, Kotte and states:
“Hon. Member of Parliament,

“The first sitting of the committee appointed by the Government of Sri Lanka to engage in a dialogue on matters connected with long term reconciliation will meet on the 10th January 2011 at the Presidential Secretariat at 3 p.m. The committee so appointed representing the GOSL (Political Editor’s note; Government of Sri Lanka) is as follows:
“Hon. Ratnasiri Wickremenayake – Chairman
Hon. Nimal Siripala de Silva
Hon. G.L. Peiris
Hon. Sajin de Vass Gunawardena – Secretary to the Committee
“Any communication on the subject matter can be directed to the undersigned as follows:
Office telephone; 2325625
Fax number: 2325620
E-mail: [email protected]
Thanking you
Yours faithfully
Sajin de Vass Gunawardena MP
Co-ordinating Secretary to the Presiden

Since the government-TNA talks began in January 10 last year and 17 rounds of talks were held until August 4. Former Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickremenayake who headed the government delegation resigned following a statement the TNA issued after the conclusion of the separatist war in May 2009. He was replaced by Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva. The talks ended in a deadlock in August last year. President Rajapaksa has initiated moves to re-start the talks since September last year following a meeting with TNA leader, Sampanthan.

During the talks, the Sunday Times is able to reveal today that the TNA placed a two page proposal before the government delegation. Here are some highlights:

Points for discussion at the 3rd meeting on 18th March 2011

The Centre and the devolved units should be supreme in their respective spheres of competence.

All state land in the North East Province to vest in the Provincial Council with provision for the Centre to request and use lands necessary in respect of reserved subjects in accordance with such procedures as may be established by law. Lands that are presently used by the Centre in respect of devolved subjects to be handed over to the Provincial Council. Land in excess of the centre’s requirement for any of the reserved subjects held by the Centre and requested by the Provincial Council for a provincial subject shall be released to the Provincial Council in accordance with procedure established by law.

The National Finance Commission to evolve a scheme for the allocation of resources. Such allocation to be based on the principle of balanced provincial development. The Provinces to be categorised in accordance with their present levels of development with a view to redressing inequitable development.

Power to receive foreign direct investments to be devolved. Foreign loans may also be negotiated and received by the Provinces directly, with the concurrence of the Centre if it exceeds a defined limit.
One of the units of devolution would be the North and East Provinces.

Law and Order to be devolved, except in matters concerning national security and offences relating to international crimes and inter-provincial crimes. A National Police Force and a Provincial Police Force to be set up.
The reserved list for the Centre will consist of all matters necessary to preserve the unity, sovereignty and the territorial integrity of Sri Lanka, without undermining maximum possible devolution.
The devolved powers should include the following:

(1) Health and indigenous medicine;
(2) Education and Educational services, including higher education and universities awarding degrees;
(3) Vocational education and training;
(4) Agriculture and agrarian services;
(5) Irrigation within the Province;
(6) Animal Husbandry;
(7) Fisheries marine resources and aquatic resources;
(8) Coast conservation;
(9) Forests and protection of the environment within the Province;
(10) Industries and Industrial development;
(11) Energy;
(12) Transport;
(13) Minor Ports and Harbours;
(14) Roads and Waterways;
(15) Housing and Construction;
(16) Urban planning and implementation;
(17) Rural Development;
(18) Local Government;
(19) Co-operatives and co-operative banks;
(20) Supply and distribution of food within the Province;
(21) Trade and Commerce;
(22) Promotion of tourism within the Province
(23) The regulation of cultural activity within the Province, including public performances;
(24) Media and broadcasting including television;
(25) Relief, Rehabilitation and Reconstruction;
(26) Social Security;
(27) State land and its alienation (State land within the Province required for the purposes of the Centre in respect of reserved subject may be utilized by the Centre in consultation with the Provincial Council and in accordance with such procedures as may be established by law);
(28) Provincial Police and law and order, Provincial Police Services Commission;
(29) Prisons, Borstal and reformatory institutions;
(30) Provincial Public Service, Provincial Public Services Commission;
(31) Sports;
(32) Regulation of unincorporated associations and societies within the Province;
(33) Charities and charitable institutions charitable and religious endowments and religious institutions;
(34) Archaeological sites and remains;
(35) Domestic and International borrowing (international borrowing above a defined limit would require the concurrence of the Centre);
(36) The regulation and promotion of foreign direct investment, international grants and developmental assistance to the Province;
(37) Provincial financial and credit institutions;
(38) Excise duties;
(39) Turnover taxes on wholesale or retail sales;
(40) Betting taxes, taxes on prize competitions and lotteries other than National Lotteries;
(41) Motor vehicles licence fees;
(42) Stamp duties on transfer properties, such as land and motor cars;
(43) Fines imposed by courts;
(44) Court fees, including stamp fees on documents produced in courts;
(45) Land revenue, including the assessment and collection of revenues, and maintenance of land records for revenue purposes;
(46) Taxes on mineral rights;
(47) Offences against laws with respect to any of the matters specified in this list;
(48) Fines in respect of the matters in this list;
(49) Planning at Provincial level.
(50) Land surveys and other surveys in respect of all matters specified in this list;
(51) All other matters that are ‘provincial’ in nature.

The TNA listed for “future discussion” the following: “Legislative power over the above subjects to be devolved to the Provincial Council. Executive power over the same also to be vested with the Chief Minister and the Board of Ministers of the Provincial Council. Judicial power to be devolved through Provincial High Courts, Provincial Judicial Service Commissions etc. Details for discussion on these and constitutional amendment procedure, Constitutional Court and other independent institutions, emergency powers, powers of the Governor, power sharing mechanisms at the centre and other related matters maybe discussed in detail at the subsequent meetings.”

From “going beyond” the 13th Amendment to the Constitution with a proposal to strengthen the Provincial Council beyond its current levels, making it a highly powerful body, the TNA has now fired a salvo at the government.

It has said it is for ‘internal self-determination.’ That is if the talks with the government do not succeed. Then, ‘external self-determination’ if internal self-determination does not succeed. With so many hurdles, due partly to contradictions on the government side creating serious questions of credibility, this only means there are more serious challenges now to the “reconciliation process”.

form the political colunm of ST


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