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Saturday, April 20, 2024

Sri Lanka NPC: Symbolic acts of goodwill cannot substitute for respect for legal rights

CM , NPa and Pres. GoSL


The issue of devolution of power has been at the forefront of the search for a political solution to Sri Lanka’s ethnic conflict for the past nearly six decades.  From the perspective of the National Peace Council, the establishment of the Northern Provincial Council after elections is one of the most positive political developments in post-war Sri Lanka.
It reintegrates the northern polity in to the democratic system and gives recognition to the regional voice of this constituency.  The election constitutes the first step in a process for reintegration and reconciliation.  However it must be noted that for the process to be sustained, it must be mutually acceptable. 

NPC notes that there are barriers to the exercise of the powers that are available to the Provincial Councils as they are functioning. Over the course of the past 26 years of their existence the Provincial Councils in the rest of the country have complained about interference from the Central Government authorities in the working of their Councils. The NPC suggests that all the Provincial Councils first discuss among themselves the problems encountered in the current functioning of the Provincial Council system of government. The TNA which has formed the administration of the first Northern Provincial Council could perhaps find common cause with them in discussing these problems among themselves at first and later take them up with the Government or the Parliamentary Select Committee.

While the Parliamentary Select Committee to consider constitutional reforms is yet to be joined by the TNA and other major opposition parties, the Government should at a minimum set up the institutions for co-operation provided for in the Constitution such as the National Land Commission, which is a joint body of the Central Government and the Provincial Council representatives. The Government may at least consult such a body on the land problems of the Northern displaced population. Similarly NPC calls upon the Government to activate the Finance Commission provided for in the Constitution which is again a body representative of both the Centre and the Provincial Councils.  Perhaps a representative of the Northern and Eastern Provincial Councils may be appointed so that they could discuss the financial issues involved in the running of the Provincial Councils.

The elections and their outcome have set in place the political infrastructure that can address the roots of the country’s protracted ethnic conflict which stemmed from being marginalized and discriminated against.  The National Peace Council wishes to applaud the statesmanship demonstrated by the government and TNA leaderships to resolve their differences of opinion on several matters, including the taking of oaths by the Chief Minister of the Northern Provincial Council.  We are pleased that the two parties found a formula that satisfied their core interests by agreeing to have the oath taking in Colombo and before the President, as did the Chief Ministers of other provinces.

However, the National Peace Council cautions that symbolic acts of goodwill and personal warmth, while crucially important, cannot substitute for respect for legal rights and making decisions together.  So far the manner in which the government and TNA have been dealing with each other after the provincial council elections has been on a constructive basis and augurs well for the future. There needs to be great emphasis placed on achieving mutual understanding for trust to develop.  It is to be hoped that the spirit of accommodation that is presently being displayed will continue into the future.
National Peace Council /Sri Lanka


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