“During talks in mid 2011, the government floated the idea of a Senate. It can be a power sharing mechanism in the Central Government, but it can’t be equated with a provincial power sharing system,” Premachandran said.
He said the primary focus should be on provincial level power devolution, and that a minority-represented Senate structure would not be able to achieve that.
“It may be part of a package, a small portion in a comprehensive devolution package, but it is not acceptable to the Tamil people,” the spokesman for the minority party said.
The Government announced earlier that it is willing to create a Senate-driven structure as part of a power devolution system which would contribute to regional-level power sharing between the provinces.
Indian External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna who was visiting Colombo last week said that President Mahinda Rajapaksa has committed himself to a power devolution package building up on the 13th Amendment.
The TNA however remained skeptical, saying that “Apart from the statement made by Krishna on the 13th Amendment, we don’t see anything substantial in what was achieved in terms of power devolution.”
Meanwhile long-drawn discussions between the TNA and the Government have now come to standstill, with the TNA being stood up on three occasions by the government. There has been no communication on the part of the government regarding the continuation of talks, Premachandran said.
The government has come under heavy criticism from its more nationalistic constituent partners, including Ministers Wimal Weerawansa from the National Freedom Front, and Minister Patali Champika Ranawaka, from the Jathika Hela Urumaya. Both parties have repeatedly expressed their opposition to any form of regional power devolution.
The TNA has demanded the re-merger of the North and East provinces and devolution of police and land powers to the provincial councils in accordance with the 13th Amendment. The Tamil party has also come under heavy criticism from Tamil civil society, which in a recent open letter said that the party has let down the Tamil people by compromising with the government.
By Dinidu de Alwis
Senate – Already Discussed: TNA won’t quit talks – GOSL paper
The TNA will continue to hold talks with the Government delegation to reach consensus on an effective and workable solution to the grievances of people in the North and the East and would not quit the talks under any circumstances, leader of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) Rasavarodhayam Sampanthan MP told the Sunday Observer.
They had reached an agreement with President Mahinda Rajapaksa and the Government delegation and this has been recorded in the minutes of the talks with regard to the appointment of their representatives to the Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC).
It was mutually agreed that the TNA would appoint its representatives to the PSC only after it reached consensus with the Government delegation on the basic aspects of power devolution. The TNA is scrupulously observing the mutual agreement and cannot be blamed for not appointing representatives to the PSC, he said.
The TNA held detailed discussions with Indian External Affairs Minister S.M.Krishna on January 16, the day prior to meeting President Rajapaksa, on their position with regard to power devolution, he said. The question of setting up a Senate as a component of the devolution package was discussed between them and the Government delegation on many occasions in the past.
The TNA had explained its stand. The TNA considered the Senate as complementary to an effective and meaningful devolution package and not as a component of it, Sampanthan said.
The TNA is not averse to participating in the PSC and would take part in the talks at the right time. They prefer the devolution package going through the process of deliberation at the PSC, the TNA leader said.
by P. Krishnaswamy