UPFA constituent, the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) and the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) are in the process of building a common front to thwart government move to curtail the powers of the provincial councils ahead of the first northern provincial council election scheduled for September.
SLMC General Secretary Hassen Ali (National List MP) and TNA National List MP M. A. Sumanthiran said that their objective was to build a coalition against those bent on diluting the 13th Amendment. They were speaking to The Island after having bilateral talks at SLMC headquarters, ‘Darussalam’ on Thursday night to decide on counter-measures.
MP Sumanthiran emphasised that the government couldn’t go back on its pledge to fully implement the 13th Amendment to the Constitution. “Since the conclusion of the conflict in May 2009, the government had promised to implement the 13th Amendment on several occasions. In fact, the government promised not only to fully implement the 13th Amendment but go beyond the provisions to pave the way for meaningful devolution.”
The TNA would speak to the likeminded political parties, civil society organisations as well as individuals to explore ways and means of countering the government move, he said.
MP Hassen Ali urged the government not to alienate minorities, but take tangible measures to win the confidence of people of all ethnicities. An irate Ali alleged that doing away with key provisions in the 13th Amendment meant that they could no longer expect the legislation to meet the aspirations of the minorities.
Asked whether the SLMC would also take up the issue with UPFA constituent, the Eelam People’s Democratic Party (EPDP), MP Ali said that EPDP leader Douglas Devananda, too, was strongly opposed to doing away with the 13th Amendment. The SLMC was confident of forming broadest possible front against the anti-devolution forces, the MP said, adding that the high command of the party would meet on Saturday to discuss current political developments. “We are really concerned about the rapidly deteriorating situation. The government is not sensitive to concerns of the minorities.”
MP Ali said that before meeting a TNA delegation led by R. Sampanthan, the SLMC had held talks with a UNP delegation to discuss recently unveiled UNP’s draft Constitution.
Meanwhile, recent visit by a high level South African delegation fueled speculation that the SA administration was seeking a mediatory role to facilitate a dialogue between the government and the TNA.
Deputy SA Minister of International Relations and Co operation Ibrahim Ibrahim recently called on External Affairs Minister Prof. G. L. Peiris to discuss current developments and preparations for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), which will be held in Colombo in November.
The delegation also paid a courtesy call on Secretary Defence and Urban Development Gotabaya Rajapaksa. The Deputy Minister was accompanied by Roelf Meyer, Professor Ivor Jenkins, and Ahmed Seedat.
Well informed sources speculated that the SA was believed to be interested in helping the Sri Lankan government and the TNA to reach a consensus on post-war national reconciliation process. Sources pointed out that the TNA and the UK-based Global Tamil Forum (GTF) had visited SA several months back to seek assistance to kick start talks with the government.