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Minority parties reach consensus on ‘devolution’

22 Dec 2021

  • Document with common proposals to be signed soon
BY Pamodi Waravita Sri Lanka’s main minority parties which represent the country’s Tamil-speaking people had come to a final agreement yesterday (21) on the common proposals on the devolution of power, and the document will be signed over the coming few days, according to Samagi Jana Balawegeya (SJB) Opposition Parliamentarian and Tamil Progressive Alliance (TPA) Leader Mano Ganesan. “We did not sign the document yesterday as we took some time to come to a common agreement, which took into account all aspects of the concerns of all the relevant parties. The written document will be compiled tonight and it will be signed in a couple of days, after which we will tell the media what exactly the common proposals are,” Ganesan told The Morning yesterday. He said this document is not one that is signed “against the Sinhala population”, but one that seeks to ensure that the Tamil-speaking population of the country gets to live in a dignified political environment where their rights are protected. Yesterday marked the third round of discussions held between the main minority parties. Thamil Makkal Thesiya Kuttani (TMTK) Leader and Parliamentarian C.V. Wigneswaran, Tamil National Alliance (TNA) Leader and MP R. Sampanthan, Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) Leader and MP Rauff Hakeem, Ganesan, and eight other minority party leaders had been present at the discussion. On 12 December, Ganesan said the aforementioned document will be handed over to the Government of Sri Lanka and to the international community, especially India. The US House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs wrote to the US State Department earlier this month, urging the State Department to focus on a “durable political solution” in Sri Lanka. Whilst the Foreign Affairs Committee emphasised that it is the Sri Lankan people who should lead the debate on the matter, supported and facilitated by the US, the outcome must meet the “needs of all Sri Lankan citizens, including the Tamil and Muslim people”. The letter came following a recent visit to the US by TNA MPs M.A. Sumanthiran PC and Shanakiyan Rasamanickam, along with representatives of the Global Tamil Forum (GTF), who met with a number of senior US political figures including members of the Foreign Affairs Committee. The 13th Amendment to the Constitution, passed in 1987 and supported by the Government of India, created the provincial councils election system which led to the establishment of provincial councils in each province in the country in an attempt at the devolution of power. However, the provincial councils have since garnered many criticisms, with some members of the ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) recently calling for its repeal. Since 2017, provincial council elections have not been held as the then Government attempted to introduce legislative changes to the Provincial Councils Act to reform the process. The new system envisioned a hybrid-style system of both first-past-the-post and proportional representation as opposed to the current system of proportional representation. Minister of Foreign Affairs Prof. G.L. Peiris said last month that the work on the new Constitution has been finalised by the committee led by Romesh De Silva PC and that it will be presented in Parliament in January 2022.

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