Tamils hopeful as Modi raises 13A

By Easwaran Rutnam

Tamils have raised hopes after India had on Friday noted the importance of reconciliation and ethnic harmony in Sri Lanka during talks with President Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi had on Friday said that he was confident the Sri Lankan Government will pursue the process of reconciliation to fulfil the aspirations of Tamils for equality, justice, peace, and respect.

More importantly, he said the process should also include the implementation of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution.
Tamil National Alliance (TNA) Parliamentarian and Spokesman M.A. Sumanthiran told The Sunday Morning that the Tamils are hopeful following the statements made by India during and before President Rajapaksa’s visit to New Delhi.

“We have noticed that the message from India, based on the Indian Foreign Ministry statement following the Indian Foreign Minister’s visit to Sri Lanka and during President Rajapaksa’s visit to India, is on the Tamil issue,” Sumanthiran said.

Speaking at a joint press conference in New Delhi following talks with President Rajapaksa, Prime Minister Modi said that they exchanged views on reconciliation in Sri Lanka.

“President Rajapaksa told me of his inclusive political point of view on ethnic harmony,” Prime Minister Modi said.

Sumanthiran said that the TNA now expects President Rajapaksa to engage with the TNA to discuss the issues faced by the Tamils.
“When the President returns, we expect some engagement with us on the Tamil issue,” Sumanthiran said.

President Rajapaksa returned to Colombo yesterday (Saturday) after extensive talks in India with the Indian President, Prime Minister, External Affairs Minister, and others.

There had been fears following the presidential election that the Tamil issue will be pushed back.
However, India had given the impression that the issue will be kept on the agenda and that the 13th Amendment to the Constitution was not a closed subject.

The 13th Amendment to the Constitution was India’s baby and has been a sensitive topic over the years.
Under the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, Sri Lanka has promised to devolve powers to the provinces but the current Government, under President Rajapaksa, has refused to make any commitments on that matter.

Doubts raised

Former TNA Parliamentarian and Eelam People’s Revolutionary Liberation Front (EPRLF) Leader Suresh Premachandran said that he was doubtful the 13th Amendment will ever be fully implemented.

Speaking to The Sunday Morning, Premachandran recalled that even former President Mahinda Rajapaksa promised to implement the 13th Amendment but failed to do so.

He also noted that the Tamils want the Government to go beyond the 13th Amendment when devolving powers.
“The Tamils will not be satisfied with just the 13th Amendment. They want the Government to go beyond that. But at least if the 13th Amendment is implemented, that will be a start. If he implements it, then it’s well and good. Something is better than nothing,” he said.
Premachandran said that most Tamil political parties are pushing for a political solution within a merged North and East.

However, the former and present Government have refused to agree to merge the North and East, fearing it would pave the way for a push to create a separate Tamil state.

Premachandran feels the current Government will drag its feet on the Tamil issue till the parliamentary election.

A call to unite

Meanwhile, last week, the TNA issued an open call to Tamil political parties to join the alliance and stand united on the issues faced by the Tamils.

Sumanthiran said that Tamil political parties must not attempt to divide the Tamil community.

He said that with parliamentary elections coming up, it is important that Tamil parties unite and ensure Tamils are united.
Sumanthiran said that the TNA is the main Tamil political alliance in the country so other parties must come under its wing to fight for the rights of Tamils.

However, Sumanthiran told The Sunday Morning that as of Friday, no party had responded to the open invitation.