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Wickremesinghe efforts reconcile minority Tamil community

Published:

Colombo

Sri Lankan President Ranil Wickremesinghe plans to press ahead with his bid to fully implement the 13th Amendment as part of efforts for reconciliation with the country’s minority Tamil community. The President’s officials gave this information on Wednesday.

The minority Tamil community in Sri Lanka has been demanding the implementation of the 13th Amendment which provides for the transfer of power to them. The 13th Amendment (13A) was brought in after the Indo-Sri Lanka Accord of 1987. This created 9 provinces as transferred units, with the temporary merger of the northern and eastern provinces.

Presidential officials said Wickremesinghe will deliver his speech to Parliament next week when the regular session is underway. “The President will outline his plan to implement it with all the powers that can be given to the provincial councils,” said an official. During the all-party meeting last month, Wickremesinghe had said that all powers, except police powers, could be given to councils.

During the all-party meeting last month, Wickremesinghe had said that all powers, except police powers, could be given to councils. He will also submit to the Parliament all the proposals received from various political parties on the full implementation of 13A. However, the main Tamil party, the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), remained adamant about holding the provincial council elections, stalled in talks. The TNA cited previous statements from the Sri Lankan government that said full powers would be given.

Elections for nine provinces have been stalled since 2018 following moves to implement electoral reforms. It now requires a parliamentary amendment to hold elections under the current proportional representation system. Wickremesinghe called an all-party meeting soon after his recent two-day visit to India, in which the 13A issue figured prominently in his wide-ranging talks with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Modi reiterated India’s desire to see 13A fully implemented.

Sinhalese majority parties have urged Wickremesinghe to hold the stalled elections to the council. Some Sinhalese parties have reiterated their fears that full powers to the councils will lead to further separation of the north and east from the island nation.

At the all-party meeting, the President stressed that there is a need for cross-party consensus through Parliament and urged parties to come together to resolve the issue. Officials said Wickremesinghe’s parliamentary speech could happen any day from Tuesday next week. Wickremesinghe has come under fire from parties of the majority Sinhalese community for bringing up the transfer issue at a time when the country is facing its worst economic crisis.

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