During a discussion with Tamil Parliamentarians representing the North and East yesterday (18), President Ranil Wickremesinghe emphasized that he has already put forth a comprehensive proposal to address the problems faced by the people in those regions and it is up to the Tamil Parliamentarians whether to take it forward or not.
Responding to Member of Parliament Mr. M A Sumanthiran's statement regarding former President Mahinda Rajapaksa's support for the full implementation of the 13th Amendment, the President clarified that he is Ranil Wickremesinghe, not Ranil Rajapaksa.
President Wickremesinghe expressed his genuine intention to resolve the issues faced by the Tamil people without any political motivations. He elaborated on various bills and plans concerning the functioning of provincial councils, the Office of National Unity and Reconciliation, the Truth-Finding Mechanism, the Office of Missing Persons, and the development of the Northern and Eastern provinces.
Furthermore, the President highlighted the government's development initiatives for the Northern and Eastern provinces, including projects focused on renewable energy, water supply, infrastructure development, investment promotion zones, and the tourism industry.
Ultimately, the President underscored that the full enforcement of the 13th Amendment can only be achieved if all party leaders in the Parliament agree to a comprehensive devolution of powers. The President's proposal and discussions centered around multiple measures to address the challenges faced by the people in the North and East regions.
President Ranil Wickremesinghe reiterated his unwavering dedication to upholding justice for the people of the North and East. He emphasized that any further actions taken for their benefit must receive the full support of Parliament through discussion and consensus.
Regarding the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, President Wickremesinghe informed that extensive discussions had taken place on the proposals. While it was possible to grant all powers outlined in the proposal, except for police powers, the inclusion of police powers would require the agreement of all party leaders representing the Parliament. He also noted that a two-thirds majority in Parliament was necessary for such decisions.
The President discussed various bills concerning the functioning of Provincial Councils after the initial devolution of powers. These bills encompassed the appointment of Regional Secretaries, education, vocational training, higher education, agricultural innovations, industries, and tourism. President Wickremesinghe assured that these bills would be presented to Parliament.
Under the 13th Amendment of the Constitution, the President emphasized the importance of legally announcing the transfer of decision-making powers on specific subjects to the central government.
Regarding reconciliation efforts, the President revealed that the draft for the Office of National Unity and Reconciliation had been referred to the Attorney General for constitutional review and would soon be presented to Parliament. Additionally, the National Action Plan on Reconciliation, drafted by the Office of National Unity and Reconciliation (ONUR), would be submitted to the Cabinet in the near future.
In terms of the Truth-Finding Mechanism, the President mentioned that the Interim Secretariat had been established with the appointment of the Director General. Applications for key staff required to facilitate the drafting of guidelines would be invited, and formal mechanisms would commence after relevant laws were enacted.
Addressing concerns raised by Tamil party leaders, the President clarified that the government had not discussed or prepared for the merger of the Northern and Eastern provinces. He also stated that the government was reluctant to involve foreign judges in the administration of justice in the North and East but would consider obtaining reports from foreign observers, following existing systems in South and East Asian countries.
The President engaged in extensive discussions about the Anti-Terrorism Bill and the activities of the Office of Missing Persons. Of the 21,374 complaints received by the Office of Investigation of Missing Persons, investigations into 3,462 complaints have been completed thus far. Ongoing investigations are underway for the remaining complaints.
In response to the Tamil MPs' concerns that the complaints received by the Office of Investigation of Missing Persons did not provide complete information about missing persons, President Wickremesinghe requested that detailed information be submitted for forwarding to the Interim Secretariat for the Truth-Finding Mechanism.
President Ranil Wickremesinghe emphasized that the forthcoming anti-corruption law would undergo amendments by the parliamentary committee on July 19, taking into consideration the proposed amendments by the Supreme Court.
The President provided clarifications regarding the government's ongoing development program for the northern and eastern provinces. He elaborated on the initiative to attract investment opportunities in the production of green hydrogen and ammonia as renewable energy projects in the North and East. The President further outlined the project aimed at enhancing the appeal of the Colombo port city through green hydrogen.
One of the key objectives of the Northern Development Plan is to harness the region's renewable energy potential through the production of green hydrogen and ammonia. This strategy aims to attract investments and transform the port of Colombo and Pooneryn into a hub for the renewable energy economy. The President expressed his belief that this approach would lead to substantial growth in the sector.
Additionally, the "Water to the North" project includes various developments such as the Poonekery Tank, River for Jaffna (bringing fresh water to Jaffna Lagoon and increasing the water capacity of the Iranamadu Tank), the Small Tanks renewal program, the development of KKS Harbour, the development of Vauniya and Palaly Airports, the Ferry Service connecting the Northern Province and South India, the establishment of Investment Promotion Zones in KKS, Paranthan, and Mankulam, tourism promotion in the North, and the enhancement of Jaffna as a university town.
The President informed the East and North Tamil MPs about plans for the development of tourist attractions in Jaffna and Mannar, a tourist boating project around Mannar Fort and Kankasanthurai Island, the promotion of coconut cultivation in the Wanni district, and projects aimed at developing Jaffna as a university city. These initiatives are part of the government's efforts to boost the tourism industry in the Northern Province and create economic opportunities for the region.
Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena, Ministers Susil Premajayantha, Prasanna Ranatunga, Vijayadasa Rajapaksa, Douglas Devananda, State Ministers Suren Raghavan, S. Vialendran, S. Chandrakanthan, Members of Parliament R, Sampanthan, M.A. Sumanthiran, C.V. Vigneshavaran, Angajan Ramanathan, Selvam Adaikalanathan, Charles Nirmalanathan, S. Sridharan, D. Siddharthan, Shanakya Rasamanikkam, Thavarasa Kalaiarasan, K. thilipan, G. Mr. Karunakaran and Tamil MPs representing the Parliament, the President's Secretary Mr. Saman Ekanayake and government officials also participated in this discussion.