Sri Lankan President says full implementation of 13A needed for unity – The Indian Express
Sri Lankan President Ranil Wickremesinghe on Sunday said his government is hoping to fully implement the 13th Amendment to its Constitution as mooted by India to facilitate unity among all the communities so that they could live as one.
India has been pressing Sri Lanka to implement the 13th Amendment which was brought in after the Indo-Sri Lankan agreement of 1987. The 13A provides for the devolution of power to the Tamil community.
President Wickremesinghe while addressing the national Thai Pongal festival– a ceremony unique to the country’s Tamil minority, in Jaffna, said a Social Justice Commission would be established to address grievances of all communities to create a Sri Lankan identity without discrimination.
His comments came days ahead of the visit to Colombo by External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar. The minister is expected to raise the grievances of the minority Tamil community during his high-level talks here.
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The statement from Wickremesinghe also assumes significance as last week the main Tamil party expressed frustration over the lack of progress from the government on the talks held since mid-December.
The Tamils said they were skipping two days of talks to give the government an ultimatum of January 17 to come up with solutions to immediate issues. Wickremesinghe said he would be making a statement on steps to be taken to achieve national reconciliation on February 4, which is Sri Lanka’s 75th anniversary of independence celebrations.
A political party leaders’ meeting would be convened next week to discuss the views of all parties on reconciliation.
He said the Tamil concerns on the disappearance of their kith and kin and a mechanism to grant relief to them would be announced.
Sri Lanka has had a long history of failed negotiations to end the Tamil claim of discrimination by allowing some form of political autonomy.
An Indian effort in 1987 that created the system of a joint provincial council for the Tamil-dominated north and east faltered as the Tamils claimed it fell short of full autonomy.
Tamils say that not enough power had been devolved to the provincial councils to make them meaningful.
Wickremesinghe himself tried an aborted constitutional effort between 2015-19 which too came to be scuttled by the hardline majority politicians. The Tamils put forward their demand for autonomy since gaining independence from Britain in 1948 which from the mid-70s turned into a bloody armed conflict.
Over the years, the Sri Lankan government has been aggressive against Tamilian groups following its war with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).
The LTTE ran a military campaign for a separate Tamil homeland in the northern and eastern provinces of the island nation for nearly 30 years before its collapse in 2009 after the Sri Lankan Army killed its supreme leader Velupillai Prabhakaran.
According to Sri Lankan government figures, over 20,000 people are missing due to various conflicts including the three-decade brutal war with Lankan Tamils in the north and east which claimed at least 100,000 lives.
International rights groups claim at least 40,000 ethnic Tamil civilians were killed in the final stages of the war, but the Sri Lankan government has disputed the figures.