Special advisory body appointed for Sri Lanka’s north

May 3rd, 2008 - 11:01 am ICT by admin  

By P. Karunakharan
Colombo, May 3 (IANS) An interim Special Task Force (STF), led by ex-militant Tamil party leader Douglas Devananda, has been appointed to handle development and resettlement related works in Sri Lanka’s war-ravaged Northern Province, official sources said. “Cabinet granted approval to a memorandum submitted by President Mahinda Rajapaksa to set up a Special Task Force to oversee development initiatives in the districts of the Northern Province,” Media Minister Anura Priyadarshana Yapa said.

He said this body would provide “advice to all ministries, departments and statutory bodies of the state and will help coordinate operations for the north”.

“It will also oversee resettlement and rehabilitation work, facilitate coordination between the executive and the consultative board proposed by the All Party Representative Committee (APRC) and if necessary provide proposals and ideas to the governor of the Northern Province,” Yapa said.

The APRC, set up in 2006 by Rajapaksa and tasked to suggest a system of devolution to solve Sri Lanka’s ethnic problem, gave its recommendations that the government should first fully implement the devolution package contained in the 13th amendment to the constitution.

The government’s move to set up the STF has come at a time when government troops and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) are locked in a fierce conflict. Their confrontations in the north since August 2006 have left hundreds of people killed and several more wounded.

Devananda, leader of the anti-LTTE Eelam People’s Democratic Party (EPDP) and STF head, said: “The STF will be in force until a provincial council election is held for the north.”

Devananda is also the minister of social welfare and social development. He has survived several assassination attempts by the LTTE. Others nominated to the body are Senior Presidential Advisor Basil Rajapaksa and Minister of Rehabilitation and Disaster Relief Rizard Badurdeen.

“Setting up a practical body with political authority is the result of my 18-year-long tireless effort after the Indo-Lanka accord. I think I have got the political authority that I asked for to look after the affairs in the battered north,” Devananda told IANS by phone. He said the STF would also focus on resolving the day-to-day problems of people in the northern province.

“The sky is the limit and my sky is President Rajapaksa,” said Devananda, who lost one of his eyes in an LTTE attack several years ago. “The government of India has already welcomed this move. I am talking to the Indian government at various levels to run this body effectively,” he added.

Asked about his plans for combating human right violations in the northern province, Devananda said the provincial council “is empowered with police powers and by implementing them the human rights situation can be controlled”.

“Human rights issues will be there as long as the war is continued. So, we should stop the war first,” he said.

The historically Tamil dominated Northern and Eastern provinces remained merged following the 1987 Indo-Lanka Accord. But they were separated following a ruling by the country’s Supreme Court last year, which made the Indo-Lanka Accord virtually defunct. The government is holding the maiden provincial council election for the Eastern province on May 10.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Posted in South Asia |