Colombo mulling power sharing with Tamils: Peiris

May 17th, 2011 - 11:01 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, May 17 (IANS) Sri Lanka Tuesday said it was working towards bridging a gap in its constitution for sharing power with the minority Tamils, for which it is holding talks with Tamil parties.

Sri Lankan External Affairs Minister G.L. Peiris, on concluding his three-day visit to India, told reporters here that he had assured the Indian leadership that the Mahinda Rajapakse government was committed to ensuring expeditious and concrete progress in the ongoing dialogue between the government and Tamil parties.

In a joint statement released on the occasion, India and Sri Lanka agreed that the end of the armed conflict in the island nation was “a historic opportunity to address all outstanding issues in a spirit of understanding and mutual accommodation imbued with political vision to work towards genuine national reconciliation”.

“A devolution package, building upon the 13th Amendment, would contribute towards creating the necessary conditions for such reconciliation,” the statement said.

Sri Lanka’s 25-year long civil war between the majority Sinhalas and the minority Tamils ended in May 2009 with a major military push by the government to eliminate the combatants of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Ellam (LTTE), including its supremo Vellupillai Prabhakaran.

The end of the armed conflict raised issues such as resettlement of about 2.97 lakh internally displaced persons (IDPs) who had fled the war zone in the northern and eastern part of the Sri Lanka, and their resettlement.

The 13th Amendment to the Sri Lankan constitution deals with devolution of powers to the northern areas of the island nation that were controlled by the LTTE.

Peiris said the government had held six rounds of talks with the Tamil parties since the end of the war to ensure devolution of powers and the two sides had worked out the modalities for having local and provincial governments, which are now in place.

“However, there is a gap in the 13th Amendment on sharing of power at the centre,” said the minister, assuring that the Sri Lankan government was addressing this lacuna, as more Tamil lived outside the northern areas and hence needed to share power at the central level too.

He said the government and the Tamil parties have shared proposals in this regard and would meet further to discuss them soon.

Peiris said after the war, the Sri Lankan government had to deal with several issues, particular those relating to economic development, de-mining of the war zones in the northern areas, reconciliation and resettlement of IDPs and devolution of powers to the minority Tamils.

“Resettlement is not just a question of physical relocation. It is very important for us to ensure these people are re-settled in an atmosphere that is prevalent for economic contentment. They should not be re-settled as bitter, disgruntled, disillusioned people,” he added.

Peiris also slammed a UN human rights panel that had last year reported that the Sri Lankan government was responsible for alleged war crimes, saying the report had created “impediments and obstacles” in the peace process.

He rejected the findings of the panel, saying it was “biased, singularly unfortunate, unsubstantiated, cloaked in secrecy, a travesty of justice and a cynical violation of basic norms or procedures.”

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