India-Sri Lanka accord sabotaged by governments in Colombo: Kumaratunga

February 18th, 2009 - 1:55 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Feb 18 (IANS) Successive governments in Colombo have spiked the provisions of the 1987 India-Sri Lanka accord aimed at devolving powers to provinces in the island nation, former Sri Lankan president Chandrika Kumaratunga has said.
Had the devolution of powers taken place earlier, Sri Lanka’s dragging ethnic conflict might have ended a long time ago, Kumaratunga told a panel discussion here Tuesday evening.

Kumaratunga, who stepped down as president in November 2005, was referring to the 13th amendment of the Sri Lankan constitution that followed the 1987 accord. The agreement sought to end Tamil separatism in Sri Lanka.

“The 13th amendment is still relevant in solving the problems Sri Lanka is facing,” she said at an event to mark the launch of a book by Panchayati Raj Minister Mani Shankar Aiyar.

Kumaratunga said she had tried to push through the 13th amendment but sections of Sri Lankan political parties did not allow it, arguing that it could end up leading to an eventual independent Tamil state. She did not take any political party’s name.

“If it was not sabotaged at that point, the problem could have been resolved,” she said. “But every (Sri Lankan) government ensured that it did not work.”

She admitted that she too could not implement the provisions of the 13th amendment.

Kumaratunga, whose movie star husband Vijaya Kumaratunga was assassinated in 1988, sought to deny the impression that Tamils in Sri Lanka tended to support the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) because they agreed with its ideology.

“Sometimes 75 percent of the Sinhalese population say that all Tamils support the LTTE. But the Tamils have been left with no choice because the governments (in Colombo) have given them no choice.

“The LTTE has in some ways given them dignity, so they (Tamils) are forced to support it. They don’t have any choice. It is not that they want a separate land or support terrorism as such.”

The India-Sri Lanka accord, signed in 1987 by prime minister Rajiv Gandhi of India and president Junius Jayewardene of Sri Lanka, “is still relevant” to resolve the ethnic conflict, she said.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa has declared its intention to implement the 13th amendment with a view to devolving more powers to provinces. Sri Lankan troops are now poised to overwhelm the LTTE in the only place the Tigers are still holed up: Mullaitivu.

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