|Devolution package report for North Lanka soon: Sri Lankan Govt|
|Friday, 30 January 2009|
Colombo (PTI): With India pressing for an early political solution to the ethnic crisis in Sri Lanka, an all party committee has finalised its recommendation on the devolution package for northern areas that will offer enhanced rights and privileges to the minority Tamil community.
The All Party Representative Committee (APRC), set up in 2006, has now finalised its report recommending a power devolution formula as President Mahinda Rajapaksa has indicated his desire to hold elections in the embattled North this year, officials said.
Worried over the safety of civilian Tamils, External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee on a visit this week, asked Colombo to quickly move from military victories to the political aspect of addressing the ethnic problem.
Mukherjee was assured by Rajapaksa that he intended to address the problem politically and is ready to implement and even improve upon the Devolution Package for ethnic Tamils.
The committee, which is preparing the final report has wrapped up its deliberations after 104 sessions despite the 12 political parties representing it failing to arrive at a consensus on certain issues.
It has reportedly recommended abolition of the concurrent list, and introduction of two lists outlining powers to be vested in provincial councils and central government.
The interim report of the committee headed by senior cabinet minister Tissa Vitharna was submitted to Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa on January 23, 2008.
The copies of the report have now been handed over to the political party representatives for their perusal and the APRC is expected to meet again on February 16 and 17 to take a final decision, officials said.
Political parties had failed to reach consensus on the character of the state in the proposed devolution package, an official release said.
The Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), the core party of the ruling coalition, the (Buddhist party) JHU and the Mahajana Eksath Peramuna had insisted that the "unitary" character of the state should not be compromised
However, parties such as SLMC, CWC, LSSP, the Communist Party, the TMVP, the All Ceylon Muslim Congress, the National Congress and National Unity Alliance have taken the position that the character of the state should remain as "united".
In the final report, the APRC has reportedly specified the particular stand taken by each party on each issue and where they have failed to reach an agreement.
The main Opposition United National Party, the Marxist JVP and the pro-LTTE Tamil National Alliance (TNA) do not have representatives in the APRC currently.
The UNP withdrew from the committee in August, 2007, saying there was no consensus emerging amongst the parties on the proposals for devolution.
The interim report submitted in January last year, among other things, suggested recruitment of Tamil speaking police personnel, procurement of equipment to transact business in Tamil language and induction of interpreters in the North.
The recommendations state that special arrangements are necessary to permit maximum devolution of powers to the Northern and Eastern provinces under the 13th amendments (that calls for setting up of autonomous provincial councils).
The Eastern Provincial elections were, however, held subsequently in May, 2008.
After the interim recommendations were submitted, the Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama had told reporters that the government would not hesitate to undertake any kind of expenditure to implement the proposals.
"We are more than 20 billion rupee economy. Funds will never be a problem for implementing the proposals", he said.
"The APRC recommendations also seek to overcome existing shortcomings, especially through adequate funding of the Provincial Councils by the government", he had said.
Taking into consideration the existing conditions in the Northern Province, an alternative arrangement there is to enable people of the Province to enjoy fruits of devolution, he said.
The interim report also recommended establishment of an Interim Council as a temporary measure for the Northern Province, reflecting the ethnic character of the province to aid and advise the governor in the exercise of his executive powers until the elections are held.
According to the report, similar steps are to be taken to address the disadvantages of the Sinhala minorities in the North and the East of Sri Lanka
India had described the interim report as a "welcome first step" and said it will continue to work with Sri Lanka and its people to bring about a settlement of such issues.
"It has consistently been our view that a settlement of the issues in Sri Lanka is to be done by the Sri Lankan people themselves in a manner acceptable to all communities within the framework if a united Sri Lanka", a statement by a foreign ministry spokesman had said in New Delhi after the submission of interim report last year.
|Last Updated ( Friday, 14 August 2009 )|
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