Sri Lanka denies scuttling power devolution

Colombo, May 22 (IANS) Sri Lanka denied Wednesday plans to roll back power sharing mechanisms with the Tamil minority despite attempts to stop long overdue elections in the former war-torn north.

Technology and Research Minister Champika Ranawaka announced Tuesday plans to present an act in parliament next week to abolish provincial councils and the India-backed 13th constitutional amendment, reports Xinhua.

The main Tamil political party, Tamil National Alliance (TNA), has insisted that it would not contest the upcoming elections in the north if police and land powers were taken away by the government.

However, acting cabinet spokesman and Petroleum Minister Anura Priyadarshana Yapa dismissed such moves and insisted that the government had no plans as yet to change the constitution.

“The president expressly said a Parliamentary Select Committee consisting of all political parties can discuss if there will be any changes to the present constitution, especially to the 13th amendment.

“In that scenario, no steps have been taken to change the status quo. These arguments have been going on for a long time, these are not new arguments. But the 13th amendment is still there.

“There have been no discussions to change the amendment up to now,” he said.

When India intervened in the Sri Lankan ethnic conflict, the 13th amendment came out, devolving power from the central government to various provinces.

However, this amendment was never fully implemented in the north and east due to the war between the government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

Since the conflict ended in 2009, Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa pledged to provide a political solution to the Tamil minority based on the 13th amendment.

However, nationalist parties such as the Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU) have been lobbying to roll back the 13th amendment and disrupt elections in the north, which are to be held in September.

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