Friday, January 25, 2008

India backs interim ‘all-party’ solution in Sri Lanka

NEW DELHI: India on Thursday welcomed the recommendations of a multi-party committee in Sri Lanka that has reportedly sought implementation of a Constitutional amendment which followed the 1987 India-Sri Lanka accord.

Delhi's remarks came after the Sri Lankan Government – significantly – shared the recommendations made by the All Party Representative Conference (APRC) in an interim report submitted to President Mahinda Rajapaksa on Wednesday. The interim proposals were “a welcome first step,’’ an Indian Foreign Office spokesman said.

Following the 1987 Rajiv Gandhi-J R Jayawardene accord, the 13th Amendment introduced provisions in the Sri Lankan Constitution which were meant to bring about a political settlement to the Sinhala-Tamil ethnic dispute. The amendment recognised Tamil as an official language along with Sinhala, merged Tamil-dominated northern and eastern provinces and devolved more powers to the provincial councils.

But over the years, there was little to show on the ground. The temporarily merged provincial councils got ‘de-merged’ through a court order and they never got the freer hand to govern that the 13th Amendment had envisaged.

The APRC was set up to study if the provisions in the amendment could be implemented. The country’s main opposition United National Party however has walked out of the “all party’’ panel.

According to news reports from Colombo, the committee in its initial report has called for setting up of an interim provincial council in the north and elections to the council in the east.

“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 of a United Sri Lanka.,’’ the Indian spokesman said.

“The Government of India will continue to work with Sri Lanka and its people to bring about such a settlement of the issues in Sri Lanka.’’ He added: “To the extent that the APRC proposals contribute to such a settlement, they are a welcome first step.’’

Ashwani Talwar, Express Network