Sri Lankan President Ranil Wickremesinghe holds all-party meeting on 13A for peaceful resolution of Tamil issue

COLOMBO: An all-party meeting convened by the President Ranil Wickremesinghe discussed the 13th Amendment to the Constitution of Sri Lanka initiated by India to address the longstanding claim of political autonomy for minority Tamils ​​in the island nation, political leaders for know on Wednesday.
The Tamil The parties to Tuesday’s meeting called on the government to hold elections for the northern provincial council.
“13A is already part of the Constitution and that is a point on which most parties have agreed,” leader of the Tamil Progressive Alliance (TNA) Mano Ganesan told PTI.
Ganesan, who represents most of the Tamil Indians in the western province, said the President Wickremesinghe asked him to forward proposals on issue 13A on behalf of the hilly Tamil community or Tamil Indians.
India has pressed Sri Lanka to implement the 13th Amendment introduced after the India-Sri Lanka agreement of 1987. 13A provides for the transfer of power to the Tamil community.
Ganesan said President Wickremesinghe, the main opposition leader Sajith Premadasa and former president Mahinda Rajapaksa both agreed to implement 13A.
He called on the government to hold provincial council elections in the northern and eastern provinces so that people have the idea of ​​self-governance with full implementation of 13A.
CV Wigneswaran, former governor of the Northern province, said ensuring the councils had identified powers denied to the provinces were discussed during the all-party meeting.
“We raised the issue of land acquisition by the state. They are taking over lands belonging to government agencies. This must stop and land use rights must be given to provincial councils,” Wigneswaran told PTI.
He said other issues related to the Tamil minority and the release of political prisoners held under the draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) were also discussed during the meeting.
President Wickremesinghe convened a All-Party Conference on Tuesday to reach consensus on the Tamil minority’s demand for political autonomy.
Wickremesinghe has said that he is keen to announce the resolution of the matter by February 4 next year, which coincides with the 75th anniversary of Sri Lanka’s Independence Day.
“We have so little time that we can’t go back and start over,” emphasized Ganesan.
Meanwhile, there was no immediate comment from the pro-Sinhala majority nationalist parties on Tuesday’s talks. Ganesan said all Sinhala parties were present in the meeting, adding that only Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP), the third largest majority community party, abstained.
The Sinhala majority hardliners have advocated the complete abolition of the island’s provincial council system established in 1987. There are nine provincial councils in Lanka.
Sinhalese, largely Buddhist, make up nearly 75% of Sri Lanka’s 22 million population while Tamils ​​make up 15%.
Addressing Parliament on 10 November, Wickremesinghe, without naming any country, said that Sri Lanka did not need outside interference in its internal affairs, when he invited Tamil minority parties to organize negotiations to resolve some of the outstanding issues they face.
“I invite you all to have talks next week and resolve all outstanding issues before the 75th anniversary of independence,” he said.
Tamil’s main TNA party with 13 members in the 225-member parliament decided not to oppose the government budget for 2023 after Wickremesinghe offered to negotiate.
Sri Lanka has had a long history of failed negotiations to end discriminatory Tamil claims by allowing some form of political autonomy.
An Indian attempt in 1987 to create a common provincial council system for the Tamils ​​to dominate in the north and east was thwarted when the Tamils ​​claimed they did not have full autonomy.
Wickremesinghe himself attempted an aborted constitutional attempt between 2015-2019, but was also scuttled by hardline majority politicians.
The Tamils ​​have been demanding autonomy since independence from Britain in 1948, which in the mid-1970s turned into a bloody armed conflict.
Over the years, the Sri Lankan government has been aggressive with Tamilian groups following the war with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).
The LTTE waged a military campaign for a separate Tamil homeland in the northern and eastern provinces of the island nation for nearly 30 years before collapsing in 2009 after the Sri Lankan Army killed the leader. their supreme. Velupillai Prabhakaran.
According to Sri Lankan government figures, more than 20,000 people are missing as a result of various conflicts, including a devastating three-decade war with the Lankan Tamils ​​in the north and east that has claimed their lives. of at least 100,000 people. International human rights organizations claim at least 40,000 ethnic Tamil civilians were killed in the final stages of the war, but the Sri Lankan government denies these figures.


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