The 13th Amendment to the Sri Lankan Constitution “is quite important starting point” for devolution of powers to the Tamil-dominated northern province, said a senior U.S. government official.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Robert O Blake Jr., who was in Sri Lanka for a second time within five months, said this in response to a question if the 13th Amendment was still relevant or if it was redundant in the current context. He was hopeful that the Amendment would be expanded on by the government and the Tamil National Alliance to grant more power to the provinces.

The Amendment, which is a result of the 1987 Indo-Sri Lankan accord, sought to devolve powers to the provinces. Since the accord was signed in July 1987, it has been seen in Sri Lanka as a sell-out of national interests.

Talks to resume

Mr.Blake confirmed that the Tamil National Alliance and the Sri Lankan government would resume talks on arriving at an acceptable political solution to the Tamils in the northern province.

Addressing the press here, after meeting officials, the TNA, the opposition UNP, and the people in the northern province, he said: “I was very pleased to hear from both the government and the TNA that they will resume their important dialogue on devolution and other matters,” he said in a brief statement, ahead of answering questions. The dialogue will resume this week, he added.

The TNA-Government talks had broken down in August, over the TNA's demand that the government to “meaningfully define and state” its stand on devolution to the Northern Province, and cited the lack of progress in its talks with the government for suspension of talks.

Asserting that a great deal needed to be done “to heal the wounds of war and ensure a peaceful, democratic and prosperous Sri Lanka,” Mr. Blake said this required a national reconciliation process that included a “full, credible and independent accounting if and accountability for those who violated international humanitarian law”.

The U.S. hoped that the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission report, which has concluded its sittings, would address the allegations of human rights abuses during the end stages of the Eelam War IV. The abuses were outlined by the United Nations Secretary General's Panel of Experts on Accountability in Sri Lanka. This document has been denounced in Sri Lanka.

“I am concerned about human rights. A very important part of reconciliation and returning people's lives to normal in the North is an improvement in human rights. I discussed with relevant officials the importance of disarming paramilitary groups, on which progress is being made…It is important to deploy Tamil police in the North so the military no longer needs to perform these functions. And the US remains deeply concerned about attacks on journalists,” he said. Mr. Blake also visited the Uthayan newspaper in Jaffna. The paper's news editor was attacked recently in the northern town.

He left for India on his second-leg of the south Asia tour.

Keywords: Sri Lankawar crimesLTTE