On the eve of a Tamil National Alliance (TNA) delegation’s departure for an important visit to India, a senior leader in the group said on Tuesday that New Delhi must convey to the Sri Lankan leadership that long lasting peace can only come through meaningful devolution.
A senior Sri Lankan Minister, on the other hand, said it wanted India to use its good offices to prevail upon the Tamil political grouping to agree to a Parliamentary Select Committee process for hammering out a solution.
Amid speculation here that the TNA had been “summoned” to New Delhi to be told to participate in the Parliamentary Select Committee — announced by the Rajapaksa government — TNA parliamentarian M.A. Sumanthiran said he feared that the committee would be used as an instrument to scrap the 13th Amendment to the Sri Lankan Constitution, which provides for limited devolution of power to the provinces.
“The PSC has 31 members. We will have 5 members. They will suggest to scrap the 13th Amendment…Their agenda for the PSC is to take away the 13th Amendment,” he said.
That is why, Mr. Sumanthiran said, the TNA had made its participation in the PSC conditional to a guarantee from the government that the agenda for discussions would not go below a certain existing devolution threshold.
“The way forward is for sense to prevail, and for good friends close by to din it into the [Sri Lankan government’s] heads that for long lasting peace you have act statesman-like [and take steps towards] meaningful devolution,” the MP said.
Mr. Sumanthiran is part of a seven-member TNA delegation which will meet, among others, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, and top Foreign Ministry officials in New Delhi. TNA leader R.Sampanthan, Maavai Senadirajah, Suresh Premachandran, Pon. Selvarajah, Vinayagamoorthy and Selvam are the other members.
Indian officials said it was wrong to describe the TNA’s visit as a “summons”. The Tamil political group had expressed the desire to visit New Delhi a few months ago. However, New Delhi did not want to be seen as hosting a Tamil delegation immediately after the Human Rights Council vote in Geneva that saw India vote against Sri Lanka.
The TNA’s visit at this time, weeks after its good showing in the Eastern Province elections, sends out another kind of message: India considers this political group, made up of different Tamil parties, the legitimate representative of Sri Lankan Tamils.
The TNA has said it wants the PSC to discuss five existing documents on devolution, prepared by the previous governments and the Rajapaksa government. However, before that “intense talks” between the Tamil grouping and the government were needed for consensus on a solution, it said.Dismissing the TNA’s fears as “unfounded”, Foreign Minister G.L. Pieris told The Hindu that had the aim been to scrap the 13th Amendment, it could be done directly in Parliament, as the government had a two-thirds majority.
The select committee, the Minister noted, was proposed as a way to involve all parties in a solution. The TNA’s condition that Tamil representatives and the government must reach a consensus beforehand, he said, went against the very idea of the select committee.