'New Lankan govt ready to give Tamils more autonomy'
Sri Lanka's new Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe on Tuesday pledged to implement India-backed constitutional amendment to give more autonomy to provinces to achieve reconciliation with the minority Tamil community.
Colombo: Sri Lanka's new Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe on Tuesday pledged to implement India-backed constitutional amendment to give more autonomy to provinces to achieve reconciliation with the minority Tamil community.
"We will implement the 13A (13th amendment) within a unitary framework," Wickremesinghe said in his maiden address to parliament convened for the first time since President Maithripala Sirisena succeeded Mahinda Rajapaksa after the January 8 presidential election.
Rajapaksa's majority Sinhala nationalist regime was opposed to conferring full powers to the provincial councils, including the Tamil-dominated regions.
The issue of devolution of power also featured during Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera visit to India this week.
India has been pressing Sri Lanka to implement the 13th amendment on devolution of powers in "letter and spirit" and to fulfil the aspirations of the ethnic Tamils.
The 13th amendment that followed the Indo-Sri Lankan Accord of July 1987 signed between then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and then Sri Lankan President J R Jayewardene envisaged the devolution of powers to the provinces in the midst of the island's bitter ethnic conflict.
Rajapaksa, who was in power from 2005-14, has been credited with crushing the LLTE's violent campaign for separate heartland in 2009.
The Tamil National Alliance (TNA), Sri Lanka's main Tamil party, had supported Sirisena in this month's elections after Rajapaksa failed to implement the 13th amendment.
TNA leader Rajavarothayam Sampanthan today said that the failure to resolve the longstanding ethnic conflict has caused many of the nation's ills and asked the new government to look into the matter.
Elaborating his government's 100-day programme, Wickremesinghe said introduction of democratic reforms would form a major part of it.
"We were a coalition of different political parties with different objectives. But we got together to end the dictatorial family rule," Wickremesinghe said.
In the same spirit, he said the new government welcomes proposals, ideas and criticism from all political parties.
"It is a challenge for all of us to get together in solving the national question," Wickremesinghe said.