`Devolution package should go beyond 13 Amendment`
Colombo: Sri Lanka`s mainstream Tamil party, the Tamil National Alliance, has demanded a devolution package, saying it should go beyond the proposed 13th Amendment to the country`s Constitution.
Seeking greater autonomy within a united Sri Lanka, party chief R Sampanthan has said Tamils must have "unrestricted authority to govern our own land, protect our own people and develop our own economy".
Addressing the 14th annual convention of the TNA in the eastern town of Batticaloa over the weekend, Sampanthan distanced his group from the views of the now-purged LTTE, saying Tamils in Sri Lanka could not have difference of opinion with India.
He called the 30 years of violent political struggle in the north and east of Sri Lanka as "a chapter of blood, tears, courage, despair and great destruction" and said this period saw the emergence of LTTE as a great force within Tamil community.
Sampanthan said the intervention of India was an inevitable chapter in the history of Tamil political struggle.
"The intervention of India has clearly taught us the lesson that whatever our aspirations may be, India will never welcome a political solution in Sri Lanka that does not accord with the interests of India," he said.
Sampanthan said TNA used the intervention of India to their benefit, "together with its assistance and blessing, we grasped an opportunity to arrive at a political solution that would enable us to live with dignity within a united Sri Lanka".
"We must not forget the lesson history taught us, of the difference of opinion we had with India that not only caused it to distance itself from us for the past 20 years, but even caused it to work against us. We want to ensure that we do not act in such a manner again, and thus alienate ourselves from the international community."
Sampanthan said despite the power of the LTTE, achieving Tamil Eelam was becoming an increasingly unrealistic goal. "Thus, instead of sacrificing more lives to this cause, our party, with the help of India, began supporting a solution that allowed the Tamil people to live within a united Sri Lanka without compromising their fundamental rights".
The TNA leader said his party embodied the political aspirations of the Tamil people.
"We must have unrestricted authority to govern our own land, protect our own people and develop our own economy, culture and tradition. Powers must be allocated under this structure based on the understanding that meaningful devolution should go beyond the 13th Amendment to the Constitution passed in 1987," he said.
Sampanthan said that in the past the United States and India had stood "against" Tamils.
"However in the favourable circumstances that have now come about, the United States and India are to a great extent supporting our position. India`s vote in support of a resolution (against Sri Lankan government) presented by the United States at the UN Human Rights Council was an astonishing international development in our favour," he added.
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