Colombo: The much-awaited provincial council election in Sri Lanka`s Tamil-dominated north will be held in September as planned with President Mahinda Rajapaksa giving his go ahead on Friday.
Rajapaksa signed an official proclamation enabling the Elections Commissioner Mahinda Deshapriya to hold the polls in September. Deshapriya said earlier this month that election could be held on either September 21 or 28.
The election is seen as crucial by international watchers who regard it as a major step towards reconciliation with the island`s Tamil minority since the end of a brutal three-decade-long civil war in 2009 when government troops finally crushed LTTE rebels fighting for a separate Tamil homeland.
The northern election the first since the eastern province was delinked from the north in 2006.
Rajapaksa`s proclamation came as his younger brother Basil Rajapaksa was meeting senior Indian officials in New Delhi on the government`s plans to amend the thirteenth amendment to the constitution, which will strip the northern provincial council from the control over land and the police force.
Concerned over reports of Sri Lanka considering removal of land and police powers prior to the northern elections, External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid had spoken to his Sri Lankan counterpart G L Peiris recently and underlined the need to leave the 13A unchanged, urging Colombo not to take any step contrary to its own commitments relating to the 13A.
However, Rajapaksa defended the need to strip provincial councils of police powers at a public gathering today.
"If someone has committed a crime in the south and fled to another province, it would be difficult for the police in the south to arrest him in another province," he said.
Rajapaksa`s nationalist allies have warned the President that conferring police and land powers to the north would pave way for the separation of the island.
The opposition, Tamil and Muslim minority parties are objecting to the amendments saying they violate the powers conferred on devolved provincial administrations by the 1987 India-Sri Lanka Accord.