New Lankan govt to implement 13th amendment: PM Ranil Wickremesinghe
Sri Lanka's new Prime Minister today said his government will implement the India-backed 13th amendment to the constitution within a unitary framework for the devolution of power to provinces to achieve reconciliation with the minority Tamil community.
Colombo: Sri Lanka's new Prime Minister today said his government will implement the India-backed 13th amendment to the constitution within a unitary framework for the devolution of power to provinces to achieve reconciliation with the minority Tamil community.
"We will implement the 13A within a unitary framework," Wickremesinghe told parliament.
He was addressing the house 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.
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.
TNA, Sri Lanka's main Tamil party, had supported Sirisena in this month's elections after Rajapaksa failed to implement the 13th amendment.
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.
"We should not send this problem beyond the term of this parliament," he said.
Accusing Rajapaksa of undermining parliament, Wickremesinghe said the new government's priority is to strengthen it.
"Among the legislation we have to approve is a new form of government where Cabinet is linked to parliament. That will replace the executive presidency," Wickremesinghe said.
The 18th amendment which empowered Rajapaksa to seek a third term would be abolished, Wickremesinghe said.
The 19th amendment to be moved would establish independent commissions to de-politicise the key governance instruments.