Sri Lanka names Parliamentary panel on 13A

Sri Lanka announced the names of a Parliamentary panel to discuss the issue of the thirteenth amendment (13A) to its Constitution.

Colombo: Unfazed by India`s opposition, Sri Lanka on Friday announced the names of a Parliamentary panel to discuss the issue of the thirteenth amendment (13A) to its Constitution that devolve some authority to the provinces.

The 19-member government team of the Parliamentary Select Committee would be headed by senior Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva, the Leader of House, said an official statement here.

G L Peiris, the Minister of External Affairs, is also a member of the committee which is expected to deliberate on the government motive to dilute land and police control powers.

The move came amidst calls by Sinhala nationalists to scrap the 13A ahead of the provincial council elections in Tamil-dominated northern areas in September.
As per the 13A that followed the Indo-Sri Lankan Accord of July 1987, Sri Lankan government had agreed to devolve some authority to the provinces.

All seniors leaders of the ruling UPFA coalition`s constituent partners are members of the committee except the leader of the main Muslim party, Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC), Rauff Hakeem.

The announcement came hours after President Mahinda Rajapaksa said the committee would be the appropriate forum for all interested parties to air their views on attempts to amend the 13A.

There was no immediate reaction from the opposition UNP and the main Tamil party, Tamil National Alliance (TNA).
The TNA, UNP and the SLMC are all opposed to stripping key powers at the behest of President`s nationalist allies.

The Sinhala nationalist allies warned that unfettered powers to councils would prompt TNA to achieve its intention of a Tamil state in the north and east provinces.

Top TNA leaders were in New Delhi this week to meet top Indian leadership and apprise them on the move.

External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid had spoken to his Lankan counterpart Peiris urging him to refrain from taking any unilateral action on the 13A.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh recently said India would convey its views on alleged attempts by political parties in Sri Lankan to repeal the 13th Amendment to its Constitution, after considering its implications.