All parties will be consulted on devolving police powers – Sri Lanka

All political parties represented in Parliament will be consulted on devolving police powers to provinces, the Sri Lankan Government announced hours after the Sri Lankan Presidential delegation returned from New Delhi.

“Sri Lankan President Ranil Wickremesinghe is keen on implementing the 13th Amendment to the Constitution. As far as police powers are concerned, he will consult all the political parties in the government, opposition and the parties in Parliament to take a decision,” Sri Lankan Foreign Affairs Minister Ali Sabry told a news conference yesterday. He was part of the Presidential delegation to New Delhi.

During the joint media briefing on Thursday at Hyderabad House in New Delhi following bilateral talks with Wickremesinghe, Indian Premier Narendra Modi also urged the Government to hold provincial council elections and ensure a life of respect and dignity for the Tamil community in the country.

“We hope that the Government of Sri Lanka will fulfil the aspirations of the Tamils; will drive the process of rebuilding for equality, justice and peace; will fulfill its commitment to implement the Thirteenth Amendment and conduct the Provincial Council Elections. And will ensure a life of respect and dignity for the Tamil community of Sri Lanka,” Prime Minister Modi said.

In his remarks, Wickremesinghe said he had shared with the Indian Premier on the comprehensive proposal he presented this week for furthering reconciliation, power sharing through devolution and the multiple elements of the Northern development plan. “I have invited all party leaders in Parliament to work towards consensus and national unity on these measures. Thereafter the Government will place the relevant legislation before Parliament.”

Addressing a special media briefing following the bilateral talks held between the two leaders, India’s Foreign Secretary Vinay Kwatra said India continues to look forward to a political solution that addresses the aspirations of the Tamil community, “of course, aspirations for equality, justice and self-respect within the framework of united and prosperous Sri Lanka.”

“The Prime Minister …expressed our belief that a meaningful devolution of powers and the full implementation of the 13th Amendment are essential components of addressing and facilitating the reconciliation process in Sri Lanka. This has been our consistent position and this was put forward during the meeting between the two leaders,” Foreign Secretary Kwatra said.

Two days before the New Delhi visit, Wickremesinghe met Tamil political parties represented in Parliament and outlined his proposal of implementing the 13th Amendment except for police powers as a solution to the ethnic question but the offer was outrightly rejected by the Tamil National Alliance led by R. Sampanthan. However, the party stressed that it would not disrupt the steps taken by the Government in implementing the 13th Amendment.

In view of the Indian-origin Tamil community marking its 200th year since arriving on the island, Prime Minister Modi announced a development package of Rs 3 billion (INR 750 million) for the betterment and welfare of the community.

The Sunday Times, SL

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