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Indian grant not-linked to implementation of the 13th Amendment – Keheliya

Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa participating in the virtual summit with Indian PM Narendra Modi

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka is denying reports that a USD15mn grant announced by the Indian Prime Minister to Sri Lanka on Sunday is linked to the complete implementation of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution.

At a press conference held today, September 28, government spokesman Media Minister Keheliya Rambukwella said that the grant was to foster Buddhist links between the two countries and that there was no link to the 13A.

The 13A was an integral part of the 1987 Indo-Lanka Pact which created the Provincial Councils giving some autonomy to the North and East as a solution to the ethnic issue.

The statement released to the media after Sunday’s summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India and Mahinda Rajapaksa of Sri Lanka said that the Indian PM “called on the Government of Sri Lanka to address the aspirations of the Tamil people for equality, justice, peace and respect within a united Sri Lanka including by carrying forward the process of reconciliation with the implementation of the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution of Sri Lanka.”

In reply Lankan Premier Rajapaksa expressed “confidence that Sri Lanka will work towards realizing the expectations of all ethnic groups including Tamils, by achieving reconciliation nurtured as per the mandate of the people of Sri Lanka and implementation of the Constitutional provisions.”

The press conference today also expressed some hope that the perennial issue of Indian and Sri Lankan fishermen poaching in each others’ waters could be resolved.

Fisheries Minister Douglas Devananda who also spoke that the Indian government is “favourable” to a Sri Lankan proposal to jointly exploit the resources of the Mannar basin.

Minister Rambukwella said that “governments have been trying to sort this out for decades. While we are talking to the central government, these subjects are handled by the states, so it is complicated, but we cannot use force as we are friendly countries.”

State Minister Nivard Cabraal who also joined the conference said that proposals forwarded by Sri Lanka for a debt moratorium was not discussed at the hour-long summit but an agreement has been reached between the Central Banks of the two countries for a swop of USD400million.

Cabraal also said that Sri Lanka had brought up the issue of the balance of payments gap between the two countries and urged India to help reduce it.

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(Colombo, September 28, 2020)
Reported by Arjuna Ranawana