ECONOMYNEXT — Sri Lanka is keen on implementing the 13th amendment to the constitution, Foreign Minister Ali Sabry said acknowledging that power should be devolved to the people.
Sabry told India’s WION television network on Wednesday November 23 that “we all” want to hold the long overdue provincial council elections but a contentious bill was getting in the way.
“It cannot be held now because of a particular bill that was brought into parliament in 2018 by the then government for which the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) and the Tamil parties also voted,” he said.
The minister was referring to the Provincial Council Elections (Amendment) Act that was passed in September 2017 with the support of more than two-thirds of parliament. The Yahapalana government at the time of the time — whose prime minister, incidentally, was current President Ranil Wickremesinghe — was looking to reform the electoral process with the introduction of a hybrid system of first-past-the-post and proportional representation.
Provincial council elections have been delayed since then, with a number of false starts on when elections may be held again.
“In terms of that particular voting, new delimitation has to take place of the provinces, which has not taken place, and there is some legal impediment on that. So it’s actually their own doing unfortunately (sp),” said Sabry.
The minister claimed that “they did it” at the time to prevent elections.
“But naturally, the 13th amenmdnet should be implemented and those powers that were with them should be given to them and power should be devolved to the people in the area. The people in the area should deal with their day to day activity with the people they have elected (sp),” he said.
The foreign minister also acknowledged that India has taken up the matter in various international fora including the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) which recently passed a tough new resolution on Sri Lanka with respect to its human rights record.
“So yes, the 13th amendment should be implemented and the government is keen on implementing it, and yes, India has taken that up in different forums including the UNHRC,” said Sabry.
The 13th amendment to Sri Lanka’s constitution emerged out of the controversial Indo-Lanka Accord of 1987 as a solution to the ethnic conflict. Provincial councils came in the wake of this amendment, but land and police powers have yet to be devolved to the provinces as originally envisioned.
Both Sinhalese and Tamil nationalists have opposed the 13th amendment, the former saying it devolved too much, the latter claiming it didn’t devolve enough.
President Wickremesinghe, meanwhile, has invited opposition parties including the TNA to participate in a fresh round of discussions on a permanent solution to Sri Lanka’s decades-long ethnic problem, to be held in the week after December 11.