ECONOMYNEXT – An all-party conference will be held on Thursday January 26 with the participation of all political party leaders representing Sri Lanka’s parliament to arrive at a consensus on national reconciliation.
A statement from the president’s office said on Wednesday that the conference on “ethnic harmony” will be held at 4pm the following day at the Presidential Secretariat in Colombo and will be chaired by President Ranil Wickremesnghe.
Speaker of Parliament Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena, Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa, former presidents Mahinda Rajapaksa and Maithripala Sirisena, Tamil National Alliance (TNA) leader R Sampanthan, National People’s Power (NPP) leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake and other parties leaders have been invited, the statement said.
President Wickremesinghe has stated on several occasions that he wishes to find a permanent solution to Sri Lanka’s decades-long ethnic issue before the 75th anniversary of the island nation’s independence from the British.
However, this goal is looking increasingly impossible as talks between the government and TNA have all but stalled.
The government has been in talks with the TNA and other stakeholder parties that represent the Tamil community.
Wickremesinghe said on January 15 that a full implementation of the 13th amendment to the constitution was on the cards as a possible solution to the ethnic issue.
However, the TNA, a key player in the ongoing talks, has expressed scepticism.
TNA legislator M A Sumanthiran told EconomyNext recently that successive governments have made the same promise for 35 years, to no avail.
“Nobody takes it with any seriousness because it has been constantly promised. It’s a question of implementing it. The president with his executive powers can do it,” he said.
“Talks have not been successful. In fact, there is disappointment because several things had been promised to be finalised by January, but hardly anything has been done.”
The 13th amendment to Sri Lanka’s constitution emerged from the controversial Indo-Lanka Accord of 1987 as a purported solution to the worsening ethnic conflict, four years after war broke out. Provincial councils came in the wake of this amendment, though land and police powers have yet to be devolved to the provinces as originally envisioned. Both Sinhalese and Tamil nationalists have historically opposed the amendment, the former claiming it devolved too much, the latter complaining it didn’t devolve enough.
President Wickremesinghe in November 2022 expressed his intention to find a final solution to the ethnic issue by February 04 this year.
Party leaders representing parliament previously met for talks on December 13 and, according to the president’s office, the objective of the latest round of discussions on Thursday is to reach an agreement on the way forward. (Colombo/Jan25/2023)