• Tuesday, May 21, 2024

HEADLINE STORY

Sri Lankan president calls all-party meeting for Tamil reconciliation

Wickremesinghe last week met Indian prime minister Narendra Modi

FILE PHOTO: Sri Lanka’s President Ranil Wickremesinghe attends the 156th Sri Lanka Police Day celebrations in Colombo. (Photo by ISHARA S. KODIKARA/AFP via Getty Images)

By: Pramod Thomas

SRI LANKAN president Ranil Wickremesinghe on Wednesday (26) will hold an all-party meeting to discuss the thorny issue of ethnic reconciliation of minority Tamils in the island nation.

The meeting was called by the president to discuss the government’s national reconciliation programme and the way forward.

The all-party move comes closely on the heels of the president’s two-day visit to India last week where he met prime minister Narendra Modi.

Before his Delhi visit, Wickremesinghe at a meeting with the Tamil parties represented in the north and east provinces had agreed to the full implementation of the 13th Amendment (13A) to the Sri Lankan Constitution with all-party consensus without the police powers being granted to the provinces.

The 13A was India’s pioneering move in 1987 to try and bring in a settlement to the issue of political autonomy to the Tamils in Sri Lanka.

It created nine provinces as devolved units with a temporary merger of the north and eastern provinces.

Sri Lanka’s opposition parties appeared to be divided over their participation in the all-party conference.

While invitations were extended to leaders of all political parties and independent groups with representation in parliament to attend the all-party meeting on national reconciliation, some of the opposition parties have claimed that they are not aware of the exact agenda.

“We have not been informed of the agenda for the meeting. But we will attend for the sake of the people,” Sajith Premadasa, the main opposition leader in the Sri Lankan parliament, said.

He said his party the Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) reserved the right to walk out of the meeting if it proved to be a political gimmick rather than a genuine effort.

While the second largest opposition group Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) said they would not attend, other political parties said they would take part.

“We will be going,” Dayasiri Jayasekera of former president Maithripala Sirisena’s Sri Lanka Freedom Party said.

Modi during his talks with Wickremesinghe in New Delhi had expressed hope that the Sri Lankan leader would be committed to implementing the 13A and holding the provincial council elections. He urged to ensure a life of respect and dignity for the Tamils.

Sri Lanka has had a long history of failed negotiations to end the Tamil claim of discrimination by allowing some form of political autonomy.

The Tamils put forward their demand for autonomy after gaining independence from Britain in 1948, which from the mid-70s turned into a bloody armed conflict.

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) ran a military campaign for a separate Tamil homeland in the Northern and Eastern provinces of the island nation for nearly 30 years before its collapse in 2009 after the Sri Lankan Army killed its supreme leader Velupillai Prabhakaran.

According to Sri Lankan government figures, over 20,000 people are missing due to various conflicts, including the three-decade brutal war with Lankan Tamils in the north and east, which claimed at least 100,000 lives.

(PTI)

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