NEW DELHI: Responding to Tamil Nadu chief minister Jayalalithaa’s concerns over Sri Lanka’s intentions to dilute the 13th amendment that specifies autonomy to the Tamil minority, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has assured her that New Delhi is firm on devolution of powers to Tamil-dominated areas.
“There is absolutely no change in the Centre’s stand on the question of reconciliation and devolution of political powers (to Tamils) in Sri Lanka,’’ the Prime Minister has said a letter to the chief minister.
“”We will continue to work towards the end,” the letter says.
The 13th amendment introduced provincial councils with special powers in Sri Lanka, as per the provisions of the 1987 Indo-Sri Lankan Accord.
But Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajpaksha says a small nation like Sri Lanka has problems when it comes to devolving police, security and land powers to provinces. He set up a Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) last month to discuss all issues related to implementation of the 13th amendment. But all the 19 members of the PSC are from the ruling United People’s Freedom Alliance that is led by the Sri Lanka Freedom Party.
Concerned over Sri Lankan intentions, Jayalalithaa sent a letter to the Prime Minister about two weeks ago, asking New Delhi to be firm with Columbo on the issue.
In her letter to the prime minister, Jayalalithaa had said, ““The Union government should ensure that the process of democratic decentralization, which is integral to the survival of the Tamils in Lanka, is in no way jeopardized. This should eventually lead to the Tamils of Sri Lanka realizing their legitimate aspirations.’’
The Tamil Nadu chief minister said, “In the present turn of events, when the Sri Lankan government is acting with impunity to take away even the limited political rights available to the Tamils, I strongly urge the government of India to take all possible steps to bring pressure to bear upon the Sri Lankan government not to take any steps to repeal or even dilute the 13th amendment in any manner.”
Jayalalithaa said, “I hope that the India, as a leader in the region and as a champion of human rights and democracy, will decisively take a bold stand in support of the much discriminated against and long suffering Tamil minorities in Sri Lanka.”
The DMK has announced a state-wide agitation on August 8 to protest against the Sri Lankan government’s intentions to deny autonomy to Tamil-dominated areas.