Sri Lanka names Parliamentary panel on 13A

Parlimentary select committee      Amidst the ongoing political debate on the abolition of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, Speaker Chamal Rajapaksa appointed a Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC), ‘to recommend and report on political and constitutional measures to empower the peoples of Sri Lanka to live as one nation.

The Speaker announced  names  for the Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) which would be chaired by Leader of the House, Irrigation and Water Management Minister, Nimal Siripala de Silva. The other members are  External Affairs Minister  G.L. Peiris, Health Minister Maithripala Sirisena, Petroleum Minister Anura Priyadarshana Yapa, Chief Government Whip Dinesh Gunawardane, Traditional Industries and Small Enterprise Development Minister Douglas Devananda, Environment Minister Susil Premajayantha, Provincila Councils and Local Government Minister A.L.M. Athaullah, Industry and Commerce Minister Rishad Bathiudeen, Senor Minister D.E.W. Gunasekara, Science and Technlogy Minister Patali Champika Ranawaka, Housing Minister Wimal Weerawansa, Economic Development Minister Basil Rajapaksa, Sugar Industries Development Minister Lakshman Seneviratne, National Languages and Social Integration Minister Vasudeva Nanayakkara, Deputy Minister Muttu Sivalingam, Government MP Mrs. Sudarshani Fernandopulle and Government MP Janaka Bandara.

The 19-member government team of the Parliamentary Select Committee would be headed by senior minister Nimal Siripala de Silva, the Leader of House, said an official statement. The rest of the members of the Committee would be announced after receiving nominations from the Opposition, he said. Chief Opposition Whip John Amaratunga said that Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe had sent a letter to President Mahinda Rajapaksa in this regard, where they needed clarifications on several issues and once the UNP received those clarifications, the party state it’s stance.

Unfazed by India”s opposition, Sri Lanka announced the names of a Parliamentary panel to discuss the issue of the thirteenth amendment (13 A) to its Constitution that devolve some authority to the provinces. Member of the committee are is expected to deliberate on the government motive to dilute land and police control powers.

The move came amidst calls by Sinhala nationalists to scrap the 13 A ahead of the provincial council elections in Tamil-dominated northern areas in September. As per the 13 A that followed the Indo-Sri Lankan Accord of July 1987, Sri Lankan government had agreed to devolve some authority to the provinces.

All seniors leaders of the ruling UPFA coalition”s constituent partners are members of the committee except the leader of the main Muslim party, Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC), Rauff Hakeem.

The announcement came hours after President Mahinda Rajapaksa said the committee would be the appropriate forum for all interested parties to air their views on attempts to amend the 13 A.There was no immediate reaction from the opposition UNP and the main Tamil party, Tamil National Alliance (TNA). The TNA, UNP and the SLMC are all opposed to stripping key powers at the behest of President”s nationalist allies.

The Sinhala nationalist allies warned that unfettered powers to councils would prompt TNA to achieve its intention of a Tamil state in the north and east provinces.

Top TNA leaders were in New Delhi this week to meet top Indian leadership and apprise them on the move.External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid had spoken to his Lankan counterpart Peiris urging him to refrain from taking any unilateral action on the 13A.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh recently said India would convey its views on alleged attempts by political parties in Sri Lankan to repeal the 13th Amendment to its Constitution, after considering its implications.

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