No substitute for devolution of powers

devolution     An indication of the schism that exists in Sri Lanka was that even the swearing-in ceremony of the chief minister designate of the Northern Province, CV Wigneswaran, slipped into a controversy. After the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) swept the historic provincial council (PC) elections, optimism was quickly tempered by a number of developments.

One of the demands of the TNA, for instance — as part of its objective to raise the issue of militarisation of the Tamil areas — was removal of the Governor of the Northern Province, an ex-major general. The TNA refused to be sworn into government by him, and asked President Rajapaksa to administer the oath in Jaffna. After deliberations, Wigneswaran might now take the oath in Colombo, on Monday. Just before this issue was raised, the Supreme Court ruled that the new PCs would not have control over land, which the government iterated, saying land and police matters were a Central concern.

This was a blow to the idea of the devolution of powers, part of the India-backed 13th Amendment, supposed to be the basis of the resolution of the ethnic issue in Sri Lanka. Colombo seeks to whittle down the powers the TNA can have, saying the real agenda is a return to secessionism. The TNA, which raised eyebrows by its not-so-subtle invocations of LTTE-style rhetoric during campaigning, still stresses they want talks on the devolution of powers within a unified Sri Lanka.

The good thing, of course, is that this tussle between two stringent nationalisms has shifted onto a political terrain — that is the big takeaway from the provincial polls — post the last phase of the murderous war. But, by definition, the larger responsibility rests with Colombo. Dialogue, restraint and accommodation alone can ensure peace.(Economic Times)

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