In a brief telephone interview with the Sunday Observer, the Opposition Leader expressed his views on the extent of further devolution to be negotiated and the TNA’s meeting with the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.
While sticking to the basic Tamil political position for ‘greater devolution’, Opposition Leader, TNA head and, Sri Lankan Tamil community political elder R. Sampanthan last week would not specify areas for more provincial powers, hinting at a possible softening of line by the Tamil leadership.
The TNA boss, earlier last week, in his speech in Matara while attending a passing-out ceremony for trainees at the Samurdhi Development Community Foundation, reiterated the need for further devolution of power within the country and envisaged the formation of a new constitution that incorporated provisions for devolution.
Excerpts from the interview:
Q: What were the main issues that TNA discussed with the UN Secretary General?
A: The meeting with him went off well. We discussed reconciliation and impediments to reconciliation, land issues, persons in custody, the missing persons even though the Office of Missing Persons has been established by law it needs to be implemented effectively to ensure that the persons who complained that their kith and kin have gone missing are given some satisfaction that there are proper investigations. For it the law needs to be implemented properly.
Issues on resettlement, housing and livelihood need to be addressed more effectively, if reconciliation was to take place. Then we discussed the question on accountability and the resolution adopted by the UNHRC which Sri Lanka is a sponsor and which must be implemented in better spirit. We discussed the political solution and to ensure that such political solution is with conformity with constitutional arrangements. As the way in several parts of the world, which have a pluralistic society as we have in Sri Lanka, multi ethnic, multi religious, multi-lingual and multi-cultural society that we have in Sri Lanka. So we discussed all these issues and also we discussed the role of the UN and the UNHCR.
And we have had a very positive response. Mr. Ban Ki-moon assured us that these issues will be addressed. And he was in agreement with regard to many other matters.
Q: The Joint Opposition claims that the bill on the Office of Missing Persons did not follow due process in Parliament; hence the establishment of neither the office nor looking into inquiries was achievable. What is your view?
A: I don’t agree with the position held by the ‘Joint Opposition’. My position is that the law has been enacted and now the law needs to be properly implemented. Merely the enactment of the law is insufficient.
Q: What are the perimeters of devolution that you are campaigning for?
A: Everyone has talked about the widest possible devolution. Both the UNP and also the SLFP, everyone in parliament has talked about the widest possible devolution. So I’m asking for the widest possible devolution of powers.
Q: The ‘Joint Opposition’ claims that the ‘Sirisena-Wickremesinghe’ regime is on a voyage of separating the country. By making such demands are you not fueling on their allegations?
A: I don’t think sharing power is splitting the country. That is a ridiculous position. We cannot be subdued by their ridiculous positions. The government is not discouraged. And even Mr. Ban Ki-moon has conveyed this message.
Q: At present, under the 13th amendment the powers of the government have been devolved amongst the Provincial Councils, and there is devolution of power, isn’t this not enough?
A: What is in existence is inadequate. During President Premadasa’s time, Chandrika’s time, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s time and even during President Rajapaksa’s time there have been efforts to come up with a new package. That is because what is in existence is insufficient. (Observer)