Expressing their grievance, Sri Lanka’s Tamil National Alliance (TNA) has written to Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M K Stalin, seeking India’s intervention in ensuring a lasting political solution to the long-standing Tamil issue and the implementation of the contentious 13th Amendment.
In the letter sent to Stalin over the weekend, the TNA, along with diaspora group Global Tamil Forum, said, “Tamil Nadu has always been critical in setting Indian policies towards Sri Lanka. It is in this context that a path-setting and pragmatic approach adopted by Chief Minister M K Stalin would give us enormous comfort.”
The TNA, Sri Lanka’s main Tamil party, says the proposed constitutional process related to Amendment 13 was likely to further politically weaken the Tamil groups.The 13th Amendment was the result of the Indo-Lanka Accord of 1987, inked by the then Sri Lankan President JR Jayawardena and Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi.
It provides for devolution of powers to the minority Tamil community in Sri Lanka. India has continually reaffirmed its commitment to protect the rights of Sri Lanka’s minority Tamil community through the full implementation of the 13th Amendment, early convening of Provincial Council elections and achieving reconciliation.
Earlier this month, during the visit of Sri Lankan foreign minister G L Peiris to New Delhi, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar emphasised that Sri Lanka’s interests are best served by ensuring equality, justice, peace and respect for the Tamil people within a united Sri Lanka. Devolution of power is an important aspect of this process, Jaishankar had underlined. However, the ruling Sri Lanka People’s Party’s Sinhala majority hardliners have been advocating for a total abolition of the island’s Provincial Council system.
The Sri Lankan government has said the latest draft of the new Sri Lankan Constitution was sent to the Legal Draftsman; while the TNA is still waiting for a meeting with President Gotabaya Rajapaksa.
The TNA, in its letter ahead of next month’s 49th session of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva, said a revised Constitution could further alienate the minority group “especially by abolishing or weakening the provincial councils – the only constitutional power devolution arrangement Tamil people achieved with direct Indian involvement”.
Since taking office in 2019, Sri Lankan President Rajaspaksha has not held talks even once with the TNA which is Sri Lanka’s largest and most prominent Tamil political outfit.
In its letter to Stalin, the TNA decried the pace at which the investigation on war crimes during Sri Lanka’s three-decade long civil war was going on. The UN Human Rights Commission has demanded for the probe.
“Tamils in Sri Lanka are, once again, at a critical point. Twelve years after the end of the war, their economic prospects are dismal. The progress on war-related accountability is marginal at best. Tamils face many existential challenges – to protect their land and to preserve their identity in the Northern and Eastern Provinces against rampant militarisation and state-sponsored initiatives aimed at altering regional demography,” said the statement.
Sri Lanka has been marred by an over three-decade-long brutal civil war that ended with the death of Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) chief Velupillai Prabhakaran in 2009.
The UN believes 80,000-100,000 people died in the conflict when the rebels sought to carve out a separate state for the Tamil minority and accused both sides of war crimes.
The UNHRC has passed a resolution censuring Colombo over its treatment of minorities and alleged failure to investigate atrocities during the civil war.
According to government figures, over 20,000 people are missing due to various conflicts. The Tamils allege that thousands were massacred during the final stages of the war. The Sri Lankan Army denies the charge, claiming it was a humanitarian operation to rid the Tamils of LTTE’s control.
Meanwhile, the UNHRC session is due to begin on February 28 and will end on April 1.
The Sri Lankan government has already received the draft report of the UNHRC on Sri Lanka last week and a response has already been sent, government sources said. Foreign Minister GL Peiris will lead the government delegation to Geneva. The dialogue on Sri Lanka will take place on March 3. (Outlook)