13A dilution bid worries India
Three weeks ago, alarmed at indications of such moves after media reports, External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid had called up his Sri Lankan counterpart G L Peiris, to inform him that they should not take any step to remove the powers under the 13th Amendment, especially since Colombo had spoken of going beyond this key provision of the 1987 Indo-Sri Lanka accord.At that time, Khurshid had raised concerns about moves to remove land and police powers from the provincial councils, as then reported by the Lankan media. Eventually, the Lankan government changed tactics and decided to dilute the 13th Amendment on less emotive issues. India is deeply worried about the seemingly determined efforts being made by the Sri Lankan government to dilute provisions of the 13th Amendment, a key to reach a political settlement with Sri Lankan Tamils, thus casting a shadow over the credibility of the forthcoming Northern Provincial elections, the New Indian Express reported.Tamil National Alliance (TNA) leaders have already said publicly that they will boycott the elections to the Northern Provinces if there is any dilution of powers of the provincial councils, as envisaged through the proposals of the Sri Lankan government. The New Indian Express quoted Indian Government sources as saying that the move by President Mahinda Rajapaksa regime to dilute the 13th Amendment would be counter-productive. Last Thursday, two notes were circulated among the Sro Lankan cabinet members for modifying the constitution, which would take away powers of the provincial councils under the 13th Amendment, which has been projected as a major tool for devolution of power and reaching a political settlement with Lankan Tamils after the civil war.Firstly, the cabinet note proposed changes that would allow for a simple parliamentary majority to approve legislation related to subjects under provinces, provided a majority of the nine councils agree. It would change the current constitutional clause which called for a two-thirds majority. The sources pointed out that while Colombo is tom-toming that it is going to hold the elections in the Northern Provinces, especially to the international community, it was also trying, on the other hand, to remove the powers of the councils.