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Devolution talks: Gevindu alleges Ranil giving in to TNA

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by Shamindra Ferdinando

Rebel SLPP lawmaker Gevindu Cumaratunga yesterday warned that post-war national reconciliation couldn’t be achieved by appeasing the Tamil National Alliance (TNA).

National List MP Cumaratunga said so commenting on the discussion President Ranil Wickremesinghe had with lawmakers representing the Northern and Eastern Provinces. The talks centered on devolution of power. The Tamil National People’s Front led by Gajendra Kumar Ponnambalam skipped the meeting.

MP Cumaratunga found fault with President Wickremesinghe for succumbing to TNA ultimatum that it wouldn’t accept government invitation unless members representing both Northern and Eastern Provinces were called together.

“The original plan was for the President to meet legislators representing the two provinces, separately. But, that plan was changed soon after the TNA warned it wouldn’t attend a separate meeting for Northern Province Tamil MPs, lawmaker Cumaratunga said. The TNA parliamentary group consists of 10 members.

In spite of the LTTE’s demise 14 years ago, the TNA apparently believed it could pursue its separatist agenda by putting pressure on individuals, the MP said, drawing President Wickremesinghe’s attention to the TNA wartime relationship with the LTTE as its mouthpiece. The leader of Yuthukama civil society group said that the TNA current strategy should be examined against the backdrop of its recognition of the LTTE way back in 2001 as the sole representative of the Tamil speaking people.

Responding to The Island query, lawmaker Cumaratunga pointed out that in the absence of a consensus among Tamil members representing the Northern and Easern Provinces, President Wickremesinghe couldn’t bring talks on power devolution to a successful concluson.

One-time TNA Chief Minister of the Northern Province C.V. Wigneswaran’s proposal made in parliament for the setting up of an interm administraive arrangement at provincial level until Provincial Council elections were held had been rejected by the TNA.

MP Cumaratunga questioned the rationale in leaving Sinhala lawmakers representing the Eastern Province out of the meeting chaired by President Wickremesinghe. The decision to restrict the meeting to a selected group of lawmakers couldn’t be justified under any circumstances, he pointed out

President Wickremesinghe had quite conveniently forgotten that he was elected by Parliament to complete the remainder of ousted President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s five-year term, MP Cumaratunga said. Instead of addressing pressing economic issues, President Wickremesinghe was bending backwards to appease the TNA, the MP said, adding that India couldn’t absolve itself of the responsibility for causing terrorism here to facilitate high profile separatist project.

Should we give in to New Delhi’s evil designs, MP Cumaratunga asked, citing numerous examples to stress that Eastern Province couldn’t be merged with the Northern Province as demanded by the separatist movement. The Supreme Court in late Oct 2006 de-merged the Eastern Province from the North as the merger effected in the wake of July 1987 one sided Indo-Lanka Accord was subject to a referendum in the Eastern Province to ascertain whether the majority accepted that arrangement.

The TNA and other interested parties were also propagating lies that attacks were directed at Tamils’ religious sites and lands in the Northern and Eastern Provinces, MP Cumaratunga said.

The nationalist MP said that another issue that has caused concern was the move to introduce a new Central Bank Act. President Wickremesinghe, in his capacity as the Finance Minister should review the Bill titled ‘Central Bank of Sri Lanka’ in the wake of the Supreme Court determination that 46 out of 134 clauses of the said Bill violated the Constitution, hence the need to introduce several dozen amendments.

Alleging Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena of misinterpreting the SC determination in a bid to deceive parliament and the country, MP Cumaratunga urged the President to present a new bill prepared after having incorporated the amendments proposed by the Attorney General’s Department.

Appreciating the government decision to put off the one day debate and vote scheduled to be taken on May 11 on the Bill, MP Cumaratunga however expressed concern that incorporation of desired amendments at the Committee Stage could go awry. The MP recalled how those who had been in power manipulated the Committee Stage process to insert what they wanted instead of what was agreed on.

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