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Talks on 13A: Dullas criticises Ranil’s strategy

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

The Rajapaksa-Wickremesinghe administration pretends to be pushing for devolving more power, having postponed the Provincial Council and local governmenet elections, says Freedom People’s Congress (FPC) leader Dullas Alahapperuma.

The former minister said so on Thursday (27) commenting on the All-Party Conference (APC) convened by President Ranil Wickremesinghe on the previous said.The APC was a complete failure, the Matara District lawmaker alleged.

“We were told that the APC was mainly convened to discuss reconciliation. A lot of our MPs were of the view that we should not attend the APC. We took part because, at the end we felt we must express our opinion at this meeting to discuss reconciliation. However, we were not expecting much because we felt that the President really had no intention of genuine reconciliation,” he said.

Alahapperuma said that the 13th Amendment to the Constitution is already implemented and that the president doesn’t need to keep discussing the 13A periodically.

“Even most of the Tamil MPs were skeptical,” he said.

The devolution of power was the main topic of Wednesday’s discussion; however, MPs were only given the agenda when they arrived at the presidential secretariat.

“I told the President some political parties didn’t attend the meeting because they are suspicious of his intents. That the government will portray their participation for political advantage,” he said.

Alahapperuma said the lowest unit of devolution is the local councils and that the Wickremesinghe administration has postponed the elections in an unconstitutional manner.

“The government has violated the rights of over 15 million eligible voters. Meanwhile, provincial councils have been made defunct for years. And without holding elections and allowing people to vote in people they like, Wickremesinghe is holding APCs on power-sharing,” he said.

Provincial Councils were established to allow Tamil-speaking minorities to have a say in how their areas are administered, Alahapperuma said.

“But the councils have been defunct for years. Who made these institutions defunct? The 2015-2019 administration in which Ranil Wickremesinghe was the Prime Minister. This was done through Provincial Councils. Elections (Amendment) Act No 17 of 2017. This was a two page amendment to allegedly increase women’s quota at provincial councils. 38 amendments were added to this act in the committee stage. To the two page act and to get two thirds support to pass the bill, the government dragged the vote for four hours,” he said.

By allowing this to happen, former Speaker Karu Jayasuriya added a blot to his political career, Alahapperuma said.

“The vote was dragged to do various deals with MPs who were on the fence. Then the government had to appoint a delimitation committee because the elections law changed. They dragged their feet in appointing the delimitation committee. Provincial Councils have now been defunct for five years,” he said.

Alahapperuma said that Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP), the biggest constituent of the government, has openly opposed the full implementation of the 13th amendment. “Wickremesinghe says one thing. The Prime Minister says something else, and head of the SLPP Mahinda Rajapaksa says something else. How do we trust what their real intentions are,” he said.

Alahapperuma said that there was a belief that devolution of police powers would be discussed. However, everything ended in a very open-ended and vague manner.

“Our demand was to hold provincial council elections first and make these institutions functional. Most representatives had the same idea. Why are we even discussing giving police and land powers to a council now run by a direct representative of the President?” he said.

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