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SLMC wants deadline for devolution package

[DailyMirror, Friday, 16 January 2009 19:08 No Comment]

The Sri Lanka Muslim Congress yesterday told visiting Indian Foreign Secretary Shiv Shankar Menon there should be a specific directive by President Mahinda Rajapaksa to conclude the All Party Representative Committee (APRC) deliberations and present its report on a credible power devolution package.


An SLMC delegation led by party leader Rauff Hakeem and its APRC representative Nizam Kariapper met Mr. Menon in Colombo and briefed him on the present situation in the country.


Mr. Kariapper stressed the need to conclude the APRC proceedings which had been dragging on for so long and told Mr. Menon that Tamils living in the northern and eastern provinces were not suitably represented in the APRC.


“Though the travails of upcountry Tamils are highlighted at Committee sessions it is unfortunate that the Tamils living in the North and East are not properly represented,” he said.


The APRC was set up in 2006 as an adjunct of the All Party Conference to work out a power devolution formula for the resolution of the ethnic crisis.


It has held 101 sessions and reached a consensus among the political parties participating in its deliberations on almost all the issues except on the character of the state.


Among 11 political parties who attend the APRC only the SLMC and the Democratic People’s Front represent the opposition. The main opposition UNP, the JVP and the TNA are not represented at the APRC. The allies of the ruling coalition, JHU and MEP which initially participated in the APRC now boycott it.


Among the participating parties, the SLMC is advocating a united Sri Lanka while the SLFP, the largest party of the ruling coalition, is sticking to the unitary character of the constitution.


APRC Chairman and Minister Professor Tissa Vitarana said he would not be meeting Mr. Menon during his visit to Sri Lanka this time. 


Meanwhile a statement by the Foreign Ministry said the Indian Foreign Secretary also called on Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama yesterday. Foreign Secretary Menon expressed his appreciation of the sentiments of Minister Bogollagama on the Indo-Lanka Accord and the 13th Amendment to the Constitution.  Minister Bogollagama and Secretary Menon agreed a window of political opportunity was now open to Sri Lanka to bring about an inclusive peace process with credible political representation for the Tamil people within the country’s democratic process.  Secretary Menon extended his appreciation of the proactive role played by Sri Lanka both multilaterally and in the regional context in combating terrorism. He promised the unstinted support of the Indian government in this exercise. 


Secretary Menon briefed Minister Bogollagama on the status of the investigation into the Mumbai terror attacks and indicated India would continue to work closely with Pakistan to bring the perpetrators of this heinous crime to justice.   He emphasised concerted and collective international action was needed to combat the scourge of transnational terror. 


Minister Bogollagama, in response, indicated that as a country which had itself been a victim of a terror group with international links and support, Sri Lanka was well placed to understand the gravity of the threat of transnational terrorism. 


He reiterated Sri Lankas support in combating terror at every level in order to secure a sustainable peace within the region. 


The Minister also reiterated Sri Lankas interest in co-operating with India on the issue of maritime security in the Indian Ocean both bilaterally and within the framework of regional groupings such as BIMSTEC.  

On the delimitation of the outer edge of the Indo-Lanka continental margin, the two sides agreed to further discuss attendant legal issues and work closely in resolving outstanding issues in a manner reflective of the close friendship existing between the two countries. 


The two sides discussed progress within SAARC, including issues concerning the Standing Committee and the Council of Ministers sessions due to take place in Colombo shortly.   The Minister observed he looked forward to a successful outcome at the SAARC Council of Ministers Meeting that would bring on board many issues that concerned the region.  Secretary Menon in response pledged the fullest support of the Indian government to SAARC and observed it looked forward to playing a constructive role at the forthcoming Council of Ministers Meeting.

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