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[Sunday Observer.lk, Sunday, 18 December 2011 09:15 No Comment]

by P. Krishnaswamy

The re-merger of the Eastern Province with the North is a major setback in the ongoing talks between the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) and the Government, TNA Parliamentarian M. A. Sumanthiran told the Sunday Observer.

The government delegation indicated that they had problems with regard to the merger, he said, adding that they are in the process of discussing the manner in which land and police powers could be devolved.

The Northern and Eastern provinces were temporarily merged as Northeastern province under the Indo-Lanka Peace Agreement of 1987 but were de-merged after a Supreme Court order of October 16, 2006 and elections for a separate Eastern Provincial Council was held on May 10, 2008.

The TNA has reiterated on its stand that the two provinces remained together as one province for many decades, it is the traditional homeland of the Tamil-speaking communities, they lived harmoniously together deriving economic and social benefits and, therefore, should be re-merged.

Three major political parties that are major stakeholders in the Eastern Province – the Tamil Makkal Viduthalai Puligal (TMVP) led by the present Chief Minister of the Council Sivanesathurai Chandrakanthan aka Pillayan, the National Congress (NC) led by Minister A.L.M.Athaulla and the All Ceylon National Congress (ACNC) led by Minister Rishad Bathuideen vehemently oppose the re-merger.

These parties have considerable representation in the local government bodies in the province and control some of them. Deputy Minister and national organiser of the ACNC M. L. A. M. Hisbullah told the Sunday Observer that blood bath and ethnic tension was the order of the day before the de-merger.

Communities were attacking each other and many thousands got killed and injured. But now brotherhood, peace and harmony prevailed in the province. Their party being a constituent of the UPFA will not allow the re-merger of the two provinces under any circumstances, he said.

The other major Muslim party in the province, the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC), led by Minister Rauff Hakeem, which too has a considerable representation in the Council and controls several local government bodies is ambivalent on the question of re-merger.

The party has stated that the Muslim community should be given an independent unit of devolution, annexing the non-contiguous areas of their domicile in the two provinces, irrespective of a merger or otherwise.

At a meeting on Thursday with the SLMC, the TNA leaders have given them an assurance that they will not take any decision with regard to devolution of powers without consulting the SLMC and their consent.

Leader of the Eelam People’s Democratic Party (EPDP) Minister Douglas Devananda speaking to the Sunday Observer said that it is up to the people of the Eastern province to decide whether or not the two provinces should be merged.

The TNA missed many rare opportunities that were offered in the past as a stepping stone towards resolving the problem and they should not repeat it, he said.

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