One more round of TNA-Govt. talks on political solution this month
The next round of talks between the Sri Lankan government and the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), an umbrella association of Tamil political parties, is set to commence in Colombo on January 17, to continue discussions on the contours of a political solution to accommodate Tamil hopes and aspirations.
The three-day talks commence soon after Indian External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna, who arrives here on January 16, meets Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa and the TNA leader R. Sampanthan. Observers here attach a lot of significance to the timing of Mr. Krishna’s visit. A few Tamil leaders said that they were hopeful that there will be some progress in this round because of the overt presence of one of the senior-most Cabinet Ministers from India. Mr.Krishna will be in Sri Lanka till January 19, the day the talks are scheduled to conclude.
The talks, which began in January 2011, has meandered away with the TNA and the government not agreeing on the crucial question of land and police powers to the provinces, as envisaged in the ‘13 Amendment’ of the Sri Lankan constitution. Mr. Sampanthan is on record saying that the TNA’s proposals, outlining the way forward, were given to the government as early as February 2011.
With no response coming from the Government till August 2011, the TNA walked out of the talks. It came back following friendly persuasion by interested parties, and the willingness of the Sri Lankan state to engage with the TNA again. Interestingly, the talks centre around the same issues that have been on the table since 1987.
The Sri Lankan government has genuine concerns on granting land and police powers to the provinces, a standpoint that has been voiced at all levels. No province in the country has these powers, though the Constitution provides for such devolution.