India wants police and land powers for PCs

Delegation postpones visit as New Delhi tells Lanka to respond positively to UN panel report
By Our Political Editor

India is to ask Sri Lanka to implement the 13th Amendment to the Constitution giving full land and police powers to provincial councils as part of measures to address Tamil grievances. The move comes as the government gave the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) a blueprint this week on what it believes is one of the key issues it would address. It is the setting up of a second chamber or a senate within the provisions of the existing constitution.

The move has not met with approval by the TNA. “We can give thought to it only after the 13th Amendment is implemented in full,” TNA’s Suresh Premachandran told the Sunday Times.

At present, some provisions of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution remain in force. Main among them is the establishment of provincial councils that were expected to be the instruments of devolution. However, some of the powers including land and police have not yet been vested in the councils.
India’s request, the Sunday Times learns, is to be conveyed to the government when a top-level three-member Indian delegation visits Sri Lanka.

The delegation will meet President Mahinda Rajapaksa among others. Comprising National Security Advisor Shiv Shanker Menon, Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao and Defence Secretary Pradeep Kumar, the delegation was originally due in Colombo on Friday.

However, the visit was postponed because of rising tensions between India and Pakistan. After the killing of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden by US Navy seals in a safe house in Pakistan, New Delhi has accused Islamabad of harbouring terrorists wanted for attacks in India. Though the delegation is now due in Sri Lanka on May 26, the date is yet to be confirmed. This is to take place after India’s High Commissioner Ashok Kanth, who left for New Delhi on Friday, returns to Colombo. He has gone for consultations as well as for tomorrow’s visit to New Delhi by External Affairs Minister G.L. Peiris.

Among the issues Dr. Peiris is to address in India is to explore the possibility of India issuing a statement countering claims in the UN Advisory Panel’s report that as many as 40,000 civilians were killed. Another is to brief the Indian authorities on the blueprint the government has given the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) to establish a second chamber or senate.

As revealed exclusively in the Sunday Times last week, the Indian delegation is to ask the government to speed up accountability and reconciliation issues raised in the UN Panel’s report.

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