Power devolution talks will be extended to all parties: Heads of political parties hail President’s announcement

Leaders of political parties representing the Tamil-speaking people of the North and the East welcomed President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s recent announcement that the talks on power devolution to the North and the East will not be confined to the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) but will also be extended to other political parties which represent the people of the two provinces.

President Rajapaksa told a meeting on Tuesday with newspaper editors, that the TNA is not the sole representative of the Tamil-speaking people and, therefore, the Government would hold talks with other political parties as well.

Minister of Traditional Industries and Small Enterprises and leader of the Eelam People’s Democratic Party (EPDP) Douglas Devananda, Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) General Secretary M.T. Hassen Ali MP and Minister of Industries and Commerce and leader of the All Ceylon People’s Congress (ACPC) Rishad Bathiudeen who have representation in Parliament and Local Government bodies of the two provinces said that the President has taken the right decision in considering them too as stakeholders in the process of negotiation for power devolution.

Endorsing President Rajapaksa’s announcement on the matter, Minister of Media and Information Keheliya Rambukwella told the Sunday Observer that while talks with the TNA on power devolution will continue, talks will also be held with other political parties of the provinces in an effort to reach a consensus among all stakeholders, including the Muslim political parties.

Minister Rambukwella said that the Government is now in the process of finalising arrangements for the resettlement of over 100,000 Muslims, who were driven away by LTTE terrorists from their traditional homes in the Jaffna and Mannar districts in 1989-90.

Elections to the Northern Provincial Council are being delayed due to this reason.

No population census had been conducted in the province after 1981 and a proper census and updating of electoral registers will be done after the resettlement of the Muslim families before holding the PC polls, he said.

Minister Devananda commenting on the President’s announcement said that the President has taken the right and just stand with regard to talks on the devolution process.The EPDP which has people’s representation had contributed towards the peace talks in the past and had also made many sacrifices for that cause.

As far as the TNA is concerned they are only bent on further complicating and dragging the issues rather than trying to adopt an attitude of compromise to reach a settlement. Hence, a settlement that is reached with the participation of other political parties is apt to be the lasting solution, he said.

SLMC General Secretary Hassen Ali said that their party leader, Minister Rauff Hakeem, played a lead role in the six rounds of peace talks that were held with the LTTE and their party also contributed significantly at the sittings of the All Party Representative Committee (APRC).

The SLMC has the people’s mandate with representation in Parliament and in Local Government bodies, with four Pradeshiya Sabhas in the Eastern Province under their administration, he said. The SLMC was formed in 1982 for the explicit purpose of striving towards a lasting solution to the problem, he said. Quite naturally all stakeholders should be participants in the talks and the President has taken the right decision in that respect, he said.

Minister of Industry and Commerce and leader of the ACPC Rishad Bathiudeen also expressed similar views. Stressing that their party had representation in parliament, the Eastern PC and several Local Government bodies, he vehemently refuted the TNA claim that they are the sole representatives of the people of the North and the East.


Courtesy: Sunday Observer