Led by Sri Lankan Minister of Science and Technology, Tissa Vitarana, a 15-member delegation from Sri Lanka is visiting India to get lessons on how to devolve power, in a bid to resolve the island nation’s long-standing ethnic conflict.
The Lankan Members of Parliament from 13 parties comprising the All Party Representatives Committee (APRC), formed by Sri Lanka’s President Mahinda Rajapakse, is visiting India from October 26–29.
Among the parties represented are the ruling Sri Lanka Freedom Party, the Sinhalese JVP, the Tamil Eelam People’s Democratic Party and the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress.
The main opposition United National Party and the Tamil National Alliance (considered sympathetic to the LTTE) are not represented in the visiting APRC delegation.
During their visit, the MPs will not only be briefed by various Indian government departments, they will also visit Kerala and Karnataka to see, first-hand, the functioning of grassroots level democracy, at the Panchayat-level.
Senior Law Ministry and Home Ministry officials on Thursday gave detailed presentations to the APRC on the basic features of the Indian Constitution, Centre-State relations, including the way tax revenues are shared between the central government and states.
On Friday, the visitors are due to meet Panchayati Raj Minister Mani Shankar Aiyer, to get a briefing on the functioning of grassroots level democracy, in the village panchayats.
As representatives of the LTTE and Sri Lankan government get ready to meet in Geneva to negotiate ways to maintain the fragile cease-fire in Sri Lanka and prevent escalation of the conflict, the APRC’s mission indicates "a level of willingness (by Colombo) to begin to look at lasting solutions to the ethnic conflict," a senior official said.
When Rajapakse visited India in December last year, he received detailed briefings on devolution models practiced in this country, and recently set up the APRC and tasked it with finding the basis for a lasting political settlement to the ethnic problem in Sri Lanka.
According to the spokesman of the Ministry of External Affairs, "the visit is evidence of India’s willingness to assist Sri Lanka in finding a negotiated, political settlement to the ethnic problem which would satisfy all sections of Sri Lankan society.”