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SL Tamil leaders reject Govt's Devolution package

world Updated: Feb 12, 2008 11:04 IST

Tamil leaders of Sri Lanka have rejected the island nation government's devolution package aimed at ending the 25-year-old ethnic conflict saying the move was "a joke played on Tamils".

The All Party Representation Committee, formed by the Mahinda Rajapakse government to counter LTTE's struggle for separate homeland for Tamils in Sri Lanka, had submitted its report to the government last month.

The committee, consisting of 14 political parties, in its report had recommended implementation of the proposals for devolution contained in the 1987 India-Sri Lanka agreement, which were incorporated in the 13th amendment of the 1978 Sri Lankan constitution.

"Such recommendations (APRC's) were the ones that were rejected by the Tamils during early stages. The subsequent attempts were centered on the feasibility of enhancing the powers further," Sri Lankan Community Development Minister P Chandrasekaran told PTI.

"Talking about the 13th amendment at the present stage will mean a hasty retreat from the point of resolution of the ethnic conflict," he said.

Echoing his views, Lankan MP MK Sivajilingam of Pro-LTTE Tamil National Alliance (TNA), said the Sri Lankan government's move to devolve powers to region is a "joke played by them (Lankan government) on minority Tamils" who have "not been able to lead a peaceful life in their own nation".

"Tamil Eelam is the only solution for the conflict," he said.

Sivajilingam said these were the proposals that had been rejected by Tamil leaders way back in 1956 and "we Tamils can in no way accept this move" by a government that "does not solve even the basic problems of its own citizens".

Chandrasekaran said India should facilitate the peace process between the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE.

"Norway, that has been in the process of facilitating peace, has been marginalised or sidelined. Our position in this regard is that India has all the qualifications to supersede Norway in facilitating the process," he said.

The APRC in its report had recommended immediate conduct of elections in the Eastern province and urged the government to establish an interim council in the northern province to enable the people to enjoy the fruits of devolution as "free and fair polls" was not possible there in the near future.

"The proposals cannot be accepted. It's an injustice rendered to the Tamils by the government. Why should there be different kind of arrangements for North and East"? Sivajilingam said.

He wanted India to recognise the "Eelam liberation struggle" and help Lankan Tamils achieve their "long-cherished dream of Tamil as a nation and Tamil home land".

"If a separate Tamil nation is formed, it will be in the best interests of India. So, we urge the Indian government to recognise our demands. We can't ask help from anyone other than India," he said.

The TNA leader also urged India to help in improving the social, economic and educational conditions of Tamils in Sri Lanka.

On claims that eliminating LTTE chief V Prabhakaran will solve the ethnic crisis, Sivajilingam said, "no one can ever touch Prabhakaran. It is a dream of the Sri Lankan government that will always remain as a dream. It exactly shows their childish behaviour".

However, Chandrasekaran said such a move would be detrimental to the future well being of the Tamils.

Asked if Tamils would benefit from the devolution package, the Minister said, "without the concurrence of Tamil political parties, particularly the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, no such endeavours will succeed. It is the reality."

On Rajapakse's recent statement that a solution to the conflict through military means was not possible, Sivajilingam said, "this shows the double standards of the Sri Lankan government. When they feel that a military solution is not possible why did they call off the ceasefire agreement signed in 2002?"

"The Rajapakse government is least interested in taking care of Tamils and the only choice for us is to fight against them," he said.

Sivajilingam said the LTTE alone had the power to fight for the cause of Tamils and there is no alternative.

However, Chandrasekaran said the "universal remedy" for all evils is negotiations and the only alternative to LTTE's endeavours is dialogue.

Fierce fighting between the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam and the military has left over 1,000 rebels dead in the country's embattled north since the Sri Lankan government dumped a tattered ceasefire last month.