Tamils across the political spectrum have rejected Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapksa's devolution package because it does not envisage a federal set up, a meaningful sharing of power, and the re-unification of the Tamil-speaking north-eastern Province.
"The proposal devolves power to the districts and not to the provinces. We cannot accept any proposal which does not envisage devolution to a unified north-eastern Province," a top source at the LTTE's political headquarters in Kilinochchi told Hindustan Times on Tuesday.
Moderate and pro-government Tamil parties like the TULF, EPRLF (P) and PLOTE said in a statement that the Tamils rejected the proposal "totally" as it did not envisage a federal set up. The quantum of powers to be devolved had been reduced, not enhanced.
"Instead of taking the peace process forward, it has made it difficult to find a reasonable solution," the moderates said.
The Tamil-speaking northern and eastern provinces were united in 1988 as a concession to the Tamil sentiment following the India-Sri Lanka Accord of 1987. But they were de-merged recently, after the Supreme Court declared the merger as unlawful.
The SLFP's proposal makes it clear that Sri Lanka will be a unitary state and not a federation. The unit of devolution will be the district and not the province, as is the case now. The number of districts can go up from the present 25 to 30. Each district council (DC) will have a chief minister who will be the ceo.He or she will be appointed by the president from among DC members, with the concurrence of the DC.
In addition to the DCs there will be Pradeshiya Sabhas and Grama Sabhas. The chairmen of the Grama Sabhas will constitute the Pradeshiya Sabha. Power will be devolved to all the three units, especially the Grama Sabhas. There will be three Lists of subjects: Reserved (Central), District and Local.
In devolving power, the current supremacy of parliament, the executive powers of the President (including those relating to public security), and the powers of the judiciary will not be compromised. And before power is devolved to a district, all armed groups functioning there (like the LTTE), will have to surrender their arms. This will mean that devolution of power to the North-Eastern districts will be difficult, if not impossible at least in the short and medium term.
There will be a second chamber at the Centre, the Senate. All district chief ministers will be members of the senate, which will also have members nominated by political parties. The Senate can review, suggest and delay legislation, but not legislate or veto any legislation.
The Armed Forces and police will be multi-ethnic. The all-powerful executive presidency may be pruned or replaced by the Westminster system, if there is a consensus on this issue.