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JVP puts Rajapaksa in a tight spot

JVP's decision to quit APC scuttles the President's efforts to find a national consensus, reports PK Balachandran.

india Updated: Dec 13, 2006 17:11 IST

The Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna's decision to quit the All Party Conference (APC) in protest against the recommendations of the majority of the members of the Experts Committee on devolution, has scuttled President Mahinda Rajapaksa's efforts to find a national consensus on a political solution to the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka.

Rocking the peace boat, which is already in stormy waters with a war going on in the East of the island, the JVP quit the APC on Tuesday, saying that it did not want to be part of a group which seemed poised to take a decision hostile to the country.

The party was alluding to the radical devolution proposals made by 11 of the 17 members of the Experts Committee, which the APC would be debating soon.

The JVP's action puts President Rajapaksa in a tight spot for two reasons: one is that it hampers his efforts to find a national consensus, and the other is that it puts his government itself in danger, because it depends on the JVP's MPs to get the required majority in parliament.

Thus, the President can ill afford to ignore the JVP's views.

A majority of the members of the Experts Committee had submitted a report recommending substantial devolution to a united Tamil-dominated North Eastern Province so that the demand of the Tamil minority was met, and the extremist Tamil Tigers (LTTE) were politically marginalised.

Four members of the panel had expressed themselves against such changes in the country's unitary constitution with an all powerful Presidency.

As for the JVP, it stands for a strong Centre and is against a unified Tamil dominated North Eastern province.

The JVP's Supremo, Somawansa Amarasinghe, told the media that the Majority Report of the Experts Committee did not accord with the mandate received by President Rajapaksa in the 2005 elections.

The recommendations of the group would encourage communalism and separatism, while Rajapaksa's mandate was to uphold the integrity and sovereignty of the country, he said.

However, if the President were to reject the majority report, the JVP would come back to the APC, Somawansa added.

Given the political realities, the Rajapaksa government has already distanced itself from the Majority Report and said that it was leaked to the press with an intention to nullify the effects of the stern measures that the government had recently taken to contain the "fascist LTTE."

According to the Morning Leader President Rajapaksa has asked government officials in the committee as to why they had put their signatures on the Majority Report without due authorisation.

The signatures of the law officers of the government had given the public the impression that the report had the blessings of the government, when, in fact, it did not.

Given the government's and the JVP's stand on the Majority Report, it is very unlikely that it will be accepted by the APC.

The sharp division in the Experts Committee, the public controversy generated by the Majority Report, and the government's reaction to its contents, put President Rajapaksa's plan to find a consensus on the core political issue of devolution of power in grave jeopardy.

First Published: Dec 13, 2006 17:11 IST