Is the Lankan devolution panel heading for a logjam?

Updated on May 18, 2007 09:15 PM IST
APRC, which President Mahinda Rajapaksa set up to evolve a consensus-based devolution system for Sri Lanka, may be heading for a logjam, reports PK Balachandran.
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Hindustan Times | ByPK Balachandran, Colombo

The All Party Representative Committee (APRC), which President Mahinda Rajapaksa set up to evolve a consensus-based devolution system for Sri Lanka, may be heading for a logjam with a plethora of diverse proposals before it.

It was to get round this problem that the Chairman of the APRC and cabinet minister, Prof Tissa Vitharana, proposed in February, that his document, which was a marriage between the majority and minority reports of the Experts' Panel, be the basic document for discussion.

This document could be subjected to amendments and alterations during the deliberations of the committee, he said. The idea was to avoid wasting time by discussing the proposal of each and every party in minute detail."All the parties including the representative of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) agreed to it," Prof Vitharana told Hindustan Times on Friday.

SLFP is the main constituent of the ruling coalition and is the party of President Rajapaksa.

But a few days ago, the SLFP formally announced its own controversial set of proposals which would make any meaningful discussion on Vitharana's 'basic document' difficult.

For example, the SLFP's proposal says that Sri Lanka will be a unitary state, in which power will be devolved not to the Provinces, but to smaller units called Districts.

The Tamil parties and the main opposition, the United National Party (UNP), are for the Province as the unit of devolution. They even want the re-unification of the Northern and Eastern Provinces to constitute a unified Tamil-speaking Province, in recognition of a 60 year old Tamil demand and as per the India-Sri Lanka Accord of 1987 and the subsequent 3th amendment of the constitution.

Asked if the APRC was heading for a logjam, Vitharana said: "We'll have to wait and see."

And asked what he proposed to do to avert a deadlock, he said: "In the next meeting, I will recall that there had been an agreement to take my proposal as the basic document and move specific amendments to it. We'll proceed from there," the veteran leftist leader said.

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