Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe Tuesday said his government was looking at devolution of power to ethnic Tamils under the provisions of the Constitution, an issue India has been pursuing with the island nation.

Sri Lanka’s Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe is received by Commerce and Industry Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on his arrival at IGI Airport in New Delhi
Sri Lanka’s Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe is received by Commerce and Industry Minister Nirmala Sitharaman at IGI Airport in New Delhi

After his talks with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Wickremesinghe pitched for deeper economic engagement with India and hoped that both countries will be able to finalize the long-pending Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement by next year.

On devolution of power to Tamils in Northern and Eastern provinces, he said “We are looking at how power sharing takes place within the Constitution.”

13th amendment issue

India has been pressing Sri Lanka to implement the 13th amendment on devolution of powers to fulfil the aspirations of the ethnic Tamils.

The 13th amendment that followed the Indo-Sri Lankan Accord of July 1987 signed between then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and Sri Lankan President J R Jayewardene envisaged devolution of powers to the provinces in the midst of the island’s bitter ethnic conflict.

The Sri Lankan PM said various issues, including those relating to ethnic Tamil population, and the UNHRC resolution referring to alleged human rights violation in Sri Lanka figured in his talks with Modi.

The UN Human Rights Council had last year adopted a resolution requesting the High Commissioner for Human Rights to undertake a comprehensive investigation into alleged serious violations and abuses of human rights and related crimes by both parties during the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka.

On the sticky fishermen issue, he said fishermen on both sides should continue discussion and come to a conclusion to resolve it in a time-bound manner.

Wickremesinghe, who was sworn in Sri Lanka’s Prime Minister for the fourth time last month, said all the parties in his country wanted good relations with India.

He said enhancing bilateral trade with India would help his country reach the goal of generating one million jobs in Sri Lanka over the next five years.

“We think by end of the year, the two sides should at least come to an agreement in principle and by next year we should have an agreement,” he said at a joint press briefing with  Modi.


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