In what seemed a marked turn of events, the government is to discuss with the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) how to implement limited land powers enshrined in the 13th Amendment to the Constitution.
“Not only land, but we will also discuss a number of other issues,” Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva, who leads the government delegation told the Sunday Times yesterday.
Earlier, government spokesperson and Minister Keheliya Rambukwella declared that “if the TNA is coming for discussions on land and police powers, it is a waste of time. There is no use of proceeding with the talks if they want to discuss these issues.”
His remarks came at last Thursday’s news conference held after the weekly Cabinet meeting.
The move to discuss police powers and land issues with the TNA also brought an angry response from the Jathika Hela Urumaya, a constituent partner of the UPFA government. Its leader and Minister Champika Ranawaka said the party would strongly opposesuch a move.
Minister de Silva said talks with the TNA would be held on January 17, 18 and 19. He said he would “not speculate” on whether TNA representatives would serve in the proposed Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC). “Today they may so ‘no’ but tomorrow they can change,” he said.
TNA parliamentarian N. Sumanthiran told the Sunday Times, “we will resume talks on land issues from the point where we left it.” He said the TNA would decide whether to serve in the PSC “only when accord is reached on a number of important issues”. He said these included “matters relating to land use, levy of taxes, police powers, powers to the Provincial Police Commission and how the Centre and the Provincial Councils will share power”.
When President Mahinda Rajapaksa met editors and media representatives on December 20, he ruled out any police powers being given to provincial councils. He re-iterated this position in interviews given to different Indian newspapers last week.