President Mahinda Rajapaksa has denied that he had come under pressure from India to initiate a political solution for the minority Tamil community.
Rajapaksa made the remark while announcing provincial council elections in the Tamil-majority northern areas to be held next year.
When the elections are held, it will be the first time that Tamils in the northern districts, the former war zones, will vote to elect their provincial representatives as envisaged in the 13th Amendment. The Amendment, which dealt with devolving power to regions, was made to the Constitution after the signing of the Indo-Lanka accord of 1987.
“There was no pressure from India on the 13th Amendment,’’ Rajapaksa quoted as having said during an interaction with local editors on Tuesday morning.
He added that any settlement to the festering ethnic issue will have to be approved by Parliament. The Rajapaksa-led United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) has two-thirds majority in 225-member Parliament.
According to the Daily Mirror website, Rajapaksa said appointing a Parliamentary select committee (PSC) on the ethnic question was not a delaying tactic. “Any solution that comes up will have to be approved in Parliament. I will back any solution approved by Parliament.”
“While having talks with political parties (with Tamil National Alliance) we can have PSC talks at the same time. If we wait for political party talks to end and then have PSC discussions, this will cause delays,” he said.
Rajapaksa’s remarks came a day after Indian High Commissioner here, Ashok K Kantha spoke about enduring Indo-Lanka cultural and historical ties at a function at his official home on Monday. Referring to the ongoing issue of the 23 Indian fishermen arrested after straying into Lankan waters, Kantha said: “Sometimes, we lose sight of this bigger picture of India-Sri Lanka relations as we get distracted by the odd discordant notes that grab our attention on a particular day.”