Government to offer more autonomy to the North

TNA-FT-123014The government is to present a constitutional amendment titled ‘13th Amendment Plus’ to grant more provincial autonomy to the North to address the grievances of the Tamils after the end of the war against terror, a Minister and former militant leader, said last week.

Minister of Social Services and Social Welfare Douglas Devananda, also leader of the Eelam People’s Democratic Party (EPDP), said that an All Party Representative Committee is finalizing proposals, including necessary constitutional amendments, to address grievances of the Tamils. “We refer to this as ‘13th Amendment Plus’, that is, deeper provincial autonomy than currently in the Constitution. This will include a Second Chamber based on Provinces,” he said.

He was addressing the Business for Peace Forum on the theme ‘Role of the private sector in the post conflict development of the North and East of Sri Lanka’ organized by the Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry of Sri Lanka (FCCISL) on April 20 in Colombo. Minister Devananda said that an interim Special Task Force (STF), headed by him, has been appointed to handle development and resettlement related works in Sri Lanka’s war-ravaged Northern Province. “The STF will be in force until a provincial council election is held for the north,” he said.

An ‘Assessment of Needs in the Conflict Affected Areas of Northern and Eastern Provinces’ prepared by the Asian Development Bank, United Nations and World Bank has been estimated at US $ 3085.8 million. Rebuilding the war-torn society and providing sustainable livelihood assistance for the affected population is a colossal task. The government has obtained loans and grants from multilateral and bilateral institutions and the recovery programme is being implemented in the East, but the needs are enormous and assistance from benevolent people and friendly countries is necessary to rebuild war-torn areas, he said.

In the Jaffna District alone due to the conflict and tsunami 12,628 persons have died, 93,225 persons are displaced; 100,577 houses have been damaged or destroyed and more than Rs.30 billion is required for the reconstruction of the damaged or destroyed infrstructure. The GA, Jaffna has identified 75 infrastructure development projects which according to current estimates would cost Rs 150.394 billion. Out of 178,589 families living in Jaffna as of December 2008, 115,550 families are economically affected and live on government relief. Another 20,610 families are in need of relief. Out of the 115,550 families living on government relief, 25,798 families are internally displaced due to the war, he said..
Minister Devananda said that a significant number of Tamil Diaspora members have realized the fallacy of LTTE claims.

They appreciate government efforts to protect civilians and to reintegrate the population which was under LTTE control with the rest of the country. “Our efforts to develop the North and East, and to develop infrastructure and promote investment are being appreciated. They have indicated their willingness to participate in the development projects, once normalcy is established in the region,” he said .