by Shamindra Ferdinando
State Finance Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe yesterday asserted that India couldn’t compel the new Sri Lankan government to fully implement the 13 Amendment to the Constitution forced on the then President J. R. Jayewardene’s administration in 1987.
Recollecting the circumstances under which India had intervened in Sri Lanka, Minister Samarasinghe emphasised that the country had never asked for that amendment. India had violated Sri Lanka’s airspace to pressure the then UNP government to accept the Indian remedy, the minister said. The State Finance Minister was responding to a query on a live Rupavahini political programme yesterday morning.
The late President Jayewardene had been strongly opposed to devolving police and land powers to Provincial Councils, Minister Samarasinghe said, adding that no Sri Lankan leader was willing to give in to Indian pressure. Alleging that the Indian position had been unfair and unacceptable, Minister Samarasinghe said that India had made a determined bid to incorporate a clause in a Geneva resolution in May 2009 that committed the previous government to fully implement the 13 Amendment. Samarasinghe, who had led the Sri Lankan delegation at the special sessions, said that had Sri Lanka given in to Indian pressure, the country would have experienced a difficult situation.
The State Minister, however, insisted that all other powers except for police and land should be devolved to the provinces.
Subsequently, India voted twice with Western powers against Sri Lanka at Geneva sessions though last year it abstained at a crucial vote on an external investigation into accountability issues here. India’s abstention didn’t make a difference and the report on Sri Lanka will be presented at the next Geneva sessions in September.
He said that the country would have faced an unprecedented crisis if not for the UNHRC decision to defer the report on Sri Lanka until September. Had Geneva received the report in March as previously planned, Western powers would have imposed economic sanctions on the country, Minister Samarasinghe said.
The change of government in January consequent to Maithripala Sirisena winning the presidential election had helped avert a major crisis, the minister said, adding that the entire export sector including the garment trade would have suffered massive losses. The country would also have faced an unprecedented level of unemployment, he said. However, the change of government wouldn’t save Sri Lanka as those who voted for external investigation expected the government to address accountability issues. Reminding that the previous government, too, had asked for time, Samarasinghe asserted that the new administration could seek time and space if it proved that progress had been made during the six month period.