Devolution of Power
However, devolution of power to the Sri Lankan provinces remains a ticklish bilateral issue. There is a demand from Sinhala nationalists to abrogate the 13th Amendment (13A) which set up elected Provincial Councils. But even here, a tacit Indo-Lankan understanding can be discerned. Jaishankar raised the issue with President Gotabaya because the devolution package is embedded in the 1987 India-Lanka Accord and elections in Tamil Nadu are due in April in which Lankan Tamil rights will be an issue. He told the Lankan President that it would be in Sri Lanka’s own interest to promote reconciliation with the Tamil minority and ensure them “justice equality, peace and dignity within a united Sri Lanka”. He reminded him about Sri Lanka’s own commitment to the devolution of power to the provinces under the 13 A. The Lankan President replied that his Government is committed to safeguarding the rights of all communities.
But taking into account Indian and Tamil sensitivities, the President quietly divested the anti-devolution Minister, Adm. Sarath Weerasekera, of the Provincial Councils portfolio. Although the Gotabaya Government is planning a new Constitution, elected Provincial Councils are expected to remain as they are deemed to be a political necessity by all political parties, barring a few. Jaishankar said he understands the Lankan Government has political issues to tackle on foreign policy issues, and added that these are best left to the Sri Lankans themselves to handle.