by Zacki Jabbar
The visiting 12-member all party Indian parliamentary delegation said yesterday that President Mahinda Rajapaksa had assured them that he was committed to implementing ‘13th Amendment Plus’, as a means to resolving Sri Lanka’s ethnic issue.
The head of the delegation and the country’s Opposition leader, Sushma Swaraj was addressing the media in Colombo, at the conclusion of their four day fact finding mission on the progress made in Sri Lanka, since the end of the armed conflict in May 2009.They had toured various parts of Sri Lanka, including the North and East over the last four days.
Asked, about earlier claims by the Sri Lankan government that it had not assured India of implementing ‘13th Amendment Plus’, she replied " Your President told us this morning that he would devolve power in terms of 13th Amendment Plus".
"Its our sincere hope that the Sri Lankan government will seize this window of opportunity and follow an enlightened approach to reach a genuine political reconciliation, based on meaningful devolution of power, which takes into account the legitimate needs of the Tamil people for equality, dignity, justice and self-respect",Swaraj said adding that they had been assured in the past as well, that it would be done within the framework of Thirteenth Amendment Plus.
The Indian delegation leader urged all stakeholders including the Tamil National Alliance, to resume dialogue and move towards an early political settlement to the ethnic issue,through the Parliamentary Select Committee process .
There need not be any inhibitions, since all Tamil political parties are agreeable to devolution within a united Sri Lanka,she said while noting that they spoke with a clear mind, having met representatives of all political parties and civil societies in the North,South,East and West.
Explaining the purpose of their visit, Swaraj said that they wanted to see for themselves the progress made in Sri Lanka since the end of the armed conflict in May 2009.
They had interacted with a wide cross-section of political parties, members of civil society and the public at large and got a sense of the situation, especially with regard to rehabilitation, resettlement and the way forward to achieving a lasting and broad based peace in Sri Lanka"she said while observing that their immediate focus was on the North and the East, as they recover from the trauma of nearly three decades of armed conflict.
While admitting that there has been an improvement in the resettlement of Internally Displaced People, Swaraj noted that a significant number of them continue to be in transit situations or with host families. "Our task will not be complete until the IDP’s return to their original homes."
Substantial progress has been made in the area of rehabilitation and reconstruction but a lot remains to be done,she said while expressing their willingness to assist in whatever way possible, in a spirit of partnership and cooperation.