Sri Lanka’s President Wickremesinghe to hold talks with TNA ahead of visit to India

Colombo, July 17: Ahead of his first official visit to India this week, Sri Lanka’s President Ranil Wickremesinghe will hold talks with the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) on Tuesday in Parliament in a bid to settle the long-standing Tamil minority demand for political autonomy, sources said here on Monday.
TNA is an alliance of parties that represent Tamils from the North and East regions. The TNA-Wickremesinghe parley is to take place on Tuesday afternoon in Parliament, sources said.
Wickremesinghe leaves for New Delhi on July 20 and on July 21, the President will meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi, officials in the foreign office here said.
Since December, Wickremesinghe had opened dialogue with the TNA in a bid to settle the long-standing Tamil minority demand for political autonomy.
Wickremesinghe mooted the idea for full implementation of the India-backed 13th Amendment which came to be opposed by the powerful Buddhist clergy in a case of history repeating itself.
The 13A provides for the devolution of power to the Tamil community in Sri Lanka. India has been pressing Sri Lanka to implement the 13A which was brought in after the Indo-Sri Lankan agreement of 1987.
The Tamil side insisted on resolving the immediate issues of concern such as the release of private lands held for military purposes, the release of Tamil political prisoners and conflict reparations.
Although some of the lands came to be released and a few prisoners were also released but the Tamil side remain largely dissatisfied.
A few former militant Tamil parties who are not part of the TNA have also written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi urging him to pressure Wickremesinghe into full implementation of the 13th Amendment.
The group includes the Democratic Fighters Party of rehabilitated ex-member of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) who ran a three-decades-old separatist war to carve out a separate Tamil state.
They demand that land and police powers retained by the central government be granted to the northern provincial council including holding of the election postponed since 2018.
Meanwhile, the state minister of fisheries Piyal Nishantha said the thorny issue of illegal fishing in the Sri Lankan waters by Indian fishermen would be discussed during the visit to New Delhi.
Sri Lanka has had a long history of failed negotiations with the Tamils.
An Indian effort in 1987, which created the system of a joint provincial council for the Tamil-dominated North and East, faltered as the minority community claimed it fell short of full autonomy.
The LTTE ran a military campaign for a separate Tamil homeland in the northern and eastern provinces of the island nation for nearly 30 years before its collapse in 2009 after the Sri Lankan Army killed its supreme leader Velupillai Prabhakaran.
According to Sri Lankan government figures, over 20,000 people are missing due to various conflicts including the three-decade brutal war with Lankan Tamils in the north and east which claimed at least 100,000 lives.
International rights groups claim at least 40,000 ethnic Tamil civilians were killed in the final stages of the war, but the Sri Lankan government has disputed the figures. (PTI)