Sri Lanka: Call for autonomous unit in North-East renewed by GTF

( November 7, 2016, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) The Global Tamil Forum (GTF) on behalf of the Sri Lankan Tamils resident overseas has called for the creation of an ‘Autonomous Tamil Region’ (ATR) in a re-merged Northern and Eastern Province to address their grievances. The two provinces comprise eight administrative districts.

The GTF has acknowledged that a consensus among Tamil and Muslim leaders is a prerequisite for creating an autonomous unit. The proposal has been included in four separate proposals dealing with contentious issue of power sharing. In addition to them, the GTF has made ten specific recommendations regarding administrative autonomy exercised by what it called ATR

government, division of powers between the Centre and ATR government, responsibility for land and ports in re-merged Provinces, generating domestic and foreign investments, responsibility in respect of law and order, financial sector, future change of governance structures subjected to ATR government’s approval.

The UK-headquartered GTF has submitted its proposals to the 19-member Public Representations Committee (PRC) on Constitutional Reforms headed by attorney-at-law Lal Wijenayake. The GTF has also made available a copy of its proposals to the four-party Tamil National Alliance (TNA) for its consideration. The influential grouping with access to both British and US administrations underscored the pivotal importance of ‘rearrangement of governance structures’ to achieve primary objectives of the proposed new Constitution.

The proposals have been made on the basis of 13th Amendment to the Constitution is ‘too weak and fragile’ hence far reaching constitutional reforms are required.

The GTF represents influential Tamil Diaspora groups in Europe, Australia, the US etc. The GTF works closely with the Illankai Thamil Arasu Kadchi led TNA, the main Opposition in parliament though the Joint Opposition (JO) comprises 50 members in parliament.

GTF spokesperson Suren Surendiran told The Island that the grouping was confident that its proposals would be taken into consideration by political parties though the Report on PRC on Constitutional Reforms didn’t contain them. Recollecting talks between the GTF and the government at the highest level over a period of time, Surendiran asserted that their proposals needed to be discussed and an understanding reached.

Asked whether the GTF’s proposals were in line with those of the TNA, Surendiran said: “TNA has its manifesto commitments which is on what the people elected them. There will be many points where both GTF’s and TNA’s proposals converge.”

The GTF has warned the government that the failure on its part to address their just grievances will certainly strengthen extremist elements within the Tamil community.

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