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‘We will hold India to account’ – Tamil politicians speak on Indo-Lanka Accord and 13th Amendment

Tamil politicians from the Tamil National People's Front (TNPF) and the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) have called for the upholding of the 1987 Indo-Lanka Accord, in the wake of renewed discussion between India and Sri Lanka around the 13th Amendment and devolution of power to Tamil regions of the island.

The head of the Tamil National People's Front (TNPF) Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam said the Tamil people will hold India to account over pledges made in Accord, as he addressed Sri Lanka’s parliament this week.

“The primary purpose of the Indo-Lanka Accord was to address the Tamil national question,” said Ponnambalam, speaking on the 1987 agreement between Sri Lanka and India. “India, as a country that intervened on behalf of the Tamil people, has a burden to make sure that the accord it signed in the name of the Tamil people is fully upheld.”

The accord led to Sri Lanka to bring about the 13th Amendment to the constitution, which pledged to devolve power to a merged North-East.

“We are a party that rejects the 13th Amendment and we reject it on the basis that it doesn’t even form a starting point to finding a solution to the Tamil national question,” added Ponnambalam. “The president and prime minister might be thinking that just because the Tamil people reject they 13th amendment that they have an opportunity to throw away the accord. That will never happen. That will never happen because the accord is something totally different and the 13th amendment is totally different.”

“The 13th Amendment is a unilateral interpretation of the Indo-Lanka Accord by the government of the day and therefore whilst we reject the 13th Amendment as not even a starting point to finding a solution to the Tamil national question, the accord is something that we do not reject,” he added.

“On the contrary we will hold India to account to make sure that it upholds the positions of the accord, in order to recognise Tamil nationhood in this country and to find a viable political solution that is acceptable to the Tamil people.”

“I wish to reiterate the point made by the honourable GG Ponnambalam about the Indo-Lanka Accord,” said Sumanthiran in his address. “It has to be honoured. There is no question that one or the other can get away from their obligations under that accord.”

“The undermining of devolution continues,” continued the parliamentarian.

“The 13th Amendment may have been a starting point… but Mahinda Rajapaksa during his tenure when he was in office himself has admitted that this is not a meaningful process of devolution. That is why both joint statements said going beyond and making devolution meaningful.”

Their interventions in parliament come after the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi told Sri Lanka’s Prime Minister that implementation of the 13th Amendment - which devolves power to a merged North-East - was “essential”, as the two leaders met in a virtual summit.

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