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Sinhala politicians fume, whilst SJB backtracks on 13th Amendment

Sinhala politicians in the South have vented their fury, after Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) leader Sajith Premadasa told Tamils in Jaffna that his party was for the implementation of the 13th Amendment “in full”, as he pledged to devolve powers to the North-East.

“What did he mean?” questioned ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) parliamentarian Rohitha Abeygunawardena. “Did he say that police and land powers would be granted to the northern province?”

Meanwhile, Gamini Lokuge, another member of the SLPP told reporters that he was uncertain if Premadasa even knew what is meant by the term ‘13th Amendment’. 

“No President in our country implemented the 13th Amendment, because it poses dangerous problems,” said Lokuge. “If you give the police and military powers to the provinces it will set a bad precedent. If Sajith comes to power and implements this, we will see an era worse than the period when his father used the military.”

Meanwhile, Udaya Gammanpil, leader of the an ultra-nationalist Pivithuru Hela Urumaya, claimed that if the 13th Amendment was implemented, “a terrorist movement more powerful than the LTTE can be born, with the blessings of the international community”.

In a scathing statement, he claimed that a “future a separatist war will be waged” with “the police force of the North-East” if the devolution of powers was granted.

“The international community will not hesitate to provide training as well as weapons to the North-Eastern police force,” he continued.

He went on to claim that examples of the international community’s willingness to fund such a police force come from Canada’s recognition of Tamil Genocide Remembrance Day on May 18 and the passing of the Tamil Genocide Education Week Act.

The 13th Amendment was brought in after the Indo-Sri Lankan agreement of 1987, which calls for a merged North-East and the devolution of police and land powers to the province. However, it has been consistently rejected by the Tamil people as not being an adequate solution, whilst the Sri Lankan state for decades has obfuscated its implementation.

Within Premadasa’s party there has also been mixed messaging on what his announcement in Jaffna actually meant.

Whilst Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) MP Eran Wickremerathne told reporters in Jaffna that the 13th Amendment would be implemented, Tissa Attanayake attempted to clarify his party leader’s remarks by backtracking.

According to the PTI, Attanayake said Premadasa merely pledged to “reactivate the provincial councils” and “hold the provincial council elections that have been postponed since 2018”.

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