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Sri Lankan minister lashes out at India over devolving power to Tamils

Sarath Weerasekara

Sri Lankan Minister Sarath Weerasekara lashed out at India last week, claiming the country has no moral right to interfere in Sri Lanka's "internal affairs" after Prime Minister Narendra Modi called for the implementation of the 13th Amendment, which devolves a range of powers to the Tamil North-East. 

In a long address to the Sri Lankan parliament, Weerasekara at times criticised India for its call for devolution, whilst also praising the country for standing by Sri Lanka in its military efforts and attempts to stave off accountability for rights abuses at the UN Human Rights Council.

'Forced on us by India'

“I have my reservations about the Indo-Lanka accord ... It was forced on us by India subsequently… did India honour her part in that agreement?” stated Weerasekara.

He went on to mention, “it was only done as a token ceremoniously and India couldn't stop the revival of hostilities of the LTTE” going on claim whether this agreement was signed under duress or whether the contents of the agreement compromised Sri Lanka's sovereignty.

Weerasekara also mentions “Sri Lanka courts have nullified the merger of the North and East Provinces, which was one of the clauses in the accord.” “Therefore, there is serious concern about the validity of the agreement and if it is not valid, India has no moral right to interfere into our internal affairs” he added.

“I have my reservations about the Indo-Lanka accord,” stated Weerasekara. “It was forced on us by India subsequently… did India honour her part in that agreement?”

"The centre must retain the power. Our culture of governance was centered with the ruling king. It has not fundamentally changed. A virtuous ruler is the term that we recognise respect and expect. India and Sri Lanka have very long history of friendship, and we recognise the importance of nurturing that friendship.”

Jammu and Kashmir 

Weerasekara also went to claim that India had no "moral right" to speak on Sri Lanka, comparing it to India in Kashmir.

“When foreign governments adversely commented on the abrogation of article 370 pertaining to Jammu and Kashmir, our Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa was asked to comment on the matter, and he said it was an internal matter of India,” he said. "Knowing that this is an internal matter of Sri Lanka, PM Modi insisting on the 13th Amendment."

Praise for military support

The Sri Lankan minister did however continue his criticism of Tamil politicians, calling on India to “talk with the Tamils in societies comprising respectable and educated Tamils and not the representatives of terrorists,” in an apparent referral to the Tamil National Alliance (TNA).However Weerasekara did have some praise for India, particularly for its military and international support in global forums.

“When there were war crimes allegations against us, in 2009 on May 27 India voted in favour of us and congratulated us for crashing the LTTE,” he said. “Also in 2014 when the UNHRC adopted a resolution calling for an investigation in Sri Lanka, India opposed saying it is an intrusion of a country's sovereignty.”

So, I hope Indian Prime Minister Modi would take all these facts into consideration before asking us to implement the 13th Amendment again.”

The renewed talk around the 13th Amendment came after Modi called on Sri Lanka last month to “address the aspirations of the Tamil people for equality, justice, peace and respect within a united Sri Lanka ... with the implementation of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution of Sri Lanka".

2020 India- Sri Lanka Bi-lateral Summit 

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