After meetings with Sri Lankan leaders across the political spectrum, Mr. Khurshid said India was committed to pursuing the full implementation of the 13th Amendment.
The Minister met President Mahinda Rakapaksa and later Leader of Opposition Ranil Wikramasinghe in Colombo Tuesday morning and then flew to Jaffna where he held discussions with C.V.Wigneswaran, the newly-elected Chief Minister of the Northern Pronvincial Council and G.A. Chandrasiri, Governor of the Northern Province.
At the meeting with the President the Minister commended the Sri Lankan government for successfully holding the Northern Provincial Council elections.
When the Indian Foreign Minister brought up the issue of meaningful political devolution in his meetings, the Sri Lankan side – both President Rajapaksa and Foreign Minister G.L. Peiris, in response, seem to have pointed to the Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC), emphasising that it was working on precisely that – a position that was clearly reflected in a statement from the President’s office on Tuesday, and earlier at the joint press conference of the two foreign ministers held in Colombo on Monday.
The PSC, with a majority of its members from the ruling coalition, has the task of studying the 13th Amendment and recommending suitable modifications. However, many parties, including the United National Party, the main Opposition here, and the Tamil National Alliance boycotted the PSC for different reasons.
Speaking to the Indian media in Jaffna before his meeting with Mr. Khurshid, Chief Minister Mr.Wigneswaran said it was important that the PSC lay down explicitly its parameters and matters related to its forward movement. Emphasising India’s role here, he said: “I am here because of India. By that I mean India has been instrumental in holding the provincial elections and India’s help is absolutely essential.”
Mr. Khurshid – who emphasised the need for dialogue and consensus for meaningful devolution – said he could not, on behalf of India, provide a sequence to the process of dialogue between the democratically-elected Northern Provincial Council administration and the Government of Sri Lanka, for that was a matter for the dialogue partners to decide. Having indicated to Sri Lanka that it was a “historic opportunity to start dialogue afresh”, he said India would be there to “help, assist and advise.”
Speaking on the fisheries issue, Mr. Khurshid said he was grateful to the Sri Lankan government for releasing as many as 127 fishermen in the last two weeks. Only 19 remain in custody as of now.
The talks between fishermen’s associations from both countries, to be facilitated soon, would help the Joint Working Group on fisheries arrive at a sustainable solution that will ensure that “one man’s fishing does not deprive the other man of his livelihood,” he said.
The message he carried back to India was, he said, one of “hope with caution”. There was no scepticism or cynicism, he added.