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Lanka ready for devolution of powers in Tamil areas

Last updated on: May 21, 2009 21:03 IST

With the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam out of its way, Sri Lanka on Thursday assured India that it will implement a law for devolving powers to Tamil-dominated areas, as both the countries agreed on the need for a lasting political solution to the ethnic conflict. 

 

The assurance was contained in a joint statement issued after National Security Adviser M K Narayanan and Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon met President Mahinda Rajapaksa in Colombo, three days LTTE chief Velupillai Prabhakaran was eliminated and the country was declared free of terrorism.

 

Sri Lanka and India agreed that with the end of the military operations, the time was opportune to focus attention on issues of relief, rehabilitation, resettlement and reconciliation, including a permanent political solution in Sri Lanka.

 

Menon told reporters after the meeting that Sri Lanka appeared willing to go beyond the 1987 Indo-Sri Lanka Peace Accord, which for the first time set up a devolution plan for the ethnically-divided nation.

 

"Our discussions were within the framework of the Indo-Sri Lanka Peace agreement. The president is not only willing to implement the 13th Amendment (set up under the Rajiv Gandhi-J Jayawardene accord) but is willing to go the extra mile," he said.

 

Menon and Narayanan, who arrived in Colombo on Wednesday, had a breakfast meeting with the President at his residence. The two also met with senior officials and Basil Rajapaksa, the president's senior adviser, Lalith Weerathunga, president's secretary and Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa. The two later left for home.

 

The two envoys said the Sri Lankan government had outlined a 180-day plan to resettle the tens of thousands of civilians who were displaced due to the fighting between the security forces and the LTTE.

 

India was willing to cooperate closely with the Sri Lankan side in the reconstruction and rehabilitation as well as de-mining of areas to resettle civilians in their towns and villages, the statement said.

 

The Sri Lankan side said that India had offered support for the huge reconstruction effort and was keen to ensure that civilians returned from the camps for the internally displaced persons at the earliest.

 

Both sides emphasised the urgent need to resettle the IDPs in their towns and villages of habitation and to provide them necessary basic and civic infrastructure as well as means of livelihood to resume their normal lives at the earliest possible.

 

To this end, the government of Sri Lanka indicated that it was its intention to dismantle the relief camps at the earliest.

 

The statement said following their agreement of October 26, 2008, both sides have been cooperating in providing humanitarian relief and assistance to IDPs.

 

This includes medical assistance in the form of a field hospital, urgently needed medicines and medical supplies as well as food, clothing and shelter material.

 

Sri Lanka also promised to give the certificate regarding LTTE chief Velupillai Prabhakaran's death to close the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case, Narayanan said on Thursday.

 

He said India was going by public statements from the Sri Lankan government that Prabhakaran, 54, had been killed in combat in the island's northeast earlier in the week and had no reason to doubt Colombo's announcement.

 

"They have promised to give us a formal death certificate with regard to Prabhakaran," he added.

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