APRC consensus on devolution
The much-looked forward to final report
of the All Party Representative Committee (APRC) is scheduled to be
submitted to President Mahinda Rajapaksa later this week. It is
heartening to see that a raft of local political parties has reached
broad consensus on various issues.
The APRC devolution proposals come at an important stage when the
Government has liberated the entire Eastern Province from the clutches
of Velupillai Prabhakaran's ruthless terrorism.
According to the Chairman of the APRC, Prof. Tissa Witarana, the
proposals of all political parties in the APRC would be included in the
final report to end the genuine problems of the people in the North and
Refuting the opposition, United National Party's (UNP's) stance that
the APRC is now void, Minister Witarana has asked the UNP to back the
APRC to compile proposals for power devolution.
It is indeed a pity that the UNP is losing a golden opportunity they
had in making an active contribution towards the common aim of finding a
lasting solution to the problem while protecting the sovereignty and
territorial integrity of Sri Lanka. The UNP in a statement, has said
that the APRC process is dead as it failed to finalise a draft report to
keep to a deadline set by the UNP.
Minister Witarana said that the APRC has reached a broader consensus
on a proposal for devolution of power.
Not only the ordinary citizens but also those who have been affected
in the North and the East, and the international community have strong
hopes that the cross-party initiative could help revive the peace
The APRC has reached consensus on the unit of devolution to be the
province, and within the province and the parties have agreed that the
district would be a major administrative unit.
The Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), the main political party of the
ruling UPFA government earlier wanted to devolve power at district
However, the SLFP too has now compromised in a sincere effort of
finding a solution acceptable to all. The APRC has agreed that the
country should return to a Westminster type of government, a
parliamentary government, to take effect from the end of the present
President's term in 2011.
According to Minister Witarana, all parties in the APRC have ironed
out all major differences they have had and compromised to find the best
solution. Yet, there are one or two "thorny problems" to be sorted out.
The international community and donor countries will get a good
opportunity to test the genius of Velupillai Prabhakaran and the LTTE,
which has been branded as an international terrorist organisation by the
United States, European Union, India, Canada and India.
The LTTE terrorists must prove that they want to give up their terror
acts. They must prove by all means that they are only interested in
securing the rights of the Tamils. The Tigers must sincerely prove that
their sole interest is the well-being of the Tamil community and adopt a
reasonable solution to whatever the problems they face.
Hence, Prabhakaran would be hard pressed when reacting to the APRC
proposals. Since these proposals would come after much negotiations
amongst all major political parties in the Parliament, the international
community would look at those proposals in a positive manner. There is
authority and credibility in those proposals, which would get the
backing of all those who are genuinely interested in finding a solution
acceptable to the majority.
Unlike Ranil Wickremesinghe's controversial Ceasefire Agreement (CFA)
in 2001, this is not a document which had been drafted overnight. Even
the then Prime Minister's Cabinet did not have any clue on the CFA when
it was signed.
The situation today is different. There is transparency, credibility
and acceptance. That would make life miserable for the Tigers as it
would come to a stage where they Tigers would be trapped badly. It would
come to a stage where the LTTE could say no to a widely acceptable
solution of this nature.
On the other hand, the people are eagerly watching the role played by
the UNP as a responsible opposition.
They have to veer away from the habit of citicising whatever the
Government does. Commenting on the latest threat by the UNP to withdraw
from the APRC citing the postponement of finalistion, the APRC chairman
has charged that the party was trying to gain political mileage by using
petty issues. How very true.