A meeting between Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and a delegation of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), scheduled to be held on Wednesday, stands postponed, according to the TNA.
Earlier on Tuesday, a statement issued by TNA spokesman and Jaffna legislator M.A. Sumanthiran said the TNA was meeting the President on June 16, to discuss ways of taking forward the process of constitutional reform.
“The TNA sent its proposals for constitutional reform to the experts’ committee appointed by the President last December, and thereafter met the committee at their invitation in February this year,” it said.
However, on Tuesday night, the TNA said in a statement: “The meeting that was scheduled to be held the thebetween the delegation of the Tamil National Alliance (T.N.A.) and HE the President Gotabaya Rajapaksha tomorrow at the Presidential secretariat has been postponed. The new date and time of the said meeting will be notified in due course.”
The meeting was to be Mr. Rajapaksa’s first –since he assumed office in November 2019 — with the TNA, whose leader and 88-year-old parliamentarian R. Sampanthan has, over the last decade, spearheaded the call for the long-pending political solution to Sri Lanka’s national question, through a constitutional settlement. The Alliance, currently with 10 MPs, is the main grouping representing Tamils of the north and east in the 225-member legislature.
From the time Mr. Rajapaksa rose to power, he has maintained that his administration would focus on development rather than devolution.
Prominent members in the Rajapaksa administration have repeatedly called for the abolition of the provincial council system and the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, threatening to do away with the only legislative assurance of a measure of power devolution that followed the Indo-Lanka Accord of 1987. The President has not commented on the issue so far.
The initial announcement of Wednesday’s meeting drew attention, coming a week after Sri Lanka’s rights record made headlines, with the European Parliament adopting a resolution urging the EU Commission to withdraw ‘GSP +’ trade concessions given to Sri Lanka citing, among other things, “continuing discrimination against and violence towards religious and ethnic minorities”.
It is also about three months since the UN Human Rights Council adopted a resolution on ‘Promoting reconciliation, accountability and human rights in Sri Lanka’.