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Rajapakse favours smaller unit for devolution

By Xinhua,

Colombo : Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse has said that a smaller unit of devolution would be the key to resolving the island’s separatist armed conflict.

The state-owned radio reported Wednesday that Rajapakse said his Sri Lanka Freedom Party’s (SLFP) devolution proposals announced on May Day envisaged a smaller unit of devolution than the existing provincial councils system.

“The present provinces are too large to carry out real development,” the president was quoted as saying.

The SLFP proposals outline that “the unit of devolution would be the district, two districts could amalgamate and form one unit”.

The proposals are now to be presented to the All Political Party Representatives Committee (APRC) at its next session.

However, the SLFP proposals have already met with opposition from the minority Tamil and Muslim political parties.

Three Tamil political parties in a joint statement issued Tuesday said: “The powers to be devolved under the SLFP proposals are not even coming closer to the powers vested in the provincial councils.”

Rajapakse convened the All Political Party Committee (APC) in January 2006 to try and reach consensus among the south based political parties in order to put forward a political package to solve the island’s long drawn-out separatist armed conflict.

The advisory panel of APRC is to discuss proposals from all parties in order to arrive at the final political package as means to end the conflict.

The present provincial council system was introduced in 1987 but the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) rejected it saying it offered too little autonomy to the Tamil community.