“Dr. K. Vigneswaran, a member of the APRC Experts Committee, told us that Tamils do not believe that devolving powers to the district level will meet their aspirations. The concept of the merged Northeast Province speaks to their need for security and for proper representation, he said. Tamils fear that the Districts, whose heads are to be appointed by the President, will be subject to manipulation by the central government.
Tamils believe that “colonization” of their traditional areas by Sinhalese would accelerate. Further, Vigneswaran argued, the SLFP proposal removes the powers of police, land and irrigation from the provinces, but replaces them with nothing. He asserted that reserving the security, land and water portfolios to the central government leaves it unclear what is left to be devolved to the districts.” the US Embassy Colombo informed Washington.
The Colombo Telegraph found the related leaked cable from the WikiLeaks database. The ‘Confidential’ cable discusses the governing SLFP’s devolution proposals. The cable was written on May 04, 2007 by the US embassy Charge d’Affaires James R. Moore.
Moor wrote; “A senior UNP Member of Parliament we contacted said he had spoken by phone on April 3 to party leader Ranil Wickremesinghe. The MP believed that the newspaper had taken Choksy’s comments out of context. What Choksy meant, he said, was that only the UNP and SLFP, working together, could put forward a viable proposal that could command the necessary majority in the South and in Parliament.
However, he noted that the UNP had for months insisted that the 2000 proposal by then-President Chandrika Kumaratunga was the minimum benchmark to meet. The SLFP proposals represented a step back even from the status quo under the 13th Amendment and were therefore ‘a waste of time’. He and three UNP working committee members we saw separately all expressed deep skepticism that the SLFP proposals were serious.
It appeared to them that the President was simply trying to play the ball back to the UNP. They saw this as an attempt to shift the onus to the UNP for advocating concessions to the LTTE. They made it clear that the UNP was disinclined to fall into this trap.”
Placing a comment he wrote; “The UNP, moderate Tamil and Muslim parties, and “crossovers” to the government such as G. L. Peiris all argue that the final devolution ‘package’ must lie somewhere between the existing structures of the 13th amendment and the LTTE’s 2003 proposal for an Interim Self-Governing Authority.
The SLFP proposal, for all of these players, is simply not on the playing field. APRC chair Vitharana (himself the chair of a small left-wing party) and SLFP figures such as Health Minister and peace negotiator Nimal De Silva have emphasized that the SLFP draft is not the governing party’s final word. However, a basic analysis of the various proposals now in play shows that the SLFP draft is the outlier, and has little in common with the others.
The UNP has promised to engage seriously on devolution provided the SLFP put a credible proposal on the table. Our discussions with UNP interlocutors indicate they do not see a way forward based on the current SLFP draft. The two main parties continue to be wary of each other, and it will be difficult for them to cooperate on this crucial issue as long as each suspects the other of seeking a partisan advantage.
It remains true that any proposal which does not have the backing of the two main Southern parties will fail to reach the critical mass needed to move forward. Similarly, any proposal that is completely out of bounds for the great majority of Sri Lanka’s Tamils will not hold the potential to help resolve the decades-old ethnic conflict.”