SLPP backs devolution for economic growth, not ethnicity, religion

The ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) noted that it, as a party, is pro-devolution, but that power should be devolved to the people for the economic development of their locales, and not for the purpose of, nor based on, their ethnicity or religion.

Speaking to The Morning, SLPP General Secretary MP Sagara Kariyawasam emphasised yesterday (29) that his party has always been pro-devolution, but that the said devolution should be provided for development, and not for ethnicity or religion-based purposes.

“We have always been a party that is pro-devolution. What we say is that devolution should be given to the people for their development. The units have to be identified not based on their ethnicity or their religion, but based on the economic development of their areas,” he added.

When queried by The Morning as to whether his party would support 13-plus (a reference to going beyond the 13th Amendment to the Constitution in terms of the devolution of power) as agreed to by MP Mahinda Rajapaksa in Parliament last week, Kariyawasam noted: “If President Ranil Wickremesinghe invites us, we will certainly be participating. Former President Rajapaksa is the party leader. He will not say anything against the party’s stance.

“The party has still not met on this. We have to meet on this and have a discussion once we receive an invitation from the President. As a party, our stance has been even when we were in the Sri Lanka Freedom Party, to support devolution. We are the party that has always said that devolution should carry forward until the lowest unit. Devolution should be there and it should go to the grassroots level, not to a particular ethnic or religious group. We have been very clear about that right from the beginning.”

Kariyawasam also said that each Local Authority consists of small electoral units and that power should be given even to such units.

“If somebody is trying to devolve power based on the language that they speak or the religion that they practice, that is something that has never been done anywhere in the world. Such may lead to economic or social development, but will alos create more problems,” he added.

When queried regarding the SLPP’s stance on the Police and land powers being devolved under the already existing 13th Amendment to the Constitution, he added: “That has to be discussed very deeply. The situation varies. Earlier, we were a country where a separatist group waged war against the Government to divide the country. In such a situation, it cannot be condoned. But currently, we have to assess and analyse the present situation in order to make a decision.”

Meanwhile, the Tamil National Alliance and certain other Tamil political parties aligned with similar political ideas had taken up the stance that a federalism-based solution to the national ethnic issue would be suitable through a new Constitution.

Accordingly, President Wickremesinghe last week invited all political parties in the Parliament for discussions to solve the ethnic issue following the Budget.