July 11, Colombo: The Sri Lankan government will hold provincial council elections for the war-ravaged Northern Province in September of 2013, President Mahinda Rajapaksa has announced.
"We want to hold elections in September 2013. We are working towards it [the elections] in a systematic manner," the President has told the Indian daily The Hindu in a discussion.
According to the President there are many issues to be resolved ahead of holding of elections and the primary issue is the electoral registers which are over 30 years old and have no relation to the current eligible voters.
People who fled when the LTTE were active and during the war were still coming in and staking claim to their land and property after the defeat of the Tamil Tiger terrorists in May 2009, and these people too had to be accommodated in the lists, the President has pointed out to The Hindu.
Another major issue is the completion of the rehabilitation and resettlement process in the Province, which according to the President may be completed soon with the international support. Livelihood issues too were being addressed, he has added.
India-Sri Lanka accord of 1987 which later became the 13th Amendment to Sri Lanka's Constitution created the provincial council system to devolve power to the minority communities. All the provinces except the Northern Province in the country had elected councils and received the benefits of the 13th Amendment. Northern Province lagged behind due to the protracted war waged by the Tamil Tiger terrorist group Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).
The international community considers Northern Province Council (NPC) elections as an urgent step towards reconciliation with the Tamil minority and has urged the Sri Lankan government to hold the elections for the province to restore civil administration in the region.
When asked about the '13 plus', the President's pledge to seek a solution to the ethnic issue beyond the 13th Amendment, the President has clarified that the '13 plus' refers to creation of a senate which will act as an advisory body to the legislature.
The President has made it clear that the creation of a Senate and the formulation of a solution have to come from Parliament.
"This is [where] the Parliamentary Select Committee is important," he has said.
The President has rejected the notion that the Indian vote against Sri Lanka in the United Nations Human Rights Council was because his government did not implement the promises it made to the Council in 2009. He has insisted that his government had worked on all the promises that were delivered and was serious about fulfilling all undertakings that were given and he was even willing to go beyond the 13th Amendment.
Sri Lanka sees India's vote against the country at the UNHRC as Indian government succumbing to the pressures from the pro-LTTE Tamil parties in Tamil Nadu.