Panchayat Raj brought back in Rajapakse deliberations

[TamilNet, Tuesday, 03 April 2007, 16:38 GMT]
Sri Lanka's President Mahinda Rajapaksa, while on his visit to the 14th SAARC Summit being held at New Delhi had discussions with Mr. Mani Shanakar Ayyar, Indian Central Government Minister on Panchayat Raj system Sunday at the Maurya Sheraton Hotel in New Delhi, a press release from the Presidential office said. In October 2006, when the inclusion of the Indian third tier administrative model was first brought up and touted as “ray of hope” to solve Sri Lanka’s “domestic problems,” Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam, Tamil National Alliance (TNA) parliamentarian dismissed the concept saying "It is foolish to think Panchayat scheme will satisfy Tamil people."

With the recent declaration by the Leader of the All Party Representatives Committee (APRC) study group, and Minister of Science and Technology, Tissa Vitarana, that the 'final' APRC proposal will be released in late May, the prominence given to Panchayati Raj topic appears intended to further complicate the proposals, political observers in Colombo said.

Prof. Vitarane had earlier commented that Panchayati Raj “could become the central piece of Sri Lanka’s future framework to tackle issues such as the LTTE problem,” before the four proposals were tabled which sparked much controversy.

Gajendrakumar earlier commenting on the attempt by Sri Lanka political leaders to mention Panchayati Raj in the devolution discussions said: "Panchayat Raj is a local-council level administrative mechanism adopted as 73rd/74th amendments to the Indian constitution. It was enacted mainly to promote grass-root level democracy, to empower poor women, and to enable feudally-strapped residents of rural India to participate in the world's largest democracy," indicating that this will receive total rejection from Tamils who at best are seeking a viable alternative to secession.

“Sri Lanka's attempt to introduce this third-tier administrative model into devolution debate appears to be deliberate, and exposes the deep-rooted disdain Sinhala political leaders have towards the basic Tamil demand for “self-governance."

"It also raises troubling questions on the objectives of APRC's constitutional re-engineering exercise," the MP earlier said.


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