Feature Article

APRC on hiatus

[TamilNet, Saturday, 27 October 2007, 12:56 GMT]
Despite claims by Colombo media in early August that the All Party Representative Committee (APRC) formed by Sri Lanka's President Rajapakse has met with "sudden death," amid opposition from SLFP, MEP and the JHU to the "unit of devolution" ahead of the Committee report deadline of 15 August, the APRC discussions were resurrected; the latest on the resilient APRC is that after the 51st sitting on the 23rd October, the APRC is taking a 2 month recess, reports from Colombo said. The current status: APRC is "exploring the possibility of reaching consensus among the political parties on power sharing."

Quotes on APRC Effort

Minister Tissa Vitarana, Chairman, has reportedly said "the parties had agreed on certain aspects of power sharing between the centre and provinces but declined to give details on progress made... it was too early to mention a specific time frame for submitting a final report."

Moving deadlines for arriving at a "southern consensus" to the intractable "ethnic problem," has become the hallmark of the beleagured APRC exercise; however, keeping the APRC alive has become a political imprative for Rajapakse.

Following Mr Rajapakse's directive to suspend proceedings in early August, JVP charged that "there was an attempt by the APRC to submit power devolution proposals based on a federal structure, to suit the whims of a US diplomat," according to a Colombo-based paper, referring to a report by Jeffry Lunstead, former U.S. Ambassador to Sri Lanka.

But on 16th August, Prof. Vitharne told Colombo media "We all agreed to hand over the final proposals by next week to the President as final touches are being done now.” The claim was that 70% of agreement has been reached on a "number of issues," and the remaining issues to be settled in one more sitting.

Then on 19th August, JHU dissociates from APRC proposals saying the proposals are "a step to impose a federal system even exceeding the parametres of the Indian and US constitutions." UNP withdraws on the 21st August, saying it will consider support after the SLFP reaches "consensus with its alliance partners such as the JHU and the MEP."

Minister of Constitutional Affairs D. E. W. Gunasekera expresses hope on the 22nd August that the report will be submitted in a "week."

On 24th August, Prof. Vitharana maintains that the "APRC is much alive and working towards its goals."

29th August Daily Mirror reports, "Mahinda washes his hands off the lame-duck APRC," saying Rajapksa had palmed off the "matter to the Prime Minister [Ratnasiri Wickramanayaka] who had been asked to discuss the unitary issue controversy with the party leaders, and to arrive at a settlement." Prime Minister asserts APRC will continue deliberations "until they reach a final solution to the national issue."

On 4th September, UNP withdraws from APRC saying the "Government was not serious about finding a solution to the country’s two decade long conflict."

Mr. Rajapaksa tells the Indian Foreign Minister, Pranab Mukherji, at a special meeting held at the 62nd Annual Summit of the United Nations on 25th September, that "a political solution would be found immediately to restore peace through the All Party Conference," Daily Mirror reported.

On October 1st, the APRC Chairman again assures "deliberations at the APRC are going on smoothly while agreement has been reached on "many issues.""

And now the APRC is on a 2-month hiatus and likely will "continue the deliberations" after the recess.

When formed in June 2006, the APRC was tasked to produce a report before the expected peace talks between the LTTE and the Government of Sri Lanka in the last week of October. When the 17-member panel of "Legal/Constitutional Experts" finally 'completed' its task, there were four separate, competing reports. The reports, leaked to the media in December, triggered controversy.

In early March, Vitarana, a respected Left politician, said the consensual APRC proposal, which was hoped to be ready by February, had been delayed because of the ruling Sri Lanka Freedom Party's (SLFP) delay in submitting its proposals.

On 22nd March, the Minister said he wants the "exercise to be completed over the next 60 days," again moving the deadline to end of May.

The JVP, which is third largest political party represented in parliament with 39 parliamentarians, boycotted the APRC since early December saying it is not interested in formulating a political package based on federal concept to solve the crisis.

Dr Saravanamuttu, Director of Colombo-based think-tank, Center of Policy Alternatives (CPA), predicted the destiny of the APRC effort earlier pointing to the inclusion of "most prominent and consistent ant-federalists like H.L. de Silva" in the expert panel, and said "the balance of power of opinion and bias on the committee may result in the whole exercise being yet another one of futility."

External Links:
DM: Peace through APRC: President
DM: APRC’ s progress
DM:  APRC to come to consensus soon
DM: Mahinda washes his hands off the lame-duck APRC
ML: APRC meets sudden death
DM: JHU hits out at APRC proposals
DM: APRC on leave for two months
DM: APRC proposals ‘definitely’ next week
DM: APRC much alive and working towards its goals
DM: APRC in muddle: JVP fears federal solution
DM: APRC: No political solution still in sight


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