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One of the interesting turn of events which was witnessed last week was when the visiting Foreign Secretary of India met with Northern Province Chief Minister CV Wigneswaran and members of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA).

During the meeting, Jaishankar had called upon the TNA to move away from the merger of the North and East and to go easy on its demands pertaining to a durable solution.
This remark by an Indian minister of its Central Government is of utmost importance, because, the merger of both Provinces is spelt out in the much discussed 13th Amendment, which came into being courtesy the Indo-Lanka accord 30 years ago.

India seemed to have made a u-turn from its position it had stuck to for almost 30 years on the Sri Lankan issue. Whether the position was agreed and accepted by all Sri Lankans is a different matter.

Even during the war was in its final stages, India had constantly pressed Sri Lanka to fully implement the 13th Amendment in order to find a permanent solution to the ethnic conflict.

The local Tamil parties including the TNA had continuously called for its implementation, which meant the North and the East had to be merged.

Arthur-wamananThe North and East
The Northern and Eastern Provinces which are currently two separate provinces were part of a single province until 10 years ago.

Both provinces were merged in September 1988 after the Indo-Lanka accord. The move was highly critcised by several sections of the country who claimed that it allowed the LTTE to be in control of the major part of the region. However, the provinces were once again demerged following a Supreme Court order in 2006.

The ruling on the demerger came after a long campaign by several parties including the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP). The JVP filed three separate petitions with the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka requesting a separate Provincial Council for the East.

October 16, 2006 the Supreme Court ruled that the proclamations issued by President Jayewardene were null and void and had no legal effect.

The Northeast Province was formally demerged into the Northern and Eastern provinces with effect from January 1, 2007.

The decision created opposition in the Tamil circles who claimed that the merger was part of the Constitution and therefore needed to be implemented to the letter.

Thirty years have passed since the signing of the agreement, and 10 years have passed since both provinces started operating as separate units.

But, the issues of the people persist. The demands of the Tamil politicians, especially the TNA, have not changed.

Leader of the Ilankai Thamiz Arasu Katchi (ITAK), the dominant representative of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), Mavai Senathirajah claimed that Jaishankar did not ask the TNA to move away from the North-East merger demand but had requested them to look at other possible means of addressing the situation.

“He never asked us to give up on the demand for a merger. Those reports are false. He asked us to look at other options while also looking at a merger of both provinces,” he said.

India softens
Maybe that is how Senathirajah would interpret what was said by Jaishankar. But, the fact is that India had in fact softened its stance on the 13th Amendment.

Earlier, India was adamant on the full implementation of the 13th Amendment. But now, it suggests the TNA to look at other options? Is that not a change of stance?

Changing times
Times have changed since both countries signed the agreement. The agreement cost the lives of thousands, including that of an Indian Prime Minister.

But now the dynamics have changed. The war has ended. Thousands of Tamils have made Colombo and other Southern parts of Sri Lanka their permanent homes after being displaced over the years of conflict.

Analysts say that India, by making suc a statement, would have wanted to give the space for Sri Lanka to come up with its own mechanism to solve the national question.