Sri Lankan Tamil party to call for federal powers

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) — Sri Lanka’s main ethnic Tamil political party says it will lobby for increased regional powers based on federalism, and an international investigation into alleged war crimes during the country’s civil war if it wins power in upcoming provincial elections.

The Tamil National Alliance, a front-runner in the Sept. 21 Northern Provincial Council elections, said in a policy statement that the current power-sharing arrangement with the provinces is flawed because the central government has overriding power through its agent, the provincial governor.

“The TNA firmly believes that sovereignty lies with the people and not with the state. It is not the government in Colombo that holds the right to govern the Tamil people, but the people themselves,” the party said.

The statement, released Tuesday, comes amid plans by the ethnic Sinhalese-controlled central government to curtail the provinces’ existing land and police powers, saying they could lead to the country’s division. Tamils are a majority in Northern Province but a minority nationally.

The government announced elections in the north amid intense international pressure that it share powers with Tamils following a quarter-century civil war that ended in 2009.

Government security forces defeated Tamil Tiger rebels who were fighting to create an independent state for Tamils in the north and east. Both sides have been accused of serious war crimes and a United Nations report has said that 40,000 civilians may have been killed in the final phase of the conflict.

The party said it will call for an independent international investigation into the alleged wartime abuses to ascertain the truth and obtain compensation for victims.

The U.N. and the United States have called for a credible domestic investigation into the allegations, warning that a failure could strengthen calls for an international probe.

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay, who concluded a visit to Sri Lanka last weekend, said she heard complaints in the north of missing relatives in the war, intrusive military control of civilian lives in education, agriculture and tourism, and acquisition of private land for military camps since the war.

The TNA was considered a proxy for the rebels during the war. Since their defeat it has abandoned separatism.

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