Sri Lanka panel urges power-sharing to end bloodshed

Jan 24, 2008 (AFP) – A peace panel including ruling party politicians told Sri Lanka’s president to devolve more power to minority Tamils as a first step to resolving the island’s long-running ethnic war, officials said Thursday. The panel, made up of President Mahinda Rajapakse’s Sri Lanka Freedom Party lawmakers and their allies, has been mulling peace options for two years.

The recommendation, however, falls far short of demands by Tamil Tiger rebels for full independence and is nothing new — devolution is part of existing provisions in the Sri Lankan constitution that have never been put into practice.

“The APRC (All Party Representative Committee) proposals are to address the reasons for the present conflict… and to implement devolution proposals introduced to the constitution in 1987, that were never fully implemented,” foreign minister Rohitha Bogollagama told reporters.

The minister, however, declined to set a timeframe for devolution.

In 1987, the Sri Lankan government took the decision to share power with minority Tamils in the north and east, but never fully devolved political power.

The Tamil Tigers already control a large part of the island’s north and run a de facto separate state — mean