Sri Lanka s two troubled provinces to be separated
Dec. 25, 2006.
Sri Lanka's troubled Northern and Eastern provinces will be administered as separate provinces with effect from the new year, a top state official said Monday.
Rear Admiral Mohan Wijewickrema, who is currently the governor for the merged Northeastern Province, said that he had been appointed as the governor of the eastern province and a separate governor for the northern province would soon be appointed by President Mahinda Rajapakse.
The two provinces came to be merged in July 1987 as part of the India-Sri Lanka agreement when the Indian government made its intervention then to bring about a negotiated end to the island's separatist armed conflict.
The Supreme Court on Oct. 16 this year ruled that the 1987 order by the then President of Sri Lanka merging the two provinces was not in keeping with the country's constitution and should therefore be separate provinces.
Wijewickrema said there will now be two separate administrations as was ruled by the Supreme Court and added "it might be another year or so until we formally set up the Northern Province administration."
The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) rebels claim the two provinces the traditional homeland of the minority Tamils and are so opposed to the de-merger.
However, the Sinhala majority groups say the merged provinces distort the ethnic proportional representation in favor of the Tamils as a large number of Sinhala majority and Muslims have been historically living in the Eastern Province.
Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse said the civilian population in the Eastern Province should be given the choice to be merged or demerged at a referendum and the government would not interfere in the court ruling.
Rajapakse's allies, the main left party the JVP and the Heritage Party who are bitterly opposed to a negotiated settlement of the separatist armed conflict with the Tiger rebels, have been putting pressure on the president to implement the court ruling.
Published: Mon Dec 25 11:23:47 EST 2006