Lankan PM promises Tamils political power

COLOMBO: Sri Lanka’s prime minister on Friday promised greater political power to the island’s Tamil minority under a new constitution aimed at preventing a return to ethnic war and healing the wounds of the past. Speaking in the Tamil heartland of Jaffna, Ranil Wickremesinghe marked the Hindu festival of Pongal with a pledge to devolve power and demilitarise a former war zone -- two of the minority’s key demands. “We are ready to devolve power (to minority Tamils) and protect democracy,” Wickremesinghe said in a nationally televised ceremony. The premier also promised to “take action” against both state forces and Tamil rebels accused of war crimes in the final stages of the island’s 37-year-old separatist war, in line with pledges to the UN Human Rights Council last year. Sri Lanka’s year-old government has begun drafting a new constitution aimed at resolving the drawn-out ethnic conflict which ended in 2009 and claimed 100,000 lives, the premier said.