26 September, 2020

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Fundamental Human Rights In The New Constitution

By S. Narapalasingam

Dr. S. Narapalasingam

Dr. S. Narapalasingam

Dr. Laksiri Fernando’s timely article ‘A New Constitution & Fundamental Human Rights’ posted by Colombo Telegraph on 18 March 2016 has prompted me to write this focussing on the possibility of resolving the protracted national problem by respecting the fundamental rights of Sri Lankan Tamils, an ethnic minority community in multi-ethnic Sri Lanka in which the majority of residents are Sinhalese (majority are Buddhists), except in the Northern and Eastern Provinces. Fundamental human rights are universal and in a multi-ethnic democratic country, all citizens regardless of their race have the same rights. The neglect of this doctrine by the power greedy political leaders keen on winning the support of the Sinhalese voters by divisive means, led to the prolonged unrest and suffering of many citizens. The power gained by this divisive way, failed to focus steadfastly on national issues. This lopsided approach not only damaged national unity but also the environment needed for sustained social and economic development.

It is crucial, at the present time, when a new constitution is being considered to achieve reconciliation and reunite the divided nation vital for harmonious living condition for all citizens residing in the entire island and sustained social and economic development that had been ignored by past political leaders, entrenched with the greed for power for achieving their narrow aims. The lack of mutual trust essential for strong partnership also led to the unstable situation causing difficulties in resolving national issues. Happy marriages even with partners within the same ethnic community need their mutual trust. It is this mutual trust that had contributed to happy marriages with partners from different ethnic communities. Similarly, unity at the national level also requires the shared trust of the different ethnic communities in the country. Given the heavy damage done by neglecting the fundamentals, determined efforts are needed to get rid of the volatile situation and improve the living conditions of all citizens throughout the island. With any mistrust, it is not possible to incorporate meaningfully the fundamental human rights in the new constitution. The present opportunity to improve the prevailing unfavourable conditions must not be missed.

The deficient constitutions

The move to marginalise the ethnic minorities in Sri Lanka began with the abandoning of the important Section 29 of the first constitution of independent Ceylon prepared by Soulbury Commission set up prior to independence in 1948. Section 29(1) stated: ‘Subject to the provisions of this Order, Parliament shall have power to make laws for the peace, order and good government of the Island’. But this power is restricted by Section 29(2) and (3) which gave the ethnic and religious minorities confidence in the governing system under the control of the elected leaders in the ethnic majority – Sinhalese. the majority are Buddhists. Section 29( 2) prohibited the passage of any legislation rendering persons of any community or reli,gion liable to disabilities, or confer upon persons of any community or religion any privilege or advantage which are not conferred on persons of other communities or religions. Sub section 29(3) stated: Any law made in contravention of sub-section (2) of this Section shall, to the extent of such contravention, be void. The 1956 Sinhala only’official language Act was enacted despite this Section 29 (2) in the then prevailing Soulbury Constitution. This was got rid of in 1972 with the enactment of the first constitution of the Republic of Sri Lanka which ensured no legal impediment to the nationwide implementation of the Sinhala only Act. Section 29 was a hindrance to majoritarianism embedded in the unitary system. The elimination of multi-member constituencies where there were significantly large proportion of ethnic minorities was also intended to strengthen majoritarian rule. The famous political scientist, Dr. A. Jeyaratnam Wilson in his book, ‘The break-up of Sri Lanka’ published in March 1988 by C. Hurst & Company, London has given a detailed account of the impulsive acts of the ‘patriotic’ political leaders concerned about the future of their perceived Sinhala nation. The irony of their ‘patriotic’ acts is the damage caused to their own mother country.

A nationally useful constitution for the present and foreseeable future focussing on Fundamental Human Rights of all citizens cannot be formulated solely by narrow-minded politicians, highly concerned about winning the votes of the Sinhalese in national elections. Only in few electorates, the majority of voters are Tamils and Muslims. Past attempts to amend the present constitution aimed at settling the protracted ethnic issue failed because of the non-cooperation between the two main parties competing for centralised power. This is the bitter lesson learnt from the failure to implement the recommendations of the advisory committees appointed by past governments at critical times.

The question here is: Will the politicians whose outlook is different from those wanting a new constitution incorporating fundamental human rights support the noble suggestion? Even if by good fortune, the majority of parliamentarians agree to this new constitution incorporating fundamental human rights, will the governments function as stipulated in the new constitution? A fundamental change in the attitude of those narrow-minded politicians is needed for achieving the objective desired by the visionaries. The new constitution incorporating fundamental human rights must serve to strengthen national unity, social justice, law and order and human development. Unless there is an enlightened approach to the enactment of such a new constitution, the country will not become a serene promising country for all her citizens. The country cannot afford the same mistakes of past political leaders that kept the country in turmoil for decades after independence.

Past blunders

The escalation of the ethnic problem that originated with the denial of equal rights and opportunities to the Tamils into violent uprising of frustrated Tamil youth for a separate Tamil State in Sri Lanka is now history. But the fact the militant leadership missed opportunities for negotiated settlement because of mistrust and fear of vengeance is relevant today. The importance of mutual trust in seeking a reasonable political solution to the national problem by enacting a new constitution is obvious. The mistrust escalated by the failure of governments to fulfil the promises given and the failure of complete fulfilment of the agreements reached is well known. The 13th Amendment is a striking example of this shortcoming. It also reveals the enormous cost to the nation by this kind of failure. The provincial council system introduced under this amendment is considered by many as a ‘white elephant’. Contrary to the approved constitutional amendment, police and land powers have not been devolved. Importantly, the Provincial Council system failed to achieve the intended objective of negating the case for splitting the country into two separate states. The 13th Amendment to the Constitution was enacted following the Indo-Lanka Agreement. Indian government’s intervention came following the July 1983 riots that destroyed lives and properties of many Tamils, living with Sinhalese in Colombo and other areas. Some survivors sought shelter in south India.

The uncompromising approach of Tamil militants also inflicted considerable damage to the Tamil community. Many moderate Tamil leaders like Neelan Tiruchelvam were eliminated violently because they were considered as impediments to the armed struggle for a separate Tamil state in the island. A new constitution will not serve the desired intention of all peace loving people, unless there is a significant change in the attitude of politicians away from the prevailing narrow interests. Unfortunately, some Sinhalese think they have more rights than Tamils because of the large size of their community. The ethical principle of equal rights, freedom and opportunities for all citizens to prosper in a democratic country was ignored.

The present cautious approach of the TNA leadership in seeking a political solution to the ethnic problem within united Sri Lanka is sensible. Strangely, some Tamils seem to have not learnt lessons from the failed approach pursued by their predecessors. At this critical time, Tamils very badly miss politicians like Neelan Tiruchelvam, who had risked death for years in pursuit of a negotiated or legislated settlement of the protracted ethnic conflict. He wanted a peaceful resolution that would provide Tamils a share of power and autonomy within a united Sri Lanka. Being a constitutional expert, he helped President Chandrika Kumaratunga in drafting a package of changes to the island’s Constitution needed for settling the burning national issue. The then opposition party in the Parliament, UNP rejected the package and as usual rivalry between the two main parties obstructed making the right decisions in the national interest. The optimism that emerged with the formation of the national government in 2015 seems to be declining, as the SLFP is divided with the loyalists of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa staying in the ‘Joint Opposition’ and others joining the national government in partnership with the UNP. There is a pressing need for genuine patriots in the civil society to perform a leading role in pulling Sri Lanka out of the trench she is stuck for years. But here too past experience reveals the obstacles preventing the usefulness of their contributions.

At the height of the war between Tamil rebels and Government forces in Sri Lanka, Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama told a news conference at the University of Madras (Chennai): “I pray and hope some peaceful resolution is arrived at in Sri Lanka. I think the Lankan government should accept reality…..,” in reply to a question whether he approved the military action by the Buddhist rulers of Sri Lanka. (Times of India 22 January 2009). The incorporation of fundamental human rights in the new constitution will be in harmony with Buddhist philosophy. Hopefully, if this approach is comprehensive to make illegal any form of discrimination in truly united Sri Lanka, it will also incorporate the intents of Section 29 in the Soulbury constitution.

Advisory committees

Knowledgeable members of the civil society have served in the advisory committees set up by past governments to recommend proposals for settling the national issue but their efforts failed to serve the national objective. The failed attempt made during Chandrika Kumaratunga’s Presidency to resolve the national issue based on the recommendations of appointed committees was not the only one, since the enactment of the Sinhala only Act and other moves to alienate the ethnic Tamil minority. The ‘Mangala Moonesinghe Parliamentary Select Committee’ was constituted following the unanimous adoption by Parliament on 9th August 1991, the resolution moved by Mangala Moonesinghe and seconded by Stanley Tillekeratne. The stated aims of the Select Committee were:

(a) to arrive at a political solution to the question involving the devolution of power to the Northern and Eastern Provinces;

(b) to prevent – (i) the disintegration of the nation; (ii) the killings of innocent civilians, members of the Armed Forces and the Youths fighting for a cause; (iii) the increased militarization of the culure of violence; and

(c) to achieve peace and political stability and utilize (the savings from) reduced defence expenditure for rapid economic growth and national development .

According to Ketheswaran Loganathan’s (Centre for Policy Research and Analysis (CEPRA), Faculty of law, University of Colombo) book – ‘Sri Lanka: Lost Opportunities – Past attempts at Resolving Ethnic Conflict’ published in December 1996, the Select Committee constituted as per the above resolution received 253 memoranda from Members of Parliament, political parties, other organizations and individuals in response to the committee’s call for written representation from the public. At present too others in the public domain have been invited to convey their suggestions for pulling Sri Lanka out of the prolonged bleak state it has been in, because of the reluctance of the elected leaders to act in the true national interest. In my view the recommendations of the past committees must also be considered with an open mind. Also in the last instance, the real intention of appointing advisory committee seems to be misleading. The head of the committee, Prof. Tissa Vitharana’s recommendations were simply shelved by the then President, who apparently was keen on ending the protracted war militarily. But the military victory achieved in 2009 has not obliterated the need for political settlement. Perhaps this was not the view of those who wanted to depict themselves as ‘war heroes’ who also eliminated militarily the need for political settlement!

It was only after the election of new President in January 2015 and a national government in August 2015 a fresh move to rebuild the war-torn nation by addressing the issues that caused the colossal damage to the nation depriving satisfactory living conditions and a promising future for majority of citizens. Some desperate Sri Lankans not only Tamils but also Sinhalese migrated to distant foreign countries seeking a better future. Continuation of narrow party politics at the expense of ignoring wide national interests, democracy and national unity in poorly governed country will obstruct the long delayed move to seek lasting peace and prosperity for all Sri Lankans.

The biased view that Sri Lanka is a Sinhala nation is at the centre of Sri Lanka’s national problem that arose after independence. Not only this misconception but also the excessive greed for power tempted politicians to advocate discriminatory policies that accentuated the ethnic division. The Federal Party whose elected members were in the Tamil Congress, a partner in the first UNP-led government emerged as a breakaway party following the enactment of the Citizenship Act soon after independence that denied citizenship and voting rights to up-country Tamils of recent Indian origin.

Lack of political will to act sensibly

The failure to take corrective actions soon after the politically motivated decisions that hindered the progress and stability of the nation, like the enactment of the Sinhala only official language Act, aggravated the problems created by ill-conceived hasty decisions. A pragmatic corrective policy would have taken more time and more funds but the objective of then narrow-minded leaders was to gain immediate political advantage ignoring the long-term consequences to the country. For instance, it was after several years Tamil also became an official language and English declared as the ‘link language’. This was part of the 13th Amendment effected in 1987, following the July 1983 riots and the consequent intervention of India aimed at settling the pestering national (ethnic) problem that emerged three decades ago.

For instance, earlier attempt by the architect of the Sinhala only Act to reduce its hurtful effect on the Tamils was foiled by the nationalists. Both the Bandaranaike-Chelvanayakam pact (B-C Pact) and the subsequent Dudley – Chelva Pact (D-C Pact) remained unimplemented because of the failure to convince the detractors of the need for compromise from the standpoint of the future well-being of the nation. No attempts were made to discard misconceptions about democracy and the basic rights of the ethnic minorities in a truly ‘democratic socialist’ multi-ethnic country. It will be a major breakthrough, if the new constitution is based on the equality of the fundamental rights of all citizens, regardless of their ethnic or religious links.

As I mentioned in my previous article titled ‘Tamil homeland in united Sri Lanka’ posted by Colombo Telegraph on March 13, 2016, the ground for division arose from the thoughtless policies of power greedy political leaders. Tamils, who were at the time of independence firmly committed to one unified multi-ethnic democratic State with equal sovereign rights and freedom for all citizens were unexpectedly driven to seek independence from ethnically discriminatory rule based on the prejudiced notion that the decisions of the ethnic majority are those of the majority in the democratic society. True national politics recognising the actual diverse features with regard to the two native languages and long established residing regions of the ethnic majority and minority communities had been overlooked. Politics in Sri Lanka had focussed on the contest for power by the major parties. The contest has proceeded ignoring the social and economic advancement of the Nation and the majority of citizens.

A new constitution incorporating fundamental human rights of all citizens regardless of their ethnicity, religion and residing place is certainly a much needed move in muddled Sri Lanka still struggling to install good governance. The actions of some powerful politicians are not concurrent with national interest. Without a significant improvement in the attitude of the representatives of the voters, a new constitution incorporating fundamental human rights by itself will not bring about the desired improvements in the various tasks associated with national development. This is not just social and economic development but extends to other areas such as law and order, public administration, financial management, eradication of seizing public funds by corrupt politicians and others having access to these funds and maintaining peaceful co-existence of all communities by promoting mutual trust. Sri Lankan rural voters need some enlightened views on democracy. The voice against corruption and fraud is not coming from the majority of voters. The popularity of corrupt politicians seems to be unaffected amongst bigoted voters. This despicable feature too cannot be got rid of by mere changes to the present constitution. This does not mean the proposed changes giving legality to fundamental rights of all citizens are not needed. Along with these, other moves are needed to get rid of the unhelpful culture that seems to prevail among the narrow-minded citizens, unaware of the properly functioning democracy.

Lessons from the united prosperous multi-ethnic Republic of Singapore

The emergence of the Republic of Singapore, a country smaller than Sri Lanka with a population of diverse ethnicities and mother tongues, as a stable and more advanced than Sri Lanka with regard to the living standards of the people despite the advantage of the latter in terms of the availability of natural resources provides some useful lessons for rebuilding the self-damaged island nation. It is widely known, the wealthy persons including the government ministers in Sri Lanka seek medical treatment in Singapore. Singapore’s dedicated leader Lee Kuan Yew, who succeeded with determination to build his ethnically mixed country that seemed volatile is internationally acknowledged as the founding father of the present united multi-ethnic Republic of Singapore. A brief note of his emergence as a visionary leader responsible for advancing the expelled State from the union of Malaysia into united and relatively advanced Republic of Singapore is given below:

On the advice of the President of Malaysia, Tunku Abdul Rahman, Singapore was expelled from the union of Malaysia as a member state by the Malaysian Parliament on 9 August 1965 with the full support of the members of all states, except Singapore whose members were absent. Under constitutional amendments passed in December that year, the new state became the Republic of Singapore , with Yang di-Pertua Negeri becoming President and Lee Kuan Yew continuing as Prime Minister. The contribution of Lee Kuan Yew, founding father of Singapore, who passed away last year at the age of 91, to make his country, lacking in natural resources one of the wealthiest and least corrupt countries in Asia is remarkable. Mr. Lee was prime minister from 1959, when Singapore gained independence from the British, until 1990, when he stepped down following the defeat of his People’s Action Party (PAP). During the early years, the Republic was virtually a one-party state with Prime Minister as the elected ruler. But Lee Kuan Yew did not misuse his powers for narrow gains at the expense of damaging national unity and development. He was criticised for suppressing freedom, an important human right in the modern world.

Singapore a steadfastly advanced, multi-ethnic and pleasant country has Tamil as one of her official languages. Mandarin (Chinese), Malay and English are the other official languages. Malay is the national language of Singapore. English is recognised as vital for the business sector. English is the medium of instruction in schools, and is also the main language used in formal settings such as in government departments and the courts. Sign boards in Singapore are displayed in all 4 official languages.

Singapore also gives prominence to merit regardless of the person’s ethnicity. Imagine what would have happened if the governments in Singapore had followed the divisive policies of Sri Lankan political leaders, who were not concerned about the damage done to the unity of the nation. Late into his life he remained the dominant personality and driving force in what he called a “First World oasis in a Third World region” The end of Lee Kuan Yew era came with the defeat of People’s Action Party in the 2011 election. Lee Kuan Yew resigned from the specially created post of minister mentor. From 1959 (when Singapore was a member state in Malaysia) until 1990, he was the Prime Minister of Singapore

Although Lee Kuan Yew’s centralised model had clean government and economic liberalism, it was criticised as a soft form of authoritarianism, suppression of political opposition, imposition of strict limits on free speech and public assembly and creation of a climate of caution and self-censorship. But these are also considered as the price for achieving the longer term goals that made Singapore to become a united prosperous country with promising future for all the communities there.

Present constitution-making process

The approach of the present national government to the drafting and enactment of the new constitution is evident from the following section in the political column of the Sunday Times of 3 April 2016. “Other than focusing on economic issues, the Government will set in motion the machinery for the drafting of a Constitution on Tuesday (5 April 2016). The first task will be the appointment of a 21-member Steering Committee which will be responsible for the business of the Constitutional Assembly (a Committee of the full House) for preparing a Draft of a Constitution for Sri Lanka. Though the United National Front Government pledged during both the presidential and parliamentary election campaigns to abolish the executive presidency, there is no mention of such a move in the resolution that was formally adopted to set up a Constitutional Assembly”.

Past Presidents failed to abolish the Executive Presidency as promised when they contested for this powerful post. Let us hope this will not happen again frustrating the common desire of majority of Sri Lankans!

The Sunday Times also mentioned the following in the preamble to the resolution:

“…….. there is broad agreement among the People of Sri Lanka that it is necessary to enact a Constitution for Sri Lanka;

“This Parliament Resolves that— There shall be a Committee which shall have the powers of a Committee of the whole Parliament consisting of all Members of Parliament, for the purpose of deliberating, and seeking the views and advice of the People, on a Constitution for Sri Lanka, and preparing a draft of a Constitution Bill for the consideration of Parliament in the exercise of its powers under Article 75 of the Constitution….”

The challenges

Dayapala Thiranagama in his article ‘The April 5: The Day That Shook The South & Its Legacy ’ in Colombo Telegraph of April 4, 2016 has reminded the aggressive opposition of the JVP to the 13th Amendment that devolved some powers to the provincial councils. He has also mentioned JVP’s continued rejection of devolution of powers that in my view hinders the unification of the psychologically divided nation. To quote: “The JVP still opposes any devolution of power to the Tamil community and do not believe there is a solution to minority grievances until the formation of a true socialist government. Without a deeply embedded democratic culture such assertions are hollow and frequently lead to yet more repression – as witnessed the world over.

The present government is taking steps to build reconciliation with the Tamil community in the North and East. These efforts are fraught with difficulties and will require major policy decisions to meet the democratic aspirations of the Tamils. The government is taking steps to introduce a new Constitution. The JVP appears very lukewarm and refuses to understand these initiatives.”

The split in the SLFP with the dissidents backing the former President, who failed to win the last Presidential election after amending the constitution to enable him to seek a third term as Executive President of Sri Lanka is also a hindrance to the enactment of a new constitution that prevents the misuse of political power, protects the fundamental human rights of all citizens regardless of their ethnicity, religion, residing areas and social status and ensures national unity and sustained development of the country relatively rich in natural resources.

Conclusion

A nationally useful Constitution from the standpoint of safeguarding fundamental human rights of all citizens, regardless of their ethnicity, religion, social status or residing area needs a farsighted impartial approach. The exercise must be viewed as a noble one that will ensure the emergence of a new nation advancing swiftly like Singapore. A united and politically stable country is no threat to any community in the modern world. This development will also dismiss any illusive fears of the ethnic majority in the island nation. A nationally useful constitution cannot be the one formulated from a narrow standpoint of winning the votes of the ethnic majority in the country. It is remarkable the United Kingdom has been functioning smoothly for centuries without a written constitution because of the commitment of all political parties there to democracy, social justice, law and order, religious freedom, fair social services etc.

Sri Lanka with written Constitutions, the current one has the title, ‘The Constitution of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka failed to act prudently in the national interest. But, very little has been done by past governments to make the country truly democratic and socialist. On the contrary, both concepts have been smudged by the neglect of national interest by unethical self-centred leaders. The unethical way, the system functioned not only ignored true Democracy and Socialism but also led to phenomenal rise in corruption and fraud benefitting the rich at the expense of the welfare of the poor. The objective to safeguard the fundamental rights of all citizens, regardless of their ethnicities, religious beliefs and social standings is noble but will this also be of those keen on grabbing power for parochial reasons or those who embrace majoritarianism? The righteous thinking that led to the singing of the national anthem in Tamil too during this year’s independence day celebration must prevail in the coming months when deciding on the fundamental clauses of the new constitution. By the way, it was only the second time after independence in 1948, the Tamil version of the national anthem was also sung on February 4, 2016. This noble attitude must prevail during the drafting of the new Constitution, which hopefully will incorporate fundamental human rights in the noble interest of the entire nation.

* The writer is Retd. Addl. Deputy Secretary to the Treasury, UN Advisor: Development Economics/Planning

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Latest comments

  • 7
    4

    “A new constitution incorporating fundamental human rights of all citizens regardless of their ethnicity, religion and residing place is certainly a much needed move in muddled Sri Lanka still struggling to install good governance.”

    The first step towards this objective should be non recognision of political parties based on ethnicity or religion such as HELA Urumaya, TAMIL National Alliance or MUSLIM Congress in the electoral register.

    Again and again the elephant in the room – Tamils(Tamil speaking people ) living outside North and East – is ignored in discussing “devolution”. It must be emphasized that this question arises only as long as ethnic and religious enclaves are recognized in the constitution.

    The real bold step is to abolish the existing provincial councils and strict imposition of equality of all citizens regardles of their ethnicity, religion or residing place. Anything else is perpetuation of conflict.

    Soma

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      Soma

      Yes, all the Sri Lankans should be identified as Sri Lankans; not as Sinhalese, Tamils, Muslims, Burger or Buddhists,Christians,Hindus, Islam etc.

      Birth certificates and identity cards should not contain these worthless information.

      All of us are human beings so why should we highlight small worthless differences.

      And making a common law for all concerned is also very important as human needs, aspirations and desires are common for all of us.

      • 4
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        sr

        “Yes, all the Sri Lankans should be identified as Sri Lankans; not as Sinhalese, Tamils, Muslims, Burger or Buddhists,Christians,Hindus, Islam etc.”

        Why not re-brand them as merely Sinhala/Buddhists?

        Ban all other languages, reimpose Sinhala only language policy, crown a Radala king, nationalise all foreign companies, make external trade illegal, ban all foreign travel, reintroduce exit permit, …. need more ethnic riots to cleanse the Sinhala/Buddhist kingdom, burn libraries, …………..

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          “Why not rebrand them as merely Sinhala Buddhists?”

          why should we?

          People must enjoy freedom to use the language they like; Sinhala,Tamil or English and freedom of thought.

          Sad that your last paragraph does not give any relevance to the matter.

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          Native Vedda

          In every country, that country is identified in their majority’s name.

          So, why it is bad for sri lanka.

          Rules are there. but the system is set up in a way to support the majority.

          Why India is called Hindusthan ?

          Why Queen elizabeth is the head of the anglican church ?

          • 3
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            jim softy dimwit

            “Why India is called Hindusthan ?”

            Hindustan is derived from the Old Persian word Hindu, which in turn is derived from Sindhu, the Sanskrit name for theIndus River.[3] Old Persian refers to the people living beyond the Indus as Hinduš.

            http://www.quora.com

            People who were living beyond river Sindhu meaning body of trembling water, river (North West of present India)were known to Persians as Hindus. There was no Hindi language then nor was there Hindu religion.

            Bharat was not named after any particular religion nor there was a language as Bharat.

            India was coined by the Brits from Greek word Ἰνδία (Indía)

            “Why Queen elizabeth is the head of the anglican church ?”

            Was MR the head of Sinhala/Buddhism church?

            “Rules are there. but the system is set up in a way to support the majority.”

            Where?

    • 2
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      Soma,

      “The real bold step is to abolish the existing provincial councils and strict imposition of equality of all citizens regardles of their ethnicity, religion or residing place. Anything else is perpetuation of conflict.”

      Are you also proposing to bring back English as the medium of administration? You do not want to perpetuate the conflict but no qualms about perpetuating the root causes of the conflict!

    • 2
      2

      I think the first step towards the objective should should remove the Buddhism out of the constitution. Secondly, Tamils and Sinhalese should become official language and both language should be taught in all schools and when it comes to employment including security forces, every one should have equal qualification in both languages. For example, if you are applying for a teacher post, candidates should have at least credit in both Sinhala and Tamil. In schools every child should learn all religions or none. The special treatment given to religious leaders should be taken out. All politicians should have a minimum qualification in both languages. The National anthem should be sung in all languages.The national flag should be revised and lion with sword should be removed and a common symbol should beome the national flag.

  • 2
    2

    Ban casteism based discrimination in Sri lanka.

  • 4
    1

    Soma,
    “Strict imposition of equality”!!!. How is it possible under a Sinhala-Buddhist rule. First of all over 1 million Tamils belonging to the labour force in Tea estates were disenfranchised after they were brought for labour from 1830 onwards. Some of them who have lived and labored for the country’s profitable Tea industry for 2 generations were chased out. Whereas Malays and Burghers were allowed to stay.

    Official language Act robbed thousands of jobs and increments from Tamil employees. Standardization deprived Tamil students from university admissions. Do you believe strict equality is possible in this country?

    What is your point about Tamils living outside the North and Wast? If you study the Federal system in other countries like India,America, and Europe you will see that any ethnic or religious group can live in any Federal province they choose.

    • 2
      3

      Soma and other Sinhalese hardliners really do not want any just rights of federalism granted to the island’s indigenous Eelam Tamils who have the same or more rights to the island than most of the present day so called Sinhalese most of whom are descended from recently migrated Indian Tamils( be it from then Tamil Kerala or modern Tamil Nadu). Most of the Tamil population living outside the north and the east( almost 90% ) are of Indian origin and not the Indigenous Tamils, they have always lived there.
      What have they or other even the other Tamils living outside the north and east or even overseas, have got to do with the just rights of the Eelam Tamils and the protection and safeguarding of their own ancient unique form of Tamil, Saivite religion and culture in their ancient historical homeland in the north and east, from further illegal Sinhalese colonisation and Sinhalese military atrocities and land grabbingby giving the self rule and a federal solution that the British should have given when they left the island in 1948 but failed to do and created all this mess.
      There are more Scots Welsh and Irish living outside Scotland Wales or Ireland and more Jews living outside Israel. This did not prevent the Jews getting a state called Israel in their historical homeland , Britain granting independence to Ireland and self rule to Scotland and Wales.
      Sinhalese extremists like Soma will always find flimsy excuses on how not to grant any rights to Tamils will bring small regional caste and religious differences within the Tamils that all ethnic groups including the Sinhalese have, then stating lots of Tamils are living outside north and east so cannot give federal solution to the Tamil North and East.
      Yes lots of Tamils live outside north and east so how does this prevent the Tamils living in the north and east in their ancient historic homeland, where the Tamil culture language is thriving and needs protection from getting a federal solution? Tamil culture is not being protected or fostered outside the North and East. Even in north and east unless further protection is provided under federal solution, the occupying racist Sinhalese army and further encroachment by illegal state sponsored Sinhalese settlement will destroy it.
      Others will state there should be no ethnic parties and identities only a common Sri Lankan identity. What the basically mean is there should be no other identity and this so called common Sri Lankan identity is a Sinhalese Buddhist identity. Otherwise why is it enshrined in the constitution that only the Sinhalese language and the Buddhist religion should have the prime place and all the heads of state departments and the armed forces/Police should only be Sinhalese Buddhists? Sinhalese language and Buddhism had never had any prime of place in the north or east until 1948. It was the Tamil language and Saivaism with Christianity and Islam given their due respect and rights.

      • 2
        2

        The Tamil language and culture is only existing and thriving in the island because of the Tamil speaking population in the north and east. Once this is destroyed here gradually the Tamil language and culture will die off, as their is no patronage or incentive to keep it alive, especially from a racist Sinhalese government and population. This is what happened to the Tamil populations that lived along the western and southern littorals , to the Colombo Chetties, the Tamil Paravans or Bharatas and the ancient Tamil population that lived in Wellasa and Hath Korale after the arrival of the British. All have now become Sinhalese or very fast becoming Sinhalese The same thing will happen to the rest of the Tamils living down south. Other than the indigenous Eelam Tamil, it is only the Indian origin estate Tamils who were the only immigrant Tamil group that kept their Tamil identity. This was due to tow factors. Their complete isolation and their backwardness. You can now see many educated Indian origin Tamils, especially amongst the Christians fast taking on a Sinhalese identity.
        This is the reason the Sinhalese will find any excuse not to grant self rule and federalism to the Tamil northeast as this will protect the ancient Tamil identity and character of this region and prevent further Sinhalese encroachment in these areas. They want to destroy it, that is why all the state sponsored illegal Sinhalese colonisation schemes began to deliberately change the demography to marginalise the Tamils in their own areas. Stationing large amount of racist Tamil hating Sinhalese armed forces, building Buddhist Vihara and Buddha statue and obtaining the support of the opportunistic immigrant Tamil Muslims, with all sorts of perks and crumbs from the Sinhalese table is another ploy. These Sinhalese hardliners will bring all sorts of flimsy excuses not to recognise and grant self rule/federalism to the ancient historic Tamil northeast, as this will protect all the islands Tamils( this included the Tamil Muslims) A place of refuge for them in the face of danger, just like the way Israel was formed after the holocaust. This will also destroy their dream of a mono ethnic Sinhalese Buddhist nation, that their Mahavamsa fable promised them but in reality was never there as large parts of the island was Tamil from ancient times.
        Many of them will come here with all sorts of false concerns for the Tamils, especially for the ones living outside the north and east. A concern that they had never shown for the past 60 years otherwise one million Indian origin Tamils would never have been made stateless after living in the island from 1830 and forcibly deported to India, with Indian help. Or the riots of 1956,1977 and 1983 would not have happened. By pretending to be concerned,they are also subtly threatening and reminding the Tamils that the Tamils living in the south will be treated as hostages if they dare to ask for self rule and Tamil rights in the north and east.

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        “Soma and other Sinhalese hardliners really do not want any just rights of federalism granted to the island’s indigenous Eelam Tamils who have the …

        I wish to see one country where all citizens are absolutely equal in all respects and no ethnicity, religion or language is officially recognized. That is the path of least bloodshed.

        However if the country is to be devided along ethnic and religious lines there cannot be a “Tamil Homeland” exclusively for Hindi and Christian Tamils while the Tamils who follow Islam and those arrived during British occupy the “Sinhala Homeland” That is no solution to the “National Problem”. What is next is more than obvious.

        Soma

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      Ramesh

      Any argument concocted to justyfy continuation of Tamils (Tamil speaking people ) living ouside North/East is unadulterated hypocrisy. Immediately it takes away the contention that Sinhalese are discrndimasinatory, the main argument pressed in justification for a frderal unit.

      When the plantation Tamils were given the opportunity to live within the same language, cultue and religion in a technologically advancing, economically prospering regional superpower they opted to live that menial existence among the Sinhalese. This again nullifies the accusation that Sinhalese are discriminatory.

      Sinhalese should be very causious of falling into this “North AND East are for us and the rest is for all of us” trap. In return Sinhalese are free to live in Jafna? Thank you.

      We remember how you have completely ethnic clensed the North from Sinhalese, chased away your own Tamils who practise Islam as their religion, blocked water to Sinhala famers in Mawil Aru and spurned RW-VP pact to go for total separation.

      Soma

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        Soma,

        The Tamils simply do not trust the Sinhala! There are very good reasons for this sentiment! The post-independence history is littered with examples of Sinhala deceptions and blatant hegemonic disposition. The fear of the Tamils is that the Sinhala will Sinhalese all of Sri Lanka by hook and by nook regardless of which main party is power. There are ample examples of this happening and the fear of the Tamils is completely correct.

        You can talk about a sizeable tamil population living outside of the N&E and it will not make any difference. The Tamils want to safeguard what is left of their historical areas and this is democratic and just. You talk about banning all ethnic based political parties! The history tells us that the mainstream parties such as the SLFP and UNP that did all the damages and not the fringe ethnic parties. Hence, banning them will be a futile exercise.

        Soma, you must not take the Tamils on these forums for fools as we have seen it all. Sri Lanka must devolve power to the Tamils. She can only develop as a united nation on this basis to start with. If in the future, she is successful in becoming trilingual, the prospect of better union will be feasible.

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        Ethnic cleansing of Sinhalese in the North and East! whom are trying to fool you racist woman? The Sinhalese population were not even 1.8% in the North and East in 1948. Less than 1% in the north and around 4% in the east. Now the Sinhalese are 23% in the east more than 5% in the north. Tamils reduced from around 70% in the east to 40% Who has been ethnically cleansed? Go and look at all the maps of the north and east prior to 1948 hardly any Sinhalese place name. Now full if Sinhalese place names Pattipalai to Galoya. Aruvi Aru to Malwattuoya. Kantalai to Kantale, Manal Aru to WeliOya. There were two Tamil MPs and one Tamil Muslim MP for Trincomalee district. Now only one Tamil MP and a Sinhalese MP has pooped out of nowhere since 1977 due to large scale illegal Sinhalese colonisation in the 1970. Whom are trying to fool with your lies and racist propaganda you hard line racist Sinhalese woman

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          Cool story, bro :D

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            Comedian Sarma,

            Man your appearance is enough to send me in laughter! :D You say little and that is enough; you are such a comedian :D

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              The biggest comedy or tragedy is this man has stolen my name and identity and is going around posting trash at various forums under my name

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            Comedian Sarma,

            I am going nuts with laughter; man you are a genius. :D How do you do it?

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      Ramesh – “How is it possible…….?”

      It’s a serious misunderstanding, there’s no Sinhala Buddhist rule in Sri Lanka.

      Sri Lanka is a democratic country. The minority are reasonably represented in our parliament, however if Tamil people aren’t happy with the representation they can democratically discuss matters.

      it’s not fair to describe that there’s a Sinhala Buddhist rule as the majority are them. To my understanding it’s opportunity minded Tamil politicians who started racial politics. Some Sinhala politicians also started parties based on racial and religious grounds but the majority have never accepted them.

      About Tamil estate workers: It’s the British who brought Tamil workers from India as a result of Sinhala people’s refusal to work on tea estates, so at first they weren’t meant to be citizens in Sri Lanka, however it was the failure of the British to give them political representation in India. We accept the fact that those Tamil workers contribute immensely for the economy and most importantly they are human beings.

      However after independence they were identified as a burden (quite reasonably because we had had enough labour force here) to the country and as a result of that Sirima-Shastry pact came into action to send back some to India and some to be given citizenship.
      It should be emphasized that not a single Tamil worker was chased back from Sri Lanka.

      The language problems for higher education will not exist for long as the medium of instruction is becoming English now.

      To my knowledge there’s no Hindu rule in India, no white or English rule in the USA, UK, Australia or New Zealand.

      Please don’t describe Sri Lanka in an incorrect way to give a bad impression to the world. It’s a discrimination for innocent Sinhala and Buddhist people.

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        sr,

        “it’s not fair to describe that there’s a Sinhala Buddhist rule as the majority are them.”

        Time for you to fly a kite!

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        Just like you wanted the Indian origin estate Tamils who had lived in the island since 1830 and contributed to more than 90%of the island’s revenue at one time to be returned to India because the British forcibly imported them. We want all the present day Sinhalese Karawa, Salagama, Durawa,Hali, Hunu all to be deported back to Tamil Nadu and Kerala as the Portuguese and Dutch colonials imported them to the island from these two parts of India only a few centuries before the Indian origin estate Tamils arrived. We also want the Malays sent back to Java as the Dutch imported them and all the Burghers sent back to Holland or to Portugal as they have part Dutch or Portuguese origin. The only thing is more than 95% of the Burghers have already left the island, as they did not want live in your Sinhala Buddhist only genocidal hellhole.
        Happy what is good for the Indian Tamils is good for everyone else.

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          Paul

          There was no provision through the Sirima Shasthri pact to send all the Tamil estate workers back to India. What really happened was sharing the responsibility of these people by 2 neighboring countries, India also had regard for these people as they were Indian Tamils.

          So there’s no need for anybody to shed crocodile tears for that.

          However the pact became defunct in the latter part of seventies and those Tamil people are living hand in hand with rest of the population.

          People are not goods to import, however British may have showed them a green pastures to bring them here.

          The best thing the British could do was convincing Sinhala people to work in their tea gardens or giving up plantations and doing something else.
          For the fault of colonial masters the innocent Sinhalese are blamed, that’s the pity. The irony is that the blame is coming from inside.

          The people; according to you who came here during Portuguese and Dutch periods; ( I don’t have knowledge about it) that’s long time ago and in comparison to Tamil estate workers, the number may be very low and didn’t give negative impact upon economy or society.

          Sri Lanka didn’t want a tea economy and even now if there’s a way to get rid of it we would.
          We don’t want to blame anybody but please stop concocting stories to defame Sinhalese and Buddhist people.

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            You never knew or pretended not to know as you also may be one of their descendants of these recently Sinhalised low caste Indian Tamils who were imported into the island by the Portuguese and Dutch. Most of the rabid anti Tamils supporting various extremist Sinhalese sites like Lankaweb Spur is full of them.
            So Indian origin estate Tamils who were forcibly imported into the island by the British and contributed most to the island’s economy are recent but the all these recently Sinhalised low castes who were imported into the island by the Portuguese and Dutch from Tamil Nadu and then Tamil Kerala, as well as the largely anti Tamil Malay population like Izzeth HUssain who are also another lot of imports from Java are not so recent, as this suits the racist Sinhalese agenda.
            Ok If the Sinhalese can make one million Indian origin estate Tamils who had lived in the island for eight generations stateless and deport them to India, we Tamils want all these Sinhalese who were only settled in the north and east illegally on ethnically cleansed Tamil lands in the past 60 years( most of them in the part 30 years) deported back to the Sinhalese south. Only the ones who came here legally and purchased lands legally from Tamil owners can remain. The rest of the illegal Sinhalese settlers (99%) of them on ethnically cleansed Tamil lands can get out. What is good for the Sinhalese is good for the Tamils too. The same law should apply. You can chase away 1 million Indian origin estate Tamils, who had lived there for more than 120 years and contributed to more than 75% of the then Sri Lankan revenue back to India, just to maintain the Sinhalese majority in the Kandyan areas and also for more Sinhalese MPS in the parliament. We also have the right to chase away around 230000 illegal Sinhalese settlers settled by all racist Sinhalese led Sri Lankan governments since independence with the help of the racist war criminal Sinhalese Sri Lankan armed forces, on ethnically cleansed Tamil lands deliberately in order change the demography and make the Tamils a marginalised minority in their own lands. Unlike the Indian origin estate Tamils, these illegal Sinhalese settlers who had been settled and still being settled using a lot of state funds, have not been productive on any front and have only been creating chaos and misery to the indigenous Tamil populations in the north and east and had been actively taking part in the killing raping and ethnic cleansing of Tamils with the Sinhalese/Malay led Sri Lankan armed forces. They deserved to be kicked out

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              Sinhalese aren’t racial

              It’s Tamils who want a separate country or federal system or any form of regional rule on racial basis.Because of that Tamils are racial.

              Their life in Jaffna is self-imposed isolation. They have a concept called traditional Tamil homeland because they are racial.

              It should be kept in mind that Sri Lanka; the whole island is the traditional homeland of all the people living in this land.

              The whole island belongs to all the communities living here.

              It should be noted that the North doesn’t belong to Tamils and likewise South doesn’t belong to Sinhalese.

              There’s no Tamil north and Sinhala south.

              Making attempts to highlight small things like people who had come here during Portuguese and Dutch time also reflect racism and it goes further to show how influencial Tamils support caste system.

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    I share the following statement by John Gray, carried by the ‘New Statesman’, 1-7 April 2016, pages 25 – 29.

    “Illiberal democracy is a recurring feature of modern political life…popular government has no necessary connection with the freedom of individuals or minorities. Of course, liberals today will say this can be remedied by installing the rule of constitutional rights. Such systems are fragile, however, and count for nothing when large sections of society are indifferent or actively hostile to liberal values. Where this is the case, democracy means not much more than the tyranny of the majority.”

    (Gray is a retired Professor, London School of Economics and Political Science.)

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    First step. recognise the Indian Tamil Estate Workforce as british Nationals Overseas.

    Then, provisions be made that the British Government issue the Indian Tamil estate labour Force with British National Overseas Passports as that had been issued to the Hong Kong Chinese before HK was handed over to the Chinese as this is long overdue..

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      What a gratitude that you show for those poor people who slogged their livelihood for the betterment of the Sri Lankan economy for decades!

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      If that happens everybody will be claiming that they are Estate Tamils.

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      “First step; recognize the Indian Tamil estate workforce as British nationals overseas.”

      As far as I know all the Indian Tamil estate workers living in Sri Lanka are now Sri Lankan citizens enjoying equal rights as others.

      So it’s of no use calling them Indian Tamils.

      Majority of them are poor because they came empty handed from India and with their arrival thousand of sinhalese also became poor because the British had grabbed their lands to start tea gardens.

      If there’s a dream for this social group to be identified as British nationals overseas: I don’t think it’s possible. There’s no way to justify it, or it’s too late now. They could have asked for it at the dawn of independence in 1948.
      You can’t make it an issue.There’s a remote possibility for it.

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      As per your logic Sinhalese Karawa Salagama Durawa Hunu Hali Etc now all making up around 50% of the Sinhalese should all be issued with Portuguese and Dutch national overseas passports, as they were imported into the island by the Portuguese and the Dutch and deported back to present day Kerala and Tamil Nadu as aliens. Happy

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    Dr. Narapalasingham,

    Your emphasis on constitutional protection of minority rights through a provision similar to Article 29 in the 1947 constitution is well accepted. I myself have emphasized this aspect in previous articles. Without going into history too much, my effort in public writing has been to emphasize the necessary principles for justice and reconciliation, here and now, among all communities. History should be kept in mind, but people do have different interpretations. I do recognize, however, your right to express your point of view.

    There can be multiple ways of addressing justice and reconciliation in a new constitution. Some of them would be: (1) A preamble emphasizing democratic principles and multiculturalism. (2) A more substantive fundamental human rights chapter including economic, social and cultural rights. (3) A chapter on fundamental duties of the state, political parties and the citizens. (4) Establishment of a system of cooperate devolution. (5) Independence of the judiciary with judicial review. My conception of devolution is ‘cooperate devolution.’

    In my opinion, resolution of the ethnic conflict requires a ‘transitional scheme’ which recognizes the different identities on the one hand, and transcends them for a greater unity on the other hand. ‘Recognition’ and ‘going beyond’ are the two principles necessary.

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      DR LF,

      “Your emphasis on constitutional protection of minority rights through a provision similar to Article 29 in the 1947 constitution is well accepted.”

      The fact that we had this provision in the 1948 Constitution and it was eschewed unceremoniously by the majority with no consultations whatsoever with the minorities. Hence, if this provision is enacted again, what guarantees are there for a future Sinhala leader in the mould of MR from jettisoning it? What additional safeguards can be set in stone that such provisions cannot be altered but only can be improved on?

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      Prof. Laksiri Fernando,

      In an entire section in the new constitution the rights of the people in terms of citizenship, languages spoken,religions professed/practiced, communities, physical handicaps, sexes, old, young, learning, rich and poor,health care, political beliefs, property, dissent and of those who have allegedly contravened the laws of this country, should be embedded and exceptions should not be permitted.

      There are a variety of minorities embedded within the majority and minorities principally identified on the basis of language and religion, and this should be recognized in the constitution. The poor in this country are the unrecognized and least talked of majority in this country. There rights are violated with impunity at every turn by the State macinary.

      It is very important to embed in the constitution principle that every citizen regardless of how he/she is identified, is an equal citizen and has rights not less or more than another and should have the opportunity to build on his/her abilities and disabilities and provided the right to live as best they could with it or despite it.

      Physical violence against groups of citizens and their property should be made the most serious criminal offense in this country. As a corollary, hate speech and deeds should also be declared crimes befitting the highest punishment in this country.

      We should not play coy with these issues any longer.

      Dr.Rajasingham Narendran

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        Dear dr RN

        “There are a variety of minorities embedded within the majority and minorities principally identified on the basis of language and religion, and this should be recognized in the constitution.”

        With due respect, I toally disagree identifying minorities ( or majority for that matter) on the basis of religion (how do YOU know what I believe?). On practical grounds people can be separated only on the basis of language. As far as I am concerned there are only two categories in Sri Lanka – Sinhala speakers and Tamil speakers. Actually if you observe, TNA use the words “Tamils” and “Tamil speaking people” incoherently and one doesn’t know whom they are claiming to represent. I suspect “Tamils” to TNA is only Hindu and Christian Tamils in the North leaving aside those who practise Islam as their religion and those arrived during the British. That is quite alright provided they articulate it clearly. How can you have a serious dialog on a “national question” without each party clearly and unambiguously stating whom they are representing? You must acknowledge that they have a case for merging North and East only if they represent “Tamil speaking people”, otherwise not. On the other hand if it is “Tamil speaking people” then +50% live outside North and East.

        As I said earler “Tamils” to me is “Tamil speaking people” and for this reason I am at a loss to think of a suitable devolution model which covers at least 90 % of Tamil speaking people in view of their ditribution across the island. You must also acknowledge that arguments applicable to minorities are also valid for minorities within minorities.

        I am extremely perturbed over the difficulties Tamil speaking people undergo on accout of their language. Particularly in dealing with the state machinery, In Colombo I have met poor people from Jafna and plantations struggling with the language which has moved me to the extreme. The government must be prepared to allocate unlimited funds to alleviate this situation. There are no political solutions to these issues. In fact it is this cursed “political soluition” that has kept the people away from learning the majority language and kept them in self isolation,

        Soma

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          Soma,

          Every citizen should have the right to be, what he/ she wants to be and believe in what he/ she wants to in this country, provided he/she does not break the operative laws that are just and fair. The State should see a citizen only as an individual and make sure he/she has the protection, security and support of the State to be be equal to any other. We have to have a link language, that is also a language that connects us to the world and is the key to the vast treasure of knowledge available in that language. Australian children now have the option to learn Chinese, because of the position China occupies today. It is no doubt a forward looking nation. English should be taught in all our schools well.

          Let us be what we are, while also opening our doors to the best in the world. We cannot be frogs in the well in terms of our internal affairs nor in relation to the world,this century onwards. We are becoming increasing a part of the global family.bWhat is important is that our Sti Lankan identity encompasses our diversity and fits in with universal values.

          Dr.RN

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    Article 29 in the Soulbury constitution is too little too late!

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