28 October, 2021

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Give Full Force And Effect To The Separation Of Powers And Unity In Diversity

By Chathurika Rajapaksha

Chathurika Rajapaksha

On the 19th day of May 2009, with the end of the military conflict that had divided the country for over thirty years, Sri Lanka entered a new era.

The next step that Sri Lanka has to face is also extremely sensitive due to nationalistic feelings of the various ethnic groups. A durable peace can be built only if all these groups that go to form the Sri Lankan society feel that they are a part of the same nation.

Building a nation had always been somehow a difficult task in Sri Lanka. Susil Sirivardana in his article titled “Paradigms and Foundations in Nation Building: A Way of Understanding” underlines that Sri Lankan leaderships believe in illusions that historically we were already a nation and hence, nation building as such, was not the central challenge of national politics. The articles mentioned in this paper appear in the book “Nation Building:Priorities for Sustainability and Inclusivity” edited by Gnana Moonesighe.

The post-conflict situation is the opportunity to introspect the mistakes done in the past and to undertake profound reforms. Indeed, today’s context offers new perspectives and the people of Sri Lanka who await impatiently to live in a peaceful nation seem to be ready to accept changes.

What do we want?

When we consider the nation building process of countries such as France, there were foundations that had contributed towards implanting the idea of a “nation”. Among such foundations, we can for instance underline one’s respect for the sovereignty of the people and the acknowledgement of unity in diversity arising from religious and ethnic differences.

As regard to the sovereignty of the people, it is imperative that the separation of powers that is Legislative, Executive and Judicial should not be confined to the Constitution only; it must be practiced by the leadership so that the power rests always with the people in a democratic set up.

This separation of powers was theorized by Montesquieu in his book “The Spirits of the Laws“. This model of governance structures the powers of a nation among the three branches, each branch having separate and independent powers in order to prevent the concentration of powers within one branch or one person. Therefore, the people can elect their leaders without any fear or duress. As we know, France built its foundations of good governance on those lines.

In Sri Lanka, the 1978 Constitution provides for the separation of powers to which it is necessary to give full force and effect, particularly in the context of a peace building process. This would contribute towards gaining the trust of all Sri Lankan people. It is well-known that until 1977, a Sri Lankan voter had the power to change the government and as a result the country was governed alternatively by the two main parties. It was known that at one time,Sri Lanka was the envy of countries such as Singapore.

As regard to the unity in diversity, Sri Lankans of different religious background have coexisted side by side in harmony for many centuries, enjoying the core values. One could wonder whether article 9 of the 1978 Constitution which gives special protection to Buddhism had interfered with that stability. Since religious harmony is a corner-stone for nation building, in future governance of the country, all religions and free thinkers must be given equal recognition. Much hard feeling can be avoided as mentioned by A.C. Visvalingam in his article titled “Resolution of Majority and Minority Concerns” by minimizing “references to race, religion and other divisive descriptions in all laws and official work as far as practically possible.” The aim being that Sri Lankan people are made to feel that they are first Sri Lankan and that their ethnic and religious specificities come thereafter.

The Diaspora Youth also needs to bear in mind that the economic development is also an important factor in nation building process. As mentioned by Marchal Fernando in his article titled “Sri Lankan Economy in Nation Building”, it is noteworthy that economic development helps to bring people together as it generates wealth “to satisfy the needs and aspirations of the citizens, irrespective of ethnicity, religion, or any other differentiation in society”.

How to raise awareness on such values?

Building bridges between Sri Lanka and France could contribute to such economic development. Therefore, the Diaspora Youth could support and encourage young Sri Lankan entrepreneurs in their activities for instance by awarding the best innovative initiatives or helping Sri Lankan entrepreneurs to penetrate the developed countries’ markets.

The Diaspora Youth had already started to write in papers about these subjects. We must continue to do so as media is an important change agent in public attitudes.

*Chathurika Rajapaksha is an attorney-at-law (Paris bar). She holds a Master from Assas University (Paris) and an LLM from the London Metropolitan University (UK).

Chathurika Rajapaksha participated in the French-Sri Lankan Diaspora Youth Workshop “Post-War Reconciliation Dialogue for a Sustainable Peace”, which took place in Paris, on October 27th, 2012, as a panelist on the theme The role of the Diaspora youth in Sri Lanka’s peace building process. The event was organized by What’s Next!, a forum comprising of post-graduates and young professionals of Sri Lankan origin residing in France. What’s Next! seeks to promote a sustainable peace in Sri Lanka through intellectual exchange and multicultural dialogue.
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    Chathuri your intentions, are no doubt, very good. However I beg to differ on history. A careful read of lankan history shows that a state of hostility, between Sinhala/Helu/Prakrit speaking Buddhist and Tamil speaking Hindus/Buddhists, was the NORM. The only period of inter ethnic ‘love-in’ was during the periods of European colonization. When there was a common enemy.

    My personal opinion is that the Diaspora should not have a role in ethnic reconciliation in SL before reforming themselves!

    The fact of the matter is our particular diaspora is more polarized, after the defeat of the LTTE ,than before. The most vocal groups within the diaspora have extremist views. The diaspora groups/youths, should show that they are capable of friendly relations, in their countries of domicile, between the ethnicities.

    Other than some old Boys/Girls associations of Colombo schools there are never any large scale Sinhala /Tamil joint functions in any of these countries. In fact these communities view each other with aloofness and suspicion if not outright hostility. It is only proper that Sri Lankans abroad should show that they are capable of unity before engaging in projects that bring about unity in SL itself.

    The biggest contribution Diaspora youth can do is bringing the warring parents, of different ethnicities, together in their respective countries of domicile. The Diaspora peace building project is the need of the hour. It is shameful how the Lankan Diaspora behave, tale carrying, disrespecting each others events and functions etc etc. Always viewing the problem only from the point of view of the their particular community.

    If they can’t get along outside SL. Where there is no evil GOSL to spoil the party, how on earth are they going to go back to SL to preach reconciliation? First unite the Diaspora!!!!

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      I agree fully with Bedrock Barney. Many of the younger diaspora generations seem to just believe whatever their parents and grandparents tell them about Sri Lankan history. Sadly, these parents and grandparents are the ones responsible for much of the bloodshed and division in Sri Lanka since independence.

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    As long as the nasty and brutish Rajapassa regime is around there will be no unity or human development in Lanka. We need to stop talking about (neoliberal) economic development which fetishises GDP and exacerbates inequality and REGIONAL UNDERDEVELOPMENT, CORRUPTION, LAND GRABBING AND TRANSFER OF PUBLIC WEALTH into private hands as is happening today, and talk about HUMAN DEVELOPMENT. Sri Lanka needs HUMAN DEVELOPMENT and EQUITABLE economic development and it is foolish to think that economic development can be de-linked from governance.
    The fact is that the Divineguama Bill is completely the wrong way to do development crating a massive agency rather than streamlined and targetted transfers to the poor. Governance and development in Lanka under Rajapasssa is retrograde and distorted.
    The Parliamentary Select Committee on the Chief Justice is a KANGAROO COURT! As the UN officer has noted:
    “The misuse of disciplinary proceedings as a reprisals mechanism against independent judges is unacceptable.
    STRATEGIC THINKING TOWARDS REGIME CHANGE IS NECESSARY.
    The opposition and that clownish Dictator Ranil Wickramasinghe should say clearly to the Sri Lankapeople that the PSC is a Kangaroo court and they are participating to save the democracy and judiciary in Sri Lanka, so rather than rushing to nominate its members and act as if the impeachment is warrented when is is clearly Rajapass who should be impeached.
    The opposition members at the PSC should adopt the same delay tactics nominating members to the PSC and seek to drag out the process-n while organizing the people to protest Arab Spring style of the streets and bring the Rajapass regime of crooks and thugs to disrepute. Do as the Rajapassa brothers when it suits them.
    The problem with the UNP dictator, RW is that the thinks that the people are stupid and should be kept ignorant, so that he can display is little knowledge and feel great!

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    It is welcome that our youth speak out for democracy and justice. I notice that our children are better than us in their liberal and secular views. Time for our senile and corrupt leaders with their entrenched views on race and religon step aside and allow the fresh winds of democracy blow through this nation. Give our youth the chance to come up without stifleing them in our self made ignorance and bigotry.

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    Economic Development for Reconciliation is banal tosh in Sri Lanka today where the name of the game is SPIN with corrupt governance.
    The uneducated and corrupt Los Angeles Petrol Station attendant who is so-called “Minister of Economic development” in Banana Republic has not got a clue about development – human development or otherwise. He is a looter of public wealth and state lands all along the coast to build hotels for UNETHICAL TOURISM while displacing people and fisher communities. What sort of economic development is this? Get real, look beyond the SPIN and talk about ETHICAL DEVELOPEMENT AND TOURISM. Tourists aand Diaspora should boycott all Rajapakse / crony hotels built on looted land in Passikudha and Kalpitiya.
    Meanwhile, there is austerity and cut backs for the youth in education and the universities, but the Rajapakse youth are sporting Lambughinis and Formula 1 Car Racing! Banana Republic indeed!

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    Chathurica,
    Judiciary and its bodyguards, the lawyers are not as clean or honest as you think.

    Have you ever heard a group of lawyers who desecrated the Colombo High Court by abusing a lady judge and one of her male colleagues in raw filth and breaking furniture in protest against the White Flag trial-at-Bar judgment last year got away with it. Interestingly, a few months later it is the same lawyers we’ve heard baying for a minster’s blood for allegedly threatening the Mannar Magistrate.

    Do you know that if we Simple Pereras raise our voice even a bit when answering questions at a court or hadn’t fastened our top shirt button, or do not sit as we are in a church, or bow our heads down while talking to a judge, or talk freely about a bias judgement or not follow many many other minor rules that we do not know of, we get arraigned immediately on the charge of contempt of court and punished. Minister S. B. Dissanayake is a case in point; he was sentenced to RI for ridiculing and disparaging a Supreme Court judgment in a faraway place. In Sri Lanka, big-head is an illness of judges and crookedness is an illness of lawyers. It has become a part of Sri Lanka politics my dear.
    Leela

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    Chathurika,
    I cannot understand why you wonder article 9 of our Constitution that gives special protection to Buddhism interferes with the stability of Sri Lanka. A special place for Buddhism was given in our Constitution only in 1971. We never had ‘stability’ even before that.

    You see; when GG Ponnambalm who asked 50-50 seats for less than 12%, joined the government with DS for ‘nation building’, Chelva, his junior and a separatist as he is, wasn’t happy. So, Chelva formed a new party dedicated for separatism (ITAK) in 1949, but narrated it as the federal party (FP) for Sinhalas. Leave out Buddhism, Sinhalas had no top jobs in the government at that time. Vellahlas intimated to us that we Sinhalas are modayas.

    Now about special place for Buddhism in our Constitution. First Chathurika, google and read the long history of Sri Lanka and the place for Buddhism had been and then estimate the truth yourself. Next read item 5 of the Kandyan Convention or the agreement signed between the British and the Chiefs of the Kandyan Kingdom in 1815. Its Clause 5 says; “The religion of the Buddha is declared inviolable and its rights to be maintained and protected.” If that is the case tell us what’s wrong reintroducing the same in our constitution.

    Another point: all Middle Eastern countries, Pakistan, Malaysia and Indonesia and other countries that has Muslim majority made Islam the state religion. The head of Christian church in England is the Queen. The ruling party of Germany is ‘Christian’ first and ‘Socialist’ only thereafter. They are all Christian even by name. Even Muslims accepts they are all Christian. Only pseudo liberals like you try to elevate them to be secular. Sri Lanka situation is exactly the same. Sri Lanka is a Buddhist country. Those pundits that profess Sri Lanka is a secular country and argue Buddhism shouldn’t be given a special place are hypocrites.

    I shall dig about Norway a little deeper. Article four of the Constitution of Norway says; “The King shall at all times profess the Evangelical-Lutheran religion, and uphold and protect the same.” That means; in Norway, the king’s fundamental right of ‘the freedom to profess a religion’ is barred. So are all its citizens. Article 12 says, “… More than half the number of the Members of the Council of State shall profess the official religion of the State.” In addition, Article 27 says, “… A Member of the Council of State who does not profess the official religion of the State shall not take part in proceedings on matters which concern the State Church.”

    In fact the constitution of Norway restricts all its high positions to ‘Lutheran Christians’ only. Just like the marriage vow, the constitution of Norway compels its citizens to hang on to Evangelical-Lutheran religion. Those who choose apostasy would have to face the consequences. And the asylum seeker migrants who profess other religions are bound to be second-class citizens. None of those Hindu immigrants can ever be a Minister or even a high official in Norway. But in Sri Lanka, late Mr. Thondaman became a minister though he was a Hindu and born in India. Does not this fact alone prove Sinhala Buddhists are not religious bigots or racists?

    Norwegians had amended their constitution several times in the last fifty years, but they choose to retain all the ‘Evangelical’ archaic clause intact. ‘Evangelical’ seemed to be the most enshrined word in their constitution. In the Oxford dictionary, the word ‘Evangelical’ is explained as “of a branch of the Protestantism emphasizing Biblical authority”. That means; all Norwegian citizens are forced to believe the inerrancy and the infallibility of every Scripture in the Bible. Evangelical-Lutherans have to submit to Biblical authority.

    The Constitution of Norway imposes punitive action to those citizens that do not stick on to their religion. One of the clauses says; all the high positions in the Government are reserved only for those that follow its official religion – Lutheran Christianity. And mind you over 95% of Norwegians are Lutheran. If not through their constitutions most western countries impose similar restrains in a roundabout way. Just to name one point, Muslim children cannot wear head scarf at schools n France. Europeans want to make sure immigrants are assimilated to their society soon. Just read how they force on migrants throughout Europe to learn their way of life at recent times and what their leaders say about it. If you don’t believe me, Google and read stories of how Norway government took Tamil children to its custody and forced Norwegian customs and way of life on them. Perhaps we Sinhalas should take a leaf from Norwegians on that account.

    Norwegians practice one thing and tell us to do another thing. We know their hired hands, NGOs and you lot say; laws that protect ‘Evangelical’ Lutheran religion are good for Norway because there is no opposition to it but similar laws to protect Buddhism are bad for Sri Lanka because Sri Lankan Christians and Tamils and Muslims oppose it. Hypocrites!

    What moral right do you have to pick on Sri Lanka constitution and advise us to change the place of Buddhism in our constitution? I say, our constitution is fair, if not fairer than any other in the world is. We have no restrictions what so ever as in Christian Europe.
    Leela

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    there is more than one rulers or kingdoms before the foreign powers invade capture the present Srilana.even in Sinhalese dominated south more than one kingdom and there separate Tamil kingdom too i thing the author dose not know the history of our nation

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    it is not the military conflict divided the country. The thinking of the majority Sinhalese leaders and their actions like building Sinhalese settlements among Tamil areas from the time of the Independence that divided our nation.

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    A very good article! The writer raises a sane voice at a time racialists are having a hay day in the glow of war victory.

    Giving special protection to Buddhism under Article 9, of course, runs counter to the concept of a secular state and it is a pity that this Article has inspired a section of Buddhists to resort to unbuddhistic acts at various times. However, I do not think that the followers of other religions grudge giving a special place to Buddhism. That’s the very reason that the Buddhist majority should make it a point to respect the susceptibilities of adherents of other denominations!

  • 0
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    Leela,

    You have mentioned the below in your comment….

    “Next read item 5 of the Kandyan Convention or the agreement signed between the British and the Chiefs of the Kandyan Kingdom in 1815. Its Clause 5 says; “The religion of the Buddha is declared inviolable and its rights to be maintained and protected.” If that is the case tell us what’s wrong reintroducing the same in our constitution.”

    The Kandyan Convention was not applicable to the whole country; it was limited to the kandyan kingdom. You may be aware when Europeans came to Sri Lanka there were three kingdoms based namely Jaffna, Kandy and Kotte.

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      It’s a common knowledge that since 4th century BCE, Buddhism had been the state religion of all Sri Lanka sovereigns. True, Kandyan kingdom administration hadn’t covered the entire island in 1815. However, the British knew the tradition and true history of Sri Lanka for it was a British civil servant named George Turnour who translated Mahwamsa to English in 1835. The fact that British had administered the entire island separately from India and as one unit proves this fact.

      It is also true that when Portuguese washed to our shores in 1505 there were three kingdoms, but before that Kotte ruled the entire country for twenty seven years from 1450. When kings became weak provincial rulers become strong and declare themselves kings or invaders from India like Marga had come to this country either to loot and go back or to rule a part of the country for a while. And that had been the case right through.

      Now that Sri Lanka is united as one country, I see no reason why Buddhism is given its due place as throughout history. Sinhalas are not asking Buddhism to be made the state religion or to enact laws like the countries I have mentioned earlier.
      Leela

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        Leela

        of Vattukottai says:

        “Buddhism had been the state religion of all Sri Lanka sovereigns.”

        The word sovereign

        Meaning “authority, rule” is recorded from late 14th century.

        Sense of “existence as an independent state” is recorded from 1715.

        Perhaps the Europeans copied the word from Sinhala language and founded their own independent states well after Sinhala/Buddhist sovereign state.

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        No constitutions are perfect and neither the countries. However, when 30% of the Sri Lanka’s population is non Buddhist, how can one give constitutional guarantee to one religion i.e to Buddhism. The situation in other countries are not same as in Sri Lanka meaning a larger population of Sri Lanka is non Buddhist. Religion is something should be followed by people willingly not forced upon them by laws or by constitution.

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          kabi,
          Muslim population in Malaysia was much less than 70% when its constitution said its state religion is Islam and Muslim shira law will be enforced on all Muslims and Malay is the official language of the country.

          Read what I have written above; all the so-called secular countries of the west are Christian in practice.

          Do not put all those 30% of non Buddhists in to one basket. Truth is, most of them are Hindus. And Hindu Gods are closely knitted with Buddhism. Indeed, Hindus consider Buddha is an avatar of Vishnu. And, Buddhist temples have Hindu idols. Have you not seen Buddhists lining up at Hindu Kovils to seek blessings of Hindu deities?

          If so, it cannot be Buddhists but Wellahlar Christians like Chelva that made Tamils to be racists and thereby hauled them up into Nanthikadal. This has to be discussed at length separately.

          Anyway, in spite of that item 5 of the Kandyan convention mentioned above, British Raj had worked hand in glove with all types of evangelists to destroy Buddhism. I remember people talked about a powerful group called ‘catholic action’ long after independence. Throughout 550 years of western colonialists rule, Christian evangelists used government funds to build and run Christian schools but no funds were made available for Buddhist Piriwenas. Not just that, evangelists used education and jobs as a bribe to promote apostasy.

          It is to correct such injustices for Bhumiputra that Malaysia enforced acts as mentioned above.

          Leela

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        Typical sinhala nutter live in stone age. Grow up man, world is fat moving. tamils needs peace, live in their own land without fear of sinhala budhist evil barbarians. UN will deliver what tamils need…

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    There is no reason of having any special kind of pretction or treatment for one religion in the constitution, it is troubling.

  • 0
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    Very good article no doubt about that.

    But if we REALLY want to build up our nation – not anyone else, the lanken sociologists, psychologistsv(lanken universities) should take the leading AND the primary role. Sure, diasphora from France can then work with them.

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    The Article is purely Academic. The Diaspora must be provided with
    some basics in to consider their involvement in Sri Lanka. I say this
    based on the Govts. attitude towards “Dual-citizenship”.
    Since Jany. 2011 this has been put on hold by the Minister concerned, viz.H.E. and it is rumoured that this unilateral action followed the
    Oxford debacle?
    The greatest number of aplicants were TAMILS. A structured genocidal
    agenda can be imputed here. With this being so, why would the diaspora
    be considering Investments in Sri Lanka?
    The Legislate Act No. 18 of 1948 governing Citizenship provides for the
    Registration of children born to S.L. parents Overseas at SL Embassies
    along with the Birth Registration. It appears that this is being done
    however the Citizenship Registration Certificate is NOT issued! The
    Application Fee is promptly obtained without any loss to the Dept.
    The back-log of non-issued Certificate may be in the region of 70,000 –
    98% of them could be Tamils – therefore this hidden Crime of the
    State is not debated. The Writer should deal with this aspect too,
    where Diaspora co-operation is sought.

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    Leela,

    You are quoting an example of Malaysia at your convenient.In entire Europe non Christians are around 5% and in western Europe it is less than 2%. Europeans are however not religious fundamentalists like in Sri Lanka. Though Buddhism and Hinduism have similarities they are different. I pulled non Buddhists into one basket as they were not guaranteed by constitution like they did for 70% Buddhists(Buddhists 70% Hindus 15%,Muslims 7.5% and Christians 7.5% in Sri Lanka)

    You were quoting Malaysia at your convenient ignoring rest of the major democratic countries. The same Malaysia allowed Singapore to go separate in 1965 (Malaysians voted 126 to 0 allowing Singapore to go independent) Will that happen in Sri Lanka???.

    Malaysia has a dual Justice system; Islamic law referred to as Sharia law plays a small role in Malaysian justice system and it also applies only to Muslims. Sharia law has jurisdiction only in personal law matters, for example marriage, inheritance, and apostasy.

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