29 May, 2023


Needed A New Constitution, A New Way For Sri Lanka

By V. Thirunavukkarasu

V. Thirunavukkarasu

Racism and religious bigotry, the double-edged scourge, has ever been the enormous impediment for the forward march of Sri Lanka. In the country’s recent history, such a phenomenon emerged in the early 20th century, and has persisted to this day in varying degrees. Even though the situation was initially relatively peaceful when Independence from foreign rule dawned in 1948, and the economic situation apparently signaling a forward movement, thanks especially to the Korean war boom and the Rubber-Rice pact with China, it soon began to change drastically for the worse with the rise of Sinhala-Buddhist hegemonic positions. As is well known, on the occasion of the 1956 elections, both the UNP as well as the SLFP vied with each other to make Sinhala the sole official language. On his visit to Jaffna on the verge of the 1956 General Elections , the then Prime Minister, Sir John Kotelawala, made a pledge, inter alia, to accord official language status to Tamil as well. It provoked strong resistance in the South, and the UNP swiftly changed course to make Sinhala the sole official language, as the election pledge. And, not to lag behind, SLFP leader, S.W.R.D Bandaranaike had no qualms jettisoning his own pledge to make Sinhala and Tamil official languages when he founded the SLFP in 1951. Thus, In his bid to outwit the UNP, Bandaranaike announced “Sinhala only within 24 hours” as his battle cry. The LSSP then made the historic warning, “Two languages, one Nation, One language, 2 Nation s”, nay two bleeding halves, as prophesied by Colvin R de Silva, that it would someday lead to a demand by the Tamils for a separate State . And the Tamil leaders opposed the “Sinhala only” bill because exclusion of the Tamil language would not only be repugnant to the principle of justice and fair-play, but also constituted an infringement of the letter and spirit of section 29 of the Soulbury Constitution then in force. But Bandaranaike would not relent, for his own opportunistic reasons which propelled his election pledge.

What followed was a call by the Federal Party leader, S.J.V. Chelvanayakam, for a civil disobedience campaign. However, in order to forestall such an eventuality, Bandaranaike opened negotiations with the Federal Party leader and entered into what came to be known as the Bandaranike-Chelvanayakam Pact (BC Pact) on 26th July, 1957. Bandaranaike then launched a campaign to explain the need for such a pact, extolling his own virtues as a true Buddhist. Strong opposition to the pact was mounted by the Sinhala Buddhist constituency, as a sell-out to the Tamils. Adding weight to that campaign was the protest march to Kandy launched by UNP strongman J.R. Jayewardene. Meantime, the Buddhist clergy intensified their opposition to the Pact, culminating in a siege on Bandaranaike’s Rosmead Place residence on 9th April, 1958, raising an implacable hue and cry, and Bandaranaike found himself with no option but to cave in; a bi-lateral pact was instantly abrogated unilaterally.

What indeed did the B-C pact provide for? Certainly not for any federal arrangement, nor any change in the Sinhala only Act, but of course (a) Establishment of a Regional Council for the Northern Province, and two or more such entities for the Eastern Province, with powers “over specified subject including agriculture, co-operatives, lands and land development, colonization, education, health, industries, fisheries, housing, social services, electricity, water schemes and roads. (b) It was agreed that in the matter of colonization schemes, the powers of the Regional Council shall include power to select allottees to whom lands within their areas of authority shall be alienated , and power to select the personnel to work on such schemes, (c) The Central Government will provide block grants to the Regional Councils which will also have powers of taxation and borrowing”

Upon reaching this framework agreement, the Federal Party agreed to cancel the Satyagraha campaign that had been planned. Lo and behold, it didn’t take long for anti- Tamil riots to be unleashed by the racist forces, which the then redoubtable English journalist of Sunday Observer fame, Tarzie Vittachchi, described as “man’s inhumanity to man” Bandararanaike not only refused to declare a State of Emergency which some prominent citizens jointly urged was warranted. On the contrary, Bandaranaike went on to address the Nation, and Vittachhi described the speech as “raw oxygen blown into a raging fire”, thus escalating the riots which Vittachchi exhaustively documented in his book titled “Emergency ‘58 – History of the Ceylon Race riots”. Bandaranaike’s own interpretation of the unfolding events and his awful contribution was to add ”fuel to the fire”.as Vittachi chose to add . That is to say, whereas the riots broke out on 22nd May 1958, Bandaranaike misled the country in his broadcast to the Nation on 26.05.1958, maintaining that “the murder of the former Mayor of Nuwara Eliya, Mr. D.A. Seneviratne in Batticaloa on 25th June was the incident that led to the riots breaking out”. Federal Party Leader Chelvanayakam stated in Parliament on 4th June, 1958 that murder of Seneviratne arose out of a private feud, , and that was not contradicted from any quarter.

Dudley-Chelvanayajam pact

In 1965, negotiations conducted between FP leader Chelvanayakam and Prime Minister Dudley Senanayake on 24 March brought forth the Dudley-Chelvanayakam pact (D-C Pact) Here again, arose racist, extremist opposition to the Pact notwithstanding its lesser parameters than the B-C pact. Dudley Senanayake easily succumbed and lost no time to abrogate the pact “ which provided for (a) the Tamil language to be the language of administration in the Northern and Eastern Provinces, (b) Legal proceedings in the Northern and Eastern Provinces will be conducted and recorded in Tamil (c) District Councils to be established in the country with powers over subjects to be mutually agreed upon between the two leaders. “ It was agreed, however, that the Government should have the power under the law to give direction to such Councils under the national interest”. And then, Mr Senanayake further agreed that in the matter of granting land under colonization schemes, the following priorities be observed in the Northern and Eastern Provinces: (a) Land in the Northern and Eastern Provinces should in the first instance be granted to landless persons in the District, (b) Secondly, to Tamil-speaking residents in the Northern and Eastern Provinces, (c) Thirdly, to other citizens in the country, preference being given to Tamil citizens in the rest of the Island”
So, had either of these pacts been implemented, Tamil armed struggle which, objectively speaking, came on the scene as a last resort , could well have been obviated, leaving no cause for the 26-year long war, which the worst 1983 anti-Tamil riots (Black July) precipitated.

Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC)

This Commission, appointed by former President Mahinda Rajapaksa in 2010, headed by a former Attorney-General, the late C.R de Silva , pinpointed, inter ala, that there had been periodical , anti-Tamil violence, culminating in war , since none of the Governments since Independence took concrete measures to resolve the Tamil national question , and strongly recommended that a viable solution would soon have to be found. It was not to be, and, in fact the Commission lamented that even its interim report issued at the end of 1 year was not acted upon.

Superficial analysis by certain commentators

And many a commentator is seen to be identifying the LTTE as the root cause of the war, scarcely bothering to delve even into the genesis of the LTTE. And there are those who lash out at the Tamil Diaspora, oblivious to the reason for their exit en masse, especially post 1983. The human cost of the war, both civilians as well as the Armed Forces, is colossal, and at the same time the financial cost is a whopping 200 billion US Dollars, according to a survey carried out by former Indian High Commissioner to Sri Lanka, Shiv Shankar Menon .

So no one in his/her right senses should stand in the way of a sustainable solution to the chequered Tamil national question to be written into a new Constitution as pledged by the two ruling parties, constituting the incumbent National Unity Government, during the 2015 Presidential and Parliamentary elections. For that matter, it goes without saying that the Tamils, as well as the Muslims, though minorities numerically speaking, are in fact part and parcel of the sovereign people of this country, and are not calling for any concessions or bounties to be bestowed on them , except their inalienable right to share power

Thus, a New Constitution, and a New Way is the need of the hour for Sri Lanka.

*V. Thirunavukkarasu, Former Member, Colombo Municipal Council

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Latest comments

  • 3

    Sri Lanka has many governments.
    1.Among the less educated Buddhist monks.
    2.Ordinary Sinhalese masses starting with riots.
    3.Trade Unions.
    4.Toothless elected representatives changing sides to get into the power pool.
    5.Finally worthless parliament and President.

    • 5

      6. the primary cause: do not forget yourself mootal the voter you never listened to justice but dabbled with ignoble law of the outlaws- sampa and yob suma.

  • 2

    I don’t know why we can’t amendment the current constitution so that it’s short comings could be answered without much of a hassle.

    Why is the rush to create a brand new constitution? Weaken the state through the constitutional dead locks perhaps? Only god knows…..

  • 2

    Thank you V. Thirunavukkarasu the short review of the historical aspects of the issue which has caused considerable angst to all of us. Successive GoSL since independence till 1983 simply ignored the violence inflicted on Tamils. Legal avenues were blocked. The civil war was inevitable and although the war ended Lankans find ourselves exactly where we were.
    The only way out is through a new constitution which hopefully will not need amendments

    • 1

      Give a direct answer. Why do you think that amendments won’t address the pertaining issues of the Sri Lankan Tamil people?

      • 3

        “”Give a direct answer.2”
        Haven’t the bamboo flowered? You got miami vice carrying the plague.
        Lankawe has got the plague and there is no return but to pull dung carts.
        The constitution is not a necessity at this moment in time.

        • 1

          The constitution is not some bill, it is a very important document. even the Nepalis took 7 years to come up with a constitution in the assembly. So it is not child’s play.
          It cannot be designed within some months or even an year.

          1. When designing constitution, grievances and aspirations of BOTH tamils and sinhalese need to be taken care of. Therefore a pure Sinhala constitution like in 1972 or a pure Tamil separatist constitution like the one yahapalanas are working on would not help us.
          It should offer something to both Tamils and Sinhalese, not Tamils alone.

          2. Any constitution that is tainted with the NGOs supported by Norway, US and west in general will not be recommended by the Sinhala people.

          3. And why should we allow the most important document of the country that can have an effect on our future generations to be created by the most unsuccessful failed government in SLn history?

          You do not get a bypass or a brain surgery done by an unsuccessful surgeon right?

          • 1

            Even your aluthmudalai god (he indirectly pays your salary when soldier) does not manufacture arms though he sold arms in the ocean Now he is wondering if the ambode culture of his would get him. that is your fate too but you do not want to know for time being. We are of ancient wealth and stock and know the game of power.
            sach, Your talk doesn’t cook rice for me the least and in anycase that is not my staple diet because we believe in variety for every day..
            stay frightening the para demla, para sinhala para markelle, native vedda et al by the bullet, while you can then like Vas and kuddu mervin run and hide in your woman’s skirt.

            the island belongs to the birds and it is one the road to go back to motherland where neither 3 have a say Xi is having a tough time than you can imagine to worry about a lost cause in the indian ocean.

          • 1

            Yes. Formulating a constitution is a serious matter.
            The 1972 one at Navarangala was an exercise in obfuscation. and the one in 1978 a fowl play, and the 19th amendment based that a futile exercise.
            It appears you have studied the Nepali constitution.
            Do you think that the Nepali one could be a good template for S.L.?

  • 0

    Over the past six decades the people on the island of Sri Lanka conducted themselves in an atrocious manner resorting to violence that gave rise to ethno fascist formations culminating in the election of a fascist government dedicated to the generation of a Sinhala Buddhist Ethno Religious Dynasty that led to the collapse of legal process.

    This initiative with its authoritarian regimentation based on the cult of personal superiority supported by the islands constitution that placed and continues to place the head of state completely above the law, led to the extra legal imposition of personal diktat through the use of bullying, ridiculing, ad hominem attacks, false accusations and charges and the spreading of defamatory rumors and character assassinations, threats of violence and physical harm and the employment of violent coercion, kidnapping and illegal secret incarceration, brutally inhuman torture, rape, extra judicial killing and disappearances and wrapped the islands people in a shroud of fear and opened the doors to the abuse of public funds on a scale not seen before.

    As happens when fascism seizes a nation state a co ordinated initiative of the global civilization was required to reduce its influence and prevent its growth and global spread. The culture of compliant connivance – colloquially communicated and known to every child within the education system as “shape” – rampant amidst all institutions and throughout the state has to be rooted out and destroyed and replaced by truth and integrity.

    The prevailing electoral system and its process demands the deployment of ridiculously extravagant outlays to fund political campaigns and this lies at the root of the continuing corruption and links between politicians and the underworld with its organized crime that is discernable and must be addressed. If a new constitution is required to achieve this end then it must be supported.

    • 1

      what are u smoking?

    • 1

      Nirmalan Dhas ,
      “”As happens when fascism seizes a nation state a co ordinated initiative of the global civilization was required to reduce its influence and prevent its growth and global spread.””
      Just there you let the cat out of the bag- elli kungu
      Extreme right and extreme left are of the same Hegel thickhead.
      The Dialectic Karl Marx did not consider the American and Englishman’s `
      `way of doing things` so the failure.
      Professionals from third world nations come to the west well versed in the language of the west but `they carry their way of doing things` and sit under the umbrella provided by Libtards -` racist` to hide that weakness of adaptation to a local culture and win employment tribunal cases to the detriment of the society. A classic example was when the Indian and pakistani doctors took the UCLH to the tribunal and won their right to employment.
      When MRSA became an endemic they promptly changed the asian and african cleaners to new entrants EU romanian and bulgarian and the endemic went away.
      Must know what you cant do too.- every little bit helps.

  • 2

    Yes, K. Pillai. There may not be anything very original in Mr V. Thirunavukkarasu’s account of our post-Independence history, but yet again he has provided a very clear-eyed picture that it is possible for all of us to agree with.

    What is wonderful about his writing is that, despite his own background, he doesn’t throw all sorts of ideological jargon at us. I feel that he writes what all of us can agree with – nothing sensational or designed to rouse uncontrollable passions in us.

    Only five comments, so far. Three of them speak of patching things up with amendments to the Constitution. No, we need something totally new, concise, and unambiguous.

    I once read an article written from a Sinhalese point of view by somebody living abroad, saying that there was no need for a new constitution since everything necessary was found in what we presently have. So I looked, and spent many hours poring over this:


    I agreed, and said so. But 242 pages of it!

    A few days of reflection, and then I saw the problem. What appears in one place is contradicted in another. The Constitution should be such that any citizen should be able to understand it. I challenge those who want amendments to take a look at all those pages.

    Let us not pass this mess on to our children – and their children!

  • 1

    There is no need for a new constitution, just get rid of the illegal 13tth amendment, and implement the 6th amendment. ————————————————————————————————————————————————————

    Tamil’s claims and demands are all based on lies, myths and fantasies that were fed by their colonial slave masters. ————————————————————————————————————————————————————

    Besides, why do Tamils demand a new Constitution? Tamils in Sri Lanka are given more benefits and privileges than Tamils in Briton, France, Canada, etc. ————————————————————————————————————————————————————
    Tamils must embrace things as they are or go back to Tamil Nadu.

  • 1

    There has never been racism and religious bigotry among Sinhalese, if they had them, then there wouldn’t be any Muslims or Tamils in Sri Lanka.

    • 0

      Dear John,

      It may be that we should band the Tamil language, and may be some aspects of their culture, because they are the only thing that distinguishes them from us. Our DNA (why not test ours?) is the same. We all came from India, mostly from the south, and after all these centuries our ancestors must all have inter-married. Now we must control population growth.

      None of us have any rights any more. Just wade through the 242 pages of the Constitution. What is given in one place is taken away in another. Tell me, honestly, have you clicked on the link that I have already provided, and tried to understand all that:


      I’m not an expert on these matters, but we clearly need a concise document that we can ALL understand. It has to be a new one: Amendments will allow lawyers (those hated “kalu coat karayos) a field day.

      • 1

        Why are Marakkala Muslims obssed with Sinhalese’ DNA??????????
        “Buddha Sasanaya” is superior to the parliament!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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