Colombo Telegraph

New Constitution & Resolving Ethnic Conflict

By M.K. Shivajilingam

M.K. Shivajilingam

The Tamil people in the island of Sri Lanka have been struggling for their political rights for about 70 years without any solution to their grievances. More than two-hundred thousand people have been killed in the struggle. In order to achieve permanent peace in the island, it is essential that the Tamils’ grievances are addressed and resolved. A strong flawless unassailable political system of equal treatment, opportunity, and power to all its peoples, will ensure a permanent, sustainable, and peaceful solution to the long conflict in the country. To achieve this, a credible, trustworthy, and honorable process is an absolute necessity; hence, a process with the involvement, assistance, and assurance from India, USA, EU, and the UN is important and required.

The following items shall be considered towards achieving a durable resolution to the ethnic conflict:

1 Process and Modality for Political Solution

  • A negotiating process between the Sinhalese and Tamil leaders mediated by India, USA, EU along with the UN, must be initiated towards finding a political solution. The mediating parties can function as witnesses and guarantors to the implementation of the solution.
  • A new constitution that offers each region the utmost autonomy, shall be implemented that can ensure all its peoples equal-treatment, equal-opportunity, and equal-power without any preferential treatment to any specific people.
  • The Tamil people shall continue to have the right to self-determination. At the end of 5 years from the Agreement or at any time, the Tamil people shall be entitled to a UN monitored Referendum should the Govt. of Sri Lanka fail to implement the agreement, or the Tamil people consider it to be necessary to conduct the Referendum to determine their political future.

2 Framework for the Constitution of Union of Sri Lanka

The proposed system of government shall be sharing of power between the Central and the States, and called “Union of Sri Lanka”. The power shall be devolved to the greatest extent possible, and that unless and otherwise explicitly delegated, all powers shall rest with the States. The Union of Sri Lanka shall be a con-federal structure. The Union shall consist of autonomous sovereign States and a confederate unit (“Federal Unit”).

2.1 Structure of the Union of Sri Lanka

  • The Union shall consist of sovereign States: a) The State for the Tamils shall be the contiguous North-East region consisting of traditional Tamil areas. [NOTE: It will ensure equality among its citizens, and treat all its peoples including the Sinhalese equal without any discrimination. It will be a secular State.] b) The State(s) for the Sinhalese shall be in their traditional Sinhalese areas. c) The Muslim and the Hill-Country Tamil peoples shall have their States or Autonomous Regions or any other arrangements that can meet their aspirations.
  • Any State shall have the option to merge with any other State during the elected term.
  • Certain powers are delegated to the Federal Unit, and all other powers are retained by the State.
  • Each State shall have a State Parliament headed by Prime Minister.
  • The Federal Unit shall have a Federal Parliament headed by President.
  • The Federal Unit shall ensure and protect the sovereignty of each State.
  • The Federal Govt. shall be secular. It shall not give any preference to any single religion or language or people.
  • All States shall jointly decide on the Federal Territory for the Federal administrative structures.
  • All Federal employees including the Armed Forces shall be inducted via each State proportionate to its population.

2.2 The Federal Parliament of the Union

The Federal Parliament of the Union is the unifying body of all the States in the Union of Sri Lanka.

2.2.1 Composition of the Federal Parliament of the Union

  • The Federal Unit shall be governed by a Federal Constitution agreed by all the States.
  • Any amendments to the Federal Constitution must be approved and ratified by each State.
  • Each State shall have veto power on any issues that require voting. The veto can be challenged by the Federal Unit by conducting Referendum in that State on the issue concerned.
  • Federal Unit shall consist of an equal number of representatives from each State.
  • Each State shall determine the manner in which its representatives to the Federal Unit are selected.
  • The Federal Unit shall elect a President, Deputy President, and cabinet of Ministers from amongst its own members.
  • The Federal Unit shall have a new Federal flag (National Flag) that equally represents all its peoples.
  • The Federal Unit shall have a new Federal anthem (National Anthem) both in Sinhala and in Tamil languages.
  • Sinhala and Tamil shall be the official languages of the Federal Unit and English shall be the link language.
  • Communication between the Federal Unit and a State shall be in link language and in language preferred by the State.

2.2.2 Powers and Functions of the Federal Parliament of the Union

  • Federal defense
  • Currency, monitory policy and Central Bank
  • International and Inter-State air traffic control
  • Immigration, emigration, customs etc.
  • International treaties related to external defense, and UN affairs
  • Federal Courts, Federal law and order
  • Federal tax, Inter-State high-ways, Inter-State railways, telecommunication, postal etc.
  • Federal Projects that are ratified by all States
  • Promotion of common welfare, inner cohesion, and the cultural diversity

2.3 The States

The States are sovereign and fully autonomous having wide powers. Most of the powers are retained by the States. Each State is sovereign over its own affairs.

2.3.1 Composition of States

  • Each State shall be entitled to give itself its own name.
  • Each State shall have its own Constitution.
  • Each State shall have its own Parliament, Prime Minister, cabinet of Ministers, etc.
  • Each State shall have its own State flag, State anthem etc.
  • Each State can devolve powers to its regional bodies in any way it sees fit.

2.3.2 Powers Retained by States

All powers that are not explicitly and expressly delegated to the Federal Unit are retained by each State. Following lists some of the powers retained by States:

  • Law and order
  • State Tax
  • Land, education, economy, health, etc.
  • International treaties on all issues other than external defense
  • Foreign loan, trades and investments
  • Airports, harbors, Intra-State high-ways, Intra-State railways, etc.
  • Territorial waters and the Exclusive Economic Zone as defined by the UN Convention shall be applicable to coastal States
  • State resources in land and in adjoining sea
  • Residency, voting rights, election etc.
  • Land/space allocation to the Federal agencies, Federal police, Federal Armed Forces, etc.

3 Guarantees and Referendum

  • The implementation and operation of the Agreement and the maintenance of peace in the island shall be assured and guaranteed by the UN and the countries involved in the mediation.
  • At the end of 5 years from the Agreement or at any time, the Tamil people shall be entitled to a UN monitored Referendum should the Govt. of Sri Lanka fail to implement the agreement, or the Tamil people consider it to be necessary to conduct the Referendum to determine their political future.

Back to Home page