“Sinhala people are not bad people but certain politicians are trying to create fear among the Sinhala people portraying that the new Constitution will divide the country,” the Leader of the Tamil National Alliance and Leader of the Opposition R. Sampanthan said today.
“We don’t want to divide the country but we want every person in this country to feel that he/she belongs to this country and this country belongs to them, we don’t want anyone to be treated the way we have been treated in this country, we want and we will treat Sinhalese and Muslims in this country with dignity and equality,” he said in the meeting held today between the visiting US Assistant Secretary of State, Ambassador Alice Wells and the Tamil National Alliance led by Leader of the Opposition R. Sampanthan. The meeting was held at the residence of the US Ambassador to Sri Lanka Atul Keshap.
Sampanthan apprised the Ambassador on the current political situation in the country especially the matters pertaining to the Constitution making process. Briefing the background the conflict Sampanthan said “every Tamil person in this country has been affected by violence, and we have been deprived of our rights in this country, as a result of it over 1.5million Tamil people have fled the country”. “We want the remaining Tamil people in this country to live with dignity and those who have left the country to comeback,” he added.
Sampanthan highlighted the need to frame a new Constitution which will preserve and protect the dignity of all people in Sri Lanka. “Unlike previous, times this time there had been much ground work done with regard to framing the new Constitution and we cannot afford to allow these processes to fail,” he said. Speaking on the power sharing arrangements in the new Constitution Sampanthan said, genuine power sharing arrangement is vital, and people should be able to decide on things that matter to their day to day life, in places where they have lived continuously.
Speaking about the response of the Sinhala people regard to the new Constitution Sampanthan said: “Sinhala people are not bad people but certain politicians are trying to create fear among the Sinhala people portraying that this Constitution will divide the country”. “We don’t want to divide the country but we want every person in this country to feel that he/she belongs to this country and this country belongs to them,” he added. Speaking further Sampanthan said “we don’t want anyone to be treated the way we have been treated in this country, we want and we will treat Sinhalese and Muslims in this country with dignity and equality”.
“We need to optimize and seize this opportunity” he added. “this is the first time that the two major parties of this country have come together and there is an opportunity to get multi party consensus to the new Constitution and I am confident that we will get the 2/3 majority in Parliament and subsequently the Constitution will have to be approved by people at a referendum,” he said.
Responding to a query M. A. Sumanthiran said that those who instigate communal and racial sentiments among the public are the ones who see themselves as losers as a result of this new Constitution being framed. Further, he said that the public representation committee on constitutional reforms reports that people across the country want a new Constitution.
Sampanthan stressed that this is not an ethnic issue anymore but it is an issue of power sharing which will be a benefit to all people in Sri Lanka. “we have heard from the Chief Ministers from all the provinces saying they want more powers in matters related to their provinces,” he said.
Speaking on the release of private lands occupied by the armed forces Sampanthan said these lands must be released and given to the owners they have the right to return to their lands armed forces cannot continue to use these lands while the people are protesting demanding the release of these lands. Further Sampanthan said the issues of the missing persons must be addressed immediately to give the families of the disappeared some solace by ascertaining the truth through a credible inquiry.
Sampanthan brought to the notice of the Ambassador Alice that the draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act has not been repealed yet, though the government has promised to repeal it. “persons continue to be in custody under this law unjustifiably” he said.
Ambassador Alice thanked the TNA leader and the delegation and said “it is my honor to meet a leader with a principled position” and assured that the US government will continue to support and engage with the Government of Sri Lanka in addressing the above-mentioned matters.
Along with Sampanthan Parliamenterians, Adaikkalanathan, Siddarththan and Sumanthran were presented at the meeting while with ambassador Alice Wells US Ambassador to Sri Lanka Atul Keshap and other embassy officials were present at the meeting.