21 April, 2024


The Constitution We Need

By Veluppillai Thangavelu

Veluppillai Thangavelu

Veluppillai Thangavelu

Sri Lanka is in the process of framing a new constitution. A resolution submitted by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe seeking parliamentary approval for the appointment of a constitutional assembly was adopted unanimously on March 10, 2016.

The original resolution underwent significant amendments proposed by the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), the Joint Opposition and the Janata Vimukti Peramuna (JVP). This is the third attempt at constitution making since independence in 1948. The last Constitution which gave birth to a Presidential system of government was introduced by J.R. Jayewardene. It came into effect on February 4, 1978 and since then has undergone 19 amendments during the last 38 years.

The new constitution, inter-alia, is aimed mainly at (a) Reforming the electoral system, (b) Abolishing the Executive Presidency, and (c) Finding a solution to the ethnic problem  through various forms of devolution.

The Government appointed a Public Representation Committee (PRC) to obtain the views of civil society, institutions and individuals outside the elected parliament. The PRC has since submitted its report to the government in all three languages.

Constitutional making is not going to be easy as evidenced by the inadequacy of the 1972 and 1978 constitutions. These constitutions reflected the narrow political philosophy of   the then leaders of the SLFP and the United National Party. Mrs. Srimavo Bandaranaike wanted to vest power in the hands of the majority Sinhala – Buddhists at the expense of other national minorities. J.R. Jayewardene who was an ardent admirer of American President Dwight Eisenhower and French Charles De Gaulle always dreamt of introducing an executive presidency in Sri Lanka.

In 1971, he moved a resolution in the Constituent Assembly in support of an executive presidency. The resolution was rejected, but when his chance came in 1977, he ditched the 1972 constitution in favour of an executive Presidential style government. J.R. Jayewardene became a constitutional dictator under his 1978 constitution. He boasted that he can do anything except making a man a woman or vice versa.

His successors made full use of the executive powers of the President to the extent of subverting parliament and undermining the independence and powers of the judiciary. Ironically, Mahinda Rajapaksa who came to power promising to abolish executive presidential system made full use of the same system. He became an authoritarian ruler, especially after the 18th Amendment.

In short, both the Republican Constitution of 1972 and 1978 were fundamentally flawed concentrating power in the hands of single individuals and failed to protect and safeguard fundamental democratic values and principles. The 1972 Republican constitution ditched the Soulbury constitution by conferring   constitutional status to the Sinhala Only Act, giving the religion of the majority foremost place and declaring Sri Lanka a unitary state. These provisions were almost reproduced verbatim in the 1978 constitution by J.R. Jayewardene.

A country’s constitution is the fundamental laws and principles of a country or state that create a system of government. The constitution of Republic of South Africa sets out how all the elements of government are organised and contains rules about what power is wielded, who wields it and over whom it is wielded in the governance of a country. It can be seen as a kind of covenant between those in power and those who are subjected to this power. It defines the rights and duties of citizens, and the mechanisms that keep those in power in check. It is worth repeating the Preamble to the Republic of South Africa’s constitution which, inter-alia, states as follows:

*Believe that South Africa belongs to all who live in it, united in our diversity.

*We therefore, through our freely elected representatives, adopt this Constitution as the supreme law of the Republic so as to –

*Heal the divisions of the past and establish a society based on democratic values, social justice and fundamental human rights;

*Lay the foundations for a democratic and open society in which government is based on the will of the people and every citizen is equally protected by law;

*Improve the quality of life of all citizens and free the potential of each person; and

*Build a united and democratic South Africa able to take its rightful place as a sovereign state in the family of nations.

The constitution recognizes no less than eleven (11) official languages, including English. All official languages must enjoy parity of esteem and must be treated equitably. There is constitutional provision for the promotion and development of not only the official languages, but also other languages commonly used by communities in South Africa like German, Greek, Gujarati, Hindi, Portuguese, Thamil, Telugu and Urdu!  There is recognition also for Arabic, Hebrew, Sanskrit and other languages used for religious purposes in South Africa.

The US constitution drafted by the Founding Fathers is one of oldest written constitution in the world. The constitution was written in 1787 during the Philadelphia Convention, but ratified on March 4, 1789. It is considered one of the most important human rights document ever written.  It is a very brief document and consists of a preamble and seven articles only. Three of the articles are related to structure and powers of Legislative (Article 1), Executive (Article 2) and Judiciary (Article 3) and the other four dedicated to position of states (Article 4), modes of amendments (Article 5), supremacy of national power (Article 6) and ratification (Article 7). It also holds that constitution is the supreme law of the land. Article one is the longest and cannot be amended. The preamble defines the purpose of the document and reads as follows:

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

We the People of the United States means the Framers of the constitution were not trying to forge a nation made up not of elite, but of the common man. It was not handed down by a god or by a king — it was created by the people. Important features of the US constitution are:

1. It establishes the popular sovereignty of the people. This means in U.S, the people rule i.e. they have delegated their powers to the government and the government owes its authority to the will of the people. The principle of popular sovereignty is stated in the Preamble of constitution as “we the people do ordain and establish this constitution for United States of America.” This means that the ultimate seat of authority in United States is the American people.

2. Provides for bicameral legislature. According to Article 1, “All legislative powers are vested in Congress.”  Congress is the parliament, which consists of two houses; House of Representatives (Lower House) and the Senate (Upper House).

3. It is based on the principle of “separation of powers”. The framers of the constitution believed that the separation of various organs of the government was necessary to ensure individual liberty and to check despotism. They, therefore, gave the presidential system to their people. The powers are divided among Congress, President and the Judiciary.

4. Congress has the power to make laws which outline general policies and set certain standards. President can enforce, execute and administer law. He is assisted by his cabinet but is solely responsible for all actions of Executive branch. Judicial powers are exercised by the Supreme Court which interprets laws and decided cases and controversies in conformity with the law and by the methods prescribed by law. The President is not responsible to the legislative. Legislative powers have been vested m the Congress and judicial powers are vested in the Supreme Court.

5. The framers of the U.S constitution were aware that a department, if left unchecked, would become oppressive. They, therefore, introduced checks and balances in the constitution. The separation of powers confirms the system of Checks and Balances. This system prevents misuse of powers. The powers are provided in such a way that it provides a check upon other institutions.

6. Congress has been given a share in the executive powers. It can check the president’s powers of making treaties and appointments. Similarly, the President enjoys the powers of veto. By using this power he can influence legislation. He also enjoys judicial powers of giving pardon and reprieve. All this creates a system which makes compromises necessary which is a sign of healthy democracy. It prevents the rise of dictators as well.

7. The direct consequence of separation of powers is the doctrine of judicial independence. In United States all the judicial powers are enjoyed by the Supreme Court and other federal courts, no other office can influence its independence.

8. The U.S constitution provides for a federal system of government. Federalism is a device by which independent states form a union without losing their identity. According to Article 1, the federal government has jurisdiction over 18 matters and residuary powers are vested in states. States are autonomous bodies and centre cannot interfere in their affairs. In case of conflict, Supreme Court decides or settles the dispute.

9. It provides for a presidential form of government. Article 2 provides the powers, election and their matters related to president. President is elected for a term of 4 years and is not answerable to Congress and cannot dissolve Congress. He has a cabinet to assist him in running his executive powers.

10. It calls for a republican system with President as elected head of the state. The constitution derives its authority from the people and is supreme law of the land. Neither centre nor states can override it.

11. It ensures certain fundamental rights for every America citizen. He cannot be deprived of these rights by any lawful authority. The first ten amendments to the constitution are called “Bill of Rights”. The Bill of Rights provides for the rights of a person’s property, liberty, freedom of speech, press, religion and assembly.

12. It provides for dual citizenship i.e. every American citizen is entitled to the right of dual citizenship. First of all, he is the citizen of America and secondly he is the citizen of that state in which he lives. The feature of dual citizenship was introduced in the American constitution by the 4th amendment.

13. An important feature of the American constitution is the power of judicial Review. The Supreme court in U.S is supreme not only in theory but also in practice. In U.K no court can challenge the power of Parliament; however in United States all the laws passed by the congress and state legislatures are subject to judicial review.

14. Unlimited powers of the government would make them despotic which would lead to tyranny and violence. In UK the Parliament is supreme whereas in US the constitution is supreme and the powers of the government organs are limited.

Thus the Steering Committee and other sub-Committees could benefit from the study of constitutions that have stood the test of time. On the contrary the three (3)   Sri Lankan constitutions lasted on an average of 38 years only.

Last year, after four (4) years of deliberations Nepal has adopted a federal constitution after abandoning the previous unitary constitution. It is worth studying Nepal’s constitution in depth since both Nepal and Sri Lanka are multi-racial, multi-lingual and malt-cultural countries.

Nepal promulgated the new constitution on September 20, 2015. The new constitution embraces the principles of republicanism, federalism, secularism, and inclusiveness.

Under the constitution, Nepal’s new federal structure will see the country divided into seven provinces, with clear lists of legislative powers for the central, provincial, and local bodies.

The country with the largest Hindu majority will continue to be a secular state with a special definition of the term: “respecting pre-historic traditions and religious and cultural freedoms.”

The other main characteristic of the new constitution is inclusiveness. The existing state structure is dominated by one particular community; others are deprived proportional representation in the current unitary structure.

The new constitution also provides a long list of fundamental rights, including economic, social and cultural rights, with the possibility of progressive realization.

Bicameral parliamentary system has been created with two houses at the Center and unicameral parliamentary system in each state.

Mixed electoral system has been opted for the elections of the lower house at the Center with both first past the post election system and proportional election system are used to elect members of the lower house.

Rights of gender and sexual minorities are protected by the new constitution with provisions of special laws to protect, empower and develop minority groups as well as allowing them to get citizenship in their chosen gender.

Recognizing the rights of women, the constitution of Nepal explicitly states that “women shall have equal ancestral right without any gender-based discrimination.”

Nepal also has also continued to abolish the death penalty. Nepal had abolished death penalty in 1990 after the promulgation of the Constitution of the Kingdom of Nepal in 1990.

The Constitution defines wide range human rights as fundamental rights.

The drafting of a new constitution by the Steering Committee is going to be a tedious task in the context of past tortuous history. A constitution that would satisfy both sides Sinhalese and Thamils will prove difficult. Yet for lasting peace, order, national unity and good government a progressive and modern constitution is a must. Already there is fierce debate over unitary vs. federal constitution. A campaign has already been launched claiming federalism will lead to separation; it is the first step to carve out a separate state.

The TNA has repeatedly assured the country that it is against separation. The TNA has made it known that the contiguous preponderantly Thamil speaking Northern and Eastern provinces is the historical habitation of the Thamil People and the Thamil Speaking Peoples and power sharing arrangements based on shared sovereignty over land, law and order, enforcement of the law, but within an undivided and united Sri Lanka. Such powers will ensure the safety and security of the Thamil People and their socio-economic development.

Sri Lanka needs a democratic, federal and secular constitution with strong divisions of power and checks and balances.

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Latest comments

  • 0

    The short essay written by Frederic Bastiat “The Law” (freely available on the internet) is a good basis for a new Sri Lankan constitution. The US constitution followed much of these principles, until its meaning and purpose was distorted in later years by varying the context and ignoring the concept of ‘Original Intent’.

  • 20

    Malaysia has an interesting constitutional provision for Religion. Islam is the state religion. All religions can be practiced freely but any attempts to convert Muslims by preaching, education etc is illegal.

    • 10


      Why do you want to follow Islamic Malaysian constitution?

      Can you not innovate, create a progressive secular, liberal, democratic, non-theocratic, ……………….. a non-Sinhala/Buddhist constitution?

      So the political class and the legal draftsmen are so dumb and you cannot rely on them therefore you just want an easy path, copy and paste Malaysian constitution then substitute the key words.

    • 1

      Another good and probably the most important example is, Malaysia when it did wanted to control the religion of some people, it let the Singapore go alone.

  • 13

    Interesting article.

    If the word ‘federalism’ comes in the constitution, it will never be accepted by the Singhalese.

    • 9


      “If the word ‘federalism’ comes in the constitution, it will never be accepted by the Singhalese.”

      Of course, the F word is not acceptable to them, simply because they are stupid and misled by the noisy bigoted minority of Sinhala/Buddhists, crooks, and the saffron. They can’t even think for themselves, afflicted by paranoia, can’t see beyond their nose, …… willing or ever ready to cut off the nose to spite the face.

      How many of them really understood what “F” word really stand for?

      Now that the JVP is aligning with the crooks, it’s a matter of time they championed, causes of the unitary state, Sinhala/Buddhism, Hindian conspiracy, and happy to be part of the self-destruction . …..

  • 18

    The Lal Wijenayake report; https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/final-report-of-public-representations-committee-on-constitutional-reform-full-texts-in-three-language

    Is not what I had expected and is below par. It reflects the diverse opinions of the committee members than the presentations made by the public. In effect, it is neither here nor there and has not given any meaningful direction for the deliberations of Parliament, when it sits as a committee to formulate the new constitution. It in many ways anticipates the diverse directions the Select committee discussions would take and we can take no solace from it.

    Considering the manner in which this government is functioning on many fronts, there is little hope for a constitution that will stand the test of time and spell out a lofty vision for this country.

    The only solace we can have is that this government is better than the previous atleast marginally, in an overall sense.

    Dr.Rajasingham Narendran

  • 3

    Dr,Rajasingham Narendran

    The Report of the Public Representation Committee submitted by the chairman Lal Wijenayake is a huge disappointment to all right thinking people as rightly pointed out by you.

    The members should have functioned as facilitators to reflect the diverse view point s of the public and summarized their viewpoints and submitted their report.

    Unfortunately, the members behaved as if they are the experts and came out with their bias thinking ignoring the submissions made.

    What we expected from the members is a professional summary of the diversity so that with painstaking efforts a consensus could have been built so that a constitution could finally be an all inclusive one and the majority could claim ownership and the end result could have been a bipartisan constitution.

    The footnotes in the report revealed ethnic bias and political bias and disclosed the longstanding stands of the individual members, they in no way reflected the opinion of the people’s representatives who made representations either orally or in writing thereby done a disservice to the submissions made.

    If you delete all the footnotes in the report it would have made some sense.

    Whatever it may be it should not be thrown to the dustbin of history?

    • 2


      The options the Lal Wijenayake committee has offered at the end of each chapter to our parliamentarians resemble multiple choices offered to poorly prepared students at an examination!

      Are most of our parliamentarian qualified to make knowledge based choices?

      Are most of our parliamentarians capable of learning about the subject in depth, before making their choices?

      How many of our parliamentarians have an enlightened vision for this country?

      Is it once again going to be a missed opportunity?

      Should we live with the present constitution and interpret it in a way that Creates the conditions for a new constitution a decade or so later?


  • 6

    President Sirisena and Ranil Wickremasinghe already have in their mind-set what the new constitution is going consists of. The formalities are normal to show the Tamil people and the International community that this government is for peace, reconciliation and devolution of power. In reality there won’t be any devolution of power to the Tamils as expected by them. That is certain and sealed. The Tamil leadership is nowhere to go but to show the Tamil people that they will achieve the expectations of the Tamil people. The utter foolery of the TNA leadership in supporting the government, while in opposition, is creating a cordial relationship between the Sinhala government and the International community, because the International Community feels that there is no protests shown by the Tamil people and everything is going well.
    Mr.Sambanthan always speaks to the media in the third person and not in the first person. That is what is called political hypocrisy. His recent talk to one of the media as follows:’While welcoming the initiative taken by the government to release the lands in the North and East, there is a long way to go towards strengthening the peace process’. Where is the peace process? There is no peace process with the Tamils but war mongering is going on in the North and East by the presence of heavy army personnel, barbed wires and the lands belonging to the Tamils are destroyed, and occupation of private lands by the military.
    The Tamil people are now not interested in the new constitution but their freedom and their lands.

  • 4

    Mr Thangavelu

    knowing the history well, how the Tamils were duped by all SL governments why you have a day dream about the new constituion.

    This where you fail in your analysis.

    You, we Tamils get nothing out of the new constituion.

    Have you ever listen to Jayampathi’s recent interview? It is all about how to strength the activities of the Provincial Council.

    In your photograph you look fit but your memory seems to be colopsing.

    You get nothing out of SL government. This is history

    • 14

      Well, I presume that Thangavelu hasn’t listen to the latest speech of his adopted son Sumanthiran in the parliament.

      TNA, Sampanthan, Sumanthiran, Mavai and others have already given up hope in the present government which was boastered and justified too much by this Thangavelu of Canada.

      It is a time for Thangavelu to retire and make the way for someone who think in the right direction.

      Good bye Thangavelu

  • 23

    Neelan Tiruchelvam helped draft a noteworthy constitution. The Tigers unfortunately murdered him. This Thangavelu chap viciously supported the Tigers then as Vice President of the World Tamil Movement. He is a Canadian. Let the Tamils in Sri Lanka decide their future. A new constitution is unlikely. Federalism is unlikely. Secularism will never happen, thank god! And yet the caravan will move on. The Tamils will be ok.

  • 4

    The Presidential system brought in by J. R. Jayawardena was an utter failure. It is best that system is going to be pushed out in the new constitution. That will be good for the whole country. As for the Tamil, as said by others, Tamils are not interested in the new constitution. The Tamil people want freedom and their lands. Let not the Tamil leaders waste their time in calling for their share of power. They know they will never have it. There is no need to please the international community. The Tamils have witnessed the role of the international community in May 2009. Time will tell the world the psyche of the Sinhala-Buddhist Sri Lanka which the international community still believes. The Tamils in the North & East and Diaspora Tamils know what to do to be free from the shakles of Sinhala-Buddhist oppression.

    • 14

      J. Francis Xavier,

      You, with your comrade Thangavelu, used to run down the West, when LTTE was rising in strength. Your guns, mouths I should say, went completely silent when LTTE collapsed rather unceremoniously.

      Mr. Thangavelu, in his reincarnation since, has stealthily changed his cloak to be a TNA big wheel.

      And, you, not wanting to be left out, have come back with the old bunkum that there is no need to please the international community. And, that the Tamils in the North & East and Diaspora Tamils know what to do to be free from the shackles of Sinhala-Buddhist oppression.

      Believe me. I am a Tamil who does not know how we could free ourselves from the shackles of Sinhala-Buddhist oppression. Would you care to tell me what we should do. Or, would you like to keep that a secret, from me!

    • 4

      J. Francis Xavier, The Rev Canon (Anglican Church of Canada).


      Can you inform the reader about the ethnicity of your wife.

      Rev. you speak pure racism with an idea of getting more information and supply it to your masters.

      Rev. be reasonable.

      Dont sell your religious identity just to feed your superios with

  • 10

    Federal or devolution by 1987 Indo-Sri lank accord want be solution of propose new Constitution Sri lanka!

    We have to be remain as Unitary Character of State power, which that direct majority votes Will be decided wish of governances by all Sri Lankan State.

    Proposed Constitution is Illusion of UNP and TNA alliance .
    We totally an opposed that proposed by TNA Federal statues in
    Sri lanka.
    TNA and LTTE agenda is as same, as Tamil diaspora are playing same political cart. They Run by Separatism agenda.

    The partition of Sri lank by Tamils and Muslims will lead to Second Partition of Republic of Indian after 1947.

    The US political theories are not working in Asian mode of politics and its democracy.

    We are 2600 years civilization ,that USA has only 200 years of political history.
    USA is talking big politics but working on small and narrow line of thinking. This is 21st century has be turn into New Era.

    • 2


      “We have to be remain as Unitary Character of State power, which that direct majority votes Will be decided wish of governances by all Sri Lankan State.”

      So you agree to keep the political business as usual, which amounts to tyranny of the majority led by the noisy minority (the Sinhala/Buddhists).

      Give me one good reason as to why this island should remain a unitary state when devolution of power is important for all people to exercise their individual/shared sovereignty (whatever that is) in order to deprive the rulers and their bureaucrats of absolute power which in the past made this country ungovernable, unreasonable, experienced misuse of power, corruption, human right violations with impunity, accumulation of ill gotten wealth by a few, …………………….

      The rulers and state officials should be made accountable. Therefore it is important that the power of running the country is devolved to people who live in their habitat.

  • 1

    An important thing to consider in constitution making is that religion is a personal matter; no constitutional interest for it)

    Have faith even in devil but you’ll have to face consequences

    Make a common law for all the Sri Lankan citizens both on their personal and civil matters.

  • 5

    It is obvious that there will be nothing for the Tamils, no + +, no devolution or no federalism, but continued subjugation with structural genocide with army control, for a unitary undivided Buddhist Sinhala Sri Lanka. We were told even before the elections but some of us still can’t read and understand what is clearly written on the wall.

    If there were to be an ounce of equality for the Tamils or Muslims, no way it will go through a majoritarian Sinhala parliament with a 2/3 majority, and if it did so, with Ranil and Srisena Magic, it will still need approval through a referendum by the majority racist Sinhala south. Say no more, a riots would seal it off.

    This constitution review is an exercise to delay and divert the international community and to buy time to slow down the UN HRC resolution.

    Please focus your time and energy and assist with drafting and preparing a constitution for an independent Tamil Eelam, we can’t wait for another

    Manicka Vasagar

  • 3

    If the present government does not solve the ethnic problem this time sharing powers with the Tamils equally under an federal system of government like Canada/Quebec or England/Scotland finally the UN will be forced to call for a referendum from the Tamils to decide their future. If they miss the last bus this time Tamils cry for separate state will grow more vigorously and quickly from all corners of the world and the Tamils all over the world will start boycotting all Sri Lankan Products and create awareness to the other communities in their country to boycott all Sri Lankan products etc.

    • 1

      Did Lee kuan yew provide a federal setup for tamils in SL? Actually it is the same in SL with SL providing separate ghettos unlike in Singapore

      • 2

        sachooooooooooooo the stupid II

        “Actually it is the same in SL with SL providing separate ghettos unlike in Singapore”

        A recently returned Elder tells me he hasn’t seen any Sinhala/Buddhist ghetto in Singapore.

        By the way you must have mistaken Andaman for Singapore where criminals from this island were exiled by your former colonial masters.

        Are you looking for your great grandfathers? Please contact Indian High Commission.

  • 2

    I agree 100% with Mr. Manicka Vasagar.
    Pl. read this important article

  • 1

    what these tamil racists refer as ‘EQUALITY’ is minority rule over majority…

  • 3

    sachooooooooooooooooooooo the stupid II

    “what these tamil racists refer as ‘EQUALITY’ is minority rule over majority…”

    I thought Tamils are demanding equal rights to exercise public racism as their majoritarian Sinhala/Buddhist brethren obviously has monopoly over it.

    Are you willing to share your public racism with them?

  • 0

    The constitutional process that has been set in motion is in accordance with the UNHRC Resolution 30/1 passed on October 01, 2015. A few seem to miss this point. Section 16 of the said Resolution reads as follows:

    (16) Welcomes the commitment of the Government of Sri Lanka to a political settlement by taking the necessary constitutional measures, encourages the Government’s efforts to fulfil its commitments on the devolution of political authority, which is integral to reconciliation and the full enjoyment of human rights by all members of its population; and also encourages the Government to ensure that all Provincial Councils are able to operate effectively, in accordance with the thirteenth amendment to the Constitution of Sri Lanka.

    So this is an opportunity for the Government as well as the Opposition that the Constitutional Assembly to frame a constitution that is based on democratic principles, equality, rule of law and other fundamental human rights. The world has come a long way since the founding of UNO. With all its faults UNO remains an effective instrument to maintain peace world-wide. After WW1 we had WW2 within 24 years, but since the end of WW2 the world has enjoyed relative peace for 71 years. We cannot think of a world sans the UNO. Moreover, from the early 1990s the world as a whole has shifted from a world of states modeled after seventeenth century to a world of diminished state sovereignty and increased interstate linkages of a constitutionalized federal character. This paradigm shift actually began after World War II.

    I agree with Kumarathasan Rasaingam that “If the present government does not solve the ethnic problem this time sharing powers with the Tamils equally under a federal system of government like Canada/Quebec or England/Scotland finally the UN will be forced to call for a referendum from the Tamils to decide their future. If they miss the last bus this time Tamils cry for separate state will grow more vigorously and quickly from all corners of the world and the Tamils all over the world will start boycotting all Sri Lankan Products and create awareness to the other communities in their country to boycott all Sri Lankan products etc.” But I disagree with his claim “THE PRESENT GOVERNMENT IS TRYING TO HOODWINK THE TAMILS, UN, US, UK, EU AND THE WORLD, and GIVING FALSE PROMISES AND TONS OF LIES. The government of Sirisena – Wickremesinghe is genuine in arriving at a political settlement, but they are under constant pressure from hard-line elements in the SLFP claiming federalism means separation. Even the JVP which carries the red flag hammer and sickle is opposed to a federal constitution.

    The word federalism has become a dirty word among a section of the Sinhalese which is very unfortunate. As a matter of fact federalism was not articulated by the Thamils but by SWRD Bandaranaike of Sinhala Only fame as far back as 1926. He formed a political party named “Progressive Nationalist Party.’ SWRD Bandaranaike having realised the communal differences of the three major communities: Low   Country Sinhalese, Kandyan Sinhalese and Thamils, or having keenly observed the conflicts within the Ceylon National Congress, began to advocate a federal constitution for the island based on the Swiss canton system. In a lecture  delivered under the auspices of the Students’ Congress in Jaffna, in July 1926,  Bandaranaike expressed the view that there would be problems ‘if a  centralised form of government was introduced into countries’ like Sri Lanka  with ‘large communal differences’ since ‘a centralised form of government  assumed a homogenous whole.”

    The next request was by made in the early 1930s by Kandyan Sinhalese in a submission to the Donoughmore Commission. The request was repeated before the Soulbury commission when the Kandyans   proposed a Federal scheme where the Up-country region, the Low-country, and the North would be three federal states. Their suggestions were rejected by the commissioners who found no merit in the federal proposals.

    The next request was by the Federal party was in 1948. It was supported in Parliament by Drs. N.M. Perera and Colvin R. De Silva, leaders of the Trotskyite party who later became ministers.

    JR Jayewardene, ex-President in an interview with the press after he relinquished office said that federalism was the solution to the ethnic problem.

    Gamini Dissanayake, ex-minister and ex-Presidential candidate said that federalism was the solution.  This was reported in an article by Dr. Jehan Perera titled “Gamini’s last testament was federalism.”

    It is up to the government and opposition to rather continue with the carnage, destruction, strife, friction and economic disaster faced by the country than agree to a truly federal system where all citizens will be equal in all respects. Not in quantity but in qualitative terms. This is a small price the country has to pay usher in peace and prosperity to ALL the people of the country. In my article I have cited Nepal as a country that has opted for a federal form of government with 7 provinces after civil war and continued turmoil under a unitary constitution. If the current constitutional process fails, it is likely the UNO might intervene backed by US and India

    • 0

      “Kandyans proposed a Federal scheme where the Up-country region, the Low-country, and the North would be three federal states”. Is this division applicable for today?
      The point is if we were to split a unitary state into multiple federal states, which is completely the opposite of how US was formed, based on religion, ethnicity, or casts, that will not last long. For example, for the above mix of up country, low country and North, one must add the East, where Muslims shall, if they self-determine to do so, establish Sharia law. This then will create friction with fundamental human rights, which Muslims will not accept that it is. When the court decides such laws are un-constitutional, inevitable is violence against the state. This is the ground reality.
      I don’t support devolution. I support the dissolution of power held by the center as well as the state governments.

  • 0

    A Bahá’í Declaration of Human Rights and Obligations
    This statement was presented by the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States and Canada to the first session of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in February, 1947 at Lake Success, New York, U.S.A.

    “The earth is but one country and mankind its citizens.” — Bahá’u’lláh
    Usage of Banned Cluster Bombs & Chemical weapons – [WMD] to wipe out the Tamil population – 147,000 XII. Bestir yourselves, O people, in anticipation of the days of Divine justice, for the promised hour is now come. Beware lest ye fail to apprehend its import and be counted among the erring.

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