Colombo, May 12 (newsin.asia): The non-resolution of the Sinhalese-Tamil conflict has been the “primary cause” of all the problems which Sri Lanka has been facing, says R.Sampanthan, Leader of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) and Leader of the Opposition in the Sri Lankan parliament.
“The country is in its current parlous state and corruption and fraud have aggravated to its present height, primarily on account of the non-resolution of the issue in the North-East (where the Tamils live),” Sampanthan told parliament on May 10.
“This country will never be able to redeem itself unless the North-East issue is resolved,” he asserted.
Solution Within United Sri Lanka
Sampanthan re-iterated the Tamils’ stand that they are seeking a solution within a united Sri Lanka and not separation.
“I want the North-East issue resolved within an undivided, indivisible and one Sri Lanka on the basis of fairness, justice and equality, wherein all Sri Lankans are equal citizens of this country, Sri Lanka, subject only to the country’s Constitution,” he said.
Need for New Constitution
Stressing the need for a new constitution, Sampanthan recalled that President Maithripala Sirisena had said both on September 1, 2015 and on May 8, 2018, that the country needs a new constitution to resolve the national question and bring about ethnic reconciliation.
Sampanthan further said that by a resolution of parliament on March 9, 2016, parliament coverted itself into a ‘Constitutional Assembly’ to draft a new constitution and that the process had advanced very far till it was stopped recently.
‘The Constitutional Assembly has functioned; a Steering Committee has been appointed; Subcommittees have been appointed; Subcommittees have come up with their Reports; the Steering Committee has come up with an Interim Report to the Constitutional Assembly and debates have taken place in Parliament. The enactment of a new Constitution has been seriously considered and much work has been done on that. Experts have been appointed; their views have been obtained; there have been consultations with the people; there have been consultations with civil society and a lot of work has been done.”
“ But unfortunately, in the past couple of months, that work has not continued on account of other developments in the country: Local Authorities Elections and certain differences in Government. Sixteen Ministers of the Government have crossed over and joined the Opposition. “
“On account of these disturbances, that process has not continued.”
But the process must be resumed, Sampanthan said.
“That process must recommence and that must reach its logical end. It was a unanimous Resolution adopted by this Parliament converting Parliament into a Committee of the whole designated as the Constitutional Assembly for the purpose of drafting a new Constitution for this country. The Steering Committee appointed by the Constitutional Assembly has continuously met; everybody has participated. The Resolution was adopted unanimously. Therefore, that is the will of this House; that is the will of the Members of Parliament and it must continue,” Sampanthan said.
There is Unanimity
The Tamil leader pointed out that the former President, Mahinda Rajapaklsa, has been for all the objectives and methods of resolving the ethnic question adopted by the present government.
Rajapaksa’s manifesto for the January 8, 2015, Presidential election had made this very clear, Sampanthan pointed out.
Rajapaksa had said in his manifesto: “I will take action to formulate a new Constitution that reflects the peoples’ ideas, aspirations and wishes within a period of one year. I will first submit the Draft Constitution which will consist of the proposals of these groups, for the Parliament’s approval in accordance with the Constitution. Thereafter, I will present the Draft Constitution to a referendum seeking the approval of the people.”
Sampanthan said that is what the Tamils too want.
“It is our contention that the Constitution must be approved by Parliament by a two-thirds majority and after the Constitution is approved by Parliament by a two-thirds majority, it must be submitted to the people of this country and it must obtain the approval of the people of this country at a Referendum. That is our position. We do not want a Constitution enacted behind the backs of the people.”
Nobody Can Get Away From Drafting New Constitution
Sampanthan traced the history of solving the ethnic issue by drafting a new constitution since 1987-88, and said no regime had been able to sidestep this issue.
“The Tamils have lived in this country for as long as anyone else. They have historically inhabited a certain part of this country and the Tamil-speaking people are a majority in that part of the country which they have historically inhabited even today.”
“We want a united country; we want an undivided country; we want an indivisible country but, we want to live as equal citizens. We must be assured of our dignity and self-respect. We must be assured justice within an undivided country. That is what we are asking for.”
“I do not think, Sir, that can be denied to us. I think the time has come for everyone to realize that this is an obligation that they – not merely the Tamil people, all the Tamil-speaking people in this country are entitled to.”
Basic Condition of Lanka’s Prosperity
Sampanthan said that if Sri Lanka is to prosper, if the country is to achieve its full potential, if the country is to grow economically and succeed as a country as other countries have done in this region and in the world, a new Constitution needs to be framed and this matter needs to be resolved.
(The featured image at the top is that of R.Sampanthan Leader of the Opposition in the Sri Lankan parliament and also the Tamil National Alliance)