THE DEBATE ON A NEW CONSTITUTION FOR SRI LANKA (PART 2)
Posted on April 26th, 2018

BY Edward Theophilus

In 1971, Mrs. Sirimavo Bandaranaike efficiently acted to control JVP actions showing lessons learned from 1958 emergency.  With these excellent experiences in the past, Mr. JR Jayewardene and the UNP government strongly believed that the constitution introduced in 1972 must be reformed introducing a new constitution, which establishes an Executive Presidency in the unitary status. The executive presidency further supported Mr. R. Premadasa to eliminate the Second JVP Insurrection in 1988/89 and Mr. Mahinda Rajapaksa to destroy LTTE terrorist war and create lasting peace in the country.  This is a highly logical and valid point in support of an Executive President in a unitary form of state in the constitution. However, the 13th amendment to the constitution in 1987 focused to distribute certain area of the power of the central government to the provincial authorities, which were created from the amendment.

Since 1972 it has been seen that the changing of the constitution has become a game for political parties to satisfy international donor agencies and NGO groups, which are playing neo-colonialism in developing countries.  The general public of Sri Lanka appears to be tired of the foreign influences on the constitutional reforms.  A large sum of money was wasted to constitutional matters when political administrators were always crying for money to perform essential services to the country. The question of the general public is why the government attempts to change constitution wasting money, when people do not want a new constitution. The process will go forward wasting money forever and ever as long as the current style of politics remains in the country.

An article published in  the Island (28/01/2018) in Sri Lanka by N Sathiya Moorthy, who was introduced as the Director, Chennai Chapter of the Observer Research Foundation, the Multi-Disciplinary  Indian Public Policy Think Tank indirectly indicated that a new constitution was a promise of political promise but nobody knows who gave such a promise and why such a promise was given to outsiders of the country or  was it a trap that manipulated by Indian intelligence to catch Sri Lanka in the way they created LTTE against Chinese influence in the country.  In this situation it is very clear that a new constitution is not a demand of general public in Sri Lanka but it appears like a part of international politics especially against Sri Lanka’s development thrust with the support of China.

The constitution writers in 1947 clearly understood that Sri Lanka had been a unitary state since the establishment of Sinhala Kingdom from the embarkation of King Vijaya and later King Pandukabhaya. Although Sri Lanka was subject to foreign rules, such imperialists did never change the unitary state of the country and they never discussed to create a federal style of administration system. Sri Lanka has been managed as a unitary state in the history with sub-national units, which were purely created for administration purposes with a limited power base but not to satisfy ethnical politics in the country.  Why the current constitution wants to change is a firm argument of the majority of people of Sri Lanka. Even Tamils actually living in North and East do not want to change the constitution and Tamil politicians who are really living in Colombo and Overseas attempt to fabricate the genuine Tamil concerns with a view to mislead the international community.  A similar type of divisive threats was faced by the United Kingdom, Spain, Italy and many other countries but such countries never positively responded to divisive matters.  Sri Lanka should not be a playground for international politics at the expense of the unity and economic development of the country.

Recently many Sinhala leaders asked from Tamil politicians what are the problems they have in the current unitary system, in fact, they have not clearly talked about problems but attempted to mere talks about economy-related problems such as unemployment, lower income and regional development, which are similarly existing in Sinhala majority area.  Although the constitution and its operational framework were changed, the fundamental economic development problems would not be solved until a balanced growth strategy and more investments operate in all over the country.  Recently I met many rural people in the country, whom opinion was they were seriously neglected by the Yahapalanaya and because of the serious corruptions in central and regional administrations, poor people are tired of the democracy and they never talk on constitutional reforms.  They need economic development such as strengthening the foreign value of Sri Lanka rupee, a high economic growth, full employment, export growth and quality, giving right value to the labour of rural community, resolving environmental problems, traffic problems and many others. They want to bring modernization to rural villages, modernization doesn’t mean to Indian three wheels, they do not want to go Middle East for slavery and if the government improves their living conditions by effective policy actions, they like to work hard in Sri Lanka and have a decent family life in the country.  People honestly told me that it is necessary value education in schools, they like to learn history and various skills in schools and they like to be a knowledge and skilled nation. They are not interested in a new constitution.  It clearly seems that new constitution is not a requirement of the inside of the country but an outside push.

However, Sinhala majority must understand a significant point that Tamil people as a whole without differences as Sri Lankan and Indian Tamils have an identity which is based on the language they used and this identity could not be denied by the majority of Sinhala community. Nobody can deny the rights of Tamils purely against the identity.  People with Tamil identity has an irrevocable right to enjoy the power in the executive, legislative and the judiciary, which should be clearly indicated in the constitution.  The issue is that the constitution of Sri Lanka neither in 1946 nor in 1972 nor in 1978 nor in the amendments to 1978 in 1987, 2015 nor in an interim report of a new constitution of the current government did talk about the fundamental rights of Tamil and Muslim people of Sri Lanka in relation to the identity.

I read an article written by Dr Nihal Jayawickrama in the Island newspaper of Sri Lanka and he raised the issue and his view was the constitution should clearly write the rights of Tamil people.  According to Dr Jayawickrama’s view, the constitution should clearly indicate the number of representatives should be represented in the Executive (Cabinet), in the Legislative (Parliament) and the Judiciary according to the identity of Tamil people in Sri Lanka in other word according the ratio of population.  Dr jayawickrama clearly indicated that these members of the Executive and the Legislative must be truly elected representatives of Tamil people but not unelected representatives like Kadiragamar or Kumarasurior who were living in Colombo or overseas. The problems of Tamils are known to Tamils who are truly living in North or East or Upcountry but not Tamils in Colombo or in Overseas. Now there is a challenge to the constitutional reform committee to clearly write in the constitution how many truly elected Tamils from North and East must be represented in the parliament to share the power of the central government of the unitary system.  What we have actually seen in Sri Lanka was that Tamils who are really not living in North and East poor villages but living in Colombo or in Overseas want be representatives of Tamils in Sri Lanka in the Executive, Legislature and in the Judiciary.

The population statistics in Sri Lanka from 1881 to 2011 clearly indicates that the total Sri Lankan Tamil population, who are living in North East and other provinces of the country has declined from 24.9% in 1881 to 11.15% in 2011. It is more than 100% decline of Tamil population in Sri Lanka.  If it takes a censes now, it can be seen that Tamil population in Sri Lanka has further declined as Tamils have an interest to go overseas looking green pastures than involve in petty ethnic issues. Despite the declining Tamil population ratio, Sinhala population in the entire Sri Lanka has increased from 66.9% in 1881 to 74.9% in 2011. Now it can be estimated to 76%.  The ratio of total Tamil population including Indian Tamils in 2011 was recorded that 16.83% of total population and further it indicates that the total Sri Lankan Tamils are actually living in North and East is 7.84% of the population and the total Tamil population including Indian Tamils living in outside the North and East are 7.4% of the total population in Sri Lanka.  The cry for a new constitution by Tamil politicians and NGO people for the North and East Tamils is 7.8% of total population of Sri Lanka and there is a question, can a country change its constitution for 7.8% people disregarding rights of 92.2% of the population. Therefore, the demand of Tamil politicians and NGO people cannot morally justify and their attempts sound ludicrous.

From the total population in Sri Lanka, the ratio of Tamils related to North and East is 11.2% of which 52% of Tamils are living in other areas where Sinhala majority is living.  Demographic experts in Sri Lanka could possibly predict that the total Tamil population of Sri Lanka in North and East, as well as Indian Tamil population, would be reduced to less than 10% within next two to three decades.  The reasons supported to the idea are many Tamils leave overseas to be permanent resident or citizens in other countries, many Tamils use Sinhala language for education and willing to designate as Sinhala Sri Lankan than Tamils and many of female Tamils are happy to integrate to the Sinhala community through marriages as Sinhala families and female have more freedom than the status of women within the Tamil community.   After ending civil the war in the North and East so called Sinhala the government stimulated investments in North and East.  After the war lots of jobs and business opportunities created in North and East. The government of Sri Lanka never took any attempt to discriminate Tamils or deprive Tamil rights. Many Tamils are living with Sinhala people in other area do not like to go back North and East because they are happy to live peacefully with Sinhala people despite the attempts of Tamil Politicians.  In this environment, Tamils actually do not concern with the status of the constitution whether it is unitary or Federal.  It appears that the matter of constitution is a purely manipulated issue of politicians and foreign forces.

The statistics further indicate that 70.10% of the population are Buddhists in Sri Lanka followed by 12.58% Hindus, 9.66% Muslim, 7.62% Christians and 0.03% are others.  There is no record in Sri Lanka who claimed that they were secular people without association to a religion.  The highest causality of religious groups was Christian whose population of 10.04% in 1891 has declined to 7.62% in 2012. However, the experience in South Korea and Japan indicates that Christian population has dramatically increased and it is assumed that the major reason to decline Christian population in Sri Lanka was a migration to overseas and mixed marriages.

NGO groups and some Tamil groups demanded the converting of Sri Lanka to a secular state under the proposed constitution.  It is a strange or unexpected demand that neither people of Sri Lanka would agree with the point.  No country in the world so far has designed as a purely secular state in a constitution but the practice of some countries like Australia is appeared to be a secular state with the greatest freedom for religions.  Why those constitutional reformists wanted to convert Sri Lanka to a secular state is unanswerable question. Most probably, it was a conspiracy of NGO advisors, who wanted to create a crisis in the country than a constitution with a view to attracting NGO funds to their pockets. The new criteria of many Western NGOs are to see the result-oriented reforms and many local NGO members now cannot mislead parent organizations and local NGOs happy to create problems in the country to attract funds.  The concept of converting the country to a secular state is a reflection of the frustration of NGO groups after ending the civil war.

The idea of creating a secular state in Sri Lanka through the proposed constitutional reforms might be to abolish the current status or prominent place given to Buddhism.  It is a highly questionable point because the historical evidence of Sri Lanka ascertained that Buddhism as a religion played a main role for Sri Lanka’s political, economic, social and cultural development.  This truth is categorically confirmed and accepted by all other active religions in Sri Lanka.   No religious leader in the country wants to achieve such a disgusted objective of converting Sri Lanka to a secular state through a proposed constitution.  The Buddhism played a critical and leading role in Sri Lanka during the civilization process and the biography of JR Jayewardene written by Howard Wriggins and K.M.de Silva clearly summarised the view of JR Jayewardene in regard to this matter and the UNP government decided to maintain chapter 2 of the 1972 constitution in regard to the place for Buddhism with more strong wordings ( Please read the  Introduction of  J.R.Jayawardane of Sri Lanka – A Political Biography by  K.M.de Silva and Howard Wriggins 1988).  Mr. Jayewardene has given the best argument in support of why Buddhism should be given in prominent place in the 1978 constitution.  It is purely illogical, improper and unnecessary issue highlighted by constitutional reformers.  Why such issue raised during the consultation with the public, with clearly knowing that people of the country without any religious differences would oppose to the Boeotia proposition.

Some of the leaders in the constitutional reform committee are not really academically or politically respected by ordinary people of Sri Lanka and they were rejected political advocates aligned to Marxist ideology, in fact, they were mistakenly understanding the Communist Statement of Karl Marx.  When people rejected them in political field, they used the LTTE war to get advantages from the neo Colonist Non-Government Organizations. Previous constitutions development efforts were associated highly respected academics and legal experts but, in this instance, majority of them are not excellent academics but puppets of dancing tune to strings behind.

My personal opinion is the current constitution needs various amendments in relation to the rights of ethnic groups in the central government which includes executive, legislature and the judiciary, clearly indicating their representation. The major identity of people in Sri Lanka is gender (males and females), the census of 2011 indicates that the population of Sri Lanka consists of 48.53% male and 51.47% female and the total representatives of the parliament (Executive, legislature and the judiciary) should be elected as 110 males and 115 females and all these three institutions must be consisting of 48.53 (Male):51.47 (Female) and the representation of all ethnic groups should be fundamentally based on this identity.

 

One Response to “THE DEBATE ON A NEW CONSTITUTION FOR SRI LANKA (PART 2)”

  1. Dilrook Says:

    Fundamental rights must never be mixed with ethnicity. Every individual must have equal rights. Fullstop.

    Tamils must not have any special rights. 15 Sri Lankan Tamils have been elected (others appointed) into parliament but most opt not to participate in governance and disrupt it. That is their choice.

    There should be absolutely no rights assigned to ethnic groups which is not practiced in any civilised country. Fundamental rights must be equal to all individuals.

    For the record, there is nothing called ‘equal community rights’. Equal rights only apply to individuals.

    Gender preference of parliamentarians must be left to the voter.

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