Constitution framers divided over bid to change ‘unitary state’
Posted on September 21st, 2017

By Saman Indrajith Courtesy The Island

The Steering Committee, tasked with drafting a new constitution has raised the hackles of some of its members by proposing that the term, ‘unitary state’ be done away with.

The Steering Committee interim report submitted by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe to the Constitutional Assembly yesterday states that people in the south are scared of the term, ‘federal’ while the people in the North fear the word, ‘unitary.’

The report says: “The classical definition of the English term ‘unitary state’ has undergone change. In the United Kingdom, it is now possible for Northern Ireland and Scotland to move away from the union. Therefore the English term ‘unitary state’ will not be appropriate for Sri Lanka. The Sinhala term ‘aekiya raajyaya’ best describes an undivided and indivisible country. The Tamil language equivalent of this is ‘orumiththa nadu.’ In these circumstances, the following formulation may be considered: Sri Lanka [Ceylon] is a free, sovereign and independent republic which is an aekeiya rajyaya/orumiththa nadu means a state which is undivided and indivisible, and in which the power to amend the constitution, or to repeal and replace the constitution, shall remain within the parliament and people of Sri Lanka as provided in this constitution.”

The Joint Opposition, however, has objected to the proposal to abolish unitary status of Sri Lanka and demanded that the Article 2 of the 1978 Constitution which states ‘the Republic of Sri Lanka is a Unitary State’ should be kept as it is.

“We object to the proposed English and Tamil terms. The meaning of ‘Orumiththa nadu’ in Tamil is entirely different from the Sinhala term for ‘unitary state’. The meaning of ‘Orumiththa nadu’ carries the meaning ‘the country that is formed by amalgamation.’

“This is ample proof that this interim report has been drafted according to a separatist agenda, aimed at doing away with the unitary character of the state,” says the JO proposal signed by its parliamentary group and MEP leader Dinesh Gunwardena and MP Prasanna Ranatunga.

The SLFP proposal signed by Ministers Nimal Siripala de Silva, Susil Premajayantha and Dilan Perera, too, has opposed the proposal to abolish the unitary state.  It says, “Articles I and II of the constitution shall be maintained unchanged in their present form, i. e 01. Sri Lanka is a free, sovereign, independent and democratic socialist republic and shall be known as the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, 02. The Republic of Sri Lanka is a unitary state. In the Tamil language and the English language the word ‘unitary’ shall be used and shall carry the interpretation of the word of the Sinhala language.”

The JVP’s proposal signed by its leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake and MP Bimal Ratnayake has not included any suggestion pertaining to the unitary status of the country.

The TNA proposal signed by MPs R Sampanthan and MA Sumanthiran demands that Sri Lanka should be a union of provinces/states.

It says: “Sri Lanka shall be a federal state within the framework of a united/undivided and indivisible country. The Centre and Provinces/states shall exercise exclusive power in their areas of competence in accordance with the provisions of the constitution. Sri Lanka shall be a secular state…. The northern and eastern provinces shall constitute one province/state.”

The Jathika Hela Urumaya proposal, signed by its general secretary Minister Patali Champika Ranawaka, too, has demanded that Articles 1 and 2 of the present constitution guaranteeing the unitary status of the country remain unchanged.

The proposal submitted by the All Ceylon Makkal Congress’ leader Minister Rishad Bathiudeen has objected to the merging of provinces. The constitution shall not recognize the north and east as a single province. The ACMC demands that unitary status should remain unchanged.

A joint proposal signed by the SLMC leader Minister Rauff Hakim, Tamil Progressive Alliance leader Minister Mano Ganesan, EPDP leader Douglas Devananda demands that Sri Lanka should be known as United Republic of Sri Lanka. It shall be Sri Lanka Eksath Janarajaya in Sinhala language and Aikkiya Ilangi Kudiyarasau in Tamil.

7 Responses to “Constitution framers divided over bid to change ‘unitary state’”

  1. Dilrook Says:

    This is shameful on many fronts.

    South Indian Diaspora in the island belonging to 3 ethnic groups making up 24% of the population make various suggestions how to chop the nation. They ranger from dismemberment (TNA) to beneficial demarcations to them (EPDP, SLMC, TPA). Sri Lanka is the only nation to yield into such groups.

    Why is no one makes the case to make Sri Lanka a Unitary nation again? Why there is no movement towards this direction?

    Why should Sri Lanka’s name be translated to multiple languages? This is not the case elsewhere.

    Sinhala voters must take a tough stand on Unitary status at the next election.

  2. Senerath Says:

    All these Polbooru parties should unite under one name “Jathika Hora Urumaya”. Why there is no one with balls to remove 13A and bring back the undivided nation ? There is no need to fight over “unitary” , just remove everything that talk about minority races or religions. A single statement giving equal status to all citizens will be sufficient, whilst “the country” retains its Sinhala Buddhist origin and heritage as it is. By talking about a “Unitary” it implies divisions.

  3. Ananda-USA Says:


    Regarding Aloysius, the reason why the CoI refrains from compelling him to give further evidence, is that Aloysius has admitted culpability and expressed fear that he could be charged, and therefore has invoked the right to avoid self-incrimination, and testifying against and incriminating himself further.

    In the US, this right against self-incrimination is embedded in the 5th Amendment to the US Constitution. Of course, “taking the 5th” is a red flag to the prosecution to redouble their investigative efforts and prosecute the related crimes.

    I guess Sri Lanka’s system of law has a similar protection against forcing people to incriminate themselves. In such cases the Legal Authorities must INDEPENDENTLY gather and supply the evidence needed for prosecution.

  4. Ananda-USA Says:

    SHAME on the SLFP which has LOST ITS WAY! Nimal Siripala De Silva is yet another opportunist, a TRAITOR to his Motherland and his people!

    Who else would try to devolve power to PROVEN SECESSIONISTS and usher in an essentially de-facto Federal Constitution?

    Did our War-Heroes and our innumerable dead citizens, DIE IN VAIN so these so-called LEADERS can propose and advocate such things?

    MUNTA HENA GAHANNA ONEY! Mun Apita Epaa; Thara Gaala Pannapan Diyawannawen!

    Why are we TRYING to WEAKEN our National Government and DISINTEGRATE our Motherland when we KNOW VERY WELL that SECESSIONISTS ABOUND plotting and conniving in our midst?

    REPEAL the 13-A and DISSOLVE the PROVINCIAL COUNCILS! Implement a DISTRICT based Administrative System with District Governors APPOINTED, not ELECTED, by the National Government. Introduce a SENATE with ONE ELECTED Senator per district.

    BLOCK and ELIMINATE all paths that lead to concentration of power in the regions at the expense of the National Government! One National Parliament is FRANCHISE ENOUGH for any law-abiding citizen. DO NOT EMPOWER greedy SEPARATISTS!

    Not against devolution of power in new Constitution: SLFP

    Minister Nimal Siripala De Silva said yesterday the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) was not against the devolution of power in the new Constitution.

    He told parliament that they had put forward several proposals to the Constitution while they were of the opinion that the unitary state should be in tact in the new Constitution.

    “We agreed to form a national government to achieve several objectives including the introduction of new electoral system. We all supported the 19th Amendment. We also came to an agreement to pass the 20th Amendment but we could not do it”, he said.

    He said the SLFP held the fact that electorate system should be introduced to the parliamentary election just as it was done to the Local Government and Provincial Councils.

    He said the SLFP had proposed that the ministries and deputy ministers should be restricted to 30 in the new Constitution.

    He said they also proposed that the new Constitution should have provisions so that subject of ministries could not be changed.

    He said their proposals also included to repeal the executive powers of the President to some extent while to appoint a President elected by the votes of all the communities to uphold the position of unitary state of the country.

    Mr. De Silva said the Prime Minister should be appointed through the Westminster system. (Ajith Siriwardana and Yohan Perera)

  5. SA Kumar Says:

    of United Provincial Council of Sinhela Lanka ( UPCSL)!!!

    United PCS
    Saiva TE ( NPC)
    Muslim TE ( EPC)
    Bhuddist Sinhela Lanka (other 7 PCs).

    Our 2,000 years day TE is not fare away (another 2,000 years ) .

    Naalai pirakkum TE (TE will born Tomorrow ) !!!

  6. Senerath Says:

    සිංහලයා මෝඩයා කරන්න බැහැ කියා මුන් දනිති. එහෙත් රනිලයා හෝ අනික් එකා අල්ලාගෙන අසීමිත තණ්හාව නමැති රජ පුටුව පෙන්නා නොකල හැකි දෙයක් නැත​.

  7. Fran Diaz Says:

    None of the foreign countries that face areas trying to ‘break away’ have vast numbers, many Millions, just a few sea miles away of the same ethnic break away group. There are some 60+ Million Tamil folk in Tamil Nadu just a few miles away.

    Therefore, the Sri Lanka case of the breakaway away Tamil Group appears unique, and jeopardises all the rest of Sri Lanka.

    If a separate Tamil Eelam is formed in the North, it is only rational to think that they will join up with Tamil Nadu.
    Next, INDIA will suffer a break up too, as Tamil Nadu has earlier attempted to break away from INDIA. This was stopped by PM Nehru’s Anti Secessionist Law in 1963.

    Also, why is it that Tamil folk who have migrated to several other countries, both to the west & east, have not asked for a separate area/province etc under Tamils ? This is mainly because Tamil Nadu in nearby ONLY to Sri Lanka. Note also that here are some 15 million Tamils of Dalit origin in TN. They would like to leave TN to remove the Caste stigma.



    The Sinhala and others in Lanka are NOT responsible for the Caste Wars of Tamil Nadu !
    They did not create CASTE in Tamil Nadu.
    Why should Lanka pay so heavily and divide their only homeland, Sri Lanka, to solve foreign & TAMIL CASTE problems ? !

    Also note that Tamil people of Lanka can live anywhere in Sri Lanka. Others are chased out of the North, which is thought of as exclusively for Tamil people.

    Is what the New Constitution offers a fair solution to all the rest of the People of Lanka ?

    NB: People who have read the DRAFT of the New Constitution say that the Sinhala, English & Tamil versions differ.

    What we want is a fair solution for everyone with genuine citizenship in Sri Lanka, not garbage poppycock solutions to suit a few.

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