COMBINING ANTI-DISCRIMINATION LAWS IN THE PROPOSED NEW CONSTITUTION AS A SUCCESSFUL SOLUTION TO ETHNIC AND RELIGIOUS PROBLEMS IN SRI LANKA PART 1
Posted on November 19th, 2021

By EDWARD THEOPHILUS

It has been reported that a draft constitution has felicitously been completed by the constitutional committee, which was appointed by the president. The draft constitution was written by lawyers who were capable of legal drafting and critically looking at legal issues in the document. When drafting a constitution, the legal aspect is not only the area that people are concerned but also many aspects that are related to people. Especially in Sri Lanka, ethnic, cultural, and religious issues are vital aspects to consider by the drafting committee. If these issues are ignored, the peace that needs for the progress of people wouldn’t be achieved. The legal aspect of a constitution is too difficult to decide just by looking at the draft because the later law-making process would be subjected to refer the contents of the new constitution to the court, which will review the legality of the content and how the contents are applied in the future environment and it may need rewording and reforming.

People do not know many points referred to in the draft constitution that they may in disagreement with the rights of ethnic and religious groups. Since 1947, several constitutions had been drafted, and limited numbers of drafted constitutions were approved by the parliament and ethnic and religious minority groups had been in disagreement with several aspects of the completed drafts as they are questioning some areas of the current constitution. It needs debating at least two years by people and finally, a refined draft should be approved by the legislature.

The economic struggle of people does not encourage debate points in the draft document and the draft presented by the previous government also commented only a small group of people motivated by politicians and Buddhist monks. The actual situation is many people do not know about the constitution and related requirements. The knowledge of how the proposed constitution affects various affairs of people would be a matter that would arise in the future.

The focus of this article is the requirement of combining anti-discrimination laws with the new constitution and treating people in the country as one country one nation. All groups in Sri Lanka like in many other countries antidiscrimination laws becoming a part of the constitution, despite the current practice of different ethnic and religious groups which are highly bias toward the practices of certain groups. The fundamental truth is, despite the identity of various ethnic groups in Sri Lanka, all are anthropologically Indian human groups. 

Sri Lanka has a major issue that is related to providing economic opportunities and the elimination of economic disparities related to people because of legal or constitutional hindrances that might or might not relate to the major issue of people. This means that although the country could give equal opportunities to engage in economic activities, equity in economic status cannot give everyone because of the disparity in the social system and the ownership of capital to invest in economic activities. The ability to take part in economic activities would be a hindrance resulting the capital ownership.

However, ethnic and religious problems have been a significant barrier to giving equity and justice from an economic sense rather than pursuing unimportant issues. Ethnic and religious issues in the country have become a barrier to engaging in economic activities as global level Sri Lanka’s products and services are subject to the effect of regulation and preference of overseas countries consuming goods and services of Sri Lanka. 

The anti-discrimination laws in the country are escalated in various areas and it is a hard task to identify and combine them. Many people have questioned whether Sri Lanka respects laws against discrimination and as an answer to this issue it needs to combine all anti-discrimination laws in the new constitution. Discrimination is not a familiar term in Sri Lanka’s society as people have been using discrimination as a right in history. Although many people are reluctant to state publicly that discrimination works as a right in society such disgraceful acts should have been eliminated since the introduction of the Donomore constitution in history.

For example, I can remember I had been subjected to discrimination in the workplace using various countenances, and managers also associated with discriminators for enjoyment and jealousy. Discrimination is a broader term that could happen by words of mouth as well as direct or indirect actions. The other significant experience in Sri Lanka is discrimination cogent within relatives, ethnic groups,  single religious groups,  and within brothers and sisters. The lack of education about the possible mental feeling of discrimination or mental harms of the subject relegated to discrimination may be the major reason for continuing discrimination in Sri Lanka.  I observed the ragging in universities was subject to discrimination, especially Tamil students were ragged by Sinhala students based on ethnicity.

Sri Lanka had been suffering from an ethnic-based civil war for a long time and the attempts of the military have successfully eliminated the war. Many policymakers in the country did not think about the root cause of the ethnic and religious problems.  The main reason for the armed struggle was that the minority ethnic and religious groups in the country had a reasonable feeling of discrimination being done to them by the major ethnic and religious groups (Sinhala Buddhists).

Many writings in history made supportive narratives for discriminatory aspects, though it was not a practical behavior of people in society to reflect outsiders. Very rarely ethnical based physical conflicts emerge in the country and they initiate with a motivation of hidden organized groups with financial supports. There had been evidence for discrimination and the current problem could consider a result of the long-term dilemma. Neither Sinhala nor Tamil, nor Muslim people in modern society practice such discrimination may not willing intention to harm anyone and the caste diction of individual ethnic groups are in all three ethnic groups, but caste dictions cannot disengage from society, I have seen marriage proposals of Sri Lankans living in developed countries searching for partners related to same castes. Thamil and Muslim people although they are not associated with Sinhala caste dictions they are not willing to marry so-called lower caste girls in the Sinhala community. The nature of the culture in the Indian sub-continent seems to hate other ethnic groups or personnel abominates in social engagements and it could have been observed since the era before Christ. Therefore, quickly giving a solution to this long-term problem is an arduous task.

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