Fair Process for a constitutional reform to solve the national problem in Sri Lanka

sl-constOnce again, the news has begun to circulate about introducing a new constitution that would solve the national problem in Sri Lanka – the government and some of its allies may term it as an “ethnic issue” but the facts speak otherwise. There is no inherent “ethnic problem” in Sri Lanka – but there is national issue that runs to the 1920s which started as a clash between larger political aspirations of some senior Tamil leaders and the leaders if Sinhala majority, that was graduated into an insurgency which cost our country more than 100,000 lives from all ethnic groups.

As a Sinhalese with nationalistic viewpoint, I do hold strong views and opinions about the history and heritage. But just as much as I am proud of my Sinhala heritage, I also acknowledge that Tamils and Muslims in Sri Lanka are equally proud of their own ethnic heritage and I have nothing against it. I am more than happy to have discussions and healthy arguments on history and politics with them and would stand by everyone’s right to hold their own opinions as much as I hold own to my own, and I offer to stand corrected should someone have facts to prove me wrong on my opinions. As Sir Winston Churchill once said “I do not agree with your opinion, but I will fight till my last breath to protect your right to hold your opinion.”; we live in a society today that we can truly practice that and let ideas clash with ideas instead of weapons.

Having experienced the painful impacts of the LTTE insurgency, it is time for all Sri Lankans from all ethnic groups to take stock of the issues and figure out a way to come up with a solution where we do not repeat old mistakes  – and not make new mistakes.

My attention is not on the legal aspect of the new constitution or direct the discussions towards that, but the validity of using that as a vehicle to resolve the national issue.

There is no question that a fair process needs to be followed and have sufficient consultation from all ethnic and religious groups to make the new constitution widely accepted by all as a solution. The lack of that seems to be the most significant impediment to complete this process successfully, this time around.

It is evident that strong view points from each ethnic groups has to be sufficiently represented in the discussions on the new constitution both as committee level and in the parliament. There is nothing wrong in representing those strong viewpoints, even though it may sharply deviate from similar viewpoints from another ethnic group, since it still serves the purpose to highlight points of view within a community.

A pattern is already emerging on the consultative process for a new constitution from the parliament members does not go far enough to ensure the bringing together of diverse ideas and views on the national issue.

As a Sinhalese, I like to lay my case, and should there be similar concerns from other ethnic groups that someone can lay based on Tamil or Muslim viewpoints, I’m ready for a dialogue, as it should be.

Tamil community ( Sri Lankan Tamil and Indian Tamil )  :

There are Tamil political leaders in both major parties/fronts led by the UNP and SLFP, and they are able to highlight the issues on behalf of Tamil community at their respective party level when policy decisions are made. However, as those two parties are national parties and they both stand for national policies only, as they should be, the Tamil leaders in those parties eventually settle down to the party’s national policy.

Outside the two main national parties, there are independent Tamil political parties, often with Parliamentary representation ( EPDP, TNA, CWC, UPF, etc ) that can act as a pressure group to have an impact on decisions related to Tamil people’s issues made by the two national parties. The presence of these independent forces strengthen the case of Tamil nationalistic politicians within UNP and SLFP as well as ensuring some checks and balances when it comes to policy decisions that may impact Tamil community.

Muslim community :

There are Muslim political leaders in both major parties/fronts led by the UNP and SLFP, and they are able to highlight the issues on behalf of Muslim community at their respective party level when policy decisions are made. However, as those two parties are national parties and they both stand for national policies only, as they should be, the Muslim leaders in those parties eventually settle down to the party’s national policy.

Outside the two main national parties, there are independent Muslim political parties, often with Parliamentary representation ( SLMC, ACMC, etc ) that can act as a pressure group to have an impact on decisions related to Muslim people’s issues made by the two national parties. The presence of these independent forces strengthen the case of Muslim nationalistic politicians within UNP and SLFP as well as ensuring some checks and balances when it comes to policy decisions that may impact Muslim community.

Sinhala community :

There are Sinhala political leaders in both major parties/fronts led by the UNP and SLFP, and they are able to highlight the issues on behalf of Sinhala community at their respective party level when policy decisions are made. However, as those two parties are national parties and they both stand for national policies only, as they should be, the Sinhala leaders in those parties eventually settle down to the party’s national policy.

Outside the two main national parties, there are no strong independent Sinhala political parties, with any Parliamentary representation that can act as a pressure group to have an impact on decisions related to Sinhala people’s issues made by the two national parties. The lack of any presence of such and independent force tends to weaken the case of Sinhala nationalistic politicians within UNP and SLFP resulting in no checks and balances when it comes to policy decisions that may impact Sinhala community.

One might argue the case of JVP with this regard, by I would argue JVP too is a movement which aspires to be a national party to challenge UNP and SLFP and in no way a party that would represent Sinhala community.

The only realistic independent Sinhala representation in existence as a strong enough pressure group to positively impact national policy making after 1977 were when Mahajan Eksath Peramuna ( MEP ) had 3 MPs in 1989-1995 parliament, the solitary MP of Sihala Urumaya in 2000-2001 and the JHU presence of 9 MPs in 2004-2010 parliament.

As of now, all we have is a diluted and fragmented representation of Sinhala nationalistic views immersed in partisan UNP-biased on SLFP-biased alliances, which in no way can represent legitimate concerns of Sinhala community, as the discussions continue. Even if the Sinhala leaders on both parties may raise their issues, there is no backup support for them outside the two parties.

Given that, I believe that the current consultation process on the proposed new constitution related to the national issue, which assumes that all ethnic viewpoints and concerns have been taken into account will fail unless the government is able and willing to make amends. The process as it is, does not have adequate representation of the concerns of the Sinhala community, and runs the risk of being rejected by Sinhala community at the end.

It is not something against Tamils and Muslims or the legitimate concerns raised from their quarters, but a reminder to the government that it has to make an effort to understand the collective mindset of Sinhalese also, not only Tamils and Muslims; all ethnic groups Sri Lanka have legitimate political concerns that needs to be heard, and it is high time the governments start listening.

I think it is the duty of the government to listen to this concern and come up with a revised process to ensure that the efforts to bring about a new constitution is not wasted and a new constitution is accepted by all communities in Sri Lanka.

Daya Karunita Wimalasuriya
– Sinhalaya News

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Posted by on November 27, 2016. Filed under Cyber Talks. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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