New Constitution to Unshakle Death-Defying Nationalism

ParliamentThe National Government  is formulating a New Constitution to satisfy the marginalized and disaffected communities recovering from three decades of civil war and to rebuild the nation to what was once a peaceful paradise island; to rid of prying eyes of the UN human rights council and avoid powerful nations and others intruding into the internal affairs of the country.

Sri Lanka saw an upsurge of violence in the latter half of the 20th century that cumulated into a bloody civil war for over three decades, which amidst many human rights violations from both parties involved in the battle came to an abrupt end in May 2009, made possible with assistance from many powerful nations. Now with economy stagnating and the investigations on corruptions related matters moving at snail phase it is an uphill task for the National Government in power to act on the lingering resolution adopted by the UN Human Rights Council and at the same time get the reforms including the key reform on new constitution prepared and get it passed in Parliament.  Though these subjects are all separate, they are interlinked to each other like a cob web and all matters need urgent attention, one cannot be left out in favor of the other or anything else. True human rights were violated by both parties who fought in the cruel the war; yet former regime comforted them that these violations were unavoidable consequence in a bloody brutal civil war; an opinion not shared by the family members of the thousands of ordinary citizens, who were killed by cluster bombs and many other modern armories of the state tri-forces during the final days of the war at ground zero and are now demanding for a full and proper inquiry. Ethically an investigation is needed to repair the damage done by the civil war and to avoid recurrence of the same and the present government has agreed to it and have concurred with UN Human Rights Council to hold a proper inquiry and between them only the modalities on how and who does the investigation opinion differs. Understandably based on past experience the affected Tamils are not confident that proper investigations are possible without involving foreign legal participation. In the interest of the nation the state must get the investigations underway sooner than later and with involvement of foreign legal experts, which has been done many times in the past.

Today the country is plagued with problems that appear insoluble largely because the past regime was unconscious of the social capacity that existed and the social potential waiting to be developed in peace time. After ending the war, the regime of the past president took advantage of the collective consciousness of the average Sri Lankan society that stubbornly credited it for crushing the Tamil rebellion. The regime refused to bow down to any external pressures; took many bold dictatorial decisions to implement its own interpretation of Sinhala Buddhist Nationalism plan to spread Sinhala Buddhism in the two war torn provinces; in spite of knowing there are other ethnic and religious minorities in these provinces, should have made special effort to respect each other’s rights and brought them in to form a united country. The regime retained large military personnel under the pretext of securing the sovereignty of the country; in doing so neglected to resolve many basic needs of the war affected Tamil speaking people.  As negative peace years rolled on, the moderates Sinhala Buddhist and the affected minority communities’ desire for positive peace realized the irrationality of the rulers and ventured to mobilize public opinion to overrule it. Thus motivated by civil society the people rejected the previous regime at the beginning of the year in January 2015 largely for good reasons, with some popular discussion at the time reflected the optimism that resurfaced in the lead-up to the General Election in August 2015.

In this back drop, the former President who promised a 13+, but never actually formulated anything during his period; has charged that the government intends to divide the country by passing a new Constitution detrimental to Sri Lankan Buddhists and Buddhism; has warned the people and especially the Buddhist clergy to be alert to this situation. The situation has been aggravated both inside and out of parliament by the past President supported by members of his past regime as dissidents, who on losing power have refused to assist the national government. They see it as someone else’s problem and adjusting to the loss of power was never easy are provoking communal sentiments; the adjustment to being in opposition as the second rank of power always annoyed them and their actions reflected it. In fact, the past President was articulating the previous Sinhala leaders’ view, in which the Tamils were seen as a minority only and thus entitled to only those concessions and privileges that the majority were willing to dispense – an eighty year journey of reliance on the generosity of the majority. Unfortunately the post-independence elite rulers promoted Buddhism and Sinhalese and inculcated with thoughts of feeling different, believed them as the superior Sinhala race and continued with the system of discriminative rule, each time more discriminative than their predecessors.

Northern Breeze has in an earlier posting has recalled how the13th Amendment to the existing constitution was introduced. It was practically thrust in haste on to the rulers of the country by India via the Indo-Lanka Accord in 1987 to devolve power with a view to settle the ethnic problem. Unfortunately, then rulers did not give sufficient thoughts into the preparation of the devolution package, what is even worse they never ever implemented it in full.  The will was never there in the minds of successive rulers and it was the cause and a major contributory factor that resulted in youth rebellion that escalated the conflict into a bloody civil war. This act of the past president depriving the Tamils of their fundamental rights by steering up opinion long before the draft constitution is ready for debate in parliament indicates that his intensions are immoral and reflects the sad state of his mind. As a responsible and experienced legislator the past President should have waited till these proposals are presented in parliament to express views on them and not before that as he has done outside the parliament. His actions during the five years after ending the war has ruined the economy, demonstrated clearly that he is not a good peace time leader to develop the country; perhaps he was a good war time leader for that reason the people voted him and his team of dissidents out of power, but sadly they are unable to accept the power of democracy?

The New Constitution was one of the promises made by the Prime Minister prior to the 2015 General Election which had induced people to vote for the present ‘National Government’. To this end the Parliament was converted to a Constitutional Assembly and a Committee of Public Representations on the Constitution (CPRC), was appointed to gather public opinion on Constitutional amendments. CPRC has prepared a Blue Print after a nationwide consultation with the people.  Within a year of taking power the government is ready to prepare a draft constitution, based on the recommendations in the Blue Print for presentation to the Constitutional Assembly. The Blue Print was made public and includes among other issues changes to enhance powers devolved to the provinces already by the 13th Amendment of the present constitution. On this and many other important key issues the CPRC has recommended as a compromise, different formulations as alternative recommendations for consideration by the Constitutional Assembly.  Lot more work needs to be done before coming up with the final draft of the constitution for presenting it to the Constitution Assembly for debate and approval. On approval the Prime Minister has promised to hold a referendum on the New Constitution to get the acceptance of the people before its implementation that would enable all Sri Lankans to have positive peace and share the sovereignty.

All Sri Lankans must participate actively to UNSHACKLE THE COUNTRY FROM DEATH-DEFYING NATIONALISM by taking the idea of making a New Constitution for the country as their goal, think of it, dream of it, and live on that idea until it is fully implemented to create the togetherness and the common bond that once existed between the Sinhalese and other communities to help rebuild the nation.