For the first time in the post-independence history of Sri Lanka, Tamil parties and Tamil civil society groups are gearing up for participation in the making a new constitution for the island nation.
Tamils did not participate in the making of the 1972 and 1978 constitutions. In 1972, the Sirima Bandaranaike government had refused to amend the official language clause in the constitution’s outline (Basic Resolution). When J.R.Jayewardene changed the constitution in 1978, the Tamils were asking an independent Eelam not better representation in a united Lanka.
In the latest exercise in constitution making, which is to kick off on January 9 2016, Tamil parties across the ideological spectrum will be participating. This is because, for the first time in the history of constitution making in independent Lanka, the government has officially stated that the new constitution will provide a “constitutional resolution” of the ethnic issue.
The radical Tamil Makkal Peravai (TMP) headed by C.V.Wigneswaran, the controversial Chief Minister of the Northern Province, plans to set up a sub-committee on January 2, to work out suggestions on devolution. The Tamil Progressive Alliance (TPA), a moderate outfit of Indian Origin Tamils headed by minister Mano Ganeshan, has nominated its representatives on the “Electoral Reforms” sub-committee and the “Public Representations” sub-committee set up by the cabinet to do the spade work for the new constitution.
In a press release on Monday, Mano Ganeshan, TPA leader and Minister of National Dialogue on Reconciliation, said that this will the “last chance” to prevent the island nation from sliding back into ethnic strife and war.
The Tamil National Alliance (TNA) is part of the Steering Committee which the Constitutional Assembly (CA) will set up in January next. TNA leader R.Sampanthan will participate in the Steering Committee’s deliberations in his capacity as Leader of the Opposition in parliament. Though the TNA’s penchant for a federal structure may not be acceptable to the government, it has a stake in the success of the constitution-making venture. It believes that if the government falls and former President Mahinda Rajapaksa comes back to power, chances of the Tamils getting a suitable constitution will be nill. (The Hindu)