Addressing parliament on 12 January on the proposal to convert the House to a Constitutional Assembly Opposition and Tamil National Alliance (TNA) leader R Sampanthan said that there is no more a demand for a separate Tamil state in Sri Lanka.
The TNA leader said that the Tamils have, during the recent elections, backed a political solution within the framework of a united and undivided and indivisible Sri Lanka.
He said the Tamils hope the new Constitution which has been proposed, will resolve the National issue. Sampanthan said that the demand for a separate state resulted in a war which pushed the country backwards. “We need to have undivided nation. By drafting the new Constitution, I am sure will find solution for the issues in the country as well as establish rule of law.”
“The war has come to an end and more importantly there is no more a demand for a separate state,” he said. The LTTE had pushed for a separate state but Sampanthan says the demand was dropped even before the war ended.
He asked all political parties including former President Mahinda Rajapaksa to contribute positively to the new Constitution making. Drafting a new constitution is a national task, therefore, the support of national leaders was essential. Sampanthan said that former President Mahinda Rajapaksa was a national leader and his support will be essential for the approval of a new constitution.
“I wish to make a special appeal to him to place the country’s interests before anything else,” he said.He has the stature of a national leader and his support in this national endeavour is important. The nation and all its peoples need his support. He needs to place the interests and well being of this country before anything else and positively contribute to this initiative. He will be charting for himself a new future if he now does the right thing by being positive in helping us formulate a new Constitution that will also resolve the national issue and serve the country.”
The TNA leader said, at the end of this process, the country will have a Constitution built with consensus not only within the parliament but outside of it among people.
“That will be the day that all people will have a sense of belonging of a new Sri Lanka,” Sampanthan said.
TNA Parliamentarian MA Sumanthiran, stressed the need for any constitution to have the required safe guards to allow peoples who are small in numbers to govern their own affairs for the island to move forward as one country.
Calling for the a new constitution that started from the premise of ‘recognising different peoples in the country as equal to each other,’ TNA MP said “it was the non-recognition of that character of this country that resulted in 3 decades of actual fighting and a conflict that has raged since independence to this day.”
Stressing the need for fundamental safeguards that protected communities from majoritarian rule, he said, “Because one people have an overwhelming majority in the country, it is always the will of the majority that prevails over the minority. I am refereeing to minority in numbers not in status. It must not be possible for one community to override the others merely because of numbers. There must be some fundamental safeguards.
When such an adjustment is made so that even those who are smaller in numbers are able to exercise governmental power, at least in the areas in which they live substantially in numbers, then a balance will be struck. Then it will be possible for all peoples to live as one country because they share power in an equitable way without leaving power to one center that decides overridingly what happens to the others. This is a fundamental thing and the world over has achieved this in different ways..”
Drawing on previous failed pacts between Tamil leaders and Sinhala leaders, Mr Sumanthiran added, “That is when our people looked to the outside world or decided to take arms. You can’t write and sign pacts and tear them up and then expect us to be meek and obedient.”
Mr Sumanthiran stressed that the new constitution process formed a huge opportunity for the country to move forward by learning lessons from the past.