TPC calls for federalism

tamil peoples councilThe Tamil People’s Council, a forum of different Tamil political parties and groups, has proposed that Sri Lanka be converted into a federal republic.

It has also suggested that a state of emergency be declared in the event of any State seeking to secede itself from the proposed Federation. The Governor of the State concerned would take over executive functions and powers of the Chief Minister and the Board of Ministers.

These are among the salient features of a proposal worked out by the TPC’s sub-committee on the Tamil question. A document in this regard was released at an event in Jaffna on Sunday.

The TPC, headed by C.V. Wigneswaran, Chief Minister of the Northern Province and P. Lakshman, a Jaffna-based cardiologist, includes representatives of the Tamil National Alliance and several civil society organisations of the Northern and Eastern provinces.

Borrowing ideas from Constitutions of different countries such as Switzerland, South Africa and Bosnia and Herzegovina, the proposal described Sri Lanka as a “pluri-national, multi-cultural, multi-lingual and multi-religious country.”

In contrast to the provision in the 1972 and 1978 Constitutions on providing the “foremost place” to Buddhism, the TPC sub-committee wanted Sri Lanka to be declared as a “secular country” guaranteeing the freedom of religion of all persons and treat all religions equal.

[However, a section of constitutional experts is of the view that the provision on the Buddhism does not contradict with that of the fundamental right on “freedom of thought, conscience and religion including the freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice.]

The TPC committee’s formula contained only two Lists – State and Federal. While the Federal government would be based on the principles of the Westminster style of government, the electoral system would follow the German model of mixed electoral system.

The re-merger of the Northern and Eastern Provinces had been suggested and this would be called “North-East State.”

Acknowledging the “distinctive political character” of Muslims, the committee stated that it would discuss with the community any proposal on accommodating the interests and aspirations of the Muslims. The Sinhalese living in the proposed State would all rights.

Citing the examples of the Dayton agreement of 1995 for peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Good Friday Agreement of 1998 on the sectarian conflict in Northern Ireland, the panel wanted a “pre-constitutional agreement” to ensure the success of the present constitution making process. Such an agreement should, among others, recognise Tamils’ right to self determination. The committee also suggested that the proposed pact be underwritten by a third party such as the United States or India or the United Nations. (The Hindu)

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