The Tamil National Alliance (TNA), a coalition of Tamil political parties in Sri Lanka, has demanded that the country frame a new Constitution to address a host of issues it’s grappling with, including the Tamil question.
Taking time off from his election campaign, R. Sampanthan, the 82-year-old leader of the TNA, told The Hindu in Jaffna on Sunday afternoon that “everybody wants a new Constitution. Even the Sinhalese leadership wants a new Constitution. There are many matters that, to me, [call for] a new Constitution.”
Elaborating further, Mr. Sampanthan, who is contesting from the Trincomalee electoral district in the Eastern Province, said: “There is a view in the country that the 1978 Constitution has outlived its period.”
His observations came in response to the question on whether the TNA was accepting the 13th Constitutional Amendment or favouring a totally a new package. The 13th Constitutional Amendment, an outcome of the Rajiv Gandhi-J.R. Jayawardene Accord of 1987, created Provincial Councils in Sri Lanka.
The TNA’s manifesto, released on Saturday, described the Amendment as “flawed” on the premise that power is concentrated on the central government and its agent, the Governor. The TNA’s position is that sovereignty lies with the people and not with the State.
Mr. Sampanthanadded that the 13th Amendment was a “self-contained chapter.” It was brought into the existing Constitution without “any provision of the Constitution being altered in any way. It was an independent arrangement.”
Indicating that components of the 19th Amendment, envisaging the dilution of powers of the Executive Presidency, would further be reformed, the TNA leader said the fate of the 13th Amendment would be determined on the basis of an agreement to be arrived upon later.
Asked whether the TNA’s demands for right to self determination and federal arrangement were realistic given the opposition of many parties towards it, Mr. Sampanthan said: “If somebody is being unreasonably obstinate, that is not good enough a reason for us to compromise on our reasonable demands.”
Besides, “the fact that we are negotiating a solution within the framework of a united, undivided country must be duly recognised and there must be reciprocity on the other side which measures up to legitimate Tamil aspirations so as to ensure that we do not have a repetition of what has happened in the past.”
On the TNA’s “achievements” since Maithripala Sirisena became the President in January with the support of parties including the Alliance, Mr. Sampanthan said there had been “some positive changes,” though much more needed to be done. “We are confident that his (Mr. Sirisena’s) intentions are good and genuine.”
Asked about his impression of India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the TNA leader said Mr. Modi was for “an acceptable, honourable resolution” of the national question in Sri Lanka and he would be “prepared to be of assistance” in the resolution of the Tamil question.