NO to Federal system – Power sharing a thorny issue in Lanka Constitution framing

MS-CBK-MRThe form of power sharing has become a thorny issue in the formulation of Sri Lanka’s new Constitution with the Sinhala majority backing a unitary state while minority Tamils supporting a federal structure.

The Public Representations Committee, which had been tasked in January to seek public views on the process of formulating the new Constitution for the country replacing the existing 1978 constitution, said divergent views have been expressed by the public on the nature of the state.

These range from a federal to a unitary, secular to non-secular and other in-between options as well.

Over 2,500 persons/organisations appeared before the committee and made oral and written representations.

The committee says many of the representations from the Tamils from the northern province and eastern provinces have expressed the desire for a federal state.

At the same time, there were many submissions from other parts of the country that strongly expressed the desire for a unitary state.

A federal state is strongly being linked to the notion of separatism by those who oppose it.

On the other hand, a unitary state is viewed by those, who favour greater devolution, as a continuation of an undemocratic, centralised form of state control, the report said.

Some, specially the Sinhalese, think that a federal state will eventually lead to break up of the state.

National reconciliation as an urgent task. There were divergent views as to how it could be achieved.

The question of the merger of the Northern and Eastern provincial councils was raised by the Tamil community.

The main argument was that a merger of the Northern and Eastern provinces is a condition laid down in the Indo-agreement of 1987 and deviation at this stage without going through the process of holding a referendum as set out in the deal will be a step backwards and would be a breach of the agreement.

The new Constitution is expected to be ready by early next year. Parliament has resolved to form a Constitutional Assembly to formulate the draft Constitution.