TNA wants draft Constitution presented to parliament soon after LG polls

COLOMBO: Sri Lanka's Parliament on Thursday recognized an ethnic Tamil lawmaker as the opposition leader for the first time in decades in what is seen a positive step toward postwar reconciliation with the minority community.

Leader of Opposition and of Tamil National Alliance (TNA) R. Sampanthan has demanded that the draft Constitution be submitted to Parliament soon after Feb. 10 local government polls.

A statement issued by the TNA yesterday quoted Sampanthan as having told European Union Sri Lanka Political Desk Head Paul Godfrey: “Soon after the local government elections the process must be expedited and the draft Constitution must be submitted to Parliament and eventually it must be approved by the people at a referendum”.

“We cannot delay anymore these processes. Instead we must give priority to this in order to find a lasting solution to the national question”, Sampanthan has said adding that “it is important that the new Constitution must be a reasonable and an acceptable one to the Tamil people”.

The TNA statement: “Sampanthan brought to the notice of the Ambassador the issues faced by the Tamil people. Expressing his views Sampanthan said that the Prevention of Terrorism Act should be repealed and those who have been held under this unjust law must be released. He further noted that this was a commitment made by the Government of Sri Lanka to the international community, and delays in repealing this Act cannot be accepted he added.

Expressing his displeasure on the slow pace of releasing of lands that are used by the armed forces belonging to the civilians Sampanthan said, “people are only demanding the release of their own lands to which they have an attachment, delays in this matter has caused disappointment and frustration among the people”. These people have lived on and cultivated in these lands for many generations, and their legitimate demand cannot be sidelined” he said.

Speaking on the issue of missing persons Sampanthan stressed that the Office of the Missing Persons (OMP) should begin its functions in a credible and fair manner in order to bring out the truth about the missing persons. He added that ‘the relatives of these missing persons have the right to know as to what happened to their loved ones and the OMP must establish their right’. He further said “the OMP must conduct its functions to the satisfaction of the victims and bring solace to their longstanding demands”.

The government’s delay in addressing the above-mentioned matters gives more advantages to the extremist groups in both Tamil and Sinhala communities, Sampanthan said. “Therefore the government must take note of these things and deliver and fulfil its promises.” Sampanthan urged the EU Ambassador that the international community must engage with the government constructively to achieve these important matters.”