Sri Lankan Tamil expatriates in the UK have been asked to be open to political compromises as the island nation undergoes constitutional reforms.
It is important to make the most of the opportunity as it is the first time that Sri Lanka’s two main political parties had come together to form a government, Jayampathy Wickramaratne, head of a committee providing technical support to the Constitutional Assembly to draft Sri Lanka’s new constitution, told a gathering of Non Resident Tamils of Sri Lanka (NRTSL) here last week.
“It is impossible and is unrealistic to expect all aspirations and demands of everyone are met. There have to be compromises. This is a great opportunity that may not come again, certainly not in the foreseeable future. It is therefore important that this opportunity is not missed. This reality must be recognised,” said Wickramaratne, a member of the Steering Committee of the Constitutional Assembly.
Sri Lanka also needed electoral reforms and a clear division of powers between the central government and provincial councils, the political leader said during the personal visit to the UK.
NRTSL, which organised the talk, was founded in October 2014 by a group of Tamils from different backgrounds based in Britain to work with the Sri Lankan authorities.
The government headed by President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has launched a process to formulate a new constitution replacing the 1978 statute.
The Tamils demand for a federal system dates back to the days when Sri Lanka, then Ceylon, became independent of the British rule in 1948. Later, the campaign was extended to a separate state demand when the LTTE fought a decades-old war with the government to carve out a separate Tamil homeland.
Chief Minister of Sri Lanka’s Tamil-dominated Northern Province CV Wigneswaran has in the past said the long-sought federal system in the North and the East to devolve power will not lead to the division of the country.
He has said the planned federal solution would not threaten the integrity of the island nation as it would not lead to separate states.
Politicians from the Sinhala majority have criticised Wigneswaran for raising communal passions at a time the central government was taking steps to achieve reconciliation with the Tamil minority.
TNA is hopeful of a federal solution when the country is expected to formulate its new constitution this year.