COLOMBO: The view of C.V.Wigneswaran, Chief Minister of Sri Lanka’s Tamil-majority Northern Province, on the basic structure of the proposed Sri Lankan constitution, runs counter to that of the Constitutional Assembly’s sub-committee on Center-Provincial relations.
While the sub-committee has refrained from branding the proposed devolution system as either “federal” or “unitary”, Wigneswaran said here on Tuesday, that the constitution should not only be federal in nature but should identify itself as such.
“Proper devolution to the provinces and naming the constitution as ‘federal’ is important. A patchwork of different ideas will not do if the current problems are to be resolved,” Wigneswaran said while initiating a North-South dialogue organized by the Tamil Peoples’ Council (TPC), which he heads.
But this is likely to lead to the division of the Sri Lankan Tamil polity into “moderates”, who are inclined to go half way to meet the concerns of the majority Sinhalese for the sake of reaching an amicable solution of the national question, and “radicals”, who want the full realization of the Tamils’ aspirations, not through half-way houses, but here and now.
The sub-committee on Center-Periphery relations was chaired by D. Siddharthan, a Tamil National Alliance (TNA) MP. The TNA has 16 Members in parliament. It is also the ruling party in the Northern Provincial Council. But Northern Province Chief Minister Wigneswaran, though elected as TNA, is not fully with it. In fact, he has his own group called the Tamil Peoples’ Council (TPC) which has brought together Tamil radicals from various parties and walks of life.
A federal structure has been the traditional and main demand of the Tamils from 1948. But given the staunch opposition to the idea from the majority Sinhalese over the years, the Constitutional Assembly’s sub-committee on Center-Provincial relations avoided using the term “federal” or “unitary” through it recommended substantial devolution of power over land, police and finances to the provinces. It also recommended that the provincial Governor should be a figurehead and not the de-facto and de jure Chief Executive as he is now.