Calling for a genuine commitment to the constitutional process, Opposition Leader R. Sampathan last week said that the country should not miss the opportunity to form a Constitution that represents all communities of the country.
Speaking at a counterterrorism conference held in Delhi, Sampathan, the leader of the Tamil National Alliance, highlighted the importance of the opportunity before the country to move from “bullet to ballot.”
“For the first time in post-independence Sri Lanka an opportunity is available for the framing of a Constitution based upon a substantial and reasonable consensus amongst political parties and all peoples in the country. This opportunity must be pursued with genuine commitment.”
“This opportunity to conclusively reject the bullet in favour of the ballot must not be missed,” he stressed.
Outlining the constitutional reform processes followed in 1972 and 1978, he highlighted that the interests and views of different communities were not incorporated.
“The 1972 Constitution and the existing 1978 Constitution were not framed on the basis of consensus. They were unilateral actions of the political party in power at the relevant time. They empowered majoritarian rule,” he said.
Highlighting that the current process has the contribution of both major political parties, unlike in the past, Sampanthan appreciated the commitment demonstrated by the current Government to carry forward the reforms.
“The main Tamil political alliance in Parliament, very largely representing the Tamil people of the Northeast, is working with the new Government in its endeavours to formulate just and acceptable constitutional proposals .The Tamil people are committed to evolving a just, reasonable, workable and durable political solution within the framework of a single undivided and indivisible Sri Lanka. The parties largely representing the Muslim people are also a part of the process.
Outlining the transition from the ballot to the bullet, Sampanthan claimed that the political demands of the Tamil community were predominantly ignored by the centre, which led to the armed revolt.
Sampanthan highlighted that the political demands of the Tamil people for necessary changes in the structure of governance were democratically supported by the Tamil people of the Northeast, at every General Election to Parliament from 1956 and at every other election, whether provincial or local, for a period of more than 60 years.
“After that there was armed revolt by Tamil youth for almost three decades. Such armed revolt commenced more than three decades after the country attained independence and after all democratic and political processes had failed. This was a classic instance in which the bullet filled the void created by a failure in the process of the ballot. It stresses the importance of respecting and recognising the verdicts of the ballot. Such respect and recognition is the surest way to dispense with the need for the bullet,” he said, claiming that the country should move forward with constitutional reforms taking into consideration the demands and needs of all communities.