A new Constitution is the most potent weapon for non-recurrence of Sri Lanka’s conflict and would have to be given priority over accountability mechanisms, Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera said.
The country, which suffered two youth insurrections and a 26-year-long war, had seen enough violence and bigotry, and needed checks and balances to ensure that the road ahead is peaceful, he told Colombo-based foreign correspondents on Wednesday.
Following the January 2015 election that saw President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe rise to power, the government decided to draft a new Constitution, promising a fair measure of devolution to the minority Tamils.
Six sub-committees came out with reports addressing different aspects of the proposed Constitution. A parliamentary debate on the reports was scheduled for January, but is yet to commence, sparking questions about the delay.
Assuring that the government was committed to drafting a new Constitution that would pave the way for reconciliation, Mr. Samaraweera said: “Some people pull it backward even as others push it forward… but the government will certainly do it.”
Amid mounting criticism from sections of the Tamils and civil society on the pace of reconciliation, he admitted the government had not proceeded as fast as it ought to have. However, assuring that “there will be no U-turns, [although] there could be some detours,” he said, the “destination remains the same”.
Terming accountability the more “controversial” element in reconciliation, Mr. Samaraweera indicated that Sri Lanka would seek more time at the coming UN Human Rights Council session in Geneva, to take its efforts forward.
The country was looking at different models of accountability and was in “no great hurry”, as the processes were complex and needed time to ensure it is acceptable to all stakeholders.
In regard to participation of foreign judicial experts in investigation of alleged war crimes, he said: “The [Geneva] resolution speaks of participation of foreign experts at different levels but Sri Lanka is committed to come up with something independent and credible.”