BY Pamodi Waravita
Representatives from the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) are due to leave for the US this week for discussions with the US State Department officials regarding the proposed new Constitution, The Morning learnt.
It is learnt that TNA representatives will be at these discussions in the US from 13 November.
When the TNA met representatives of the European Union (EU) in September this year, they stressed the need for a new Constitution to resolve the Tamil national racial/ethnic question. Reportedly, TNA Leader and Parliamentarian R. Sampanthan had last month stressed on the need for immediately compiling a new Constitution to help resolve issues pertaining to the minority Tamil community.
In an interview with The Sunday Morning on 23 October, TNA Spokesman and MP President’s Counsel (PC) M.A. Sumanthiran urged that Sri Lanka needs to “go beyond” the controversial 13th Amendment to the Constitution to achieve “meaningful devolution.”
The 13th Amendment to the Constitution, passed in 1987 and supported by the Government of India, created the provincial councils electoral system which led to the establishment of provincial councils in each province in the country in an attempt at the devolution of power. However, the provincial councils have since garnered much criticism, with some members of the ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) recently calling for its repeal.
“There can be no ‘middle ground’. It is the Rajapaksa Government that gave repeated assurances about ‘implementing the 13th Amendment to the Constitution in full and also going beyond it so as to achieve meaningful devolution’ after the end of the war. So, it is not ‘middle ground’ that must be found; it should be ‘going beyond’ the 13th Amendment to the Constitution,” said Sumanthiran at the time.
Since 2017, provincial councils elections have not been held as the then Government attempted to introduce legislative changes to the Provincial Councils Act to reform the electoral process. The new system envisioned a hybrid-style system of both first-past-the-post and proportional representation as opposed to the current system of proportional representation.
When Indian Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla visited Sri Lanka last month, he had reportedly urged on the need to hold the Provincial Councils Elections.
Foreign Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris said last month that the work on the new Constitution has been finalised by the committee led by Romesh De Silva PC and that it will be presented in Parliament in January 2022. The nine-member expert committee was appointed in September last year. Led by De Silva PC, its other members include Gamini Marapana PC, Manohara de Silva PC, Sanjeewa Jayawardena PC, Samantha Ratwatte PC, Dr. A. Sarveswaran, Prof. Wasantha Seneviratne, and Prof. G.L. Peiris.