” Sri Lankan Tamils will be entitled to external self-determination on account of your default.”

” Sri Lankan Tamils will be entitled to external self-determination on account of your default.” – R. Sampanthan

By Sri Lanka

31/07/2019 

Image: “So, please remember this and the earlier  you do it, the better. If you do not do it and abstain from doing the right thing, I do not think the Tamil people will take it lying down for too long,” Sampanthan tells the govt.

NEW CONSTITUTION WITH NATIONAL CONSENSUS.

R. Sampanthan.

Mr Deputy Speaker may I move the following Adjournment Motion as a matter of urgent public importance:

“Whereas the Constitution of a Country is the Supreme law of the Country.

And whereas in Democracies the world over, a country is governed on the basis of a Constitution framed on the maximum possible national consensus.

And whereas Sri Lanka which is a multiethnic, multilingual, multicultural country with a diverse and pluralist society is not governed on the basis of a Constitution framed on the maximum possible national consensus.

And whereas Sri Lanka has thus far been governed on the basis of three (3) different Constitutions: –

(i)   The 1947 Soulbury Constitution framed by the Colonial British Government without the consensus of the people of Sri Lanka.

(ii)  The 1972 1st Republican Constitution, framed by the Sri Lanka Freedom Party – the Government in power – which was able to muster a 2/3rd majority in Parliament without arriving at any consensus with the main Opposition Party, the United National party or the party representing the Tamils of the North and East – the Federal Party.

(iii) The 1978 2nd Republican Constitution framed by the United National Party Government in power which was able to muster a 2/3rd majority in Parliament without arriving at any consensus with the main Opposition Party, the Sri Lanka Freedom Party or the main            Tamil Party representing the Tamils of the North and East, the Tamil United Liberation Front.

And whereas the Tamil people of the North and the East are a people with a heritage and civilization of their own and a distinct linguistic and cultural identity and have historically predominantly inhabited the Northern and Eastern Provinces.

And whereas Sri Lanka has thus been governed since Independence in 1947 under Constitutions that did not enjoy the maximum possible national consensus of the diverse and pluralist people of Sri Lanka.

And whereas the situation of conflict that has prevailed in Sri Lanka from Independence in 1947 including an armed conflict that lasted for 25-30 years is attributable to the absence of a Constitution based on such maximum possible national consensus to suit the needs of a diverse and pluralist society.

And whereas Sri Lanka with a diverse and pluralist society, in the past 70 years, has failed to evolve a Sri Lankan identity as a Sri Lankan nation within a united and undivided Sri Lanka.

And whereas ever since the enactment of the 2nd Republican Constitution in 1978 and in force until the present time, there has been a strong and consistent demand for the repeal of the said 1978 2nd Republican Constitution and the enactment of a new Constitution.”

And whereas several commitments made to the people of the country at several elections by political parties and political leaders for the repeal of the Second Republican Constitution of 1978 and for the enactment of a new Constitution have not been honoured and thereby the mandates granted by the people at the said elections for the repeal of the Second Republican Constitution of 1978 and the enactment of a new Constitution have been disregarded and violated.

And whereas consequently the 1978 Second Republican Constitution rejected by the people through several democratic verdicts has been in operation as the Supreme Law of the country up to the present time in violation of the will and without the consent of the people.

And whereas at the election held in 2015, a mandate was sought and received by the winning candidate for the enactment of a new Constitution.

And whereas at the said elections in 2015, the main opposition candidate himself sought a mandate to frame a new Constitution.

And whereas more than 90 per cent of the electorate voted for the framing of a new Constitution.

And whereas on the basis of the said mandates received at the said elections in 2015, a Resolution was adopted in Parliament unanimously on 9th March 2016 which inter alia stated as follows;

(a)        Whereas there is broad agreement among the people of Sri Lanka that it is necessary to enact a new Constitution for Sri Lanka.

(b)        And whereas the people have at the Presidential Election held on 08th January 2015 given a clear mandate for establishing a political culture that respects the rule of law and strengthens democracy.

(c)        And whereas His Excellency Maithripala Sirisena President of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka has clearly expressed his desire to give effect to the will of the people expressed at the aforesaid Presidential Election by enacting a new Constitution inter alia, abolishing the Executive Presidency.

(d)        And whereas it has become necessary to enact a new Constitution that inter alia abolishes the Executive Presidency, ensures a fair and representative electoral system which eliminates preferential voting, strengthens the democratic rights of all citizens, provides a Constitutional Resolution of the national issue, promotes national reconciliation, establishes a political culture that respects the rule of law, guarantees to the people’s fundamental rights and freedom that assure human dignity and promotes responsible and accountable government.

And whereas in terms of the said Resolution of 9th March, 2016, a Committee of the Whole Parliament constituted itself into a Constitutional Assembly, a Steering Committee and Subcommittees were appointed to partake in the framing of a new Constitution which committees after public consultation and deliberation have submitted Reports to the Constitutional Assembly which have been debated in the said Constitutional Assembly.

And whereas in the past several months, the Constitution-making process has for some unknown reason been at a standstill with no signs of any movement.

And whereas the continuance in force of the current Constitution enacted in 1978, and the failure to adopt a new Constitution is tantamount to an arbitrary rejection of the massive mandate granted by the people at the last democratic election in 2015 to frame a new Constitution and is also tantamount to nullifying a unanimous Resolution adopted by Parliament in 2016, to frame a new Constitution and is also tantamount to the continued unjust imposition of the Second Republican 1978 Constitution on the people of Sri Lanka without their will and consent.

And whereas such a course of events would be immensely harmful to the future interests of the whole country and all its people.

And whereas it has therefore become necessary to debate this issue in Parliament and ensure that appropriate decisions are made to take forward the constitutional-making process and thereby evolve a Constitution based on substantial national consensus.

If a new Constitution with a substantial measure of national consensus is not formulated and if consequently the country is compelled to be governed under a Constitution which has been rejected by the people and also unanimously by the present Parliament, Sri Lanka could before long qualify itself  to be termed as a failed State and I submit it is the duty of this Parliament to take every step to avoid such a grave calamity.”

I would now like, Sir, to make a few submissions on the Motion which I have submitted  and you will permit me to do that.

The Sri Lankan Constitution-making process, Sir, has been long. In 1957, the late Prime Minister S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike entered into a Pact with the Tamil Leader Mr S.J.V. Chelvanayakam. The main provisions of the Pact were in regard to the creation of regional councils and colonization.  One regional council was to be created for the North; two or more regional councils for the East.  The regional councils had the power to amalgamate beyond provincial boundaries and colonization was to be entrusted to the regional councils including the selection of allottees and the selection of persons working in land development schemes.

In 1965, Prime Minister Dudley Senanayake entered into a pact with Tamil Leader Mr. S.J.V. Chelvanayakam, dealing substantially with State Land and  the provisions are as follows:

Land under colonization schemes in the Northern and Eastern provinces to be dealt with on the basis of the following priority.

Firstly, to landless people in the District.  Secondly, to landless Tamil-speaking persons resident in the Northern and Eastern Province. Thirdly, to other landless citizens in Ceylon, preference being given to Tamil citizens resident in the rest of the Island. Both Pacts, Sir, recognized the special concern of the Tamil people in the Northern and Eastern Provinces.

After 1983, there were negotiations with the good offices of India. There were several talks which culminated in the Indo-Sri Lanka Agreement of 29th July, 1987 and the main provisions of the Indo-Sri Lanka Agreement were that Sri Lanka is a multi-ethnic and multilingual plural society consisting, inter alia, of Sinhalese, Tamils, Muslims (Moors) and Burghers; recognizing that each ethnic group has a distinct cultural and linguistic identity which has to be carefully nurtured, also recognizing that the Northern and the Eastern Provinces have been areas of historical habitation of  the Sri Lankan Tamil-speaking peoples, who have at all times hitherto lived together in this territory with other ethnic groups.

So, Sir, the distinct identity of the different people who lived in this country was identified. There was an expression of a need to preserve and nurture that identity,  and as far as the Northern and  Eastern Provinces were concerned, it was accepted that there have been areas of historical habitation of the Tamil-speaking people and they were merged into a single unit of the power-sharing subject to certain provisions pertaining to a referendum which was never intended to be held.

The Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution followed in 1988. That was the first attempt at Constitutional power-sharing arrangements.

The Provincial Council Elections including in a  merged North-East were held in 1988. The main political party of the Tamil people, the Tamil United Liberation Front did not contest the Provincial Council Elections in 1988 for the reason that the devolution arrangements, the power-sharing arrangements under the  Thirteenth Amendment were weak and inadequate and needed to be strengthened and enhanced.

After the enactment of the  Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution, three successive Presidents and Governments took steps to strengthen and enhance the  Thirteenth Amendment.

During President Ranasinghe Premadasa’s term in office, in 1989, there were the Mangala Moonasinghe Select Committee Proposals which was a clear advance from the Thirteenth Amendment in power-sharing arrangements.  During President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga’s term, there were new Constitutional Proposals tabled in Parliament in August 2000 with Cabinet approval which was a major advance from the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution.

Both President Maithripala Sirisena and former President Mahinda Rajapaksa were in the Cabinet of Madam Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga that granted approval for the Constitutional proposals that were tabled in Parliament.

During President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s term in office, he appointed an All Party Representative Committee and a Multi-Ethnic Experts Committee. The All-Party Representative Committee called the APRC,  was under the chairmanship of Prof. Tissa Vitharana. They have submitted their proposals which are a clear advance on the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution.

It will be useful, Sir, at this stage to refer to the statements made by some leaders of the country in regard to the Constitution-making process. The first statement I would refer to, Sir, would be the statement made by (Prof.) G.L. Peiris,  the then Minister of Constitutional Affairs, at a meeting held with the LTTE in Oslo between the 2nd and 5th of December, 2002 and this is what he said. I quote:

“Responding to a proposal by the leadership of the LTTE, the parties agreed to explore a solution founded on the principle of internal self-determination in areas of historical habitation of the Tamil-speaking people, based on a federal structure within a united Sri Lanka. The parties acknowledged that the solution had to be acceptable to all communities…”

And the parties agreed to, on that basis, discuss matters further.

Prof. G.L. Peiris, Sir, immediately after that agreement between the LTTE and the Government of Sri Lanka, at a press conference, in the course of which he said, I quote:

“The LTTE is no longer insisting on a separate State but …. is looking at a different concept in earnest and that is internal self-determination.”

And he went on to explain what that meant, “which was power-sharing, extensive power-sharing within the framework of one country,  no question of secession, no question of separation, but power-sharing within the framework of a country.”

This was what Prof. G.L. Peiris said at that press conference and I quote from a record of that press conference.

Then, Sir, President Mahinda Rajapaksa, now the Leader of the Opposition, convened a meeting of the All-Party Representative Committee, the APRC and the Multi-Ethnic Experts  Committee and he made a statement to them; a long statement on the 11th of July, 2006. I will read only the relevant parts. He said I quote:

“The unity, territorial integrity and sovereignty of our country must be preserved. This cannot be open to bargain. Our approach has been widely endorsed by the international community, notably India and the Co-chairs have clearly stated and have clearly ruled out any form of division of the country. Our objective must be to develop a just settlement within an undivided Sri Lanka.”

He went on to say further, Sir, in the course of his speech at that meeting with the APRC and the Multi-Ethnic Experts Committee, I quote:

G.L. Peiris

“People in their own localities must take charge of their destiny and control their politico-economic environment. Central decision-making that allocates disproportionate resources has been an issue for a considerable time. In addition, it is axiomatic that devolution also needs to address issues relating to identity as well as security and socio-economic advancement without over-reliance on the Centre. In this regard, it is also important to address the question of regional minorities.”

Further on, in his statement he said, Sir, I quote:

“Any solution must be seen as one that stretches to the maximum possible devolution without sacrificing the sovereignty of the country. Given the background to the conflict, it, therefore, behoves on particularly the majority community to be proactive in striving for peace and there must be a demonstration of a well-stretched hand of accommodation.”

That is precisely what we want the Opposition Leader, Hon. Mahinda Rajapaksa, to do now. As a leader of the majority community, we want him to be accommodative with a hand that is stretched out to bring about genuine reconciliation amongst the peoples of this country. He went on in the course of his statement to further say, I quote:

“Any solution must therefore address these expectations as well. The role of the All Party Representative Committee, as well as the Panel of Experts, is to fashion creative systems of Government and satisfy the minimum expectations that I had enumerated earlier as well as provide a comprehensive approach to the resolution of the national question”.

He wanted the APRC and the Multi-Ethnic Experts Committee to address the issue on the basis of views expressed by him, which he said were “minimum expectations”. We even could go beyond that. He wanted a solution on that basis. That was, Sir, former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, presently the Leader of the Opposition.

Then Sir, shortly after the war ended, the Secretary-General of the UN, Mr. Ban Ki-moon arrived in Sri Lanka and there was a meeting between him and President Mahinda Rajapaksa, after which there was a Joint Statement made by them. This is what is said in that Joint Statement made by President Mahinda Rajapaksa and Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on 23rd May 2009.

It states, I quote:

“President Mahinda Rajapaksa and the Secretary General agreed that addressing the aspirations and grievances of all communities and working towards a lasting political solution was fundamental to ensuring long-term socio-economic development.”

Sir, again, I quote:

“President Rajapaksa expressed his firm resolve to proceed with the implementation of the 13th Amendment, as well as to begin a broader dialogue will all parties, including the Tamil parties in the new circumstances, to further enhance this process and to bring about lasting peace and development in Sri Lanka.”

President Mahinda Rajapaksa meeting Sri Lanka’s Donor Co-Chairs

This was the commitment made by President Mahinda Rajapaksa to the Secretary-General of the UN. When the Secretary-General came to Sri Lanka just after the war came to a close, largely to address the question of accountability and to give his mind to what has happened during the final stages of the war.

Sir, President Rajapaksa in the course of the statement that he made to the APRC, referred to India, the Co-Chairs and the international community as being against division and as being for a solution within the framework of an undivided country. I wish to refer, Sir, to the quotations of some Indian Leaders – Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Prime Minister Narendra Modi – including India’s Foreign Minister and India’s Foreign Ministry spokesman. Of course, what  Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, the late Indian Prime Minister, contemplated is contained in the Indo-Sri Lanka Agreement which I have already quoted. But, Sir, I am going to quote now what Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh in November 2008 said in regard to the Tamil question in Sri Lanka. He said:

“We are deeply concerned. I spoke to him -” meaning ‘Rajapaksa’, “- that we have a legitimate concern about the welfare of Sri Lankan Tamils. It has a bearing on Sri Lanka’s relations with India. Not merely whether they are concerned about the wellbeing of the Sri Lankan Tamils, it has a bearing on Sri Lanka’s relations with India.”

Sir, in June 2001, Dr Manmohan Singh, the former Prime Minister of India made a statement with regard to Sri Lanka. It states I quote:

“You have a situation in Sri Lanka. The decimation of the LTTE was something that is good. But the Tamil problem does not disappear, with the defeat of the LTTE. The Tamil population has legitimate grievances. They feel they are reduced to second-class citizens. And our emphasis has been to persuade the Sri Lankan government that we must move towards a new system of institutional reforms, that the Tamil people have a feeling that they are equal citizens of Sri Lanka, and they can lead a life of dignity and self-respect.”

So, Dr Manmohan Singh, the Prime Minister of India, was very clear in regard to the plight of the Tamils in Sri Lanka and he was very clear in regard to what needed to be done. The Co-Chairs comprising of the European Union, Japan,  USA and Norway, expressed their views in regard to  Sir Lanka. President Rajapaksa said that they were against separation,  yes, they were against separation, but they also expressed their view in regard to what the solution should be.

The Co-Chairs have said on the 30th of May, 2006, I quote:

“It must show that it is ready to make a dramatic political change to bring about a new system of governance which will enhance the rights of all Sri Lankans, including the Muslims. The international community will support such steps; failure to take such steps will diminish international support.”

The Co-Chairs went on to say, Sir, in the course of the same Statement. I quote:

“The Tamil and Muslim peoples of Sri Lanka have justified and substantial grievances that have not yet been adequately addressed.”

They are very clear in regard to that matter.

Then, Sir,  before I conclude  I  would like to refer to what one of the Co-Chairs, an important Co-Chair,  the USA, stated. The Assistant Secretary of State of the US for South and Central Asian Affairs, Mr Richard A. Boucher, was in Sri Lanka on the 01st of June, 2006 and this is what he said, Sir, in the course of an important statement that he made. I quote:

“We also think the government should provide a positive vision to Tamils and Muslims of a future Sri Lanka where their legitimate grievances are addressed and their security assured. President Rajapaksa has spoken of ‘maximum devolution.’ Previous negotiations have agreed on ‘internal self-determination’ within a federal framework. However the idea is expressed, it could offer hope to many in the North and East that they will have control over their own lives and destinies within a single nation of Sri Lanka.”

He went on to further state, I quote:

“Although we reject the methods that the Tamil Tigers have used, there are legitimate issues that are raised by the Tamil community and they have a very legitimate desire, as anybody would, to be able to control their own lives, to rule their own destinies and to govern themselves in their homeland; in the areas, they’ve traditionally inhabited….”

So, Sir, while the international community, while India and the Co-Chairs have all expressed views on separation, they have also very clearly stated the sort of political solution they have in mind.  Before I conclude with the international community, Sir, I would also like to refer to some of the statements made by the Foreign Minister of India after interacting with the President, the Foreign Minister and the Government of Sri Lanka.

The spokesman of the Foreign Ministry of India, Sir,  on 22nd December 2011 made a Statement and I quote that Statement pertaining to Sri Lanka:

“In this context, we have been assured by the Government of Sri Lanka on several occasions in the past, of its commitment towards pursuit of a political process  through a broader dialogue with all parties, including the Tamil National Alliance-

I will repeat what I said, Sir:

Then Foreign Minister of India, S.M. Krishna

“In this context, we have been assured by the Government of Sri Lanka on several occasions in the past, of its commitment towards pursuit of a political process  through a broader dialogue with all parties, including the Tamil National Alliance, leading to the full implementation of the Thirteenth Amendment to the Sri Lankan Constitution, and to go beyond, so as to achieve meaningful devolution of powers and genuine national reconciliation.”

That was the Statement made by the foreign spokesman on behalf of the Foreign Ministry of India.

I refer to another Statement made by the Foreign Minister of India, S.M. Krishna, on the 4th of August, 2011. He said I quote:

“.. the External  Affairs Minister of Sri Lanka affirmed his Government’s commitment to ensuring expeditious and concrete progress in the ongoing dialogue between the Government of Sri Lanka and representatives of Tamil parties. A devolution package, building upon 13th Amendment, would contribute towards creating the necessary conditions for such reconciliation.”

That was  the Statement made by the  Foreign Minister of India.

Thereafter, once again, Sir, the Foreign Minister of India was in Sri Lanka between the 16th and 19th January 2012, in the course of which he interacted with both the President and the Foreign Minister of Sri Lanka, Prof. G.L. Peiris and made  a Statement while he was in Sri Lanka.  He made this statement in the presence of Minister of External Affairs of Sri Lanka, Prof. G.L. Peiris.

I quote:

“The Government of Sri Lanka  has on many occasions conveyed to the Government, conveyed to us its commitment to move towards a political settlement based on the full implementation of the 13th Amendment to the Sri Lankan Constitution, and building on it, so as to achieve meaningful devolution of powers…..”

TO: KU/12.30/The international community….

If you say that the international community, the Co-Chairs, India, are all opposed to the division of the country, that is perfectly true. But at the same time, they are very clear in regard to what needs to happen. They are very clear in regard to the fact that the present position cannot continue.

Before I conclude on this matter, Sir, I might say this.  Prof. G.L. Peiris, the then Minister of External Affairs of Sri Lanka, around this time also made a statement. He made this statement when he went to India in May 2011. He was in India from the 15th of May to the 17th of May, 2011.  In his statement, he said, I quote:

“ ‘In this context, the External Affairs Minister of Sri Lanka affirmed his Government’s commitment to ensuring expeditious and concrete progress in the ongoing dialogue between the Government of Sri Lanka and representatives of Tamil parties.

A devolution package building upon the 13th Amendment would contribute towards creating the necessary conditions for such reconciliation.’ “

That was the statement he made. While interacting with India, he affirmed his Government’s commitment to fully implement the Thirteenth Amendment and the building on the Thirteenth Amendment so as to achieve meaningful devolution and that had been exactly the position of the Co-Chairs, the USA, India, Prime Ministers, Foreign Ministers and that was the position that they were all taking up.

I draw attention to these matters, Sir, for the reason that both former President Mahinda Rajapaksa and Prof. G.L. Peiris are playing an important role in the process relating to the formulation of a new Constitution and to make clear to all concerned, that the present efforts do not in any way exceed what they were prepared to agree to during their term in office when they made such statements. Earlier positions of political leaders need to be made public for the people to be made aware that their present position is different from their earlier position and that there is no merit in their current criticism.

Sir, the armed conflict in Sri Lanka prevailed for between 25 and 30 years, was a very severe conflict. I would like to briefly refer to the LTTE.  I think, it is relevant, Sir.  After Independence, the Tamils demanded equal rights regarding citizenship, language, land, economic development, education and employment.

They were subjected to violence. The law was not enforced. The Tamils did not retaliate. The Tamils began to leave the country. To date, around 50 per cent of the Tamils who lived in Sri Lanka have left the country and live abroad the world over. Agreements entered into with Tamil leaders were breached. The Tamils were defenceless. The LTTE manifested itself in the early 1980s, well-nigh 30 years after the country attained Independence and during which period, the Tamil issue had become a matter of serious concern.

If the Tamil issue had been resolved amicably with Tamil political leadership during the three decades after Independence, the LTTE would never have emerged.

The LTTE was militarily defeated in May 2009. The international community, India, the United States of America, the European Union, the United Kingdom and several other countries helped the Sri Lankan Government to defeat the LTTE. The LTTE was not merely banned in those countries as a terrorist organization, the international community crippled the activities of the LTTE. This was on the assurance of the Sri Lankan Government that the LTTE was an impediment to a negotiated settlement and that a reasonable solution would be arrived at once the LTTE was defeated with international help. The Sri Lankan Government has now reneged on the said commitment.  Ten years have ended since the LTTE was militarily defeated. A reasonable political solution has not yet been arrived at. The Tamil people continue to live as second-class citizens.

I am happy my Friend, the Hon.  Dullas Alahapperuma has come here. It is time for people like you – I know you are very progressive. You have got very forward views – to take an interest in this matter and resolve this matter if you want to save Sri Lanka from calamity. Otherwise, Sri Lanka will be destroyed. But, I do not want to be a part of that.

It is respectfully submitted that the international community cannot be mere spectators to the Tamils being treated as second-class citizens. We respectfully submit that the international community, politically, diplomatically and economically must influence the Sri Lankan Government to come up with a reasonable political solution. If the international community does not do so, a grave injustice would be perpetrated on the Tamil people. It would appear that the international community helped the Sri Lankan Government to defeat the LTTE and then the Tamil people were betrayed.

Sir, I am happy, the Hon. Nimal Siripala de Silva has walked in now. He knows the efforts we made to find a solution during President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s term. He was the leader of that government team, I led the Tamil team and he knows how much we tried. So, do not blame us. If you do not do it, we will be compelled to take certain actions and if we do that, do not blame us.

Sir, before Independence, the Tamils did not ask for a separation. The Tamils advocated “Poorna Swarajfull independence” for the whole country. After Independence, the Tamils only sought effective power-sharing arrangements. This was the consistent democratic verdict of the Tamil people at every election since 1956.

The following, Sir, is a quotation from the Election Manifesto of the Federal Party in 1970 in proof of this. I read this to show that we even put this into our Election Manifesto.

Our election manifesto said, Sir, I quote:

“It is our firm conviction that division of the country in any form would not be beneficial, either to the country, or to the Tamil-speaking people. Hence, we appeal to the Tamil-speaking people not to lend their support to any political movement that advocates bifurcation of the country.”

That was the position of the Federal Party and it was quite explicitly stated in its Election Manifesto in 1970.

It was only after the enactment of the 1st Republican Constitution that the Tamils for the first time in 1976 demanded the restoration of their sovereignty. This was done after they failed to achieve even minimum political goals.  On the advice of India, this demand was given up in a short while.  After the enactment of the Thirteenth  Amendment of the Constitution, the political demand of the Tamil people has been an effective power-sharing arrangement within the framework of a united, undivided Sri Lanka.

I repeat, Sir, the consistent political demand of the Tamil people has been an effective power-sharing arrangement within the framework of a united, undivided and indivisible Sri Lanka. You have denied that to us.  That is why there is no peace in this country. That is why there is no development in this country.  That is why there is no investment in this country. That is why nobody will turn and look at this country. We want this country to be a powerful country, a country that achieves progress and resolves the Tamil issue with Constitutional arrangements.

It will be useful in the context of this dispute being unresolved for several decades to refer to certain international instruments.

Firstly, I refer, Sir, to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Sir, Article 1 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights states, I quote:

“All peoples have the right of self-determination. By virtue of that right, they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.”

Tamil people are entitled to right of self-determination.

Secondly, Sir, I refer to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which states again, I quote:

“All peoples have the right of self-determination. By virtue of that right, they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.”

Sir, self-determination is categorized as internal self-determination and external self-determination.

There was a famous case in Canada in the Canadian Supreme Court pertaining to the Province of Quebec.  Quebec wanted to secede from Canada and sought to secede unilaterally from Canada.  The Canadian Central Government and the other provinces opposed it. The matter was referred to the Supreme Court of Canada. I have got the judgment of the Court here with me.  I will not read it.  But, permit me to say what the judgment states.  It states, “The Court having inquired into this matter stated that self-determination was either internal self-determination or external self-determination.”

People have the right to self-determination. But if the people have the right to internal self-determination within their own State, which means that they have access to governance, they are able to maintain their self-respect and dignity and fulfil their political, civil, cultural and economic aspirations, then they have self-determination. People who have internal self-determination are not entitled to external self-determination.

So in that context, the people of the State of Quebec have no unilateral right to secede because they had internal self-determination within their own State. If you deny the Tamil people the right to internal self-determination persistently and consistently, and if the Tamil people are treated as second-class citizens, we as a distinct people with a distinct cultural and linguistic identity, with a  tradition and civilization of our own, will be entitled to external self-determination on account of your default. So, please remember that. It will be a great error on your part not to remember that.

The third instrument that I want to refer to, Sir, is the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which contains some very important matters.

This is what Article 21 (3) of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights states, I quote:

“The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret vote or by equivalent free voting procedures.”

The will of the people shall be the basis of governance; shall be the authority of governance. From 1956, the Tamil people in the North and the East have voted for a change in the system of governance. Tamil people have consistently said that they are not prepared to accept the present Constitution. But you have not granted us internal self-determination and we are continuing to demand that we are entitled to internal self-determination.

Sir, we are all aware that Sri Lanka committed itself to a political solution in the Resolution adopted at the UN Human Rights Council in October 2015. The Resolution adopted by the UN Human Rights Council co-sponsored by Sri Lanka unanimously states as follows:

“Welcomes the commitment of the Government of Sri Lanka to a political settlement by taking the necessary constitutional measures, encourages the Government’s efforts to fulfil its commitments on the devolution of political authority, which is integral to reconciliation and the full enjoyment of human rights by all members of its population;..”

That was another commitment made by you to the international community.

Sir, the Motion I have moved also refers to the Parliament of Sri Lanka being converted into a Constitutional Assembly and the reasons and objectives for that step. Much work has been done under the present Resolution moved in this Parliament by the Constitutional Assembly, the Steering Committee, the Subcommittees and the Experts’ Committee. This is comparable with the work done by President Ranasinghe Premadasa under the Mangala Moonesinghe Select Committee Proposals, President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga under the August 2000 Proposals and  President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s own Proposals under the Prof. Tissa Vitharana’s APRC Report.  There has been substantial consensus built around all these Proposals.

The current Process was proceeding well, but is now experiencing delay. The present process has three objectives: (1) Executive Presidency (2); Electoral Reforms / The Preferential Vote; (3) The National Question / Sharing Powers of Governance – Devolution.  If there is delay in regard to one and two, then three, on which there is substantial consensus can be proceeded with and finalized.

There is a fear amongst the Tamil people that the aggressive implementation of a policy of advancing a Sinhala Buddhist environment and influence in the North-East is the cause for the delay in the process of devolving power being finalized. If that be so, it is a very shortsighted policy and must be abandoned.  But we ourselves are beginning to fear that such a policy is being rather insidiously pursued.

I would like to remind the House, Sir, that this Adjournment Motion is not being brought in a spirit of confrontation. Since 1989 much work had been done, over a period of 30 years, to enhance and strengthen the Thirteenth Amendment around which efforts there has been much consensus and commonality that it could be unwise not to make use of all that material. The Mangala Moonesinghe Select Committee Proposals during President Premadasa’s term, President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga’s August 2000 Proposals and Prof. Tissa Vitharana’s APRC Report during President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s term were valuable efforts, in all of which the SLFP was involved.  These and the current Steering Committee, Subcommittees and the Experts’ Committee Reports around which there is sufficient consensus provide us with adequate material to build the necessary Constitutional structure on devolution / power-sharing.

The alternative would be that we continue to be governed under the 1978 Constitution which has been rejected by the people and by this Parliament. This can only be harmful to the whole country and all its people.  It is our respectful submission that in view of the consensus and commonality that exists on devolution/ power-sharing, the same must be completed during the term of the present Parliament.

In view of all that has happened in the past 30 years, the institution of the State must not be seen to fail  in this regard.  Without Constitutional reforms on devolution/ power sharing, thereby the National Question being addressed Constitutionally, there can be no progress in any other sector, peace and permanent security will be elusive. Devolution of power to different levels would help to greatly  minimize extravagance waste and corruption.  The view also prevails in the country that concentration of power at the Centre is meant to facilitate corruption.  Corruption on a wide scale is a charge that has been levelled against all governments whichever party was in power.

I am finishing, Sir.  Before I conclude, I  would refer to the Report of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission and the Statement issued by the Friday Forum,   but  I will not quote them in detail due to lack of time.

The Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission was appointed by you comprised very leading members of civil society.  The Friday Forum comprised leading members of civil society. Both those institutions have urged you very strongly to come up with your Constitution, a new Constitution, to come up with devolution proposals to enable the National Question to be resolved.  They are very, very respected, highly educated persons of civil society.  It will be a mistake on your part not to do that. Please,  act in terms of the recommendation made by the LLRC – Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission – and the Friday Forum.

Sir, just give me two minutes to conclude. Very briefly, looking back at the whole issue,  the process of Constitutional Reform has been on the anvil from 1957: in 1957,  Prime Minister  S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike; in 1965, Prime Minister Dudley Senanayake; in 1987,  President  J.R. Jayawardene; during 1988 – 1989, President R. Premadasa; during 1994 – 2000,  President  Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga,  during 2006 – 2014,  President Mahinda Rajapaksa; during  2015 – 2019,  President  Maithripala Sirisena and the Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe.  He was also  Prime Minister in 2001 and 2002. Certain  Constitutional reform movements took place during the term of every one of these leaders.

If you do not come up with the Constitution, if you do not keep your commitments to the international community, if you want this country to be ruled under the 1978 Constitution,   we will  be ruling the country under  a Constitution which has been rejected from 1994 at five Parliamentary Elections, including the last elections held in 2015, both Presidential and Parliament.  If you rule this country for such a long period under a Constitution rejected by the people without their will and consent, you will qualify to become a failed state. You will  cease to be a legitimate state.  You do not keep your commitments to the international community. We made several commitments to the international community  which we have not kept.  We will lose international legitimacy. You will  become, even internationally, an illegitimate State.

The Tamils are a distinct people with a distinct linguistic and cultural identity. We have historically inhabited the North and the East. We cannot live as second class citizens. We must live with self-respect and dignity. Maximum possible power sharing must be effected, power must be devolved within a united, undivided, indivisible Sri Lanka. We must be able to determine our destiny. Our Leaders have said it. The Sinhalese Leaders in this country whom I have referred to very adequately today,  they have said it. The international leaders have said it; the Prime Ministers of India too. I   am not referring to  Prime Minister Modi’s statement on account of the fact that he spoke in this Parliament.  Sir,  Prime Minister Modi has said that the only way to keep a country united is to ensure that all its citizens are able to live with self-respect and dignity; all its citizens are able to fulfil their aspirations. He also said, “I  want to  strengthen every village, I want to strengthen every state in my country because it is only when other  tiers are  strengthened   in my country that our Centre becomes strong; the country becomes strong.”

So, please remember this and the earlier you do it, the better. If you do not do it and abstain from doing the right thing, I do not think the Tamil people will take it lying down for too long.

Thank you, Sir.

(The above transcript of the speech made by Hon R Sampanthan on the 25th of July in Sri Lankan Parliament was provided by the TNA.)

——————————————————————————————————————–

Full text of the speech made by Opposition Leader R. Sampanthan in Parliament on 22.02.2017

GarikaalanFeb 24, 2017

[2.40p.m.]

Opposition Leader R. Sampanthan

ගරු රාජවරෝදියම් සම්පන්දන් මහතා (විරුද්ධ පාර්ශ්වයේ නායකතුමා)

(மாண்புமிகு ராஜவரோதயம் சம்பந்தன் — எதிர்க்கட்சி முதல்வர்)

(The Hon. Rajavarothiam Sampanthan — Leader of the Opposition)

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. We are starting this Adjournment Debate half-an-hour behind time. Might I suggest that in case Hon. Members want to speak, you might have to sit a little beyond 7.00 p.m. to be able to accommodate the Hon. Members because we are already 35 minutes or 40 minutes behind schedule? I leave that to you, Sir.

I will now read my Adjournment Motion which is as follows:

“All people who lived in Sri Lanka, irrespective of their ethnicity, religion, or any other difference, whether Sinhalese, Tamil, Muslim or Burgher made their fullest contribution to the achievement of independence.

It is almost 70 years since Sri Lanka attained Independence from Colonial Rule.

Ethnic strife had plagued the country from shortly after it attained Independence.

Pacts entered into between Prime Ministers and the Tamil Political Leadership to help resolve such ethnic strife and enable all citizens to live together in peace and amity, with equality and justice were not fulfilled by the ruling elite.

As a result of such ethnic strife and ethnic violence against the Tamil people in the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, 1980s and thereafter, up to 50 per cent of the Sri Lankan Tamil population were compelled to leave their own country largely on grounds of insecurity and take up residence in different countries the world over. Tens of thousands of Tamil families have consequently been divided. It is relevant to point out that ethnic violence was unleashed against the Tamil people when they made political demands that would enable them to live as equal citizens in the country.

Recurrence of violence would result in more Tamils feeling the country.

Ethnic violence against Tamils is an imminent danger unless and until there is a political resolution of the conflict.

An armed conflict emerged. Tamil youth waged a war against the Sri Lankan State for more than 25 years. It is more than seven years since the armed conflict came to an end. During this armed conflict, much suffering was endured by all people in all parts of the country. Such armed conflict by Tamil youth emerged only after several decades of ethnic violence against the Tamil people.

The conflict was also internationalized and the issue has been in the international domain. Several Resolutions were adopted at the United Nations Human Rights Council and the Resolution adopted in October 2015 comes up for review in February/March 2017.

Our neighbour and parent country India offered its good offices to resolve the issue which Sri Lanka accepted in 1983. An Indo-Sri Lanka agreement was signed on 29th July 1987 between Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi of India and President J. R. Jayewardene of Sri Lanka which laid down vital contours for a political resolution.

There were also several domestic efforts to finally resolve the conflict. These efforts were made after the enactment of the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution as the same was found to be inadequate and unworkable.

During the President R. Premadasa’s term the Mangala Moonesinghe Select Committee Proposals, during President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga’s term the proposals she made in 1995, 1997 and the proposals tabled as a Bill in Parliament in August 2000, the Oslo Communique and the Tokyo Communique during the Hon. Ranil Wickramasinghe’s term as Prime Minister and the speech delivered by President Mahinda Rajapaksa at the Inaugural Meeting of the All Party Representatives Committee (APRC) and the Multi Ethnic Experts Committee (MEEC) appointed by President Mahinda Rajapaksa, and the reports of the said All Party Representative Committee and the Multi-Ethnic Experts Committee, all these processes took the proposals for sharing power much beyond the scope of the Thirteenth Amendment.”

ගරු කථානායකතුමා

(மாண்புமிகு சபாநாயகர் அவர்கள்)

(The Hon. Speaker)

Order, please! At this stage, the Hon. Deputy Chairman of Committees will take the Chair.

අනතුරුව ගරු කථානායකතුමා මූලාසනයෙන් ඉවත් වුයෙන්, නියෝජ්‍ය කාරක සභාපතිතුමා [ගරු සෙල්වම් අඩෛක්කලනාදන් මහතා] මුලාසනාරූඪ විය.

அதன்பிறகு, மாண்புமிகு சபாநாயகர் அவர்கள் அக்கிராசனத்தினின்று அகலவே, குழுக்களின் பிரதித் தவிசாளர் அவர்கள் [மாண்புமிகு செல்வம் அடைக்கலநாதன்] தலைமை வகித்தார்கள்.

Whereupon THE HON. SPEAKER left the Chair, and DEPUTY CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES [THE HON. SELVAM ADAIKKALANATHAN] took the Chair.

ගරු නියෝජ්‍ය කාරක සභාපතිතුමා

(மாண்புமிகு குழுக்களின் பிரதித் தவிசாளர் அவர்கள்)

(The Hon. Deputy Chairman of Committees)

You may continue with your speech, Hon. Sampanthan.

ගරු රාජවරෝදියම් සම්පන්දන් මහතා

(மாண்புமிகு ராஜவரோதயம் சம்பந்தன்)

(The Hon. Rajavarothiam Sampanthan)

Thank you, Mr. Deputy Chairman of Committees.

“With the assumption of the office of the new Government, Parliament has constituted itself as a Constitutional Assembly, a Steering Committee comprising of representatives of all political parties in Parliament has been appointed under the Chairmanship of the Hon. Prime Minister, various Subcommittees representing different political parties have been appointed and work is in progress for the evolution of a Constitution to resolve the conflict within a united, undivided and indivisible Sri Lanka with the maximum possible consensus.

The Resolution for the appointment of Constitutional Assembly adopted by Parliament inter-alia states:

“Whereas there is broad agreement among the people of Sri Lanka that it is necessary to enact a Constitution for Sri Lanka.”

It further states :

(1) This Parliament resolves that :

There shall be a Committee which shall have the powers of the Committee of the whole Parliament consisting of Members of Parliament for the purpose of deliberating and seeking the advice and views of the people on a Constitution for Sri Lanka and

(2) Preparing a draft of a Constitutional Bill for the consideration of Parliament in the exercise of its powers under Article 75 of the Constitution.

It further states

(3) For the avoidance of doubt, it is hereby further declared that a Constitution Bill shall only be enacted into law if it is passed in Parliament by a special majority of two-thirds of the whole number of the Members of Parliament including those not present and subsequently approved by the people at a Referendum as required by Article 83 of the Constitution.

The current 1978 Constitution did not have such consensus, nor did the 1972 first Republican Constitution, have such consensus. The failure to evolve a Constitution based on such consensus has been the reason for the failure of such Constitutions.

Issues relating to transitional justice in respect of which resolutions have been adopted at the Human Right Council also need to be addressed. These too are issues of urgent public importance in respect of which the country needs to be kept informed. It is estimated that over one hundred and fifty thousand Tamils were killed as a result of the conflict and that recurrence of violence could result in more Tamil people being killed and more Tamil people fleeing the country.

While we on our part will extend the maximum co-operation to the satisfactory conclusion of these processes and to the non-recurrence of violence, it is absolutely essential that these processes be taken forward in a genuine and purposeful manner, so as to ensure permanent peace with justice and equality to all citizens. It is fundamental that all extend their co-operation to enable the successful conclusion of these processes.

I would submit with respect that this is a matter of urgent public importance, and that is the reason for raising this matter today in the House at Adjournment, to enable the whole country to be kept informed of the truth in regard to the processes and everything relating thereto. “

That Sir is the Motion that I have placed before the House. You will permit me to say a few words in regard to the purpose of this Motion.

Ever since the enactment of the 1978 Constitution, there has been a clamour for the enactment of a new Constitution. That is because there was no consensus in the making of the 1978 Constitution. It was the same with the 1972 First Republican Constitution. There was no consensus in regard to that either. Parties in power which were able to muster the required two-thirds majority framed the Constitution as the party wished. They were not interested in evolving a consensus. The country has become wiser; I hope that political parties have become wiser — I am inclined to think they have. Over a period of time, particularly, after the ethnic holocaust of 1983, there have been efforts at making a new Constitution. Now that this august Assembly has been converted into a Constitutional Assembly and we are engaged in the Constitution-making process, I think it would be relevant and also important to refer to and also place on record some of the features relating to the earlier efforts at Constitution-making.

There have been entirely domestic efforts under different Heads of Government. There have been efforts with international involvement. We accepted the role of international players, our neighbour India, the Co-Chairs, the United Nations, and these features would be extremely important and useful to us in our current Constitution-making process. I think in the interest of the country all these features should be made public. I will not make any reference whatever to any matter relating to the current process. That is a matter that is within the realm of the Steering Committee and the Constitutional Assembly and I will not trespass into that field, because those matters will, in due course, be dealt with in the appropriate place.

Sir, I would first refer to the features in the Bandaranaike-Chelvanayakam Pact signed in 1957 between Prime Minister S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike and the Tamil Leader, Mr. S.J.V. Chelvanayakam. It stated under “Joint Statement by the Prime Minister and Representatives of the Federal Party on Regional Councils”, I quote:

“ ‘(A) Regional areas to be defined in the Bill itself by embodying them in a schedule thereto.

‘(B) That the Northern Province is to form one Regional area whilst the Eastern Province is to be divided into two or more regional areas.

‘© Provision is to be made in the Bill to enable two or more regions to amalgamate even beyond provincial limits; and for one region to divide itself subject to ratification by Parliament. Further provision is to be made in the Bill for two or more regions to collaborate for specific purposes of common interests.”

The next point of importance in the Pact, under “Colonisation Schemes”, states, I quote:

“ ‘(F) It was agreed that in the matter of colonization schemes the powers of the Regional Councils shall include the power to select allottees to whom lands within their area of authority shall be alienated and also power to select personnel to be employed for work on such schemes. The position regarding the area at present administered by the Gal Oya Board in this matter requires consideration.”

That is the area, Sir, that is now comprised of the Ampara Electorate in the Ampara District.

The next document I want to refer to, Sir, is the Dudley Senanayake-Chelvanayakam Pact signed between Prime Minister Dudley Senanayake and the Tamil Leader, Mr S.J.V. Chelvanayakam. Under that, in the case of colonization, the District Councils would see that landless people in the district get priority over others. The second preference would be the Tamil-speaking people of the Northern and the Eastern Provinces. Finally, even in considering deserving cases from outside of the North-East, Tamils would get priority over others. Those were the three provisions that would guide the alienation of State land in the Northern and the Eastern Provinces. This was the recognition of the territorial identity of the Tamil-speaking people of the Island.

The next document of importance, Sir, is the Indo-Sri Lanka Agreement of 29th July, 1987 signed between Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi of India and President J.R. Jayewardene of Sri Lanka. The important features of the Agreement are as follows, I quote:

“1.1 desiring to preserve the unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Sri Lanka;

1.2 acknowledging that Sri Lanka is a ‘multi-ethnic and a multi-lingual plural society’ consisting, inter alia,of Sinhalese, Tamils, Muslims (Moors) and Burghers;

1.3 recognizing that each ethnic group has a distinct cultural and linguistic identity which has to be carefully nurtured;

1.4 also recognizing that the Northern and the Eastern Provinces have been areas of historical habitation of Sri Lankan Tamil-speaking peoples, who have at all times hitherto lived together in this territory with other ethnic groups;

1.5 conscious of the necessity of strengthening the forces contributing to the unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Sri Lanka, and preserving its character as a multi-ethnic, multi-lingual and multi-religious plural society in which all citizens can live in equality, safety and harmony, and prosper and fulfil their aspirations; ”

Sir, it further went on to state, I quote:

“2.2 During the period, which shall be considered an interim period (i.e. from the date of the elections to the Provincial Council, as specified in para 2.8 to the date of the referendum as specified in para 2.3), the Northern and Eastern Provinces as now constituted, will form one administrative unit, having one elected Provincial Council. Such a unit will have one Governor, one Chief Minister and one Board of Ministers.”

So, under the Indo-Sri Lanka Agreement, Sir, there was provision made for the Northern and the Eastern Provinces to be amalgamated as one unit of devolution with one Governor, one Chief Minister and one Board of Ministers. That was done and that merger was maintained for 18 years. Budgetary provision was made in every Budget for the merged North-Eastern Unit until a recent Judgment of the Supreme Court, which claimed that there was a procedural flaw in regard to the matter of merger, and the merger was consequently suspended.

Sir, the next document of importance that I would like to place before you is the Mangala Moonesinghe Select Committee Proposals during the time of His Excellency R. Premadasa as President. The Hon. Mangala Moonesinghe was a leading Hon. Member of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party, but President Premadasa made him Chairman of that Select Committee. His Select Committee recommended I quote:

“1. That there be two units, one for the North and one for the East.

2. That devolution of power be on the lines of the Indian Constitution.

3. That the Concurrent List in the current Constitution (introduced by the Thirteenth Amendment) be reduced substantially or done away with completely. The majority agreed with the idea that more powers should be devolved to the provinces. “

It also stated, I quote:

“The majority, consisting of representatives from the SLFP, the UNP, the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC), the Communist Party of Sri Lanka (CPSL), the Lanka Sama Samaja Party (LSSP) and two independent Tamil and Muslim Members of Parliament….”

So, Sir, that was the view of the majority of the Members who were in the Parliamentary Select Committee and there was consensus around those proposals. They went on to further recommend, Sir, that there should be an Apex Council and proposed as follows:

“1. There will be two separate Provincial Councils for the North and East.

2. Each Provincial Council will have an Executive Minister who will also head the Board of Ministers.

3. There will be a Regional Council for the entire North-East region and the Regional Council shall be constituted by the two elected Provincial Councils.

4. When the two Provincial Councils meet together on matters pertaining to the entire region they shall constitute themselves as the Regional Council.

5. The Regional Council will be headed by a Chief Minister for the entire region and the two Executive Ministers will each year function alternatively as Chief Minister.

6. When the two Provincial Boards of Ministers meeting on matters pertaining to the entire region they shall be known as the Regional Board of Ministers.

7. There will be a Regional List and a Provincial List and legislative functions may be exercised by the Regional Council for the region with respect to those functions in the Regional List.

8. The Provincial List will contain matters such as land, finance, law and order and the Regional List will apply to matters such as planning and economic development.

9. There will be a single Governor for the region and the rights of minorities will be guaranteed by the constitution.

10. Where legislation is passed by the Regional Council it shall not have a bearing on the Provinces till it is approved by the relevant

Provincial Council.

So, you will see Sir, that what the Mangala Moonesinghe Select Committee recommended was an Apex Council comprising of the Northern and Eastern Provinces to be in a position to deal with certain matters that were of great concern to both the North and the East.

The next important step was the proposals of President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga in 1995, 1997 and the draft Constitution Bill that was presented to Parliament in August 2000. The Bill was presented to Parliament by the former Minister of Justice, Constitutional Affairs, Ethnic Affairs and National Integration and Deputy Minister of Finance and Planning. I have got a copy of the Bill in my hand and this learned gentleman who presented the Bill to Parliament was no other than Prof. G. L. Peiris. He presented, as the Minister of Constitutional Affairs in the Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga Government, this set of proposals to Parliament as being the proposals of his Government. He had them approved in Cabinet.

Both our present President, President Maithripala Sirisena and our former President, President Mahinda Rajapaksa approved the Bill in Cabinet. The Bill was brought to Parliament with the approval of both of them. They both were Ministers in the Cabinet of President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga. No one said anything to the contrary when the Bill was brought to Parliament.

It is well known that the 2000 proposals were a very progressive step in the Constitution-making exercise and I think anyone engaged in the current process should be educated in regard to what this contained. The proposals were drafted primarily by Prof. G. L. Peiris who was the Minister for Constitutional Affairs and by the late Dr Neelan Tiruchelvam, also a constitutional expert in his own right who had assisted in drafting many constitutions the world over in many countries that recently became independent.

I, Sir, as a Member of Parliament used to be in constant touch with him at that point of time. So, they were the two persons who mainly drafted the Bill. Very unfortunately, a consensus that had emerged between the two main parties in regard to that Bill was finally lost as a result of some bickering. Whatever Prof. G.L. Peiris may be saying now, he must accept that it was a Bill presented by him to Parliament on behalf of the Government of which he was the Minister of Constitutional Affairs and that this Bill indicates that this country had been willing to take this process forward in a meaningful way.

The next document Sir, I want to refer to is the Oslo Communique issued at the third session of Peace Talks held from 2nd to 5th December 2002 where again Prof. G.L. Peiris was the chief delegate on behalf of his Government. I would like to quote what the Oslo Communiqué contains:

“Responding to a proposal by the leadership of the LTTE, the parties agreed to explore a solution founded on the principle of internal self-determination in areas of historical habitation of the Tamil-speaking people, based on a federal structure within a united Sri Lanka. The parties acknowledged that the solution had to be acceptable to all communities…. Guided by this objective, the parties agreed to initiate discussions on substantive political issues such as, but not limited to Power-sharing between the centre and the region, as well as within the centre; Geographical region; Human Rights Protection; Political and administrative mechanisms; Public finance; Law and order.”

So, there was an agreement in terms of which the parties, based upon the principle of internal self-determination, agreed to explore a federal solution in the areas of historical habitation of the Tamils-peaking people within the framework of a united, undivided Sri Lanka.

Now Sir, Prof. G.L. Peiris addressed a press conference. I am quoting Sir, from the transcript of the press conference held at the conclusion of the third session of the first round of Peace Talks held in Oslo which Prof. Peiris addressed. What did he say? I quote from this press conference because I want this country to know what Prof. Peiris said in Oslo compared to what he is saying now. He said Sir, and I quote from the transcript of the press conference.

“The LTTE is no longer insisting on a separate State but … is looking at a different concept in earnest and that is internal self-determination.

And he went on to explain what he meant. This was power-sharing, extensive power-sharing within the framework of one country. No question of cessation, no question of separation but power-sharing within the framework of one country.”

“That was the point of departure. They are now talking of power-sharing within one country.” So, Prof. Peiris was completely supportive of the Oslo Communiqué. In the press conference he addressed, he stated that the LTTE had changed their position from separation to power-sharing within the framework of a united, undivided, indivisible Sri Lanka. That is what we want. That is what we are asking now. What we are asking now is for extensive power-sharing within the framework of a united, undivided, indivisible Sri Lanka to ensure that Sri Lanka is undivided and indivisible — indivisible in perpetuity. You can have whatever you want in the Constitution. So, that was Prof. Peiris, Sir, at his press conference in Oslo after being a party to the Oslo Communiqué. What credence can be attached, Sir, to what Prof. Peiris now says, in the context of he being the author of the 2000 August Proposals which he himself tabled in Parliament on behalf of his government and in the context of his position at Oslo and what he stated in the press conference. What credence can be attached to what Prof. Peiris has to say now and he is saying a lot of things; he is saying many things.

Now, Sir, from Prof. Peiris, I will move on to President Mahinda Rajapaksa. President Mahinda Rajapaksa also has said very interesting things when he was President and I think the country needs to know about it. President Mahinda Rajapaksa, Sir, addressed the inaugural Meeting of the All Party Representative Committee and the Multi Ethnic Experts Committee he appointed after he became President on the 11th of July 2006. He made a very important speech to these two bodies; the APRC and the Multi Ethnic Experts Committee which comprised of twelve Sinhalese, four Tamils and one Muslim. There were 17 Members on the Multi Ethnic Experts Committee comprising of twelve Sinhalese, four Tamils and one Muslim. He addressed that Committee and this is what he said:

I am quoting, Sir, from what President Mahinda Rajapaksa said to that body comprising of All Party Representative Committee and the Mutli Ethnic Experts Committee. Addressing the gathering, under the caption “Unity, Territorial Integrity and Sovereignty”, this is what President Rajapaksa said:

“The unity, territorial integrity and sovereignty of our country must be preserved. This cannot be open to bargain. Our approach has been widely endorsed by the international community, notably India and the Co-chairs have clearly stated and have clearly ruled out any form of division of this country. Our objective must be to develop a just settlement within an undivided Sri Lanka…”

What he laid emphasis on was, a just settlement within an undivided Sri Lanka and he said:

“Our objective must be to develop a just settlement within an undivided Sri Lanka.

Each party represented here has its own solutions to the national question. We will discuss and synthesize these different approaches and develop our own Sri Lankan model. We must explore past attempts from the Bandaranaike — Chelvanayakam Pact onwards. We must draw appropriate lessons from the experience of other countries.”

Look at the constitutions of the other countries. He further stated, I quote:

“I will not impose a solution on the country. But, you will through your developments, through your deliberations provide a solution to the national question.”

His speech next dealt with the point relating to “Devolution for the People by the People” and this is what he said:

“People in their own localities must take charge of their destiny and control their politico-economic environment. Central decision-making that allocates disproportionate resources has been an issue for a considerable time. In addition, it is axiomatic that devolution also needs to address issues relating to identity as well as security and socio-economic advancement without over-reliance on the Centre. In this regard, it is also important to address the question of regional minorities.”

So, this is what he said. The people must take charge of their destiny in the areas in which they live. They must be able to address the issues relating to their identity, in regard to their security, in regard to socio-economic advancement. What more would you want?

Sir, then, I quote from the third point he addressed under the heading, “Some Concluding Thoughts”:

“Any solution must be seen as one that stretches to the maximum possible devolution…..”

These are President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s own words. I further quote:

“Any solution must be seen as one that stretches to the maximum possible devolution without sacrificing the sovereignty of the country. Given the ground situation, given the background to the conflict, it, therefore, behoves on particularly the majority community to be proactive in striving for peace and there must be a demonstration of a well-stretched hand of accommodation.”

He wanted the majority community to stretch out their hands and accommodate the minorities. That is what he said. I further quote:

“Any solution must therefore address these expectations as well. The role of the All Party Representative Committee, as well as the Panel of Experts, is to fashion creative options and satisfy the minimum expectations that I had enumerated earlier as well as provide a comprehensive approach to the resolution of the national question”.

He wanted the APRC and the Multi-Ethnic Experts Committee to provide for maximum possible devolution. This is President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s own speech. I would have very much wished his being here, but unfortunately, he is not here and none of the Joint Opposition Members is here; they, probably, do not want to listen to these things being said and they must have known that these things will be said. So, Sir, that was President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s position. Can anything be clearer, Sir? Can anything be more lucid than what the former President Mahinda Rajapaksa has said in regard to what a new Constitution should have? A solution based on what he has said would be the end of the matter.

The former President Mahinda Rajapaksa also came to an agreement with the Secretary-General of the UN, when the Secretary-General of the UN came to Sri Lanka on the 23rd of May, 2009, just after the war came to an end. A few days thereafter, they had a discussion. After that discussion, they issued a joint statement.

I am now reading from the Joint Statement. I quote:

“President Rajapaksa and the Secretary-General agreed that addressing the aspirations and grievances of all communities and working towards a lasting political solution was fundamental to ensuring long-term socio-economic development.

President Rajapaksa expressed his firm resolve to proceed with the implementation of the 13th Amendment, as well as to begin a broader dialogue with all parties, including the Tamil parties in the new circumstances, to further enhance this process and to bring about lasting peace and development in Sri Lanka.”

That was his position Sir, in the Joint Statement he made with the Secretary-General on the 23rd of May, 2009.

The international community has also been involved, Sir, and they have also been making several statements which I would like to place before the House because it is important that the House is aware of the role played by the international community.

India has played a crucial role, Sir. India has been in touch with the Government, particularly with the Rajapaksa Government. I am now going to quote from statements made by the international community, particularly India and the Co-Chairs during President Rajapaksa’s regime in regard to what should be the basis of a political solution. I will deal, Sir, particularly with the period when President Mahinda Rajapaksa was the President.

In November 2006 Sir, Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon arrived in Sri Lanka and met with President Rajapaksa. He told President Mahinda Rajapaksa, “India looks forward to an early ‘comprehensive political settlement’ of the ethnic issue. It must take into account these aspirations of all sections, including the Tamils.” At that meeting, President Rajapaksa gave details of the work being done by the All-Party Conference and the Multi-Ethnic Committee of Experts to provide a framework for the resolution of the ethnic problem. President Mahinda Rajapaksa gave Mr Menon a Report in regard to the work of the APRC and the Multi-Ethnic Committee of Experts. I have already referred to the APRC and the Multi-Ethnic Committee of Experts, Sir. Their Reports are in the public domain; their Reports are available and their Reports are very much in tune with what the ex-President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga said in her Constitutional Proposals in August, 2000. So, that was President Rajapaksa’s position to Mr. Shivshankar Menon.

Mr Basil Rajapaksa went to India in October 2008. After the talks with the Indian Government, there was a statement issued.

He said, I quote:

“Both sides discussed the need to move towards a peacefully negotiated political settlement in the island including the North. Both sides agreed that terrorism should be countered with resolve. The Indian side called for the implementation of the Thirteenth Amendment and greater devolution of powers to the provinces. Mr Basil Rajapaksa emphasized that the President of Sri Lanka and his Government were firmly committed to a political process that should lead to a sustainable solution”.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Sir, in November 2008, having met the former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, told the Rajya Sabha that he had a meeting with President Mahinda Rajapaksa and the bulk of the meeting was focused on the plight of Sri Lankan Tamil people. I am quoting what Dr Manmohan Singh said:

“We are deeply concerned. I explained to him (Rajapaksa) that we have a legitimate concern about the welfare of Sri Lankan Tamils. It has a bearing on Sri Lanka’s relations with India”.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh also informed President Rajapaksa that Colombo has to create conditions for meeting “legitimate political aspirations” of the Tamils under the devolution package. That was a statement made by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh after he had a discussion with President Rajapaksa.

Then again, Sir, Prof. G.L. Peiris, in his capacity as the Minister of External Affairs, went to India in May 2011. He was in India from 15th to 17th of May, 2011 and there was a statement made. I quote:

“Both sides agreed that the end of armed conflict in Sri Lanka created a historic opportunity to address all outstanding issues in a spirit of understanding and mutual accommodation imbued with a political vision to work towards genuine national reconciliation.

In this context, the External Affairs Minister of Sri Lanka affirmed his Government’s commitment to ensuring expeditious and concrete progress in the ongoing dialogue between the Government of Sri Lanka and representatives of Tamil parties.

A devolution package building upon the 13th Amendment would contribute towards creating the necessary conditions for such reconciliation.”

That was the statement of Prof. G.L. Peiris when he went to India.

Then, Sir, in June 2011, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh again referred to this matter. There was a question and answer session and he was asked a question in regard to India’s neighbours and this is what he said. I quote:

“You have a situation in Sri Lanka. The decimation of the LTTE was something that is good. But the Tamil problem does not disappear, with the defeat of the LTTE. The Tamil population has legitimate grievances. They feel they are reduced to second-class citizens. And our emphasis has been to persuade the Sri Lankan Government that we must move towards a new system of institutional reforms, where the Tamil people will have a feeling that they are equal citizens of Sri Lanka, and they can lead a life of dignity and self-respect. It is not easy. Within Sri Lanka’s population, there are hotheads. The Sinhala-chauvinism is a reality. But we have to find a difficult balance because what happens in Sri Lanka has a domestic dimension …..”

That was Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s statement in June 2011.

Sir, Foreign Minister of India, S.M. Krishna said in the Lok Sabha in a Suo Motu Statement on 4th August 2011, I quote :

“The Government has also articulated its position that the end of the armed conflict in Sri Lanka created a historic opportunity to address all outstanding issues relating to minority communities in Sri Lanka including Tamils. The Joint Press Release of May 17, 2011 states that all such outstanding issues had to be settled in a spirit of understanding and mutual accommodation imbued with a political vision to work towards genuine national reconciliation. The External Affairs Minister of Sri Lanka affirmed his Government’s commitment to ensuring expeditious and concrete progress in the ongoing dialogue between the Government of Sri Lanka and representatives of Tamil parties and that a devolution package building upon the 13th Amendment, would contribute towards creating the necessary conditions for such reconciliation.

The Prime Minister observed recently that the Tamil population in Sri Lanka had legitimate grievances and our emphasis had been to persuade the Sri Lankan Government that we must move towards a new system of institutional reforms where the Tamil people will have a feeling that they are equal citizens of Sri Lanka and they can lead a life of dignity and self-respect. That is our outlook towards this issue.”

ගරු නියෝජ්‍ය කාරක සභාපතිතුමා

(மாண்புமிகு குழுக்களின் பிரதித் தவிசாளர் அவர்கள்)

(The Hon. Deputy Chairman of Committees)

Hon. Sampanthan, you have five more minutes.

ගරු රාජවරෝදියම් සම්පන්දන් මහතා

(மாண்புமிகு ராஜவரோதயம் சம்பந்தன்)

(The Hon. Rajavarothiam Sampanthan)

My party has got time, Sir. I will take time of my party Members.

ගරු නියෝජ්‍ය කාරක සභාපතිතුමා

(மாண்புமிகு குழுக்களின் பிரதித் தவிசாளர் அவர்கள்)

(The Hon. Deputy Chairman of Committees)

Okay.

ගරු රාජවරෝදියම් සම්පන්දන් මහතා

(மாண்புமிகு ராஜவரோதயம் சம்பந்தன்)

(The Hon. Rajavarothiam Sampanthan)

I want to place some of these things on the record, Sir, because some of these things are not known. I want this matter to be on the record.

Then, Sir, there was a statement made by a spokesman on behalf of India after the Report of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission was released and that statement was made on 25th December 2011. This is what he said, I quote:

“ In this context, we have been assured by the Government of Sri Lanka on several occasions in the past, of its commitment towards pursuit of a political process, through a broader dialogue with all parties, including the Tamil National Alliance leading to the full implementation of the 13th Amendment to the Sri Lankan Constitution, and to go beyond so as to achieve meaningful devolution of powers and genuine national reconciliation. We hope that the Government of Sri Lanka recognizing the critical importance of this issue acts decisively and with vision in this regard. We will remain engaged with them through this process and offer our support in the spirit of partnership.”

Thereafter, Sir, the Foreign Minister of India was in Sri Lanka. There was a statement made by him in the presence of the Minister of External Affairs of Sri Lanka. The Foreign Minister was here from the 16th to 19th January 2012 and what he said was this. I quote:

“ The Government of Sri Lanka has on many occasions conveyed to us its commitment to move towards a political settlement based upon the full implementation of the Thirteenth Amendment to the Sri Lankan Constitution and building on it so as to achieve meaningful devolution of powers.”

We look forward to an expeditious and constructive approach to the dialogue process. We believe that continuation of the dialogue between the Government and the TNA would pave the way for a political settlement including under the rubric of the Parliamentary Select Committee.”

Then again, Sir, “The Hindu” of the 20th March of 2012 reported what the Indian Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh said in the Lok Sabha, I quote:

“Prime Minister Manmohan Singh announced on Monday that India was “inclined to vote in favour” of a resolution on promoting reconciliation and accountability in Sri Lanka at the ongoing 19th session of the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva.”

He further went on to say:

“That, we hope, will advance our objective, namely the achievement of the future for the Tamil community in Sri Lanka that is marked by equality, dignity, justice and self-respect.”

So, the hope of the Indian Prime Minister was that India’s support for the Resolution would result in the achievement of its objective that India had towards achieving equal status for the Tamil people in Sri Lanka while persuading the Sri Lankan Government to do the right thing.

Sir, an article that appeared in “The New Sunday Express” of 24th June 2012 has stated, I quote:

“ ‘The Prime Minister once again underlined the great importance we attach in India to the ability of the Tamil people to lead a life of dignity and as equal citizens of that country, ‘Indian Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai told reporters at Rio de Janeiro….”

So, this is the position. Sir, in regard to the Indian initiative, I would now deal with what National Security Adviser, Shivshankar Menon said in his final visit to Sri Lanka. This article appeared in “The Hindu” on 30th June 2012. I quote:

“The hopes of Tamils could only be accommodated through a political process. This was an ‘internal political process. We have to also look at that. It is a process that has ramifications for all of us. And it is not something that started yesterday or today or a few years ago.”

It started 60 years ago, and India knows about it. The article further states, I quote:

“I have told you what we would like: a united Sri Lanka, within which all communities feel they are in control of their own destiny, and they are satisfied.”

I desire, Sir, to place these matters on record because, I think, the country should know that we have gone through a long process even with our neighbhour India playing a vital role over several years to resolve this issue and that we have not yet reached our goal, which has been “finding an acceptable political solution within the framework of a united, undivided, indivisible Sri Lanka”. India has firmly reiterated her commitment to the unity territorial integrity of Sri Lanka, but with the full implementation of the Thirteenth Amendment building on it so as to achieve meaningful devolution of power to enable the people of the North and the East, the Tamil speaking people to live with dignity and self-respect and be in a position to control their own destiny in regard to matters of vital concern to them in the area in which they live.

I move on to, Sir, what the Co-chairs had to say. Co-chairs also played an important role in Sri Lanka. The Co-chairs comprised of the European Union, Norway, Japan and the United States. This is what the Co-chairs had said on the 30th of May 2006. Sir, I quote from what the Co-chairs had said about the political settlement and about Sri Lanka:

“‘It must show that it is ready to make the dramatic political changes to bring about a new system of governance which will enhance the rights of all Sri Lankans, including the Muslims. The international community will support such steps: failure to take such steps will diminish international support.’ ”

The Co-chairs went on to say, I quote:

“The Tamil and Muslim peoples of Sri Lanka have justified and substantial grievances that have not yet been adequately addressed.”

That is what they said. Now, I quote from what the US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs, Mr Richard A. Boucher, said on the 01st of June,

2006 during one of his visits to Sri Lanka:

“We also think the government should provide a positive vision to Tamils and Muslims of a future Sri Lanka where their

legitimate grievances are addressed and their security assured. President Rajapaksa has spoken of “maximum devolution.”

Previous negotiations have agreed on “internal self-determination” within a federal framework. However the idea is expressed, it could offer hope to many in the North and East that they will have control over their own lives and destinies within a single nation of Sri Lanka.”

The Assistant Secretary of State, Mr. Boucher, went on to say, I quote:

“Although we reject the methods that the Tamil Tigers have used, there are legitimate issues that are raised by the Tamil community and they have a very legitimate desire, as anybody would, to be able to control their own lives, to rule their own destinies and to govern themselves in their homeland, in the areas they’ve traditionally inhabited.”

That is what the Assistant Secretary of State, Mr. Boucher said. So, you have India on the one hand and the the Co-chairs on the other hand — European Union, Norway, Japan, US. US itself coming up with these things. Sir, this is why I say that these are matters not manufactured by someone’s imagination; these are grievances which the Tamil people have gone through and entertainedfor a long time.

Before I finish up this point, I would like to read what Prime Minister Narendra Modi said when he addressed this House on the 13th of March 2015. I quote the Hansard of 13th March 2015. It states I quote:

“Sri Lanka’s progress and prosperity are also a source of strength for India. So, Sri Lanka’s success is of great significance to India and as a friend, our good wishes, our support and solidarity have always been with Sri Lanka and it will always be there for you. For all of us in our region, our success depends on how we define ourselves as a nation. All of us in this region, indeed every nation of diversity, have dealt with the issues of identities and inclusion, rights and claims, dignity and opportunity for different sections of our societies. We all have seen its diverse expressions. We have faced tragic violence; we have encountered brutal terrorism and we have also seen successful examples of peaceful settlements. Each of us has sought to address these complex issues in our own way. However, we choose to reconcile them. To me, something is obvious: diversity can be a source of strength for nations.

When we accommodate the aspirations of all sections of our society, the nation gets the strength of every individual. And, when we empower states, districts and villages, we make our country stronger and stronger. You can call this, my bias. I have been a Chief Minister for 13 years; a Prime Minister, for less than a year!

Today, my top priority is to make the States in India stronger. I am a firm believer in cooperative federalism. So, we are devolving more power and more resources to the States and we are making them formal partners in national decision- making processes.

Sri Lanka has lived through decades of tragic violence and conflict. You have successfully defeated terrorism and brought the conflict to an end. You now stand at a moment of historic opportunity to win the hearts and heal the wounds across all sections of society. Recent elections in Sri Lanka have reflected the collective voice of the nation: the hope for change, reconciliation and unity. The steps that you have taken in recent times are bold and admirable. They represent a new beginning.

I am confident of a future for Sri Lanka defined by unity and integrity, peace and harmony and opportunity and dignity for everyone. I believe in Sri Lanka’s ability to achieve it. It is rooted in our common civilizational heritage. The path ahead is a choice that Sri Lanka has to make and it is a collective responsibility of all sections of the society and of all political streams in the country. But, I can assure you of this: for India, the unity and integrity of Sri Lanka are paramount. It is rooted in our interest. It stems from our own fundamental beliefs in this principle. ”

What more do you want? The Prime Minister of India comes to Sri Lanka and he addresses our Parliament and this is what he says on this question of a political solution. So, before I conclude I would like to read from the Resolution adopted by the UN Human Rights Council recently. It welcomes the commitments of the Government of Sri Lanka to the devolution of political authority and paragraph 16 of the Resolution adopted in October 2015 states, I quote:

“16. Welcomes the commitment of the Government of Sri Lanka to a political settlement by taking the necessary constitutional measures, encourages the Government’s efforts to fulfil its commitments on the devolution of political authority, which is integral to reconciliation and the full enjoyment of human rights by all members of its population;….”

It welcomes your commitment to take the necessary Constitutional measures to a political settlement by taking steps for the devolution of political authority which is integral to reconciliation and full enjoyment of human rights by all members of its population.

They go on to encourage you to ensure that for the present, in the immediate context, all the provincial councils are able to operate effectively in accordance with the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution of Sri Lanka. So, you have made a commitment to the UN Human Rights Council that you will take the necessary constitutional measures to meaningfully devolve political authority to regions and to other people.

Sir, I quoted from; what had been said by India in regard to Sri Lanka’s political problems, the reaction of the Sri Lankan Government to what India has stated, what the Co-Chairs have stated, what the UShas stated and what has been stated at the UN. I put on record all these matters for the reason that we are currently engaged in a Constitutional process and I want everyone to know that this is not something which started yesterday or day before, but that this is something which started 70 years ago, shortly after the country attained independence. These statements indicate the concerns of the international community.

The new Government has taken some initial steps. There are different expectations after this Government came into power. Those steps need to be continued in a genuine and purposeful manner. We need to have the cooperation of everyone to make this effort successful.

I do not think Sir, the national question can remain unresolved any longer. I do not think it will be good for this country. In the context of the matter having been internationalized and different statements having been made by different people, I do not think we can go into a situation where there can be a recurrence of violence, more Tamils being killed and more Tamils fleeing the country. It is not going to be acceptable to anyone. We are prepared to resolve the matter within the framework of a united, undivided, indivisible Sri Lanka on the basis of our self-respect and dignity being restored, on the basis of our being able to determine our destiny in the territory in which we have lived. We, therefore, call upon the Government to bear this fact in mind. Ever since the country attained independence, consequent to the violence unleashed against the Tamil people 1,500,000 Tamils have fled this country and at least, 150,000 Tamils have been killed. Of course, soldiers have died, our combatants have died and other civilians have died. We accept all that. That is because there was violence. That is because there was an armed conflict and there was an armed conflict for the reason that the matter was not politically resolved. If the matter had been politically resolved, there would have been no armed conflict.

Therefore Sir, in the context of all these matters, I think we should resolve to put an end to this matter.

I was going to speak at length in regard to the implementation of the Resolution of the Human Rights Council, but I do not think I will do that because I do not have enough time and I have already taken a fair amount of time.

But, I will say a few things on the question of lands, on the question of missing persons, on the question of prisoners, on the question of truth and reconciliation, on the question of reparation, on the question of the Office of Missing Persons and on the question of non-recurrence.

These are fundamental elements in the transitional justice process that needs to be addressed, which have to be addressed. Our people are disappointed. Let me be frank. Our people had the expectation that they would be treated differently by this Government and not be ill-treated in the same way that the former Government ill-treated them. But the people have begun to raise the question as to whether this Government is dealing with them any differently from the previous Government.

It is true that you have released some lands both in the North and the East but much more needs to be done. The Armed Forces do not seem to be prepared to release lands. That is a fact that we have to face.

I got a fax in the morning today. People are protesting at Keppapilavu and Pilakudiyiruppu. Even today they are fasting with their wives and children because they want to get back their land, land that they owned. We want some commitment from you. This must be resolved.

The Army thinks, well these lands were held by the LTTE and the Tamil people did not protest against it at that point of time and why are they protesting now. You cannot say that. You are not the LTTE. The LTTE were young armed rebels. They came and occupied our land. We had no choice but to hand it over to them. But you are a civilized Government. You are a democratic Government. You are a Government with an international status. You have got to safeguard your international status. You cannot behave in the same way in which the LTTE behaved. They probably think, why should we return lands to Tamil civilians because Tamil civilians want to convict us of war crimes.

Let me say this very frankly. We do not think that every soldier is a war criminal. There may have been certain methods adopted in the prosecution of the war which may have been in violation of international humanitarian law and international human rights law. Persons responsible for such conduct would be at a different level, would be at a command level and not at the level of the ordinary soldier. There may have been soldiers who had committed individual crimes like murder, like rape. If they can be identified and if they can be prosecuted, they must be identified and prosecuted. After all when the JVP insurrection took place in the early 1970s that girl, Beatrice Manamperi was raped by some soldiers. Am I right Bimal? They were identified and convicted. That was the right thing to do. So if there are soldiers who have committed such wrongs, they may have to face the consequences. But a soldier who fought the war on behalf of the Government, on behalf of the State was carrying out the instructions of his Government. He was doing nothing more. I do not see how he can be prosecuted.

This bad blood between the soldiers and the Tamil population must come to an end. There was a time when Tamils could not be recruited to the Sri Lankan armed forces. There was a time when they could not expect the Government to do that but now things are changing. Your armed forces must acquire a different complexion. They cannot be entirely and exclusively or even preponderantly with Sinhala only. They must have Tamils. They must have Muslims. Sir Kandiah Vaithyanathan was the first Permanent Secretary of Defence and Foreign Affairs when Hon. D. S. Senanayake was Prime Minister. He was an excellent civil servant. Anton Muttukumaru was the Commander of the Army. Rajan Kadirgamar was a Commander of the Navy.

They were excellent officials who did an excellent job of work. So, this bad blood between the Tamil people and the Sri Lankan soldiers, Sri Lankan Armed Forces must come to an end. We are now moving into a different era. We must have more Muslims in the Armed Forces, we must have more Tamils in the Armed Forces and we must be able to look upon our Armed Forces with pride.

Now look. On the question of missing persons, there were a large number of missing soldiers. But, we do not see their families protesting that their husbands or sons are missing. You have probably resolved that. You have talked to them. There has been some reparation, some solace, some conciliation and they have accepted their destiny and there is calm. That is not available to our people. Our people must feel that the Government has in some way responded to this question, that there is an inquiry, a decision has been taken, the truth has been ascertained, and there has been some reparation, some reconciliation, some solace. There must be such processes which give the people a feeling of some satisfaction, may not be complete satisfaction, some satisfaction, but that is not there.

ගරු නියෝජ්‍ය කාරක සභාපතිතුමා

(மாண்புமிகு குழுக்களின் பிரதித் தவிசாளர் அவர்கள்)

(The Hon. Deputy Chairman of Committees)

Hon. Member, please wind up.

ගරු රාජවරෝදියම් සම්පන්දන් මහතා

(மாண்புமிகு ராஜவரோதயம் சம்பந்தன்)

(The Hon. Rajavarothiam Sampanthan)

The Governemnt is very insensitive on the question of land. Lands must be returned to the people. You are cultivating my land with fruits, vegetables, and crops and selling them in the market at competitive prices. How can this go on?

ගරු නියෝජ්‍ය කාරක සභාපතිතුමා

(மாண்புமிகு குழுக்களின் பிரதித் தவிசாளர் அவர்கள்)

(The Hon. Deputy Chairman of Committees)

Hon. Member, please wind up.

ගරු රාජවරෝදියම් සම්පන්දන් මහතා

(மாண்புமிகு ராஜவரோதயம் சம்பந்தன்)

(The Hon. Rajavarothiam Sampanthan)

I feel very strongly for the people who were demonstrating. We have only refrained from participating in some demonstrations for the reason-

ගරු නියෝජ්‍ය කාරක සභාපතිතුමා

(மாண்புமிகு குழுக்களின் பிரதித் தவிசாளர் அவர்கள்)

(The Hon. Deputy Chairman of Committees)

Hon. Leader of the Opposition, your time is over. Please wind up now.

ගරු රාජවරෝදියම් සම්පන්දන් මහතා

(மாண்புமிகு ராஜவரோதயம் சம்பந்தன்)

(The Hon. Rajavarothiam Sampanthan)

நான் முடிக்கின்றேன்.

I am not participating in these demonstrations because I feel that we must not play into the hands of others who want to disturb the whole process. We want the country to be stable; we want the country to be calm. But, our people are complaining; our people are suffering. My Friend Mr. Sumanthiran has been accused of being traitorous by some Tamil Leaders who have been resoundingly rejected at the last Parliamentary Elections, some persons whose party polled around 15,000 votes. Mr. Sumanthiran got four times that number of votes in Jaffna. I have got the particulars with me. That whole party did not poll 15,000 votes. Mr. Sumanthiran polled four times that vote by himself — preference votes. Today, he is being called a “traitor” because he is working with the Government. We look upon Mr. Sumanthiran as a very useful Member of Parliament performing valuable service on behalf of the people, and we want that to be recognized. But, he is being attacked. He is being attacked because these persons who were resoundingly rejected by the people in 2015 are using your failure to do what you must do by the people as the ground for attacking people like Mr Sumanthiran and me and others too, even Mr Senathirajah.

This cannot continue. This must come to an end. Your Government must realize it; your President must realize it; your Prime Minister must realize it. We are getting bitter ourselves. Let me tell you very frankly, I am extremely unhappy about the way the Government is treating our people on the question of land. Our land must be returned to them. That is our right; that is our birthright. You cannot hold back from doing that. That must be done.

Mr Deputy Chairman of Committee, I do not want to be reminded again that I have finished my time. We want the allegations that have been levelled in regard to Mr Sumanthiran, that there has been an attempt on his life, to be properly investigated. We want everyone who is guilty to be brought before the court.

There has been a report filed by the police in the Kilinochchi Magistrate’s Court where they have definitely stated that there was an attempt at the assassination of Mr Sumanthiran. That is a matter of record, nobody can deny that. Some people are calling him “Drohi”. It is a very unbecoming word. It is a word that is inciting violence. Why are you calling him “Drohi”. Is it because he is working on our Constitutional Proposals along with me and others? Tamil people are not protesting in support of you? Tamil people are protesting on account of wrongs being done to them by the Sri Lankan Government. They want that to stop. These jokers who could not even win one seat, could not come even close to one seat. They came long after us, we polled 200,000 votes, they polled 15,000 votes. They came after the EPDP; they came after the UNP and they came after the UPFA. They were totally rejected by the Tamil people. Today, they say, they have become saviours. Why? Because they are standing in front with the Tamil people, when the Tamil people are protesting against wrongs being committed by the Sri Lankan Government. So, you are promoting extremism in our ranks. You are promoting fellows who have been rejected by the people. Kindly, do not do this. On the question of missing persons, on the question of land, on the question of detainees, on the question of reparation and reconciliation, you must move, you must act and what needs to be done must be done.

https://medium.com/@Garikaalan/full-text-of-speech-made-by-opposition-leader-r-sampanthan-in-parliament-on-22-02-2017-e9736947a002

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Under international law, such persistent denial of the right to internal self-determination would entitle a People to external self-determination.”

Writing to Experts Committee to Draft a new Constitution for Sri Lanka the Tamil National Alliance says that  “the failure to offer a meaningful power-sharing arrangement, and the repeated breaches of commitments made in the past in this regard, would amount to the persistent denial of the right to internal self-determination. Under international law, such persistent denial of the right to internal self-determination would entitle a People to external self-determination.”

The letter follows:

24th February 2021

Chairman and Members,
Experts Committee to Draft a new Constitution,
Room No. 32, (Block 02), BMICH, Baudhaloka Mawatha,
Colombo 7.

Dear Sir/Madam,

We thank you for the two-hour meeting on 20th February 2021 at the Saffron Room, BMICH at your invitation.

We had previously responded to your invitation for proposals for a new constitution for Sri Lanka published in gazette extraordinary No. 2198/13 of 20th October 2020.

We outlined the salient features of our proposals at the meeting on 20th February 2021, and made the following observations.

• Sri Lanka is a multi-ethnic and multilingual society.
• The Northern and Eastern provinces have been the areas of historical habitation of Sri Lankan Tamil-speaking peoples, which position was acknowledged by prime ministers SWRD Bandaranaike and Dudley Senanayake in the two agreements signed with SJV Chelvanayakam, leader of the Federal Party.
• This was later confirmed by President JR Jayawardene, and indeed the Sri Lankan state, in the Indo-Lanka Agreement of 29th July 1987.
• The Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution commenced a process of altering the governance structure of the country by introducing a framework for power-sharing. Although the main Tamil party at the time, the TULF, rejected the Thirteenth Amendment as being inadequate, we cooperated in the efforts to rectify the shortcomings and did not pursue the goal of a separate state thereafter.
• Every leader and government that came into office acknowledged that the power-sharing arrangement must be made meaningful:

◦ President Jayawardene’s assurance given in New Delhi on 7th November 1987;
◦ Mangala Moonesinghe Select Committee proposals in 1993 during President R. Premadasa’s tenure;
◦ President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga’s proposals of 1995 and 1997, and the Constitution Bill of August 2000, which had the approval of the cabinet, which comprised President Mahinda Rajapaksa, President Maithripala Sirisena, Prof. G.L. Peiris, Minister Nimal Sirpala de Silva, and others;
◦ The Oslo Communique of December 2002, where ‘…the parties agreed to explore a solution founded on the principle of internal self-determination in areas of historical habitation of the Tamil-speaking peoples, based on a federal structure within a united Sri Lanka’;
◦ President Rajapaksa’s speech in 2006 at the inaugural meeting of the APRC, where he stated: ‘Any solution must be seen as one that stretches to the maximum possible devolution…’;
◦ The reports of APRC and its multi-ethnic experts’
committee; and
◦ The initiative launched in 2016, wherein parliament was converted into a constitutional assembly through a resolution adopted unanimously on 9th March 2016 (a draft new constitution was presented to parliament on 16th January 2019 by the Steering Committee with its second interim report).

• All of the above show that there has been wide consensus that the national question must be resolved by a meaningful power-sharing arrangement.
• This is also the promise given to India, the co-chairs (i.e. the European Union, Japan, the United States, and Norway), the United Nations, and the world at large.
• The claim for a meaningful power-sharing arrangement is based on the right to self-determination of the Tamil people, which ought to be exercised internally, within a united and undivided Sri Lanka.
• The failure to offer a meaningful power-sharing arrangement, and the repeated breaches of commitments made in the past in this regard, would amount to the persistent denial of the right to internal self-determination. Under international law, such persistent denial of the right to internal self-determination would entitle a People to external self-determination.
• We offered to work with the Committee in identifying the areas that need to be rectified in the Constitution in order to achieve meaningful devolution, which would ensure just sharing of powers of governance.
• The right to equal citizenship, which is owed to persons of all communities, can only be ensured by a just system geared towards the sharing of powers of governance.
• “Non-recurrence” can only be ensured by achieving genuine reconciliation and that can only happen if we arrive at a mutually agreed social contract – the Constitution.

R. Sampanthan, MP
Leader, Tamil National Alliance and
Parliamentary Group Leader of ITAK

Sgd. Mavai S. Senathirajah
Leader, ITAK and co-leader, TNA

Sgd. Selvam Adaikalanathan, MP
Leader, TELO and co-leader, TNA

Sgd. D. Sithadthan, MP
Leader, PLOTE and co-leader, TNA

Cc: President, H.E. Gotabaya Rajapaksa
Prime Minister, Hon. Mahinda Rajapaksa
The Leader of the Opposition, Hon. Sajith Premadasa
The Secretary-General to the United Nations, António Guterres
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
The Members States of the UN Human Rights Council

About editor 2213 Articles
Writer and Journalist living in Canada since 1987. Tamil activist.

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