COLOMBO: Sri Lankan Tamils as well as Tamils of Indian Origin are satisfied with the progress towards constitutional reform and ethnic reconciliation, as the island nation enters a New Year with many promises to fulfill and international obligations to meet.
“Very meaningful first steps have been taken by the government with intent. On January 26, The Lankan parliament will have its first sitting as a Constitutional Assembly to draft a new constitution,” said M.A.Sumanthiran, Tamil National Alliance (TNA) MP and party spokesman.
Tamils are well represented in the various committees formed to bring about constitutional change, pointed out Mano Ganeshan, Indian Origin Tamil leader and Minister of National Coexistence, Dialogue and National Languages.
In the second week of January, the 24-member Public Representation Committee will begin to travel to various parts of the country to ascertain views of the people on constitutional change, devolution of power and ethnic reconciliation. The panel is headed Lal Wijenayake, lawyer and leader of the Leftist Lanka Sama Samaj Party.
Asked about the progress towards setting up a international cum domestic Judicial Mechanism to fix war crimes accountability as per the joint US-Lanka UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) resolution of October 2015, M.A.Sumanthiran said that government is drafting new laws to accommodate such a hybrid mechanism.
The enabling legislation is expected to be presented to parliament in late February or early March and the mechanism itself is expected to be established by June, when Lanka has to give an oral update to the UNHRC, Sumanthiran added.
Mano Ganeshan noted that the cabinet has decided to set up a ‘Secretariat for Reconciliation’ which will coordinate the work of commissions charged with finding the truth about the war; arranging reparations for the victims; overseeing the judicial process to bring about accountability; and ensuring non-recurrence of ethnic strife. The Secretariat will have representatives from the Ministries of External Affairs, Resettlement, National Coexistence, Justice, Official languages and Defense.
There will be a Cabinet Sub-Committee on the development of a national Lankan identity embodying unity in diversity and another on constitutional reform. The national identity committee, headed by the Prime Minister will have Rajitha Senaratne, Sarath Amunugama, D.M.Swaminathan, Mano Ganeshan and Imtiaz Bakeer Marikkar. The Sub-Committee on Constitutional Reform, also headed by the PM, will comprise Mano Ganeshan, D.M.Swaminathan, Rauff Hakeem, Rishad Bathiyutheen, Susil Premajayantha and Champika Ranawaka. The nine-member Technical Committee to advice on constitutional reform will be headed by constitutional lawyer, Jayampathy Wickramaratne, and will have representatives of all political parties in parliament.