Sri Lanka promises new constitution to heal war wounds

FM Samaraweera says new constitution will fulfill key conditions to achieve reconciliation among different ethnic groups

Sri Lanka promises new constitution to heal war wounds

World Bulletin / News Desk

The government will prioritize the drafting of a new constitution to heal the country’s festering ethnic wounds following decades of civil war in Sri Lanka, Foreign Minister Managala Samaraweera said.

Speaking to the media in the island’s capital Colombo late Tuesday, Samaraweera assured the new constitution would fulfill key conditions to achieve reconciliation among different ethnic and religious communities in the country.

He said the reports by six constitutional sub committees will be placed before the Constitutional Assembly in the coming months and expressed confidence the draft would muster the required two-thirds majority to replace the 1978 Constitution, which has been criticized for creating an all-powerful executive presidency.

He, however, said no judicial mechanism would include foreign judges -- a key demand by the ethnic Tamil minority to accept a locally-driven judicial process -- since it would require amendments to existing laws.

“The UN Human Rights Council has accepted Sri Lanka’s proposal for a credible and independent domestic mechanism .The UN human rights high commissioner during his visit to Sri Lanka in 2016 acknowledged that the decision on the judicial mechanism was Sri Lanka’s sovereign right to make,” he added.

Clarifying the nature of the proposed Truth Commission, the foreign minister said it would not be “a copy” of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission but a homegrown model, adding the South African model included mandatory pardon following confessions whereas the domestic model was unlikely to have such measures.

Sri Lanka waged a bloody war against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), a northern militant group comprising ethnic Tamils, for nearly three decades. According to UN estimates, some 40,000 lives were lost during the final phase of the war alone, which ended in May 2009 with the LTTE’s defeat.

In January 2015, the then President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who was credited with defeating the militants, was overthrown by the current administration led by Maithripala Sirisena, who swept into presidential office at the back of his pledge for “good governance”.

His other key electoral pledges included the introduction of a new pluralistic constitution, pruning presidential powers and mechanisms to seek justice and truth in pursuit of reconciliation, all of which generated massive support among the island’s minority communities, including Tamil and Muslim.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 08 Şubat 2017, 16:05