The 13th Constitutional Amendment, [enacted subsequent to the 1987 agreement between India and Sri Lanka], would “certainly” form part of the basis of constitutional reforms to address the country’s ethnic question, according to Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga, former Sri Lankan President.

 

Briefing journalists of the activities of the Office for National Unity and Reconciliation which she heads, Ms. Kumaratunga said on Tuesday: “We are looking at the possible political, final constitutional solution” to the question. “We do not have to reinvent the wheel as there are many documents on the table.” A draft Constitutional Bill formulated in 2000 during her presidency and recommendations of the All Party Representatives Committee [2006-2010]; Panel of Experts on Accountability [constituted by the UN Secretary General in June 2010] and the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission were the documents she mentioned.

She also pointed out that the draft Constitutional Bill was “not contradictory” to the 13th Amendment but much more extensive than that. The amendment created Provincial Councils in Sri Lanka.

Regarding the Tamil question, the former President said any solution to be worked out should be acceptable to all communities. It should embody fundamental freedom with respect to religion, worship, speech and thought and ensure equal opportunities, including in the area of power sharing to all citizens of the country, irrespective of ethnic or religious affiliation.

She stressed that alongside accountability, “reconciliation programmes are extremely important. Both will have to go hand in hand,” she said, disapproving the approach to pay focus only on constitutional changes and guarantees for the minorities.

Asked about the government’s disinclination to have the participation of foreign judges in the judicial process, Ms. Kumaratunga said the reason was the likelihood of “strong opposition” from former President Mahinda Rajapaksa and the consequent disturbances. However she added that it was her view and not that of the government.

Giving an elaborate account of the ONUR’s activities, she said the organisation had prepared five-year comprehensive development plans for eight districts of the Northern and Eastern Provinces with stakeholders’ participation. To a query whether Chief Minister of the Northern Province C.V. Wigneswaran was consulted, she replied that though he was invited, he sent his representative.

The ONUR had decided to take up a rainwater harvesting programme in the Province, covering 1000 tanks; promote three language policy; observe eight events of cultural and religious importance to all communities, starting with Thai Pongal; facilitate get-together of school children belonging to various communities and hold psycho social support progarmme for victims of the civil war, she added.