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‘Devolution within a unitary state is unacceptable’ - Tamil civil society

The unitary character of the Sri Lankan state hence “permits Sinhala Buddhist nationalism to impose a deep hegemony on the island”, said the Tamil Civil Society Forum (TCSF) in a submission to the Sri Lankan government’s Public Representations Committee on Constitutional Reforms on Tuesday, calling for a “self-determination inspired approach to federalism”.

Stating that the idea of a “unitary state… has nothing or very little to do with the idea of a united country”, the TCSF said in Sri Lanka “it has everything to do with centralising power in the majority Sinhala Buddhist nation.”

“The unitary character of the state hence permits Sinhala Buddhist nationalism to impose a deep hegemony through a composition of bounded unity of territory, state and nation of the island revolving around a majoritarian axis of Sinhala Buddhist religion, language, culture and people,” it added, saying such a solution was “unacceptable”.

Instead the TCSF called for “a self-determination inspired approach to federalism” and a new constitution that would “institutionally recognise the self-determination of its distinct nations”.

The TCSF also drew on other examples from around the world that have experienced conflict, such as Bosnia, Northern Ireland and Aceh, and said “the process of constitution making needs to be sufficiently internationalised… to inspire confidence in its sustainability”.

This is a process that cannot delay the search for accountability and justice, it civil society collective added. It continued to characterise the war that took place and the crimes that continue to be committed against the Tamil people as “directed against the Tamil people’s desire for self-determination and collective existence as a nation”.

“The war and the continuing crimes seek to weaken Tamils as a collective and hence our self-understanding that the totality of the crimes points to a genocidal design,” it said.

“An honest approach to accountability and finding a political solution, combined, is key to sustainable peace and justice in Sri Lanka,” the submission concluded.

See the full submission here.

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