Tamil National Alliance Parliamentarian MA Sumanthiran, speaking in parliament on Tuesday, stressed the need for any constitution to have the required safe guards to allow peoples who are small in numbers to govern their own affairs for the island to move forward as one country.
Calling for the a new constitution that started from the premise of ‘recognising different peoples in the country as equal to each other,’ TNA MP said “it was the non-recognition of that character of this country that resulted in 3 decades of actual fighting and a conflict that has raged since independence to this day.”
Reiterating the need for a non-partisan constitution, he added, “the constitution cannot grant pre-eminence to one or the other group of people. If we are to continue as one county all the different peoples must be given equal status, regardless of what their numbers are.”
Today what people call a ‘Unitarian state’ is a ‘majoritarian state.’
Drawing upon the stripping of citizenship form Upcountry-Hill Tamils in the 1940’s, the Mr Sumanthiran stressed that it was the majoritarian nature of the constitution that allowed for such actions to take place.
Stressing the need for fundamental safeguards that protected communities from majoritarian rule, he said,
“Because one people have an overwhelming majority in the country, it is always the will of the majority that prevails over the minority. I am refereeing to minority in numbers not in status. It must not be possible for one community to override the others merely because of numbers. There must be some fundamental safeguards. When such an adjustment is made so that even those who are smaller in numbers are able to exercise governmental power, at least in the areas in which they live substantially in numbers, then a balance will be struck. Then it will be possible for all peoples to live as one country because they share power in an equitable way without leaving power to one center that decides overridingly what happens to the others. This is a fundamental thing and the world over has achieved this in different ways..”
Adding that in the past Tamils had ‘justifiably called for a separate state,’ Mr Sumanthiran said the first republic constitution of Sri Lanka and other acts in the 70’s had alienated the Tamils from the state.
“If you cant accommodate, and don’t have the will to share power with every one irrespective of their numbers, then you must live by themselves. You can’t hold on to them and insist that your writ must run in their lives too.”
Drawing on previous failed pacts between Tamil leaders and Sinhala leaders, Mr Sumanthiran added,
“That is when our people looked to the outside world or decided to take arms. You can’t write and sign pacts and tear them up and then expect us to be meek and obedient.”
Mr Sumanthiran stressed that the new constitution process formed a huge opportunity for the country to move forward by learning lessons from the past.
Mr Sumanthiran ended by appealing to the parliament to not block the constitution process going ahead.