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Rajapaksa lashes out at constitution proposals and warns of ‘federal state’

Sri Lanka’s former president and opposition leader Mahinda Rajapaksa lashed out against constitutional reform proposals that were present to parliament earlier this month, calling on the Buddhist Maha Sangha in particular to be wary of Sri Lanka becoming a “federal state”.

Rajapaksa, who oversaw the massacre of tens of thousands of Tamils in 2009, said the new constitution would weaken the parliament and "immeasurably strengthen provincial legislatures".

“Such limitation imposed on the legislative power of Parliament is the turning point at which the unitary State becomes a federal State,” he said. “We are resolutely opposed to such a change.”

He went on to add,

“The venerable Maha Sangha in particular should be mindful of the possibility of such manoeuvres. Even though the present Constitution accords the foremost place to Buddhism, we have seen the manner in which the present Government persecuted the Maha Sangha. So there is a very real possibility that this country will be turned into a federal State while still retaining the unitary label.

The media statement released on Wednesday also warned that “this country can be destroyed simply by breaking up the police force into 10 separate police forces in the manner proposed”. “This is why no government in the past 30 years, broke up the police force regardless of the provisions in the 13th Amendment,” the statement read.

“The special oath against separatism in the present Seventh Schedule introduced by the 6th  Amendment of 1983 is not to be seen in the draft constitution,” he added.

Rajapaksa went on to conclude,

“The separatists and federalists have no interest in names or words. So long as they get what they want, they do not care by what name it is called.”

“Their real target is not the status of Buddhism or the word ‘unitary’. There is a very real possibility that they will back down from the alternative formulations they have proposed with regard to the status of Buddhism and the term ‘unitary’ as a bargaining strategy in order to win the real federalist demands which is the essence of the new draft constitution.”

See the full text of his statement here.