SLFP proposals, an outrageous offer, says Edirisinha

[TamilNet, Saturday, 05 May 2007, 12:02 GMT]
Deriding the claim that the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) proposals pave the way for a "lasting and honourable solution to the ethnic issue," Dr.Rohan Edirisinha, head of the Legal and Constitutional Unit of the Colombo-based think-tank Center for Policy Alternatives (CPA), says in an opinion column in Saturday issue of daily mirror that the proposals go back to the failed district council proposals of the 1980s and "are potentially dangerous for democracy, good governance and the existence of independent institutions," and "demonstrates that those responsible for the proposals are completely out of touch with the realities of constitutional reform for conflict resolution."

PDF IconSLFP's breathtaking proposals
on Constitutional reform (62kb)
Edirisinha says "since a joined north and east is so vital to Tamil aspirations, Tamil political leaders have favoured a larger unit of devolution," and traces the trend towards considerations of larger units of devolution of provinces in 1980s to regions in 1990s by different Sri Lanka Governments.

Dr Rohan Edirisinghe
Dr. Rohan Edirisinghe
In constrast, "the SLFP led by President Mahinda Rajapaksa has in its proposals of 2007, proposed devolution to the districts and the conversion of the present 25 districts into 30 smaller districts! It has, therefore gone backwards, undermined a twenty five year trend and raised serious questions about its capacity and understanding of the nature of the ethnic conflict, its history and evolution, and therefore, the SLFP’s competence to lead the country to a negotiated settlement," the constitutional expert says in his column, further emphasizng his statement to Reuters: "This is going to be a total disaster. Psychologically this is going to be a huge blow to the peace process, because it would suggest that the SLFP is going back to the early 1980s if not 1970s."

PDF IconSLFP proposals (69kb)
Edirisinghe points out that proposals are "retrogressive in number of other aspects," and questions the vague, ambiguous statement that “the supremacy of Parliament and the Executive powers (sic) should be safeguarded.”

The introduction of the fourth tier of governance, the Grama Sabhas, an even lower form of administrative instrument compared to India's Panchayati Raj, will "further confuse the issue of the distribution of powers," Edirisinha says.

"The proposals on language are a step backwards... The proposals are also silent on the issue of an official language/official languages, raising concerns about the parity of status of Sinhala and Tamil," Edirisinha points out.

The proposed bicamarel system, "demonstrates an appalling lack of appreciation of the rationale for a second chamber in constitutions which provide for devolution of power...The SLFP proposals... are extremely old-fashioned in that the second chamber has limited powers and has a large number of nominated members... and will not facilitate power sharing at the centre as claimed by the proposals," Edirisinha says.

Dr. Edirisinha concludes: "But what is more distressing is that the Tamil separatists must be chuckling with glee. The proposals will provide them with the ammunition they need to demonstrate to the Tamil people and the international community, that the main political party in the government of Sri Lanka lacks the understanding, capacity, empathy and commitment to accommodate reasonable Tamil aspirations and work towards a negotiated political settlement with justice for all communities within a united Sri Lanka."

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External Links:
SanDiego: S.Lanka rebels dismiss president devolution proposals
CPA: Center for Policy Alternatives
ML: The President and the plot for peace and governance Dr Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu
Reuters: Sri Lanka president devolution proposals seen doomed


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