23 February 2016, Colombo, Sri Lanka: In January 2016, Social Indicator, the survey research unit of the Centre for Policy Alternatives, conducted an opinion poll to gather views of the communities on key issues currently being discussed in Sri Lanka’s Constitutional reform process and what change they hope to see in the new Constitution. It recorded public perceptions with regard to the Bill of Rights, devolution, police and land powers, role of religion in the Constitution, merger of the Northern and Eastern Provinces and other key proposals.
Article 9 of the present 1978 Constitution states that Buddhism shall be given ‘the foremost place’ and that it is the duty of the state to protect and foster the Buddha Sasana. 54.9% of Sri Lankans are extremely favourable towards the inclusion of the clause on Buddhism in a new Constitution while 18.2% are not at all in favour. From an ethnic perspective, the community that most favourable is the Sinhalese community with 70.4% rating extremely favourable. Majority from the Tamil (75.9%), Up Country Tamil (56.6%) and Muslim (62.8%) communities are not at all in favour of the inclusion.
When asked how they think police powers in Sri Lanka ought to be exercised, 41.2% of Sri Lankans said that it ought to be exercised exclusively by the Central Government while 23.6% said it should be shared between the Central and Provincial Governments. Almost 50% from the Sinhalese community and 31.3% from the Up Country Tamil community believe that it should be exercised exclusively by the Central Government.
Majority from the Tamil and Muslim communities however do not share this opinion – 31.8% from the Tamil community believe it should exercised exclusively by the Provincial Governments while 37.7% stated it should be shared between the Central and Provincial Governments. 34.1% from the Muslim community also stated that it should be shared.
On the power to allocate and administer State land, 37% of Sri Lankans believe that the power should be held exclusively by the Central Government, 23.3% said exclusively by the Provincial Governments while 24% said it should be shared between the two. From an ethnic perspective, once again we see a difference in opinion between the communities where most Sinhalese (42.4%) say that it should be held exclusively by the Central Government while 48.4% of Tamil, 38.6% of Up Country Tamil and 27.2% of Muslim communities believe that it should be held exclusively by the Provincial Governments.
36.3% of Sri Lankans are extremely agreeable to replacing the Executive Presidency system with one where the country is headed by a directly elected Prime Minister, while 29.4% say that they are somewhat agreeable.
When asked how agreeable they are towards a merger of the Northern and Eastern Provinces, 30.1% of Sri Lankans said that they are extremely disagreeable while 25.4% said extremely agreeable. Majority from the Tamil (73.2%) and Up Country Tamil (81%) communities are extremely agreeable towards a merger while 34.6% of Sinhalese are extremely disagreeable. Muslim opinion is divided on this, with 30.4% saying that they are extremely agreeable and 31% saying that they are extremely disagreeable.
Conducted in the 25 districts of the country, this survey captured the opinion of 1991 Sri Lankans from the four main ethnic communities. The selection of respondents was random across the country. Fieldwork was conducted from January 17 – 25, 2016.
Download the full report here.
Social Indicator (SI) is the survey research unit of the Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA) and was established in September 1999, filling a longstanding vacuum for a permanent, professional and independent polling facility in Sri Lanka on social and political issues. Driven by the strong belief that polling is an instrument that empowers democracy, SI has been conducting polls on a large range of socio-economic and political issues since its inception.
Please contact Iromi Perera at [email protected] for further information.