Press Release on the need for a National Debate on The Federal Idea in English, Sinhala and Tamil
THE NEED FOR A NATIONAL DEBATE
ON THE FEDERAL IDEA
At a National Symposium organised by the Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA) on The Future of Sri Lanka and The Federal Idea held at the BMICH on 6th February 2006, over a thousand participants agreed to the following declaration, the full text of which is:
We, numbering more than a thousand and representing more than 25 organisations island-wide, gathered together at a National Symposium to discuss constitutional reform for conflict resolution on Monday 6 February 2006 in Colombo, urge all political parties, groups and communities in Sri Lanka to work together to develop a durable political solution that will address the aspirations of all peoples within a united and democratic Sri Lanka.
We have in the past year studied and discussed the evolution of the island’s ethnic conflict, past attempts at resolving the conflict, and the federal idea as a possible model for a reasonable and durable political solution to the conflict. We believe that the federal idea suitably adapted to deal with the particular challenges faced by Sri Lanka offers a basis for such a solution. Federalism which seeks to combine self rule and shared rule, unity in diversity, autonomy which is secure and guaranteed within a supreme Constitution which enshrines human rights, pluralism and democracy, is an internationally recognised constitutional / political model for countries that are multi-ethnic and plural in character.
We believe also that a federal Constitution offers a reasonable accommodation or compromise in a conflict where one side is committed to a unitary state and the other a separate state. The country cannot afford a protracted military conflict where innocent civilians from all communities are displaced, maimed or killed. A reasonable political solution must move beyond the existing, inadequate, maximum devolution of power within a unitary Constitution, as introduced by the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution nearly 20 years ago.
We recognise that many Sri Lankans have fears and misconceptions as to the meaning of federalism. These should be addressed in an island wide debate that is open, informed, and respectful of dissent. This is what we have done in districts throughout the country over the past year. We urge all Sri Lankans, including our political leaders and civil society groups to participate in such a debate and seriously consider the adoption of a federal Constitution in Sri Lanka.
Dr. Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu