Ven. Sobitha Thera queries:
'For whose benefit are we trying to change the unitary status of Sri Lanka'

Is there a country in the world which has thrown overboard its unitary character in order to reconsolidate the very thing, by dividing itself into autonomous regions? I know not of any such country. If so, for whose benefit and on what criteria are we trying to change the unitary character of Sri Lanka? asked Ven. Maduluwawe Sobhita Thera, Chief Incumbent of the Sri Naga Vihara, Kotte who spoke at a symposium on the government’s devolution package held at the BMICH, Tuesday 13 January 1998.

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Ven. Maduluwawe Sobitha Thera

Ven. Maduluwawe Sobhita Thera, continuing said that the country has come to a crucial juncture of its history with moves to replace the present constitution with a new one. The people should know its content fully and well and should be able to visualise how it affects the country’s status quo. Change of a constitution is undesirable without fully making the people aware of the changes and without allowing the people to study it in the light of opinion of various shades and of their own. It is disastrous to change a constitution without the people being given a fair chance to study it, he added.

He said that the most regrettable thing he heard was the critics of the draft constitution being called "traitors" by the exponents of it. If the government thought that the draft constitution should not be criticised, why did the Government present it for a public debate? he asked.

"You need a new constitution to solve problems that cannot be solved by the existing one. But the proposed new constitution does not provide any remedy to the issues in question.

Sri Lanka had been a united country during the past two thousand and five hundred years. There had been brief periods during which central rule had broke down. Regions were controlled by rulers who were under the behest of the king. When central rule broke down there emerged a king to reassert authority and to unite the country.

The British also ruled an undivided country from 1815 to 1948.

Both the Constitutions of 1972 and 1978 recognised the unitary character of the country.

The new constitution attempts to create what is called a union of regions. This is an attempt to divide an already united land into a divided land. The federal states of America and Canada were born out of the desire of the people living in lands with separate governments to merge due to political, economic, security or other reasons. But where have countries with unitary governments been divided in order to achieve unity. This is an absurd notion. The other questions that surface are for whose benefit and on what criteria are such divisions contemplated.

He referred to a statement made by Chelvanayakam that the Tamils of the time were destined to create a separate land for the Tamils, and that they had the blessings of Gods to perform that task. This statement was made in 1949. Then in 1985 both late Amirthalingam and Sivasithamparam wrote to President J. R. Jayewardene that Tamils have no place in the country other than the Northern province and the Eastern province and urged him to merge these two provinces. .

"We cannot see anything in the new draft constitution other than recognition of the ideas entertained by the Tamil leaders and the goals which they had been trying to achieve by various manoeuvres" he said.

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