Sri Lanka's government proposes constitutional reforms

Sri Lanka's government proposes new constitutional reforms aiming to devolve power, promote human rights and freedoms

Photo by: Reuters (Archive)
Photo by: Reuters (Archive)

After a year in power, President Maithripala Sirisena's administration is attempting to take steps towards reconciliation.

Updated Jan 10, 2016

Sri Lanka’s new government has proposed a plan on Saturday to reform the constitution, after a year in power President Maithripala Sirisena's administration is attempting to take steps towards reconciliation to address alleged war crimes and atrocities perpetrated by government troops and Tamil Tiger rebels.

"The extremists in the south and the north have caused the loss of thousands of young lives ... We must ensure reconciliation and harmony so that we will never go back to war. I believe now, through our past bitter experiences, we must prepare ourselves for future challenges," President Sirisena told the parliament.

According to documents submitted to the Sri Lanka’s parliament on Saturday, the government is aiming to strengthen democratic rights, promote national reconciliation and create a political process that obeys the rule of law.

The new constitution will also assure fundamental human rights and freedoms, guarantee human dignity and promote government responsibility and accountability, the document said.

"The main idea is to devolve power to the grassroot level and strengthen democracy in order to prevent another war," a governing party legislator who is close to the president told Reuters.

However, opposition has alleged that the new constitution has been proposed to please some western countries and ignore the country’s main religion, Buddhism. The government has denied such allegations.

In 1983, ethnic tensions escalated into a fully armed conflict and ended after the government troops seized the last area controlled by the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.

Last year, Sirisena’s administration took power from the former leader Mahinda Rajapaksa in a bitterly contested election and promised a new constitution to strengthen democracy and fundamental human rights.

TRTWorld and agencies