North calls for autonomous units in merged North East for Sri Lanka Muslims

Sri Lanka’s eagerly awaited new constitution should ensure that Muslims are given autonomous units in their lands within a merged NorthEast  province, the Tamil National Alliance led Northern Provincial Council (NPC) has proposed to the Public Representations Committee (PRC) on Constitutional Reforms.

The PRC appointed last December by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe with the approval of the cabinet was mandated to obtain proposals from the public in order to reform the country’s constitution.

Up Country Tamils

Chief Minister CV Vigneswaran told the assembly convening in Jaffna on Thursday that NPC proposals also called to establish a separate autonomous unit for Up Country Tamils.

The proposals drawn up by a nineteen-member team comprising provincial councillors, civil society leaders and legal experts had been handed over to the PRC led by Constitutional Expert Lal Wijenayake.

It principally emphasised the need to establish a separate parliament in a united North and East within a Federal framework.

While full authority over police and land powers should be vested in the hands of provincial councils, the central government should not have the right to recall any devolved power.

Equality for Sinhala and Tamil

The proposals call for establishing state of parity between Sinhala and Tamil as state languages.

They emphasise that the the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) should be abolished and civil law should be established in all parts of the country.

The number of troops in the north should be reduced with the aim of fully demilitarising the north while the former LTTE suspects should be allowed to lead a normal life, the proposals further said.

New constitution ‘by 2017’

An all-party constitutional assembly led by speaker Karu Jayasuriya is expected to deliberate on proposals by the general public brought together by the PRC.

"We are trying to have the new constitution ready by 2017,” Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe who heads the constitutional steering committee told journalists in Colombo.

In 2003 tens of thousands of Sri Lanka’s Muslims convened in the South Eastern University and endorsed the ‘Oluvil Declaration’ that called to establish a non-contiguous and autonomous devolution unit in their traditional lands within a merged north and east.

The North and East merged since the establishment of provincial councils in 1988, was de merged by a supreme court ruling after being petitioned by the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) during the Mahinda Rajapaksa rule.

Lead photo: NPC Chief Minister CV Vigneswaran with Justice Zak Yacoob, former Judge, Consititutional Court of South Africa.