Tamil Diplomat

Federal or Not: ‘Singapore Principles for a new constitution in Sri Lanka’ casts doubt

The Tamil National Alliance (TNA) creates a great gap between its election manifesto released last week and of the version of ’Singapore Principles for a new constitution in Sri Lanka’ – a document which was drafted and agreed upon in a meeting that was held in Singapore from 3 to 5 April 2015, by the aegis of South Africa’s In Transformation Initiative (ITI). The meeting was attended by the representatives of the Sri Lankan Government and TNA.

The Tamil National Alliance (TNA), in its election manifesto that was released last week reiterated its adherence to the right of self-determination for Tamils and the re-merger of the Northern and Eastern Provinces under a federal structure.

However, the draft, obtained by The Tamil Diplomat ,  has the following to say on power sharing:

“Power sharing shall be on the basis of self-rule and shared-rule within an undivided Sri Lanka:

Self-Rule: Based on subsidiarity and maximum devolution to Regions/Provinces consistent with the unity of the State. (e.g. Fiscal & Financial; Dissolution of institutions) 


Shared Rule: Institutions of power sharing at the centre (e.g. Provincial/Regional representation in a second Chamber)” 


Notably, the word “Federal” has been effaced in the Singapore principles. It also fails to recognise North and East as the homeland of Tamils in Sri Lanka.

Issuing a press release immediately after the meeting in Singapore on April 5, In Transformation Initiative (ITI) said,  the meeting was a continuation of dialogues on strengthening democracy and promoting sustainable peace in Sri Lanka, was organised by the Government of Switzerland and the In Transformation Initiative (ITI) from South Africa, and attended by political, civil society, academic, diaspora and other international stakeholders including an observer from the Government of Australia.

The spokesman of the Global Tamil Forum, Suren Surendiran said in an interview he gave to a Tamil TV recently that, in a meeting that was held at Singapore a few months back was about how the constitution of Sri Lanka should be structured and several legal experts participated in that meeting.

We publish below the full text of ’Singapore Principles for a new constitution for Sri Lanka’:

Singapore Principles for a new constitution for Sri Lanka

April 2015

1. In describing the nature of the State what is important is the substance; the labels are secondary.


2. Institutions of the State shall reflect the pluralist character of Sri Lankan society. 


3. The pluralist character of Sri Lankan society as well as identities and aspirations of the constituent peoples of Sri Lanka shall be constitutionally recognised. 
The Republic of Sri Lanka is one, free, sovereign and independent State consisting of the institutions of the Centre and of the Regions which shall exercise power as laid down in the Constitution.
The State shall safeguard the independence, sovereignty, unity and the territorial integrity of the Republic and shall preserve and advance Sri Lankan identity, recognizing the multi-ethnic, multilingual and multi-religious character of the Sri Lankan society. 
The People of Sri Lanka is composed of the several constituent peoples of Sri Lanka. The right of every constituent people to develop its own identity, language, to develop and promote its culture and to preserve its history and the right to its due share of state power including the right to due representation in institutions of government shall be recognized while strengthening the common Sri Lankan identity and peaceful coexistence. No action which would dismember or impair, totally or in part, the territorial integrity or political unity of the Republic, shall be authorised or encouraged. 


4.  The Constitution shall be based on basic constitutional principles and values including sovereignty of the people, participatory democracy and supremacy of the Constitution which shall form an unalterable basic structure.

 a)  Supremacy of the constitution and the rule of law 


 b)  Representative and participatory democracy 


c)  Human dignity, social justice, advancement of fundamental rights and freedom 


d)  Racial, religious and gender equality 


 e)  Non-discrimination 


 f)  Minimum 1/3rd representation of women at all levels of representative bodies 


5. Power sharing shall be on the basis of self-rule and shared-rule within an undivided Sri Lanka.

-Self-Rule: Based on subsidiarity and maximum devolution to Regions/Provinces consistent with the unity of the State. (e.g. Fiscal & Financial; Dissolution of institutions) 


-Shared Rule: Institutions of power sharing at the centre (e.g. Provincial/Regional representation in a second Chamber) 


6.   The form of government shall be Parliamentary and the executive powers shall be exercised by the Cabinet of Ministers. 


7.  There shall be a strong and enforceable Bill of Rights consistent with universally accepted norms and standards. 


8.  There shall be separation of powers and an independence of judiciary which includes a Constitutional Court. 


9. Important institutions shall be independent and accountable. Appointments to these and High Posts shall be through a transparent mechanism that provides for a national consensus, example Constitutional Council. 


10.  The Republic of Sri Lanka shall be a secular state. 


11. The present constitution should be amended to recognise different identified peoples as constituting the country and as having an equal stake. This should be included in the preamble to the new constitution which will also state that we are making a new beginning, acknowledging the past.