Tamil Diaspora behind Constitutional reforms - Hemakumara Nanayakkara
BY PANCHAMEE HEWAVISSENTI
Governor of the Southern Province and Leader of the Mawbima Janatha Pakshaya, Hemakumara Nanayakkara, who severely criticizes the Interim Report of the Parliamentary Steering Committee for Constitutional Amendments, states that it may lead to separatism and may harm the sovereignty and the integrity of the country. He alleged that the true patriots of the Steering Committee are not properly consulted and given importance to, but those who are sponsored by the 'separatist Tamil Diaspora' and the International Non-Governmental Organizations (INGOs) are attempting to manipulate the Constitution-making process to form a separate State. Nanayakkara added that although he stands diametrically opposed to the political views of Northern Province Chief Minister C.V. Wigneswaran, they maintain a good personal relationship.
You recently spoke disapprovingly of the Interim Report of the Steering Committee for Constitutional Amendments. Can you explain why you are opposed to that report?
A: The Interim Report of the Steering Committee was presented to Parliament last month for the perusal of the public. President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe have explicitly noted that the Interim Report is not the final draft of the proposed Constitution.
As the Interim Report contains many adverse proposals that may detrimentally affect the integrity and the sovereignty of the country, we can heave a sigh of relief that the report is not the final.
Many vital words mentioned in the report are ambiguous. The definitions of certain words vis-a-vis the nature of the State such as 'unitary' or 'united' are perplexing. The ambiguity is harmful. The majority community hold the view that the country should be unitary, meaning undivided.
Proposals are made to change the country's status from 'unitary' to 'united' in the report. If the 'united' conceptis applied, it can lead to separatism.
I am of the view that no part of the country should be restricted to a particular ethnic group. No ethnic group should be deprived of the right to live anywhere in the country.
Since the commencement of my political career in 1989, I have an unchanged view that the country should be undivided.
If Sri Lanka needs to change the Constitution, every citizen should feel that need and agree on it. Religious leaders especially the Mahanayake Theras should be consulted. Public should be made aware of the provisions that are proposed to be amended.
The lucidity of the proposed amendments is of utmost importance and no element should be obscure or concealing to the public.
I can observe that the voice of the patriotic members of the committee is not recorded in a significant manner.
I expect the people to display their stance, may it be the opposition or the consent, to the proposed amendments in a much open and wide manner.
You noted that religious leaders, especially Mahanayake Theras, should be consulted on the constitutional changes. However, Mahanayake Theras are not for constitutional change. Any comment?
A: Mahanayake Theras of the Malwathu and Asgiri Chapters are not in favour of the constitutional amendments. There was confusion recently about the stance of the Mahanayake Theras on constitutional changes in their absence in the country.
However, later, it was made clear that some Anunayake Theras have aired their views on behalf of the two Chapters.
Mahanayake Theras oppose the proposed Constitution since it deprives the foremost place given to Buddhism. It is better for us to wait till the official communiqué is made by the Mahanayake Theras on constitutional changes.
Nevertheless, when the talks on constitutional changes and change of the place given for Buddhism in the Constitution emerged, it was Archbishop Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith who said that the foremost place the Constitution has given to Buddhism should be preserved. The Archbishop's remark was highly commended by the Buddhist community.
Minister of Provincial Councils and Local Governments Faiszer Musthapha recently said Nuwara Eliya and Ambagamuwa Pradeshiya Sabhas will be divided into four or five Pradeshiya Sabhas. Don't you think that increasing the number of Pradeshiya Sabhas will be a burden on the public?
A: Adding more Pradeshiya Sabhas to highly populated areas can help in uplifting and developing the public. The increased number of Pradeshiya Sabhas enables an effective and efficient service to the public.
Minister Musthapha is an adept and experienced politician and I believe that his decision to increase the number of Pradeshiya Sabhas has been taken to serve the public efficiently.
As a Governor of a Province, don't you think PCs are a white elephant?
A: Some are of the opinion that PCs are white elephants due to unproductivity and inefficiency.
If PCs are endowed with the required attributes such as efficiency and productivity, they can be of immense service to the public.
Although some are of the opinion that PCs should be abolished, it is easier said than done. PCs are a separate unit appointed to rule the country.
Is there any difference between a Provincial Council and a Provincial Government?
A: Yes. There is a vast difference. I strongly oppose the use of 'Provincial Government' to refer to Provincial Councils.
There are countries which have Provincial Governments, but Sri Lanka has only Provincial Councils.
A country which has Provincial Governments is a Federal State. Sri Lanka's Government is a strong entity which has the authority over Provincial Councils. It is disappointing to state that some PCs are attempting to acquire more power than what they are vested with by the 13th Amendment.
If the unwarranted authority is vested with PCs, the country cannot be saved from being divided.
Hence, it is vital that PCs should remain as 'Councils' not as 'Governments'.
It is being considered to give the authority to appoint the Governor to the Chief Minister of the Province. Do you agree with this?
A: Not at all. The Governor represents the central government and the link between the Government and the Provincial Councils.
Although the proposal is not included in the Interim Report, I must mention that there is a lobby attempting to create this scenario where the Governor would be appointed by the Chief Minister. The appointment of Governor by the CM is highly inappropriate and detrimental to PCs such as the Northern Provincial Council.
As I mentioned, the lobby is trying hard to achieve a fully autonomous State. They've conducted seminars, workshops, and meetings in this regard.
They have now ventured upon to lobby politicians in order to serve their purpose of getting rid of the President-appointed Governor and appoint one according to the wishes of the CM.
If this happens, the government will lose the control over PCs.
The Chief Minister of the Northern Province Wigneswaran is already clamouring for a Federal State. We should carefully analyze what happens if Wigneswaran appoints a Governor for the Northern Province. The NPC will detach itself from the central government and will function as an autonomous entity.
The country is not a private property of anyone and should not be divided.
Have you any plans to enter politics in the future? Are you totally divorced from the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) as you have formed a new political party?
A: Yes, we have formed a new political party namely, Mawbima Janatha Party (MJP) of which I am the president.
As the MJP is a newly formed party, we do not have any representation in the public offices yet. We have no plans to contest elections on our own, but have entered into an alliance with the SLFP which is headed by President Maithripala Sirisena.
So, MJP will contest under the banner of SLFP in the future. I may enter into politics again in the future if circumstances warrant it.
You often seem to criticize Chief Minister of the Northern Province C.V. Wigneswaran. He is your relative and doesn't that damage the relationship?
A: Those whom we criticize can be our comrades or relations. Yet, we cannot let the truth be buried to please our relations. My duty is to serve the public and not to please my kith and kin. I do not turn a blind eye to their misdeeds if any of them succumb to their pressure.
Wigneswaran is known to me since I was 12 years of age. I used to call him 'Anna' and he was one of the best friends of my elder brother Vasudeva. The bond was later strengthened by a marriage between the two families.
Wigneswaran was a democrat those days. 'Anna' I used to know has tremendously changed after he became Chief Minister Wigneswaran.
Despite our clashing political views, we maintain good relations.
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