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Constitution drafting process not only for democratization but for ensuring non-recurrence of conflict

“Just over a year, or 15 months since Sri Lanka took the historic step of co-sponsoring Resolution 30/1. Many in our country criticised and continue to criticise us for this step. Some even see this as an act of treachery and betrayal of the nation. We have a simple message for them, as we journey towards 2018, our 70th year as an Independent Nation,” says foreign minister Mangala Samaraweera.

The minister made this statement while addressing the 34th session of United Nation’s Human Rights Council in Geneva.

“The Sinhalese, the Tamils, the Muslims, the Burghers, those of different faiths and beliefs, across gender, caste and creed, that constitute our country, worked together to gain Independence for our nation in 1948. That achieved, we failed to forge the perfect nation of individuals who all hold equal rights, working as one to achieve the heights our nation could attain. As a result, for 69 long years, we journeyed through pain, violence, loss of life and precious human resources, ruining chances of socio economic progress. This was clearly an experiment in nation building that failed, which is certainly not worth pursuing further. We must have the courage to acknowledge that truth, and that era must now end. The Sri Lanka that we seek to build here onwards, should be one where justice reigns; where human rights are valued; where every individual’s dignity is upheld; and where civil society and the media play their due role; a society that believes in the importance of the independence of the judiciary, and the rule of law; and where everyone has equal rights,”

“As we move forward in this journey, the forces of extremism and regression on both sides of the divide are creating road blocks for narrow, short-term political gain. While stubbornly refusing to acknowledge any of the far-reaching gains we have made in the last 2 years, they argue that we have either done too much or too little. I would, in this backdrop, like to say that the recommendation of the GSP+ concessions from Brussels, and MCC compact assistance from USA were announced recently, in recognition of the progress made in Sri Lanka in the last two years, and we await their formal approval in the coming months,”

“The Constitution drafting process is for us both central and essential not only for democratisation, but also for ensuring non-recurrence of conflict. As this Council is aware, the Parliament of Sri Lanka, in April 2016, unanimously adopted a Resolution to prepare a draft Constitutional Bill for the consideration of Parliament. As we approach the 70th year of our nation’s Independence, we seek, for the first time in our country’s modern history, to engage in this process wholeheartedly as an exercise that would unite our people who have been divided for far too long. The Parliamentary process and referendum are for us, imperative. We want to ensure that this Constitution, the 3rd Republican Constitution, unlike those before, that did not involve consensual and consultative processes, would reflect the true aspirations of our people. An exercise where, after years of conflict, the executive, legislature and sovereign – that is the people of our country – will unite to define and chart our nation’s future, guaranteeing equal rights, justice, and dignity for all citizens, honouring the multi-ethnic, multi-religious, multi-lingual character of our nation, upholding the right of citizens to participate more fully in decisions that impact their lives, and guaranteeing non-recurrence of conflict,” the minister added.

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