President Chandrika Kumaratunga Speech
on new Constitution Bill in Sri Lanka Parliament
7 August 2000
"...Today is indeed a historic day. It is also a special day in the
great people, with a history of over thousands of years. Mr Speaker this
Constitution is designed to
ethnic war which totally destroyed the lives of the people of this
country...Though anybody may hoot or howl like jackals, we shall go through
with this. ...Mr. Speaker, we are doing this regardless of the number of
votes we will get..." President
Chandrika Kumaratunga on new Constitution Bill in Sri Lanka Parliament, 7
"Chandrika Kumaratunga Government,
today, 8 August 2000, decided to indefinitely postpone the debate and
the voting on the Constitution Bill " Hindustan Times Report, 8 August
'...We will seek the views of the Mahanayaka Theras on each and
every paragraph, clause and line of the draft Constitution so that they
could correct us, where we have gone wrong...'' Sri Lanka Prime Minister
Ratnasiri Wickramanayake, and President Kumaratunga loyalist, 14
Today is indeed a historic day. It is also a special day in the history of a
great people, with a history of over thousands of years. Mr Speaker this
Constitution is designed to end the
ethnic war which totally
destroyed the lives of the people of this country. A war which has been the
curse impeding the forward march of this country.
Mr Speaker I ask whether the UNP which deepened the ethnic crisis and
caused this war
has no responsibility to cooperate with us to solve this question, at least now,
on behalf of this country.
Can they not act in such a manner
when our Government has taken on the responsibility
at the risk of our lives
to establish permanent peace, putting an end to this war
which was started under the patronage of the UNP Government
by killing, burning and looting the Tamil people and their
property on five occasions between
UNP members howl here today like a pack of jackals, it is a big question
to me, Mr Speaker, as to how they can form a responsible Government in this
I say that this is a historic moment not only because our Government has
presented a new Constitution for our country, but also because we hope to
take the first and permanent step to end this war in the North and East
that was started during the UNP rule, that destroyed thousands of lives for
18 years from the
Black July of 1983, and which has been a curse to the forward march of this
Mr Speaker, friends, the people of this country
gave a mandate to our Government six years ago on a number of clear issues.
We put forward our very clear vision to the people of this country during nine
rounds of elections from the
Provincial Council elections of 1993
A main facet of this vision was to put
an end to the terror,
destruction of life,
destruction of democracy and
violation of human rights and to consolidate democracy humane values and
Our Government took a number of steps to end the terror that prevailed in the
South at that time no sooner we were elected in 1994 itself and we introduced
new legislation to achieve that task. We took action to punish the offenders and
we are taking such action even now according to law. Because of this, democracy
and human rights have been restored and consolidated in all areas of the country
except the North and East.
have held free and fair elections in this country for the first time today
after 17 years and will continue to do so. At that time the youth of this
country were burnt in their thousands on tyre pyres. Today we have consolidated
democracy, human rights and humaneness in all areas
except the North and East.
Although we have been able to put an end to the terror unleashed by the State
and different terrorist groups, in the South, we have not been able to put an
end to the
clashes between the Government Forces and the LTTE Terrorists
in the North and East.
We have been witnessing this confrontation with an
LTTE terrorist group of about 5000 for a number of years even before we came
to power. The LTTE are carrying on their
causing destruction not only in the North and East but also in the entire
country for nearly 18 years, saying that they are doing so to
liberate the Tamil people
who have been living with us for thousands of years in this country. The
lives of young people and civilians have been lost in their thousands in this
country owing to LTTE
While the lives of thousands of young soldiers have been destroyed on the one
side, the Sinhala, Tamil and Muslim villagers are being cut and chopped to death
on the other.
The lives of civilians are being destroyed by exploding bombs in Colombo and
the other main cities.
war was started during the UNP regime.
It was the UNP who carried on this war for 11 years. It was at a
time when the whole of the North of this country had been given over to
Prabhakaran by the UNP Government that we took control of this country.
We liberated 85 per cent of the North . This was something the UNP could
never do. It is not only the lives of soldiers, policemen, the Sinhala people
that have been destroyed, by Prabhakaran's LTTE but also the lives of Tamil
dozens of their leaders. Hundreds of lives. The lives of
very valuable Tamil leaders
have been destroyed.
Even today the
LTTE are keeping Tamil civilians as hostages in areas of
the North and East under their control, destroying their
Friends, however much you shout,
it is my people and your people who are destroyed by this war. I appeal to
you with a sense of responsibility to give your cooperation to this Constitution
that is presented today to save the lives of
my people and your people alike.
Mr Speaker, I remind this House once again that our government is fighting
LTTE terrorism with
determination and strength.
We don't give weapons to the LTTE. We don't give money to the LTTE. We don't
bring the LTTE here on the sly, keep them in hotels and hold discussions with
them. We have also never entered into clandestine pacts with the LTTE at
election times and tried to kill our political opponents.
Within 10 days of our coming to power I openly extended an invitation in
writing to the LTTE leader to end this destruction and to have talks and to do
something like this. We had
talks for 8 months and we stopped the war for eight months.
LTTE have shown during the past six years that they are not prepared for peace.
Even after the war started again, from time to time, we invited them for peace
talks, to discuss the new constitutional proposals to provide solutions to the
problems of the Tamil people and other minorities. I never talked to the LTTE
personally, but through a third party. I have also revealed to the country who
these third parties were.
Throughout these six years the LTTE has said
that they are not prepared to discuss with us.
there is every opportunity to obtain the rights of the Tamil people through
peaceful means, the LTTE continues to kill the very Tamil people and
the valuable leaders of Tamil society
for whom it claims to seek liberation.
If the LTTE is not prepared for talks, we should present these political
proposals in order to take this country forward ensuring the protection of the
rights of the Sinhala people of this country and to safeguard the rights of the
Tamil and Muslim
The LTTE are having an Army only 5000 strong while there are 12 lakhs of
Tamils in the North. These 12 lakhs of Tamils are not asking for war.
They are only asking for their just rights. Their just rights were denied to
them for 52 years and the Government of 1977 using the five sixth majority it
had did not take steps to grant them their rights.
The Tamil people
who asked for their rights were assaulted, killed and burnt on four
occasions up to 1983. In 1983 petrol was poured on them and they were burnt
alive, their properties were looted, destroyed and burnt.
Over 7 lakhs of
Tamils have left this country owing to the North East war that resulted. The
Tamils are asking for their
just rights. We should create confidence in them by clearly granting their
rights legally because of the questions that arose earlier.
Today we are in power, tomorrow some other party may be in power. Whatever
party is in power the rights of the
minorities including Tamils and Muslims should be ensured legally. The
supreme law that would fulfil this is the Constitution.
That is why we are presenting this new Constitution. Once these rights are
ensured we will be able to stop the Tamil people believing that the LTTE are
their sole liberators.
What most Tamils who have fled to other countries seek is the political and
legal guarantee of their safety and their rights. Once they are assured of this
fact, they will stop supporting the LTTE. There are several lakhs of Tamils
living abroad. It is they who fund the LTTE terrorist and military activities.
These funds are obtained through various means, including illegal activities.
Many Tamils abroad have met us and explained their plight, their fears and their
It is because of the vast funds the LTTE is getting from the Tamils who fled
this country that they have been able to wage this destructive war against the
Government and the Sri Lankan people. Once this Constitution is passed the
Sinhala, Tamil and Muslim communities and other minorities will live in mutual
trust without terrorism,
saying that they do not want war. It is when that happens that Prabhakaran
will be chased away. Mr Speaker, that's why we as a Government present this
Constitution to the people of this country without any external pressure or
influence, at a time when our people and leaders are being killed, and we
ourselves have become the target of LTTE bombs.
Up to this time the Tamil people although opposed to terrorism supported
Prabhakaran. Sometimes that support was due to coercion. Small children were
dragged into the war by force. Money was extracted in foreign countries, but
some gave willingly. This happened because the minorities had no trust. They had
no trust that their rights will be granted by any Sinhala majority Government
during the last 52 years.
Today my Government has come
forward making a lot of sacrifices to ensure that trust but when the
Opposition that is waiting to take on the next Government insults this exercise
in this manner the people will curse not only them but all their followers.We
have arrived at this juncture amidst the rivers of blood of our people, our
relatives, our political allies and all of us, to bring this document up to this
My beloved father Prime Minister
S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike proposed the
Bandaranaike-Chelvanayakam pact and signed it to fulfil this need. Our Tamil
brothers know this. It had to be torn because of demonstrations against it.
Thereafter he was assassinated. It is said that it was done for that reason. But
we know that there were other reasons also. There were other people behind it.
It was said that my husband Vijaya Kumaratunga was killed by the JVP because
Vijaya myself and our party supported
the Indo Lanka Accord that was brought by the UNP to solve this problem. He
was assassinated in front of me and my two children. Mr Speaker thereafter I was
an ordinary person. If I were one who considered private gain or the number of
votes that my party would get I would have given up this struggle long ago.
We shall never give up
the struggle started by us
according to the philosophy bequeathed
to our party and to me personally by the leaders of our Party, Prime
Ministers SWRD Bandaranaike and Sirimavo Bandaranaike.
On 18th December 1999 the LTTE attempted to snatch my life just as the lives
of my father, my husband, our political friends and other leaders were snatched
by political conspiracies, the JVP terror, State terrorism and the LTTE on
various occasions.They have robbed me of an eye, but we do politics in order to
make this country a fit and proper place for good people to live in.
I am a
Sinhala Buddhist, a robust dark Sinhalese as the saying goes, and a very
However, I will never carry a tray of flowers and sit under every "Bo" tree I
see. I have lived my life according to the principles of Buddhist philosophy.
From the age of five I have learnt Buddhism by going to the temple every
Saturday for two hours. We are not prepared to bequeath to our children the
sorrowful fate that was inherited by our generation during the beastly era
In order to rescue this country that has been heir to
one of the greatest civilizations of the entire world, based
on Buddhist philosophy from the days of our ancient kings,
we have come forward at the risk of our lives.
We have not seen anywhere in the world the majority community not
acknowledging the rights of the
minorities. We should acknowledge
minority rights and ensure them legally in this Constitution, as an honest
Government and not give rights by the Constitution as during the past and
nullify them in action.
I should like to state very clearly that if this is done properly we could
march forward to prosperity in a country where humaneness will reign supreme.
The proposals on which this constitution is based were presented to this country
on a day like this on 3rd August 1995, five years ago.
It was to the leader of the UNP as the main opposition party that I first
extended an invitation to meet me before I did so. They met me on August 2nd. We
discussed it before presenting it to the country. Now they are howling like
jackals.I am ashamed at this behaviour. I wonder whether they are an Opposition.
The UNP leader ran away asking the others to howl like jackals. We invited
the UNP after presenting it to the Cabinet. We discussed and asked for their
support. We said we are prepared to discuss anything and that it was only a
draft. We were prepared to discuss any amendments. But we did not get any
support from the UNP for the last five years. Then we discussed with all other
parties and presented it to the country on 3rd August 1995. That was the initial
I then asked the LTTE whether to send the draft to them and discuss it. But
they were not prepared to do so. It was thereafter that we presented it to the
Parliamentary Select Committee. Discussions were held there under the
Chairmanship of Professor G. L. Peiris.
We presented the document incorporating certain amendments to Parliament in
October 1997. Then once again I invited the UNP, but their support was not
forthcoming to ensure the two thirds majority. Thereafter, I invited 13 parties
now in Parliament
after the 1999 Presidential election to discuss it again and incorporate any
The nine constituent parties of the Peoples Alliance discussed it for two
weeks in depth and brought certain amendments and invited the Tamil parties
next.It was discussed with them also for two weeks and we then invited the UNP.
We must record our appreciation that the UNP acceded that request and came for
Before the discussion the UNP leader wrote to me and proposed various things.
He wrote to me asking me to give various things to the LTTE. We have his signed
letter.He suggested a time frame for the discussions.We welcomed that and both
the UNP and the Government Group decided to wind up in four weeks. However, the
UNP dragged this discussion on for 18 weeks taking on even minor and irrelevant
matters for discussion. We suspected this from the very beginning.
We were working on the premise that we should discuss this document which had
been approved by 12 of the 14 parties in Parliament, whatever the impediments.
After 18 weeks of discussion I and a number of my Ministers agreed to all the
clauses of the new Constitution except one.We accepted several amendments
proposed by the UNP.
Here Member of Parliament Choksy participated very fruitfully as those on our
side. Others of the UNP team cooperated with us. I am very thankful to them for
that. At the end of 16 months of discussion and deliberation on June 30th, we
had reached agreement on all the clauses except that on the Executive
Presidency. We had included the subject of the Executive Presidency three times
in the agenda, on June 30th and twice earlier. Everytime the UNP did not give us
their decision. Finally this had to be completed on June 30th. They asked for
one more day to give their decision.
We gave them one more day on July 7. On that day too they said they cannot
make a decision. Thereafter I told them to kindly inform us about their decision
and say whether they are for or against. Then I told them that if my presence at
the meeting was a problem for them, I will walk out allowing them to discuss it.
Then the UNP group including their leader told me to stay on saying it was not a
problem at all. Then I told them to inform us of their decision but they didn't
do it either. They said they will inform their decision after discussing it in
the Sub Committee. The date for the Sub Committee meeting was scheduled for July
19 which was after a lapse of 14 days. On that day too a UNP MP, who is present
here today, came as the sole UNP representative and said he had not been
empowered to take a decision on this and asked for a fresh date for a
discussion. This then was the fifth discussion held on a single item. We did not
discuss anything else.
They said we should all hold another discussion on July 21. I had planned to
go abroad that night on a strictly personal and important matter, but I
cancelled the trip and all other work and agreed to that date. On that day too
they came and said they had no decision and that they would discuss it in their
Working Committee and inform us. Then I told them we can't wait any longer and
that this was the fifth time we were discussing this problem. You are not
telling us your views kindly tell us whether you are for or against this or if
you wish to propose an amendment tell us so. Again they said they will it
discuss at the Working Committee and inform us. When I asked for the date on
which they will inform us they said they will discuss it in the Working
Committee on the 27th and 28th and inform us soon.
We came to know through the newspapers that they had held the Working
Committee meeting on the 27th. Then on the 28th or 29th their party chairman Mr.
Jayasuriya had telephoned our, the Minister of Constitutional Affairs of our
Government and vaguely said they don't like the idea very much and that they
wanted another discussion with the President. At that moment, we had given the
Constitution for printing. I said that even if we have to remove a page, if we
can reach a consensus on this matter, we would do it. This message of the UNP
chairman given on the 29th reached me only on the 30th.
I had a very busy schedule on the 31st. So I cancelled my first appointment
on the 1st and offered them the opportunity they sought. They said their leader
won't be able to come on the 1st. When I asked whether they could come on the
2nd they said that on that day too their leader won't be able to turn up. These
people only ask for dates and then say their leader is unable to come. Then I
spoke directly to the UNP Chairman.
Due to our great desire and dedication to end the
ugly confrontational political culture which had existed in the country all
these years and create a new political culture which would go forward on the
basis of consensus, the discussion the UNP promised to conclude in four weeks
was dragged on for 18 weeks. We were prepared to spend time. But if this is the
kind of response we get, Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask whether this is a
party? Are these representatives of the people? Do they love their country? I
ask you, is this the way they act if they are people's representatives who have
a concern for the interests of the people? I have told you the history.
This is how we drafted this Bill. Although the UNP is now obstructing it, a
large number of proposals made by the UNP are included in it. However, Mr.
Speaker, I wish to state briefly what we are trying to do through this
Constitution. On the one hand we believe that the people of this country elected
us to power in 1994 in a massive wave of support to restore democracy and human
freedom in this country. As I said before, we have stabilised human values,
freedoms and democracy in all parts of the country except the North and East.
As part of democracy we are now in the process of ending the confrontational
and politics of revenge and create a new political culture,
a system of consensual government at least with the major political parties.
Mr. Speaker this Constitution will establish such a form of government.
Through this we have also introduced the executive committee system which exists
in certain countries which decides and promotes government activities with the
participation of all parties. We are introducing this system to the Provincial
Similarly the new Constitution has many provisions than in the present one to
stabilise democratic freedoms and human rights
we have been safeguarding since '94. It is our desire to further strengthen
and expand this. In addition, for the first time the Rights of Children's have
been enshrined in a Constitution. This will stabilise the program we have
already started to wean away youth from liquor and drugs and protect children
For the first time this Constitution has provisions to protect the
environment and prevent environmental damage and pollution. Generally these are
our proposals to stabilise democracy, human rights and human values in this
country. Similarly this new Constitution has strong provisions to protect
Buddhism, the religion and philosophy of the Sinhala majority of this country,
which is the foundation of Sri Lankan culture. I wish to state here clearly that
some people are spreading false rumours everywhere, after having discussed with
me for five months, that we have surreptitiously removed the original clause for
the protection of Buddhism which was included in the Constitution. This is a
Mr. Speaker, we have not even dreamt of such a thing, we will never
contemplate it either. While protecting the rights of the majority Sinhala
Buddhists in this country we will safeguard the fundamental human rights and
freedoms of all sections of people living in this country.
There is another section Mr. Speaker which has solutions for the most
dangerous problem of this era, the ethnic problem specially of the Tamil people
which had been aggravated over the last several decades, by devolving power to
the minorities. Some of the major problems the minorities and minority religions
have are the inability to find schools for their children and non-availability
of employment opportunities. These are problems common to under-developed
countries. We should find solutions to these, while finding solutions to the
other problems of our people.
This situation has dragged on making this problem very complex and spread as
a cancer in our body politic. The time has run out when we could have very
easily granted the rights of the minorities. The trust and confidence which
existed among the Sinhalese, Tamils and Muslims has broken. It is this loss of
confidence that led some of them to demand a separate state.
How can we give them that confidence after the manner they were killed and
burnt in 1983 ? How can we tell them that it will not happen again under a
government of the Sinhala majority? This is the only way in which we can give
that confidence without dividing the country.
I personally and my government is totally against a division of this little
Sri Lanka. I wish to remind you that it will never happen so long as our
government remains in power. If we are to prevent a division and carry this
country forward as a united, strong and sovereign state we should share power to
a certain extent with the Tamils and Muslims who have lost confidence in us. It
is those proposals for sharing power, Mr. Speaker and dear Members of Parliament
that we are presenting with this constitution. I have studied this problem at
length a few decades ago before I became President, by myself, with my political
friends and when I was abroad. After returning to Sri Lanka I have delivered
many long lectures on this issue. We have analysed and studied every word in
this new Constitution for seven and a half months from 20th January this year.
I can very sincerely state that we can remedy the injustice caused to the
minorities through these devolution proposals. I sincerely feel that this will
provide a lasting solution to this problem while safeguarding the rights of the
majority Sinhalese in this country. I believe we can find lasting solutions to
these problems. We can extend this confidence to the Sri Lankan Tamils who have
fled this country and are now living abroad.
We have already started talking to them. The day we build that confidence
those Tamils will not need Prabhakaran's terrorism. We have even told the UNP
that we have decided to send this Constitution to the LTTE through legitimate
channels once it is approved by this House, to seek their ideas and views. If
they are prepared to discuss this we are willing to talk. But the killings must
stop for a friendly dialogue. As we have repeatedly said, the only condition is
to stop killing, freeze the war and hold discussions.
Mr. Speaker some people are spreading false rumours to the effect that
through this Constitution we will be bringing an end to the unitary state. This
Constitution will never disrupt the united nature of the country but rather
enhance it. There will be no impediment whatever by this Constitution to this
country being united. In fact its unity will be strengthened.
What will be happening is something different. The central government will
perform all major duties as a united and sovereign government and all
legislation having a major impact on the country will be formulated by this
august assembly. Provinces will be the same as those existing today. The
existing Provincial Councils will be given powers to formulate laws and
regulations to a certain extent and the right to conduct the provincial
this is not something new. What was the system of administration in ancient
Sri Lanka during the time of Sinhala Kings? What was the system in the great
historic kingdoms which existed in your native area the North Central Province?.
The King did not grab all powers to the central government. The King identified
himself as the clear leader of a united Sri Lanka.
But the King's powers were devolved to leaders of villages known as
gramanayakes, who administered them as autonomous units. That was the system
which existed during that time. Large villages which managed their economic
activities including agriculture and small industries were administered by rural
leaders. The King formulated common laws and regulations and informed the people
about them through rock inscriptions etc.
But other laws and regulations concerning the village such as water supply,
land use and paddy cultivation were drawn up by the village leader called
"Gramini." There were several other terms by which this village leader was
referred to. This system of devolution of power is not a strange thing to us Mr.
Speaker. Power was devolved even during that time. Land ownership was devolved
in that manner. There was a very strong and successful administration in this
country during that time.
But wars occurred in this country due to various foreign invasions,
specially from South India. Even history and social scientists say that our
kings were able to withstand those invasions due to the strong socio-economic
system which existed at the time. The basis of this system was that the King
remained as the head of state without any partisanship while his powers were
devolved to the villages. That system has now been modernised to suit the modern
world. Today after more than 2000 years activities in all countries not only
ours, have increased by leaps and bounds. Populations have increased a hundred
fold. To manage these huge and extensive activities of people and society, there
must be a more systematic, better organised, and wider system in place.
Mr. Speaker it is the system of devolution which was created in Sri Lanka by
Buddhist governments that we have modernised and tabled in this House today,
through the Provincial Council system. It is not we but the previous government
which introduced the Provincial Council system for the first time in this
When the Indian Government exerted pressure they introduced
the Indo-Sri Lanka Accord by amending the Constitution for the 13th time.
Without vetoing that system as in the past, we have tabled this document to
enhance the rights of all communities living in this country. I will not try to
explain them in detail now. I hope our Constitutional Affairs Minister and other
Ministers will discuss all those provisions in detail when the debate on the
second reading is taken up on the 7th and 8th with your approval.
Mr. Speaker we have seen in world history in countries like ours where there
are people belonging to different communities and cultures and speaking
different languages various problems have cropped up among those communities
specially during the 20th century. As far as I know each and every such country
that has solved this problem successfully, has done so not by getting the
central government or the majority community to grab all powers in the land.
They have solved this problem satisfactorily by the powers vested in the
Central Government and the majority community being shared with others in a fair
manner. It is only when power is shared in a just manner that this problem can
be solved. Mr. Speaker. We can cite the USA, Canada, India, Pakistan,
Switzerland and Australia as examples. Then there are a lot of other countries
in Asia and the Americas.
It is through a federal system that Germany and countries in old Europe have
solved their problems and marched forward preventing a break up or division of
their countries. They have solved their problems by releasing or devolving to a
certain extent the powers centralised in the Government. Therefore Mr. Speaker
as one who loves my country, and one who fights for this country having put my
life at stake, as well as the lives of other members of my government, I say
that as a government we are ready to take the necessary risks, face all threats
and dangers to do justice by all communities who share this land.
Very recently one of our closest political colleagues and friends was
murdered on the road by the LTTE at Ratmalana. They are trying to get at more
people. But we are performing this duty we have undertaken with great dedication
and sacrifice, because we have the necessary confidence. Unless we give the
guarantee to the Tamil people including the 7 lakhs supporting the LTTE
that we would not at least kill or burn them through this Constitution, it will
be our people who will be killed on the streets of Colombo by Prabhakaran. It is
our people who are being hacked to death by the LTTE by storming villages. The
UNP should not forget that it is not only the SLFP or PA people. Those killed
are also UNP people. Not only my people but Mr. Ranil Wickremesinghe's people
are also being exterminated. Therefore, I request you to behave with a sense of
Mr. Speaker, I wish to repeat over and over again that a small section of our
people including certain members of the Maha Sangha are having a wrong
impression about this system of devolution of power.
|There is a handful of Sinhalese who think that all Tamils
and Muslims should be killed and only the Sinhala Buddhists should live in
Mr. Speaker, we do not dream empty dreams that are
impractical. As practical politicians we know that such things cannot be
We are living in a world of globalization. When something takes place
here, on the other side is India. There is the United Nations Organization.
Mr Speaker, as some people propose to us we cannot cut and chop all the
minorities in this country and throw them into the sea.
This country cannot be only for the Sinhala Buddhists. I don't believe that
there are such fools in this country, like the handful of people who seem to
think so. If we are to safeguard the rights, of the Sinhala Buddhists and
achieve peace, we can talk about our rights forever but what is the solution to
these bombs that are hurled at us.
How can we stop the destruction caused to this country by LTTE terrorism?
Although we talk about Sinhala Buddhist rights aloud how can we achieve such
rights? Let us first give the rights of the people in the North the absence of
which is the basis of terrorism. I tell this House on this occasion that we can
definitely and successfully win the war in the North by granting their rights.
In addition to the several lakhs of Tamil people in the North, Tamils living
abroad collect millions of rupees and during the previous regime the LTTE has
bought six ships, and they are still being operated. When they attempted to buy
some more ships, our Government stopped it. Weapons are bought with that money
and smuggled into the country in these ships. When we took over, the Navy was in
a very weak condition. The necessary ships and equipment were not there.
Now we are spending thousands of millions of rupees and improving the Navy
like the other armed forces. Now we have bought new equipment. It takes some
time. It takes three years to take delivery of a ship after placing the order,
however much we try to hurry. Taking delivery of a plane ordered takes a little
less time, but it takes at least one year. You can't just go and buy these
things like you buy a saree from a shop. We will somehow find the money for it.
We can find the money because we have strengthened the economy of this country.
If we are to make a success of this war, we still hope that the LTTE will see
at least an iota of truth and agree to this political programme. However if this
doesn't happen and if they are inviting us to war, we shall continue to fight.
We can finish it soon, but before that we should strengthen the rights of
the people including Tamils and the Muslims who are against LTTE terrorism in
the back of their minds and only asking for their rights and for peace.
Therefore, Mr. Speaker, we are presenting this Constitution today.
When our people were being killed after we presented this draft Constitution
on the 3rd of August 1995, our Ministers and MPs having started movements like
the Sudu Nelum Movement,and intellectuals, university students, lecturers,
teachers, some journalists, a large number from non governmental organizations,
a large number of Maha Sangha and dignitaries of other religions went from
village to village taking this message into the four corners of this country
during the last five years. We staged street dramas and gave this message to the
entire country through all the media.
After all this if anyone says that we are rushing through the Constitution it
is a brazen lie. Such people are not fit to be engaged in politics in this
country, Mr Speaker. This morning on my way here I saw in the 'Divaina' and the
'Lankadeepa' newspapers banner headlines asking why we are rushing through this
Constitution. I don't know what they mean by rushing through. This rushing
through took five years, Mr. Speaker. We submitted the main provisions of this
Constitution to all including the leader of the UNP and to the whole country.
There has been no rush or hurry at all. The only thing is that it took five
years to present this and to pass it into law, that is all. We admit that
shortcoming. We can't help it.
Even when we had won 80 per cent of the electorates in the Parliamentary
elections, we have only a single vote majority in Parliament because of the UNP
Government's Constitution that is now in force. Because of this peculiar
Constitution and the crazy system of elections. Mr. Speaker, it is only because
we didn't have the two-thirds majority that we were unable to pass this. We were
very keen to do it. That is why we clearly asked the people during nine rounds
of elections from the Western Provincial Council election in 1993, the Southern
Provincial Council election in 1994, the General election and the Presidential
election in 1994, the local government elections in 1997,
the three rounds of Provincial Council elections in 1999 and again the
Presidential election in 1999, to do what we are doing today.
The people very clearly gave us a mandate during these nine rounds of
elections to do this today. Though anybody may hoot or howl like jackals, we
shall go through with this. Mr. Speaker I believe that all those who are in this
House, whether on this side or that side are representatives of the people. It
is that word that is used to describe them. Mr. Speaker if all of them including
myself and you represent the people, I say that a two thirds majority is not
necessary, and that the simple majority alone that the people of this country
gave us on so many occasions is sufficient.
A Constitution is a legal document that reflects the needs of the greater
number of the people in a democratic country. It is through the vote of the
people that all the people's needs and aspirations are expressed. This is the
basic element of democracy. Mr. Speaker, if the people of this country gave us a
through nine rounds of elections during a period of six and a half years from
May 1993 to December 1999, to bring this Constitution before Parliament, we
should bring it before Parliament. It is my bounden duty to do so as the Head of
State of this country.
It is that mandate that I clearly asked from the people seven months ago on
21st December 1999.Mr Speaker, it is to resolve the ethnic issue that has been a
curse on our peoples' lives and the progress of this country and to end the war
that I as President and my Government asked the people to give us the power.
That's why we are bringing this legal document before Parliament and trying to
get it passed into law.
Mr. Speaker the people gave me a clear mandate even when I had been injured
in the bomb explosion and some were saying that my thinking had been affected. I
am responsible only to the people of this country and I have no reason to ask
anyone else. The people of this country have asked us nine times to bring this
document before Parliament, but Mr. Speaker the people of this country never
told me to ask the UNP before presenting this with Parliament. They never asked
me even to discuss with the UNP.What I asked for was a mandate to bring this
before Parliament. However we as a Government that respects human values and
democracy, consulted the UNP. We want to put an end to this divisive political
culture that has existed in this country and was made worse after 1977. That's
why we invited all parties in Parliament, mainly the UNP to enter into
discussion with the approval and fullest co-operation of my Government.
But the people of this country didn't tell us or lay down conditions, they
only asked us to bring this Constitution. Please keep that in mind very clearly.
We have come forward at the risk of our lives to some day end this despicable
and divisive political culture that has existed in this country for fifty years;
this terrible inhuman beastly war; the destruction caused by it and the
terror of tyre pyres and such base episodes and not to bequeath this unfortunate
fate to our children's generation.
I am certain that all Members of Parliament and Ministers of my Government
and all the nine parties that constitute the Peoples Alliance will give their
fullest co-operation in this matter. Mr. Speaker it is the majority of the
people of this country,
especially the Sinhala Buddhists who voted for me in December 1999 even when
the catchers of Prabhakaran went from village to village and said "don't give
your vote to Chandrika, vote for the other person".
will not mention the name here. Definite investigations were carried out and I
have the report. Even when they said so it was the Sinhala Buddhists of this
country who voted for me. Mr. Speaker, when I wanted to bring this Constitution
the Tamil people were enthusiastically waiting to vote for me but
Prabhakaran didn't allow them with his terrorism. However, in areas where
Prabhakaran could not wield his influence like in Jaffna, I received more votes.
I should like to remind that it was the Muslims in this country who contributed
most to make up my 51 per cent plus votes. The Sinhala people are not opposed to
I very earnestly and with extreme humility call upon the Maha Sangha on this
occasion as the Head of State of this country and as one who respects Buddhism,
having moulded my life according to Buddhist philosophy, as a practising
Buddhist, to give your full blessings to my Government and to me to implement
the mandate given to me by the majority of the Sinhala Buddhists of this
All leaders of other religions have a special responsibility. I request their
co-operation. I know that that co-operation is forthcoming. The mandate of the
people of this country and their co-operation was expressed on December 21st
last, also. Before that it was expressed eight times. Now I request you the
leader of the Opposition and the leader of the UNP to give us that co-operation
honestly and truly without vacillating, in the name of the people of this
country and in the name of the mandate they gave nine times for this.
On this occasion we hope to present this Constitution today and debate it on
the 7th, 8th and 9th next week and adopt it as a solution to this great national
calamity that has been with us for the last 18 years. But we will not end this
matter with the Constitution alone. I request each and everyone of you to
participate in this task taking decisions personally, true to your conscience to
carry forward the political procedures necessary to implement this Constitution.
Finally I would like to mention that in the
various journals and newspapers
published internationally and even in the United Nations reports, the crisis in
Sri Lanka has been named by journalists, experts, intellectuals and academics as
one of the most terrible and destructive wars of the twentieth century in any
country in the world, because we have not solved the ethnic crisis in this
country. I will not be satisfied by merely saying that this crisis is due to our
misfortune. This crisis is man made. It was created by the generation of our
parents and some of our generation, too.
Our generation can also end this.Its solution is in our hands. I entreat
everybody not to oppose this move without proposing an alternative, by merely
saying irrelevant things. Mr. Speaker, we are doing this regardless of the
number of votes we will get. Unfortunately hitherto no Government that ruled
this country has come forward to solve this question because they were only
mindful of the number of votes they expected to get.
I will not speak about the times of our ancient kings.
Today is a historic day because we have for the first time in the history of
this country, as a Government, without being influenced by anybody and
regardless of foreign influence, taken this step. As a government we have
kept to our pledge given before the election that we shall introduce a new
constitution. We have now done so amidst all the impediments and obstruction by
the opposition, who should give us their support. We have presented this in the
face of LTTE threats and opposition. We know that this is the best way the Tamil
people can obtain liberation and not
the LTTE path of terror.
We have presented this despite LTTE attempts to kill me and my Ministers. We
have taken this step boldly, because we know it is the only way to extricate our
country from the abyss into which it has fallen; to save our country from the
cruel path that has befallen it.
I should like to tell this august assembly that
it is this foundation that will enable our country to make available to all
communities living in this country equal rights, self respect, and to create a
society where people can live an upright life. It will also enable the creation
of a prosperous nation with a sound economy on the foundation our Government has
Mr. Speaker I express my gratitude to you for having given me this
opportunity as the Head of State to present this supreme piece of legislation to
this House.I also thank the Hon. Leader of the House Ratnasiri Wickramanayake,
for making arrangements to perform this task here today. I also thank Professor
G. L. Peiris, Minister of Constitutional Affairs who devoted his energies, sweat
and toil to compile this Constitution during a period of six years from June
1994 when we made preparations to contest the 1994 election.
I must also express my thanks to the members of the UNP who participated in
negotiations with us on this matter, and suggested several amendments. I must
particularly thanks Mr. Choksy for the personal contribution he made as a member
of the UNP delegation. I also express my thank personally and on behalf of the
Government to all the Ministers, Parliamentarians and all public servants who
worked indefatigably to perform this task. Thank you.