Coming from a torn past since independence where racial violence took precedence, the present government which has proposed a new constitution in a bid to abolish the executive presidential system should take lessons from history. This country which yet speaks proud of its independence, embraced ethnic divisions that resulted in racial violence due to prejudiced politics practiced for 66 -long years. A better democracy was witnessed in the past year with all political party leaders except a few, looking in the direction to correct the errors of the past.

A new constitution should be a historic bridge between the past of a deeply divided society hit by strife, conflict, in justice and terrorism (both in the North and South) towards a future based on the recognition of human rights, peaceful co-existence, democracy and development open to all people irrespective race or religion. It must also recognize the injustices of the past caused to ethnic communities through a path of prejudice politics to induce the feeling that Sri Lanka belongs to all people who live in it in unity and diversity. That would lead to improving the quality of life of all people, be they Sinhala, Tamil or Muslim. The government on policy should practice non-racialism when making public statements and taking decisions at national level.

Coming from a divided past where human limbs were strewn across streets due to terrorism, achieving national unity and reconciliation is not an easy task though a new constitution may be adopted. To achieve national unity and reconciliation, the government should include such objectives in the proposed new constitution with commitment to pursue those objectives in a sincere manner. The government should also commit towards the noble task of establishing a non-racial society and that would help to bridge the divisions and heal the wounds of the past. When it comes to development, equal opportunities must be granted or offered to all provinces with adequate funds to develop those provinces.

When drafting a new constitution, the government should devolve adequate powers to the periphery with trust and confidence. The government, before drafting the new constitution should honestly answer the question as to whether it would eradicate the mistrusts and injustices of the past to genuinely promote national unity, welfare of all citizens, peace, reconciliation and reconstruction. If and when a new constitution is adopted for the future of the nation, the government must conduct itself in a manner that it promotes its objectives to truly engage in the exercise of nation building as one people of one country. A constitution cannot have disparities amongst the people of a multi-ethnic country.

Since independence these vital objectives have not been practiced by successive governments. Instead prejudice minded politicians made statements that divided the communities. As a result, terrorism emerged and the nation suffered for nearly four decades. In the South, two insurgencies were experienced due to disparities within the majority community. Then terrorism surfaced from the North and East that lasted over three decades. Torn bodies and broken limbs were strewn on roads at regular intervals. Promising future political leaders were eliminated. All communities lost shining political leaders due to terrorism. Religious places were attacked and hundreds of devotees were gunned down.

The process of drafting a new constitution should not be delayed. If that happens, it will end up as a distant dream that fades away or a dream differed that would explode with the country reverting to an era of division and confusion.

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