The Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) which is the dominant partner in the Sri Lankan coalition government, and is the party of President Mahinda Rajapaksa, on Monday formally proposed that Sri Lanka be a "unitary state".
The party Executive Committee on Monday modified some of the key provisions in the proposal first made public at the end of April. It then formally adopted the revised version which will be submitted to the All Party Representative Committee (APRC) on devolution.
A spokesman of the Presidential Secretariat told Hindustan Times that in the earlier proposal, it was not clear if the SLFP was for a unitary system and whether it had rejected the federal model.
The party had come under flak from the ultra Sinhala nationalists like the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) for not upholding the Mahinda Chinthanaya, Rajapaksa's election manifesto in 2005. This flaw had been set right by Monday's amendment.
The new document, also says that Buddhism would be given the "foremost" place and its interests advanced. The Buddha Sasana would be protected.
The SLFP's constitutional proposal addresses two contemporary problems: (1) grant of land for the resettlement of refugees and (2) recruitment of children for war.
There shall be no delay in the grant of land for those displaced by war or natural disasters. Child recruitment for war will be deemed a "war crime" and a "crime against humanity." The government will take it up at the appropriate international judicial forums.
Clash with Tamils
The clear statement that the dominant political party in the country is for a unitary state is bound to lead to a clash with the Tamils, both extremist and moderate, because what unites the Tamils is the demand for a federal Sri Lanka with power being devolved to a united Tamil-speaking North Eastern Province.
The SLFP has not only rejected federalism but has proposed that the unit of devolution be the district and not the province. The province has no place in its scheme of things. The units will be the districts, and the Pradeshiya and Grama Sabhas.
The clarification on Buddhism only reiterates a known government policy since 1972. Buddhism has been given the foremost place, while giving other religions the normal freedoms in any democratic state.
The basis of the long standing Sinjala-Tamil conflict in Sri Lanka has not been religious but ethnic, political and linguistic, in that order.