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Lankan Prez for new state structure

Rajapaksa did not specifically say if he was thinking of a constitutional change, reports PK Balachandran.

india Updated: Feb 04, 2006 17:06 IST

In his oration to mark Sri Lanka's 58th anniversary of Independence on Saturday, President Mahinda Rajapaksa called for a new "state structure" to bring genuine democracy to all Sri Lankans and resolve the ethnic conflict without dividing the country.

Rajapaksa did not specifically say if he was thinking of a constitutionalchange- a change from the present unitary structure to a federal structure.

But the fact that he called for a new "state structure" while speaking about the ethnic conflict, suggested that he was searching for a constitution that would embody his ideal of giving the Tamil minority "maximum devolution within a united Sri Lanka".

Rajapaksa said that Sri Lanka faced many challenges, but the "first" among them was finding a solution to the "national question" and achieving "genuine and sustainable" peace.

"Many efforts made in the past to achieve peace have failed. However, there is no benefit achieved in blaming the past. We should not forget the past, but instead learn from the lessons of the past," he pleaded.

"There is, therefore, a need to establish a structure of State to bring about the genuine participation of all sections of our people in development activities and the administration of the government," he said.

But this presupposed the building up of a national consensus on what the structure should be, the President said.

"In a few days our government will begin discussions with the LTTE. We began the search for a southern consensus by separate talks with political parties and through the All Party Conference. I am already aware this approach has been successful."

"I am not politically selfish as to claim the benefits of this success for myself. This success should be shared equally among the government and all those of the opposition who participated in this effort," Rajapaksa said.

Keeping SL united

The President felt that peace processes would fail if the basic fact that Sri Lanka belonged to all its communities was not grasped.

"This country is one that belongs to all, Sinhalese, Tamil, Muslim, Burgher and other peoples to whom this is home. We cannot solve this problem by dividing this country. That will only lead to aggravating the crisis," he warned.

Thinking out of the box

Rajapaksa recalled his election slogan "Towards a New Sri Lanka" and said that that slogan had called for a new approach to Sri Lanka's problems.

"In order to overcome all subjugation and build a new free and independent country our thinking and aspirations should be new. Our goals should be new and the manner in which should work should also be new," he exhorted.

And in conclusion he said: "Honoured friends, we should bear well in our minds that if we are to stop the increasing flow of blood through war, we should shed more and more sweat in the cause of peace."

First Published: Feb 04, 2006 16:52 IST