Lanka Tamils may abandon federalism for greater power to provinces: Lawmaker

Sri LankaUpdated: Sep 01, 2018, 05:11 PM IST

File photo. Photograph:(Reuters)

Sri Lanka's Tamil minority may be satisfied with a further expansion of power to provincial councils instead of their demand for a federal solution, to ensure political autonomy in the northern and eastern regions, a senior Tamil lawmaker has said.

The idea was expressed by Tamil legislator M A Sumanthiran who is involved in formulating a new Constitution which addresses the political aspirations of the Tamils.

On Friday, Sumanthiran was addressing a public seminar in Sinhala-dominated Galle in the south.

The Sinhala majority are sceptical of a possible federal solution, fearing that federalism would pave the way for separation of the north and east regions.

"The question is about political power, the problem can be solved through a new Constitution. This will be the foundation to live in one country, this is where we will consent to live as one country, one people," Sumanthiran said.

"I was asked if a federal system is the answer, I won't say it is needed, we can expand the existing provincial council system, our people are ready to accept that as a solution," he said.

Sumanthiran's comments represent a softer Tamil line on the current government's reconciliation effort with the minority.

The government since 2017 appointed an all-party steering committee to draft a new Constitution to replace the existing 1978 charter.

The opposition has criticised the process as a concession to the Tamil allies of the government, particularly the main Tamil party - the Tamil National Alliance (TNA).

The provincial council system was enshrined in the Sri Lankan Constitution in 1987 as part of the Indo-Sri Lanka Accord to resolve the ethnic conflict.