By Dharisha Bastians
Drafters of the new constitutional proposals may use the Sinhalese word ‘Ekeeya’ with a clear definition annotated in both the Sinhalese and English texts, as lawmakers struggle to avoid the political minefields the words ‘unitary’ and ‘federal’ tend to create in the island’s north and south.
Senior constitutional lawyer and ruling party MP Dr. Jayampathy Wickremaratne told foreign correspondents this week that ‘Ekeeya’ would include a definition in both the Sinhalese and English texts, that explicitly states that Sri Lanka will be ‘one, undivided, indivisible’ country, that sovereignty would lie with the people as a whole and that making and amending the constitution will be a power solely vested in the Central Legislature or the National Parliament.
The Tamil text of the draft proposals may use the word ‘Orumitha Nadu,’ meaning one country, Dr. Wickremaratne explained. Experts contend that the Sinhalese word ‘Ekeeya’ does not explicitly translate as the word “unitary” as meant by political scientists, and Dr. Wickremaratne pointed out that when people in the south say they want an “ekeeya raajya,” they mean an undivided country as laid out in the definition the drafting committee is discussing.
“In the end, labels don’t matter,” Dr Wickremaratne noted. Even the word unitary, as defined in political science, has changed over time, the senior lawyer explained.
“The United Kingdom is considered the mother of all unitary states. But in the end, that country had to let Ireland go, and even allowed the Scottish people to decide on secession through a referendum,” he pointed out, adding, “so the word unitary in a constitution therefore offers no real safeguard against secession. Meanwhile there is no case anywhere in the world where the devolution of power leads to secession.”