“Terminology should not be a key issue,” Swiss-supported seminar tells Eezham Tamils

[TamilNet, Wednesday, 20 January 2016, 23:28 GMT]
A series of seminars organised by Jayampathy Wickramaratne's Institute of Constitutional Studies with the support of Switzerland Embassy and attended by a Co-Director of Switzerland-based Institute of Federalism at the invitation of NPC Chief Minister C.V. Wigneswaran ended up advocating the ‘non-descript’ approach of Jayampathy Wickramaratna and M.A. Sumanthiran, especially when the key academic of the seminar, Professor Eva Maria Belser, was stressing that “terminology should not be a key issue” in the constitutional process. The Foreign Ministry of Switzerland has been backing the so-called ‘Singapore principle’ process and the non-descript approach of Jayamapthy Wickramaratne, for which Mr Sumanthiran has been a strong advocate.

Jayamapathy Wickramaratne, who is a UNP politician leading the constitutional process in Colombo's parliament, has been terming Tamils a minority in his interviews and interactions. He has been interacting with the Swiss Institute of Federalism for some years, informed political sources in Jaffna said.

The other two delegates brought by Eva Maria Belser were Professor Nico Steytler from Cape Town, South Africa and Mr. Maurizio Maggetti from the Swiss Institute of Federalism, who has worked earlier in Colombo with Berghof Foundation and with a Colombo-based local NGO Sarvodaya.

While some Constitutions, which officially claim to be federal in nature, accord limited powers to sub-national units, there are unitary States, which are strongly de-centralised and give a lot of competencies and independencies to sub-national units, said Eva Maria Belser, who was arguing that terminologies were not important.

Justice C.V. Wigneswaran, in his introductory address was talking about the broken pacts between the Tamils and Colombo since 1956 to the P-TOMS agreement in 2005, the provincial councils lacking power and the Tamil people's Right to Self-Determination.

“As Tamils we need to be very clear in our mind as to what should be the basis of constitutional reform process and political settlement that should be reached, in order to avoid the bitter past experience,” C.V. Wigneswaran said.

“As outsiders, we can obviously not offer any answers to the open questions in your country or solutions. We would love to offer some inspirations from the countries we are from,” Prof Belser said.

Although the seminar didn't advocate a particular direction in the broad area of federalism, it was designed in a sophisticated manner to pass certain messages to Tamils, political observers in Jaffna told TamilNet.

The seminars were held on Monday and Tuesday.


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