Sri Lanka begins process of drawing up a new constitution

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COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) — Sri Lanka's government on Saturday began the process of drawing up a new constitution for the country aimed at eliminating causes that led to a quarter-century civil war.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe proposed that Parliament be converted into a constituent assembly that will discuss and draft the new constitution.

President Maithripala Sirisena, speaking in Parliament, said constitutions since Sri Lanka's independence from Britain in 1948 have not focused on unifying different ethnic communities. Objections from the majority ethnic Sinhala community to power sharing deals with minority ethnic Tamils in the early years led to terrorism and war, he said.

"I believe now, through our past bitter experiences, we must prepare ourselves for future challenges," he said.

Sri Lankan troops in 2009 defeated the Tamil Tiger rebels, who were fighting to create an independent state for the country's minority ethnic Tamils.

According to a United Nations report, at least 40,000 Tamil civilians may have been killed in just the final months of the civil war.

The Sri Lankan government has promised the U.N. human rights council that it will investigate alleged war crime allegations against government troops and Tamil Tiger rebels.

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