Sri Lanka's government has begun 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 Saturday 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 have not focused on unifying different ethnic communities.

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 fighting.