The Sunday Leader

Road To New Constitution Begins This Week

by Easwaran Rutnam

Jayampathy Wickremaratne

President Maithripala Sirisena will on Saturday submit a resolution seeking approval to convert Parliament into a ‘Constitutional Assembly’ as a first step to make key constitutional reforms.

Constitutional expert, Parliamentarian Jayampathy Wickremeratne said that while in the past a Parliament Select Committee had been tasked with proposing constitutional reforms, this time the entire Parliament will take part in the initial process.

“Earlier whatever was discussed by the Parliament Select Committee was not placed on the public domain but since now the process will be done in Parliament everything will be in the hansard,” he said.

The resolution to be submitted by the President on January 09 notes that there shall be a Committee of Parliament referred to as the ‘Constitutional Assembly’ which shall consist of all Members of Parliament, for the purpose of deliberating on, and seeking the views and advice of the people, on a new constitution for Sri Lanka, and preparing a draft of a Constitution Bill for the consideration of Parliament in the exercise of its powers under Article 75 of the Constitution.

Wickremeratne said that some members of the opposition are attempting to give the impression the process is being conducted in violation of the present constitution. However he claims the entire process is within the framework of the current constitution.

Jayampathy Wickremeratne said that the ‘Constitutional Assembly’ will set the groundwork for a new electoral process and also a political solution for the Tamil issue.

Minority Tamil political parties are backing the ‘Constitutional Assembly’ and will submit their own set of proposals.

The Tamil National Alliance (TNA) and the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) had discussions on Wednesday on the proposed constitutional changes. The TNA media office said that the discussion was the first round of talks between the two political parties on the proposed constitutional changes.

The SLMC delegation was led by Minister Rauff Hakeem while the TNA delegation was led by opposition leader R. Sampanthan

Hakeem said that attempts are being made to topple the coalition government but all the coalition members will ensure the government stays strong.

Wickremeratne meanwhile said that apart from the role of the politicians in the reforms process the Government is also seeking public views.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe last week appointed a committee to obtain public views on constitutional reforms.

The Prime Minister had received the approval of the cabinet to appoint the committee. The committee headed by Attorney-at-law Lal Wijeynayake includes 24 members.

The committee appointed by Wickremesinghe comprises politicians and civil society members.

The committee will obtain written and oral proposals from the public  around the country and submit the proposals to the cabinet sub-committee on electoral reforms. The resolution to be submitted by the President to Parliament on Saturday notes that the Speaker of Parliament shall be the Chairman of the Constitutional Assembly and that there will be seven Deputy Chairmen of the Constitutional Assembly, who shall be elected by the Constitutional Assembly.

In the absence of the Speaker, the Constitutional Assembly will elect one of the Deputy Chairmen to chair the sittings of the Assembly. There will also be clerks to the Constitutional Assembly for the purpose of recording the proceedings of the Constitutional Assembly and the Committees, Constitutional Advisors to the Constitutional Assembly, a Legal Secretary to Constitutional Assembly and assistants to such Legal Secretary; and Media (including Social Media) staff of the Constitutional Assembly.

The Media Staff will set up and maintain a website and use other appropriate media, towards giving due publicity to the process for the adoption of a new Constitution for Sri Lanka.

The Media Staff will ensure that the proceedings of the Constitutional Assembly and its committees, as well as public representations and submissions are documented and published on such website along with such other relevant expert or technical opinions.

A Steering Committee consisting of the Prime Minister (Chairman), Leader of the Opposition, Leader of the House, the Minister of Justice, and not more than eleven other Members of the Constitutional Assembly will be appointed by the Constitutional Assembly.

The Steering Committee will be responsible for the business of the Constitutional Assembly and for preparing a Draft of a new Constitution for Sri Lanka.

The Prime Minister will at the first meeting of the Constitutional Assembly present a Resolution for adoption by the Constitutional Assembly, calling upon the Steering Committee to present a Resolution proposing a Draft Constitution Bill for the consideration of the Constitutional Assembly prior to its submission to the Cabinet of Ministers and Parliament.

“The proceedings of the Constitutional Assembly and its Sub-Committees shall be open to the public. The proceedings of the Constitutional Assembly and its Sub-Committees shall be documented and published forthwith. Where appropriate the Constitutional Assembly shall take steps to ensure the broadcast of the proceedings of the Constitutional Assembly and / or its Sub-Committees. For the avoidance of doubt it is hereby specifically resolved that the special leave of Parliament is specifically granted in terms of section 17 of the Parliament (Powers and Privileges) Act for the publication of the aforesaid matters. For the avoidance of doubt it is further resolved that the proceedings of the Constitutional Assembly and the Sub-Committees shall be deemed to have been reported to Parliament simultaneously, and that the publication of any such proceedings, which publication is hereby specifically authorized, shall not constitute an offence in terms of the Parliament (Powers and Privileges) Act,” the resolution notes.

The Constitutional Assembly will have the power to invite any person for consultation and or to make submissions before the Constitutional Assembly.

The Constitutional Assembly is also authorized to determine the procedure and mechanisms to be adopted in the conduct of its business.

Upon the consideration of the Reports of the Sub-Committees , and the Public Representation Commission, the Steering Committee shall submit a Report to the Constitutional Assembly. Such Report may be accompanied by a draft Constitution.

The Constitutional Assembly shall thereafter debate the general merits and principles of the Report and the draft Constitution, and may also debate proposed amendments. At the end of such debate the question that “the Steering Committee be required to submit a final report and a resolution on a draft Constitution” shall be put to the Constitutional Assembly by the Chair.

The Steering Committee will thereafter, considering the amendments, if any, proposed during the debate, submit a Final Report and a resolution containing a draft Constitution for the consideration of the Constitutional Assembly. The Prime Minister shall move that such Final Report and the resolution containing the draft Constitution be approved by the Constitutional Assembly.

If two-thirds of the Constitutional Assembly does not approve the resolution on the draft Constitution, the Constitutional Assembly and the Committees referred to in Resolution shall stand dissolved. If the Constitutional Assembly approves the resolution on the draft Constitution by a two-thirds majority, the Report and the draft Constitution shall be submitted by the Steering Committee to the Cabinet of Ministers, and thereupon the Constitutional Assembly and the Sub-Committees referred to in the Resolution shall stand dissolved.

The Cabinet of Ministers shall certify the draft Bill contained in such Report as a Bill to repeal and replace the Constitution as a whole in terms of Article 75(b) and Article 120(b) and that such bill is intended to be passed with the special majority required by Article 83 and submitted to the People by Referendum.

The Bill shall thereafter be published in the Gazette as required by Article 78(1) of the Constitution. The President shall thereafter refer the Bill to every Provincial Council, and seek their views, as required by Article 154G(2) of the Constitution.

After the presentation of a Bill to Parliament the Prime Minister will move the Constitution Bill be passed by the House by a special majority required under Article 83.



2 Comments for “Road To New Constitution Begins This Week”

  1. Isiirangeen Udarath Wanigasekara

    We need a good constitution fast!

    • Suren soysa

      But certainly not a Constitution that will need amendments like the recent Guinness record book Budget of the “yahapalanaya”. We also do not need a constitution that will give any self governance to the Sinhalese.Tamils or Muslims under any circumstance. All must be under a CENTRAL government and that central government can be Sinhalese,Tamil or Muslim. The provincial councils should be abolished. The drafting has to be 100% Sri Lankan & no foreign body need get involved or consulted. Boasting of an over 2500 year history, aren’t these so called constitutional experts not ashamed to get advise from countries with less than 500 years of history? I bet this will be the biggest JOKE of the century created by a mixture of local & foreign men and women who label them as EXPERTS!

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