The Sunday Leader

Proposed Constitution Loses The “New” Tag

By Easwaran Rutnam

Lakshman Kiriella and Anura Kumara Dissanayake

It was expected to be a new Constitution but after much debate and deliberations, the word “new” has been removed from the amended Resolution to convert Parliament into a Constitutional Assembly.

The word “new” was removed mostly as a result of pressure exerted by the Sri Lanka Freedom Party which is part of the cohabitation government.

A vote on the Resolution was to be taken in Parliament last week but instead a debate took place on the amended text which will be presented to cabinet and later to Parliament.

Leader of the House Lakshman Kiriella said that the text of the Resolution was amended following talks with the Sri Lanka Freedom Party.

The initial text was presented to Parliament last month but it failed to have the full support of Parliament, including that of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party.

Kiriella said that the new text includes the proposed amendments proposed by the Sri Lanka Freedom Party.

According to the amended Resolution on the proposed Constitutional Assembly, a Constitution Bill will only be enacted into law if it is passed in Parliament by a special majority of two-thirds of the whole number of the Members of Parliament, including those not present and subsequently approved by the people at a Referendum as required by Article 83 of the Constitution.

If the Bill is approved by the People at a Referendum, the Bill will become law upon the President certifying the Bill in terms of Article 80(2) of the Constitution.

The expenses of the Constitutional Assembly, the Sub-Committees referred to in Clause 5, and the staff and advisors appointed in terms of this Resolution, is to be charged on the Consolidated Fund, and Parliament will take appropriate steps in respect of same in terms of Article 150 of the Constitution.

The United National Party and the Sri Lanka Freedom Party feel it has become necessary to enact a new Constitution that, inter alia, abolishes the Executive Presidency, ensures a fair and representative Electoral System which eliminates preferential voting, strengthens the democratic rights of all citizens, provides a Constitutional Resolution of the national issue, promotes national reconciliation, establishes a political culture that respects the rule of law, guarantees to the People’s fundamental rights and freedom that assure human dignity and promotes responsible and accountable government.

The amended Resolution states that there will be a Committee of Parliament referred to as the ‘Constitutional Assembly’ which will consist of all Members of Parliament, for the purpose of deliberating, 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.

The proceedings of the Constitutional Assembly will 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 will take steps to ensure the broadcast of the proceedings of the Constitutional Assembly and / or its Sub-Committees.

The Speaker of Parliament will be the Chairman of the Constitutional Assembly. There will be seven Deputy Chairmen of the Constitutional Assembly, who will be elected by the Constitutional Assembly.

The Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) asked as to why the vote on the Resolution is being delayed.

JVP leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake said that his party is ready for the vote at anytime and the delay to take the vote gives the impression that there is a division in the government on the proposal.

The government however said it wants consensus on the proposed Constitutional Assembly and it is for this reason that it is allowing the proposal to be debated in Parliament. Deputy Minister of Power and Renewable Energy Ajith P. Perera said that the government could have used its 2/3rd majority to have the Resolution on proposal passed in Parliament.

However he says the government decided against that move and instead is seeking the support of all political parties in Parliament for the Constitutional Assembly. “We want to reach a consensus on the matter. The government is committed to unite the country and not divide it,” he said.

The Deputy Minister invited all political parties to share their views on the proposal and reach a consensus for the new Constitution.

The Tamil National Alliance (TNA) also urged all political parties to back the process to create a new Constitution.

TNA Parliamentarian Selvam Adaikalanathan said that the Tamils hope the new Constitution will pave the way for the ethnic issue to be resolved. He also said that the government must have talks only with the TNA to reach an agreement on the political solution for the Tamils.The TNA Parliamentarian said that once the TNA and the government reach a consensus on the political solution it can be discussed with other political parties.

 

3 Comments for “Proposed Constitution Loses The “New” Tag”

  1. Manuelpillai

    The “new’ constitution has come to an end it appears.

  2. Sangaralingha

    Constitution is vital to thre functions of the country and it’s people special emphasis should be placed on the freedom of the individuals free movement of the citizens right to express communicate with mother tongue with all departments of the government receive replays in the language understood by the individuals explore the possibility of charter of rights to sll individuals.elections should not be contested on race religion language culture of the society section of the society rights a privileges of the minorities should be protected and special reference in the constitutions for protections of women children. With education a right up to age 16.all child marriages under 18 should be banned.prote tion of environment climate. Change must be emphasised

  3. Constitutional Lawyer

    The term “new” is excluded in the constitutional process. Which means there was no constitution ever in Sri Lanka !

    I always held the view that the first republican constitution of 1972 was unilateral and illegal as the Tamils of North-East (NE) homeland boycotted the “Majority only” attitude of the Sinhala representatives who formed the Constituent Assembly and did not recognise the legitimate rights of the people of NE.

    The constitution of 1978 was from the illegal constitution of 1972 and so was illegal too.

    Therefore, from 1972 SL was governed not by a constitution but by a “Mandate of the Sinhalese” only.. This was done by the “whites” in Southern Rhodesia in 1965, put right by Lancaster conference in 1970.

    So, we are trying to draft the first legal constitution for SL.

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