Still No Sign Of A New Constitution

by Ashanthi Warunasuriya

  • While many opinions have been expressed regarding the new Constitution, the President had instructed the relevant committees to expedite the reports pertaining to the formulation of the new Constitutional process
  • Another significant issue is that the President had asked his legal advisors to prepare the draft for proposed Constitution that can be passed with a 2/3rd majority without a referendum 

Lakshman Kiriella, Susil Premajayantha, Ranjith Madduma Bandara

President Maithripala Sirisena has instructed several senior ministers to expedite the Constitution drafting process.  Although the topic of formulating a new Constitution has been discussed, there is a concern among many over the delay in the process.

Formulating a new Constitution was one of the main election promises of the good governance regime. While many opinions have been expressed regarding the new Constitution, the President had instructed the relevant committees to expedite the reports pertaining to the formulation of the new Constitutional process.

The President had wanted the public kept informed of the progress. The reduction of executive presidential powers and revising of the electoral system are important features of the new constitution.

Another significant issue is that the President had asked his legal advisors to prepare the draft for proposed Constitution that can be passed with a 2/3rd majority without a referendum.  The President had said this during a discussion he had with Chief Ministers recently.

Although there is speculation that the government is preparing to divide the country according to a federal system, the President reiterated that be it federal or otherwise, he will not allow the country to be divided.

Social Welfare and Empowerment Minister S.B. Dissanayake said the possibility of having the Constitutional amendments passed with a 2/3rd majority without a referendum was stated in the good governance election manifesto and that is the President’s stand.   Minister of Labour and Trade Unions Relations W. D.J. Seneviratna said that from the beginning the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) was of the view had that Constitutional amendment were required.

Minister Susil Premajayantha said if the government opts for a Constitutional amendment, it can be done without calling for a referendum.

However the SLFP is of the view that if the Executive Presidency is abolished, it would have a negative effect on the sovereignty of this country.

Meanwhile factions in the SLFP and the United National Party (UNP) claimed that differences of opinion in the new Constitution are the main reason for the delay in drafting a new Constitution.  Senior UNP member Ranjith Madduma Bandara said the process of formulating a new Constitution is dragging on because of the SLFP. He said the current government was formed by the President and the UNP and the SLFP should understand that position. He indicated that the UNP is working to bring a new Constitution.

In response to Madduma Bandara’s comment, Minister John Amaratunga said it is true that there are issues between the SLFP and UNP factions within the government and added that in order to overcome these obstacles and work together amicably, representatives of both parties should sit together and discuss issues in a cordial manner.

Meanwhile, Higher Education Minister Lakshman Kiriella said the UNP received the mandate of the people at the last election based on the promise of formulating a new Constitution.

Kiriella pointed out that during the election campaign, President Sirisena had promised to bring in a new Constitution and get it approved at a referendum. “What is the harm in getting the approval of the people after formulating a new Constitution?” he asked.  Joint opposition member Prasanna Ranatunge said whether it is formulating a new Constitution or amending the existing one, the public need to be focused and on alert to see if it is harmful or useful to the country.

He said if a Constitutional amendment will be detrimental to the country, under no circumstance will the joint opposition give its backing. He also accused the government of acting according to the whims and fancies of the Diaspora and it is fair to have suspicions about the government’s intentions, considering the slow pace and deliberate delay in taking a decision regarding the constitution. H says the public must be alert regarding the situation in the country and if there is even the slightest indication that the government is planning on taking any decision that is unfavorable to the country, the joint opposition is prepared to gather all forces against the government and take to the streets in protest.

UNP, MP Mujibur Rahuman said the Constitutional amendment is something that the government promised the people and it should be done without delay. He said just as the government made a commitment to foster reconciliation among the Tamils in the North and Sinhalese in the South, the constitution issue should also be resolved without delay.  He pointed out that devolution of power was nothing new to this country and said that even in the 1987 Indo-Sri Lanka peace accord, devolution of power was among the issues discussed. Similarly, he said no matter what issue arises regarding a referendum, if the government wants to amend the Constitution, seeking public views through a referendum is a vital factor.

Expressing his views on the new Constitution, Chairman of the Sri Lanka Podu Jana Peramuna G.L. Peiris said the government has no desire or mechanism with regard to formulating a new Constitution. He pointed out that despite speculations, there are around ten clauses in the Constitution that cannot be amended without a referendum and the Executive Presidency cannot be abolished without that. “Just like the Diaspora, there is huge pressure being excerpted on the government of Sri Lanka. As the government is indebted to the Diaspora they will say whatever it takes to please them, but the government has no proper plan to address any of these concerns.”  The JVP who constantly harped on the Constitution as well as the devolution of power, is of the view that as the SLFP claims, if the UNP agrees to it, they would be defying the mandate they received.

“The President did not receive the people’s mandate as the Chairman of the SLFP. Hence he has no right to stand up for those representing the SLFP Interim Committee. This is hoodwinking the people who voted for him.

What we want is for the Executive Presidency to be abolished and a new Constitution brought in through a referendum. If the Northern people’s grievances have not been resolved so far with the current devolution of power, then the government will need to look at an alternative power devolution package in order to address the issued faced by the Northern people,” said JVP MP Dr. Nalinda Jayatissa.

Left Front leader Vasudeva Nanayakkara said, “Even we are unaware if the government is planning on amending the existing Constitution or bringing in a new Constitution. A Constitutional amendment cannot be done without a referendum. However, despite all these issues, our future goal is to defeat this government,” he added.

6 Comments for “Still No Sign Of A New Constitution”

  1. raj

    Mr.Sumanthiran and Mr.Sampanthan are misleading Tamils by claiming that they will achieve something that is impossible. When Tamils realize the impossible is really a impossible, they will get depressed. When that happens, Both Sampanthan and Sumanthiran will hide themselves from public

  2. Sangaralingham

    Country is not a united country. Various actions by all the parties individuals leaders indicate psychologically is divided nation. However it is not the intentions of the public at large from north douth east west and in between vertically horizontally diagonally etc to divide the country. People viewing for political power wheter in higher echelon of society whether went to oxford or to paris to local university to get elected to deceive the masses most of them does not know anything about he social fabric mislead and manage to Cretate disunity disgraceful behaviour use of defence forces to destroy kill abductand pretend to be working for united country hose ever constitution must say all parliamentarian has sufficent education know their country conversant with society and respect cultural aspect which is nurturant instinct of society not born with their behaviour so constitution mustbe honest responsible must respect sll cultural aspect of each and every society

  3. raj

    What Sri Lankan forces practiced with Tamils in Sri Lanka now they are applying that skills in other countries as a peace keepers. Good luck to UN’s effort to place forces being accused of war crimes. Sri Lankan president has already said he would not let any of the forces to be prosecuted

  4. raj

    Other countries can learn from Sri Lanka on how to win a war by committing war crimes.

  5. srilanka government depend on the Army to the political settlement ,Army is ruling the country there is no democratic government ,tamil are fighting for democratic rights but government is not a democratic depend on forces. wanted to take action the Army killed the civilian not killed Rape girls front of parents army was enjoying sexual live by former government even now most of the wanted criminal are in parliament pressident and prime minister supporting tamil in jail without case, but politician criminal are freee from cases, mr Mimal weerawansa was free from corruption and criminal

  6. UN want peace keeping in srilanka to investigate the war crime, but president of srilanka will not going against the Army, he depend on Army srilanka still army government. judical in a mess by minister of justice, he helping the monks go against tamil ,srilanka is a eye wash in constitution , education and economic are very poor ,prime minister wanted to give luxury cars for ministers,

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