Panel to draft new constitution

constitutionThe Sri Lankan cabinet sub-committee for drafting a new Constitution for the island nation, which was formed on Wednesday, has two Tamils – D.M.Swaminathan, Minister of Rehabilitation and Resettlement; and Mano Ganeshan, Minister for National Dialogue.

While Swaminathan is a Ceylon Tamil from Jaffna, Ganeshan is an Indian Origin Tamil from Colombo.

This is the first time the Tamils, who are Lanka’s largest minority, are involved in Constitution making in the island nation. The 1972 and 1978 Constitutions were drafted without Tamil participation.

The cabinet sub-committee is headed by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, and comprises: Nimal Sripala de Silva, Lakshman Kiriella, Rauff Hakeem, Susil Premajayantha, Rishad Bathiyudeen, Patali Champika Ranawaka, Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe, D.M.Swaminathan, Mano Ganeshan and Malik Samarawickrama.

As Lanka is now having a “National Government” the cabinet sub-committee has representatives from United National Party (UNP),  Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC), All Ceylon Makkal Congress (ACMC), Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU), and Tamil Progressive Alliance (TPA).

The 11-member committee has seven Sinhalese, two Tamils, and two Muslims.

Sirisena’s Scheme

It was on November 16, that President Maithripala Sirisena proposed to the cabinet that a sub-committee be formed under the Prime Minister, to prepare a “conceptual note” on constitutional changes for submission to the Cabinet of Ministers for approval.

The President had directed the sub-committee to consult various political groups and representatives of public organizations.

In his cabinet paper, President Sirisena had proposed that the present Executive Presidency be abolished and its powers transfered to parliament.He also proposed that the present Proportional Representation System be replaced by a “more democratic electoral system”.

By “a more democratic system” he meant a partial introduction of the First Past the Post System and the substitution of District Constituencies by smaller constituencies as in countries which have a parliamentary form of government.

Preliminary Conceptual Note

According to a priliminary conceptual note  prepared by constitutional advisors to the government and accepted by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, the present parliament will assume the form of a “Constitutional Assembly” for the purpose of drafting a new constitution though it will continue to function as a normal lsw making body also.

The Constitutional Assembly will form a number of committees to deliberate on specific subjects.

The final draft constitution  will have to get a two thirds majority in parliament as well as secure the approval of the general public through a Referendum.

Right to Information

The Lankan cabinet on Wednesday also decided to issue a gazette notification on a Right to Information bill and table a draft bill in parliament.

Ever since the Indian parliament passed the Right to Informatiin bill, there has been a demand for one in Sri Lanka.But former President Mahinda Rajapsksa  was determined not to yield to that demand.

The successor regime of Siridena and Wickremesinghe consider an RTI act as a necessary component of “Yahapalanaya” or Good Governance. (New Indian Express)

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