Constitutional Reforms debate likely end June

A debate on Constitutional reforms by the Constitutional Assembly is likely to take place towards the end of June.

The interim report of the Steering Committee headed by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe will be placed before the Assembly next month, a member of the Steering Committee told the Daily News yesterday.

A copy of the same would be handed over to President Maithripala Sirisena. The interim report, which deals with the vital aspects of Constitutional reforms including the electoral reforms, devolution of power and nature of the State, spells out the contours of the Constitutional Bill. A member of the Steering Committee said a draft interim report prepared by the Constitutional Assembly Secretariat was circulated among the Committee members last week.

“The draft report is given in all three languages. All members of the Steering Committee have been asked to make their comments, if any, on the report in writing on or before May 23,” he said.

The Steering Committee is to sit consecutively from May 23-26 to consider the responses of the members and finalize the report. “Through compromise and negotiation, we will try to reach a consensus during these meetings. Where there is no consensus, the members will be allowed to mention their own positions in the report. Likewise, the dissenting views will also be accommodated,” he explained.

However, it is learnt that this is the third draft interim report presented to the Steering Committee. The Committee members were unable to reach an agreement on the two previous drafts. The latest draft has taken into account all the deliberations up to last Tuesday’s meeting, the Steering Committee sources said.

Sources said the President has regularly been kept informed of all developments at the Steering Committee.

When contacted Joint Opposition Parliamentary Group Leader Dinesh Gunawardena, one of the two members who represent the JO in the Steering Committee spoke in very negative terms on the Constitutional drafting process stating it seriously lacks transparency.

“The JO flatly rejected the two previously submitted draft interim reports. We have been making our contribution actively at the Steering Committee. However, the government wants to do everything in secrecy keeping the others in the dark. We do not have secrets when it comes to matters that affect the country and national security,” he commented.

The reports of six sub-committees on ‘Fundamental Rights, Judiciary, Finance, Public Service, Law and Order, Centre-Periphery’ were presented to the Constitutional Assembly by the Prime Minister on November 19. A three-day debate on Constitutional reforms initially scheduled for January 9 was postponed indefinitely as there was no consensus among the political parties.

The Steering Committee has so far conducted over 50 meetings and according to the sources, a broad agreement over vital aspects such as electoral reforms and devolution of power have been reached after lengthy discussions. (Daily News)

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