Former External Affairs Minister Prof. G. L. Peiris yesterday said the UNP-SLFP coalition would amend Prime Minister’s Ranil Wickremesinghe’s resolution for enacting a new Constitution.
Prof. Peiris said the Joint Opposition, the JVP as well as the SLFPers in the government wanted far reaching amendments to the motion.
Parliament will have a special session today to consider amendments.
Urging the government to be flexible, Prof. Peiris said the proposed constitution making process shouldn’t be based on the motion submitted to parliament last Saturday.
Responding to a question by The Island, Prof. Peiris said the ruling coalition couldn’t ignore the strong stand taken by the Joint Opposition, the JVP and a section of the government in respect of the Prime Minister’s resolution. Dismissing accusations that the Joint Opposition opposed the proposed enactment of a new Constitution, Prof. Peiris said that the bone of contention was the procedures to be followed in enacting a new Constitution.
Prof. Peiris said the Premier’s resolution in its present form, had far reaching consequences with regard to the rights of the people, the authority of parliament and the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court.
The former Constitutional Affairs Minister said that the proposed process ran counter to the much-touted yahapalanaya principles of the new administration. The resolution in its present form would result in a Steering Committee (SC) and various sub committees appointed by the SC securing a crucial role with regard to the making of a new Constitution. Claiming that Parliament would be transformed into a mere rubber stamp, Prof. Peiris said that the proposed process was contrary to the Standing Orders of Parliament.
Asked where there were remedial measures to be adopted to ensure participation of all stakeholders in the process, Prof. Peiris called for the appointment of what he called the Committee of the whole House in accordance with Standing Orders 86.
Prof. Peiris said that Parliament couldn’t delegate its power to a Constitutional Assembly under any circumstances. Such a move would be in conflict with the basic provisions of the Constitution, the former MP said. “A Committee cannot draft a Constitution. It can only prepare a report to be submitted to Parliament for consideration. The Premier’s resolution also has the effect of depriving the people of their right to go to Supreme Court to ensure compliance with the Constitution.”
Prof. Peiris alleged that the entire constitutional reforms project was a huge a diversionary tactic to deflect public attention from the burning economic issues, particularly the lack of a proper budget and failure of the government to address economic issues.
Prof. Peiris said that the public should be wary of government plans to bring legislation before parliament to implement the Geneva resolution adopted on Sept. 30, last year, with horrendous consequences for Sri Lanka and especially for her armed forces.
Prof. Peiris urged the government to consult all stakeholders without resorting to unilateral action. Responding to a query, Prof.Peiris pointed out that groups outside Parliament, too, had proposed valuable recommendations/amendments to the proposed Constitution which could be considered. But, first and foremost, correct procedures should be adopted. That would entirely depend on amending the resolution submitted to Parliament last Saturday, the former Minister said.
(Source: The Island – By Shamindra Ferdinando)