New constitution Is this the correct time?
Posted on February 16th, 2019

By Gamini Abeywardane Courtesy Ceylon Today

The debate over a new Constitution has come to the fore again.  Many critics, especially those who do not like to see any progress in this regard, due to personal agendas, are raising issues saying that there are many other grave issues facing the country which need to be tackled before introducing a new Constitution.

If there is a strong need for something in a country, that has to be done at whatever time possible. No politically honest person will argue against the need for a totally new Constitution. The election of 2015 was fought on the theme of abolishing the current Constitution and establishing a system of good governance while resolving the national issue once and for all. All the minority communities as well as educated and right-thinking sections of the population whole-heatedly supported a political change with this intention.

The importance of a good Constitution became clearer than ever before during the recent constitutional crisis which finally had to be resolved by the country’s highest Court. Most people who earlier asked whether the Constitution was for the people to eat (Vyavasthava Kannada), were reading that document day and night during this seven weeks of political and economic turmoil. So much so all the printed copies of the Constitution and the nineteenth Amendment were sold out like hot cakes and there was a shortage of these at the Government Publications Bureau.

Need for a new Constitution

The need for a new Constitution began with anti-democratic and authoritarian trends experienced under the present Constitution at different times. That is why both past Presidents, Chandrika Kumaratunga (in 1994) and Mahinda Rajapaksa (in 2005) and present President Maithripala Sirisena (in 2015) included abolition of the executive presidency as one of the main items in their presidential election manifestos.

In most countries the majority of the people do not understand the importance of a Constitution as they mistakenly think it does not have any direct bearing on their lives. Even here our political landscape is full of rhetoric to say there are more important issues than a Constitution at this point of time. All this has become possible because of the ignorance of the majority that a good Constitution is fundamental to all economic and social well-being of a nation.

It becomes more so in a multi-ethnic country which has a history of conflict among different communities. On the top of it, there is a segment of politicians who are not genuinely interested in sorting out any of these issues and try every trick in the book to stifle the implementation of a new Constitution for their own political survival.

For the chauvinist and racist politicians, both in the South and the North, the unresolved northern issue is a very useful thing much like the beggar’s wound (Hingannage Thuwale) as it is easy for them to survive in politics by harping on this issue. It is much easier to inflame communal feelings among people than finding actual solutions to social and economic issues faced by them.

The issue about the constitution has a long history in our country. When we gained our independence there was no demand for separation from the Tamil mainstream politicians. They all agreed upon the Soulbury Constitution, which was drafted after a consultation process, which went on for more than two years. It had adequate protection for minority interests and continued to be our supreme law until 1972.

The first republican constitution of 1972 was a majority community imposed document which took away some of the specific provisions protecting the interests of minorities. It was bulldozed through a revolutionary method by a Constituent Assembly which sat outside the Parliament without the participation of the Tamil Parliamentarians. The whole exercise was carried out with the intention of severing all colonial constitutional links to facilitate quick implementation of socialistic policies of the then United Front Government.

Then, the Constitution of 1978 was similarly forced upon the country by the J. R. Jayewardene Government, by making use of the five-sixth majority they had in the Parliament. It changed the whole governing and electoral system of the country by introducing the Executive Presidency and the underlying intention, it appeared, was to perpetuate the grip of the United National Party in Sri Lankan politics.

A significant constitutional development thereafter, was the introduction of the thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution which drastically changed the nature of the executive by taking away the powers to make key appointments and handing it over to several independent commissions. This was a great achievement because in passing this piece of legislation there was unanimity in the Parliament which is a rare thing.

But unfortunately, this was short-lived as it was replaced by the eighteenth Amendment which gave all those powers back to the Executive President. It enhanced the power of the executive presidency by removing the two-term restriction. This led to a near dictatorial situation threatening rule of law as well as good governance.

The nineteenth Amendment, which is in force at the moment, came as a direct result of the need for changing this situation. However, it addressed only the good governance issue by establishing a Constitutional Council and Independent Commissions and introducing a more democratic mechanism for appointing persons to some high posts. It was a hurriedly introduced interim measure and therefore, did not address the vital national issue of power devolution which was left to an entirely new Constitution as promised in the 2015 election campaign.

Accordingly, a process to draft a new Constitution began with the formation of a Constitutional Assembly in March 2016 where all 225 members of parliament sit as a committee.

Thereafter, a Steering Committee consisting of 21 members, reflecting the general political party leadership within parliament, was appointed for preparation of a constitutional proposal. From that time onwards, through public representation committee and by other means the views of all sections of the people have been accommodated in the process of making a set of constitutional proposals which has finally gone into the tentative draft which has now come before the Steering Committee.

The final draft of a constitutional bill has to be prepared based on these proposals. In order for that to become law, it must be passed in the Parliament by a two thirds majority and finally approved by the people in a nationwide referendum. This sort of long and participatory process will ensure that a Constitution so adopted will have the approbation of the people and therefore, will likely to last long.

Proper procedure

In other words this is the first time a Constitution is being prepared with adequate time allocated for the process and giving opportunities to all segments of the people to make representations akin to the process followed in India when they wrote their own Constitution soon after independence.  This is also the first time after independence, all the communities, particularly the Tamils, are participating in a Constitution making process.

Therefore, if these efforts become successful all the elements that are necessary for this document to be long lasting are present unlike in the previous instances. Therefore, the timing for its finalization is immaterial, if it is going to do some good for the country. The best time is the time whenever two thirds of the members of the Parliament can agree on it.

It could be done by the current Government or could be the first priority for the next Government. Seventy years have passed since independence and it’s time that we develop the right Constitution for the country ending the fears over dividing the country. We need to get all communities and all regions to actively participate in economic development if we are not to become the losers in South Asia in this fast changing world scenario.

2 Responses to “New constitution Is this the correct time?”

  1. Ancient Sinhalaya Says:

    This is what traitor anti Buddhist, anti Sinhalese, anti Sri Lanka, minority worshiping, Mother Lanka dismembering thieving, lying, murderous (Sinhalese Buddhists only making sure no tamils/mussies hurt/killed which is a war crime) UNPatriotic_rats do every time they get into power. Why? Constitution tweaking is always in the minorities and UNPatriotic_rats favour of course. Then Sinhalese (patriotic ones only) get upset and the country is in turmoil, minorities are overjoyed and UNPatriotic_rats don’t have to do any work then. Crafty traitors!

    This is what the traitor alugosuwa (to Sinhalese Buddhists, Sri Lanka and Buddhism only) thambi mudiyanselage
    [email protected] taught these traitor murderous lying thieves. Make the country a hell by Constitution tweaking or murdering Sinhalese and carry on as long as possible without holding elections, don’t do any work, lose elections next time, disappear to enjoy the loot, come back with a brand new set of lies to fool Sinhala Buddhist modayas and win and carry on as before. Traitor UNPatriotic_rats know tamils, mussies and catholics vote 100% for them and with the support of few Sinhala Buddhist modayas (dhrohiyas) the traitor thieves are in a win win situation. This is what’s happening now. Name one thing these traitor thieves done since thambi mudiyanselage [email protected]’s time. NONE!

    Sinhala Buddhist modayas never understand and the destruction of Buddhism, Sri Lanka and Sinhalese race
    goes on without a hitch to the delight of mussies, tamils and catholics, india and the west. Traitor chief die hard catholic token Buddhist bay gal karaya mega thief mega thakkadiya walking crime bomb (against Sinhalese Buddhist, Sri Lanka and Buddhism only) Batalande Wa(n)dakaya Pol Pot [email protected]_leech wickrama Sinhala killer is at
    the helm and nobody dares troubling traitor alugosuwa (to Sinhalese Buddhists only).

    One eyed bandit queen didn’t want to punish wa(n)dakaya when it was caught massacring Sinhalese Buddhists jaathidhrohee vermins’ party aka jvp activists with its portuguese police top brass. Bandit queen turned a blind
    (only one) eye. Then MR also didn’t want to take any action since he has a portuguese wife. Traitor alugosuwa let off the hook again to carry on the destruction.

    Then Pol Pot broke into CB with its catholic buddy maha horandran and got away with Rs 5585 billion. No punishment. In 2005 it gave half the country on a plate to its catholic buddy barrel man hilter mala paharan on
    a plate. When the catholic tigers of tamil drealam project didn’t take off, wandakaya grassed all Millennium City
    intelligent officers to the catholic tigers of tamil drealam bullet to expedite the cause. Still no punishment. Then
    wandakaya became the back seat driver by putting MY3 to the president job and appointed its porguese
    judges to the judiciary so if anything Constitutional done, wandakaya can always run to its yes men and turn it
    back on its favour.

    Killed 60,000+ Sinhalese Buddhists with their portuguese police top brass for 6 years which Sirima B took just 2
    weeks. She rounded up all the culprits, rehabilitated and released back to the society minimising loss of lives. UNPatriotic_rats saw a very good chance to cull Sinhalese Buddhists and kill, kill and kill for 6 years the shot gun wielding outfit. Rehabilitated 0. What for? They were Sinhalese Buddhists was their portuguese police top brass thought. Meanwhile catholic tigers of tamil drelam? They were mollycoddled for 30 years and sacrificed 100,000+, mainly Buddhists. 2nd Sinhalese cull! Still Sinhala Buddhists modayas don’t understand thanks to Sri Lankan
    media which is controlled by UNPatriotic_rats henchmen who made sure to paint a rosy picture saying the traitors are fighting the real terras.

    Traitor UNPatriotic_rats’ list of treacheries goes on and on and still some Sinhala modayas can’t get enough of
    these murderous (Sinhalese Buddhists only, nobody utters a word, no AI, no UN, no Sinhalese deshapaluwa)
    lying thieves. Sinhalaya called modayas for a reason.

  2. Ancient Sinhalaya Says:

    Traitor anti Buddhist, anti Sinhalese, anti Sri Lanka, minority worshiping, Mother Lanka dismembering, country
    submitting to foreign powers UNPatriotic_rats’ some of the treacheries. ONLY SOME. List is too long. How about
    creating ever Mother Lanka hating, ever Mother Lanka dismembering diasporats?

    How about giving 650,000+ estate tamils who volunteered to go to tn under patriotic Sirima B Shasthri Pact?
    Sirima B lost the elections, and thambi mudiyanelage [email protected] gave citizenship to all 650,000+ for their votes.

    How about traitor alugosuwa (to Sinhalese Buddhists, Sri Lanka and Buddhism only) lk [email protected] sending 600+ policemen to catholic tigers of tamil drealam bullet. How about massacring Sinhala Buddhist jaathidhrohee
    vermins’ party supporters brutally (headless corpses in town centres burning, in rivers) while mollycoddling
    catholic tigers of tamil drealam. Central school educated ones were the top target for portuguese police top brass
    knowing they represented the core Sinhalese Buddhists.

    How about killing 150+ Sinhalese Buddhist children in Amiblipitya and burying in mass graves. They were massacred because they were Buddhists school children. Nobody uttered a word. This is the pathetic situation of Sinhalese Buddhists’today thanks to these thieving, lying, murderous (Sinhalese Buddhists only) Buddhism destroying, drug dealing thugs of the UNPatriotic_rats party deshaplauwan.

    How about implementing 13, 13A by thambi mudiyaselage [email protected] to break up the vast vast country with several
    time zones? to please tamils, mussies, india and the west. UNPatriotic_rats party a Sinhalese party? Not a bit Sinhala modayas. You won’t see these in so called Buddhist (on paper) Sri Lanka where all the media are
    controlled by UNPatriotitc_rats’ henchmen.

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