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Debate on Interim Report to continue until Nov. 5: Chairman, Constitutional Assembly

The debate on the interim report of the Steering Committee on Constitutional Reforms would continue on November 05 too before the Constitutional Assembly.

The Constitutional Assembly yesterday, decided to continue with the debate on the Interim Report of the Steering Committee today, though it was planned to wind up yesterday.

However, later the Party Leaders had decided to continue with the debate on November 05 too.

However, the Chairman of the Constitutional Assembly Karu Jayasuriya observed yesterday morning, that he had decided to extend the duration of the three day debate by one more day due requests made by the MPs seeking for more time to speak.

He said that a large number of MPs have asked for additional time and pointed out the need for each member to speak on the debate.

The Assembly had previously allocated three days from Monday to Wednesday for the debate. On Monday, the debate started at 10,30 am and continued till 6.30 pm. One Tuesday and Wednesday the debate continued till 8 pm.

Both the Government and Opposition MPs participated in the debate, while some Opposition MPs complained that they were not given time to participate in the debate, while some others complained that the time allocated to them was insufficient.

Chairman Karu Jayasuriya said that 17 members who were in the list to participate in the debate on Tuesday, could not participate in the debate due to lack of time. He added as per their requests and also a request by the Leader of the House Higher Education and Highways Minister Lakshman Kiriella, Chairman Jayasuriya decided to extend the duration of time by one more day.

Constitution should be drafted with approval of all: Minister Ranawaka

The proposals for the new Constitution comes out as a representation of views of all, whereas all the previous came on the whims and fancies of political parties, said Megapolis and Western Development Minister Patali Champika Ranawaka yesterday.

He also said that a Constitution should be drafted on the approval of the majority of the minority.

He made these observations yesterday, during the debate on the interim report of the Steering Committee on Constitutional Reforms which was held in Parliament.

Minister Ranawaka stated that the foundation of the new Constitution is the state of stability and democracy.

He added that the stance on the unitary status of the country is very clear. "Our stance is that the second clause of the 1978 Constitution should be kept intact in the new Constitution," Minister Ranawaka said.

"There should be unitary status for the Northern People to come to the South and vice versa. India has not yet been able to implement a tax policy applicable to the whole country as they do not have a unitary status. The Unitary Status is required for economic planning."

He stated that power devolution would not support the Tamil People, since only 45 percent of the Tamil people live in the North. He added that the proper solution for them is to work along with the governments and get their issues solved.

He also added that the Tamil People did not get their dues, since Tamil politicians deviated from the main political stream.

He said further that the economic stability should be included in the new Constitution.

"The concept of secular comes from European discipline," said Minister Ranawaka.

"But we have a Buddhist civilization. The Constitution has guaranteed the right to other religions and we need not change them."

He also said that those parties who asked for the abolishing of the executive presidency should not contest at the Presidential election.

TNA MP says Opp. Leader deprived him of expressing his views on Interim Comm. Report

Wanni District TNA Parliamentarian Sivashakthi Anandan yesterday, accused Opposition Leader R. Sampanthan for depriving him of his right to express his views on the interim committee report of the steering committee of the Constitutional Assembly.

The Chairman of the Assembly observed that he would take up the matter at the Party Leader's meeting.

When the Assembly commenced sittings, MP Anandan complained that he had been denied from participating in the debate. “TNA comprises of four parties. I am the General Secretary of one of those parties," MP Anandan said. "I have represented the Wanni district for the past 16 years. But the Opposition Leader did not permit me to partake in the debate. The Opposition Leader violated my privileges as an MP. I spoke to the Speaker twice asking for time for me to speak."

He said he asked for time to express the problems of his people. "Please assure that there would be no injustice in future," MP Anandan said. "The Opposition Leader did not answer my calls. I have a right to express my opinion. This is an example of Opposition Leader preventing a member of his own party from taking part in the debate. If I am not given a chance to speak here, I would leave this place. There is no point of my being here without my being unable to speak.” Chairman Karu Jayasuriya said the list of the participants in the debate from the Opposition was prepared by the Leader of the Opposition and he would take the matter at the Party Leaders’ meeting.

SLMC Leader says doubtful whether BASL a cat’s paw of some other group

SLMC Leader and Minister Rauf Hakeem yesterday pitched into the Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) over the recent list of questions on Constitutional Amendments it sought answers from the Government.

The minister, taking part in the Constitutional Assembly debate yesterday, said he has doubts as to whether the BASL is acting as the cat’s paw of some other group.

“BASL is a highly respected professional body comprising of legal practitioners in which we are also members.”

“Those in it must be able to read and interpret the report themselves. Without doing that, it has directed questions on the Government. This could be to agitate people by creating a wrong impression,” the minister noted. The minister, replying to the BASL question as to whether unitary status would be changed to federal in the Constitution, noted the inclusion of the word ‘unitary’ or ‘federal’ alone would not make sure the country is unitary or federal.

“For example the Soulbury Constitution we had did not contain the word ‘unitary’ but still ours was a unitary country. India’s Constitution does not say it is federal, but still it is a federal country.”

“Despite how much we say that there are provisions for an undivided and indivisible country, doubts of separatism are being repeatedly raised. It is puzzling as to how could the BASL not understand this basic fact,” he added.

Constitutional proposals: All misinterpretations and lies: Anura Kumara

The hue and cry outside Parliament against the draft Constitutional proposals is driven by half-truths, misinterpretations and lies, Chief Opposition Whip and JVP Leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake said.

The MP was taking part in the Constitutional Assembly debate on the Interim Report yesterday. The MP pointed out that the Joint Opposition’s noise inside the Constitutional Assembly is much less than its clamour outside.

“Don’t let the much important public discussions on the Constitution be suppressed by the empty noises of the racist and tribal political agenda. The defeated political elements try to seize ruling power again by using the Interim Report as a football. The utterances to bomb Parliament is the climax of that fanatical objection to constitution-making exercise,” he noted.

“I will predict the political slogan of the upcoming Local Government polls. The JO would ask the people to use LG polls as a referendum to register the opposition to divide the country. This is entire a political campaign. The Constitution making is a lengthy process and it would take many more months for the final draft to come to Parliament,” he added.

The JVP Leader said his party is for a wise dialogue on the Constitution, adding that they wished the fundamental rights Chapter be expanded to include many more progressive proposals. “Only those with tribal mentality who do not care about human rights could object to these Constitutional proposals. We accept equal rights of all people, irrespective of the language they speak, their religion or culture,” he commented. He also stressed that the North cannot survive alone without the socio-economic support of the South and therefore, it is naïve to think that the North would at any point demand secession from the South. “The market for goods and vegetables in the North is in Colombo and there is an acute water scarcity in the North. Asking for secession would be the biggest injustice to the people in the North. Therefore we are for including all possible provisions to prevent secession of the country,” he remarked.

It is unfortunate former President, his allies taking contradictory stand to what they had said: Sampanthan

The inability of the leaders to stand to what they accept and keep to their commitments after they cease to hold power, had been a major setback to the country, Opposition Leader R Sampanthan said.

Opening the Constitutional Assembly debate on the Interim Report for the third day yesterday, the Opposition Leader quoted sections of statements by former President Mahinda Rajapaksa and former Minister Prof. G L Peiris that advocated for greater devolution of power.

“It is unfortunate that the former President and his allies are taking diametrically different and contradictory stand to what they had said,” he said, after citing the exact words of former President Rajapaksa at the inauguration of the APRC on July 11, 2006 and Prof G L Peiris during the Oslo Conference in 2002.

The past three Presidents and Governments came up with proposals for sharing power that went far beyond the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, said Sampanthan, referring to the past endeavours of Mahinda Rajapaksa, Chandrika Kumaratunga and R Premadasa. He added President Maithripala Sirisena was continuing with those endeavours from where those had been stopped.

Sampanthan also elaborated on the contents of the Bandaranaike - Chelvanayagam pact in 1957, the Dudley - Chelvanayagam pact in 1965 and the Indo - Lanka Agreement signed by President JR Jayewardene and Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1987.

“They were prepared to deal with issues and they had the knowledge and capacity in the country’s interest to do what was required,” he added.

“It is more than eight years since the war came to an end, but the causes for the commencement of the war have not yet been addressed yet. It would be a tragedy not to realize that the war commenced due to the non-resolution of the national question and that the national question yet remains unsolved,” he emphasised.

“It is a well known fact that our National Issue had become internationalised because of the blunders we have committed and because we have not been able to amicably resolve the national question ourselves. We should realize that we are being watched by the whole world. We have been cooperating with the present Government because we wish for the problems to be solved domestically, but remember, if you do not do so, international pressure would only worsen,” he said.

“You received the support of all the main countries to defeat the LTTE, including India, UK, US Canada, EU and Australia. The LTTE was banned in all those countries. You assured the world that there would be an acceptable resolution of the national question after the defeat of the LTTE. Can you abandon the said assurances and commitments made to the world? The international pressure the country faced especially since 2012, was due to the failure of the Government to address the national question. Things could only get worse; they cannot get any better, if the same situation continues,” Sampanthan stressed.

Sampanthan, pointing out that the TNA had never demanded separatism, said they appeal to the Tamil speaking people not to lend their support to any political movement that advocates division in the country. “We want the people of this country to oppose any candidate who espouses separatism,” he noted.

“Tamil people of the North-East have been absolutely clear in regard to the manner and mode of power-sharing, particularly in the North East. Violence was unleashed against the Tamil people whenever they made legitimate political demands,” he recalled.

“The exercise of making the Constitution is a prerequisite to sustainable peace, development and progress. There will be power sharing at three levels, national, provincial and local. The powers related to these three levels must be unambiguously and clearly defined on a rational basis.

Constitutional provisions would ensure the devolved power is not undermined or taken back. This ensures that the sharing of power is durable and also genuine,” he explained.

“The TNA is committed to the democratic verdict of the people. We are willing to work towards a reasonable and acceptable consensus on all issues. We appeal to all irrespective of party or other affiliations to join in this national endeavour,” he urged.

“As a Sri Lankan, I plead everyone to be truthful to the country and its people. It is naïve to think that everybody can be deceived all the time. It is the people who must make the final decision in the exercise of their sovereignty,” the Opposition Leader concluded. 

 


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