By Niranjala Ariyawansha and Skandha Gunasekara
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe yesterday submitted to the Constitutional Assembly reports of six Parliamentary Subcommittees on Constitutional Reform. The dominant proposal coming from the Subcommittee on Centre-Periphery Relations for devolution of power beyond the 13th Amendment to the Constitution.
The recommendations are expected to usher in a Constitutional solution to the vexing ethnic problem via the 13 A-Plus and other progressive proposals.
The Subcommittee on Fundamental Rights has for the first time in the Constitutional history of the country recommended the Constitutional embodiment of a declaration of the Right to Life as a human right.
The Subcommittee on Centre- Periphery Relations has recommended that law and order be devolved as subjects to Provincial Councils, envisaging the establishment of Independent Provincial Police Commissions functioning parallel to the National Police Commission.
The recommendations include prevention of terrorism, actions against organized crime and drugs being brought under the jurisdiction of the National Police Commission.
It is also recommended that 40% of State revenue be allocated to Provincial Councils. The Financial Commission of the Central Government will be restructured with the Treasury’s discretionary powers being clipped.
The Provincial Councils Act, No. 42 of 1987 will be revised to accommodate these changes and it has been proposed that specific powers of the Central Government be vested in Provincial Councils.
The Concurrent List relating to power devolution will be rendered null and subjects of the Central Government and Provincial Councils will be redefined.
The subcommittee on land issues has recommended that land powers be vested fully in Provincial Councils although the 13th Amendment to the Constitution drew heavy criticism on this score.
The committees have also recommended appointment of the National Land Commission proposed in the 13th Amendment. According to the subcommittee recommendations, the Provincial Council is made by law subject to making available to the Central Government such land that deems essential in the pursuance of government needs.
Excessive powers of the Provincial Governor will be pruned and the position will be converted to that of a ceremonial provincial head, the sub-committee recommends.
Local Government bodies will also be empowered and a new legislation will be drafted integrating the existing Ordinances and Acts.
The Grama-Rajya concept has also been recommended as an independent community-level body for the prevention and elimination of red tape and corruption.
Meanwhile, Provincial Public Service Commissions will be established at Provincial level to handle appointments, promotions, transfers and disciplinary action relating to issues concerning public servants in the Provinces.
The Steering Committee will compile a report on the constitutional reform proposals based on the reports of the six subcommittees appointed by the Constitutional Assembly.
The final Draft Constitutional Amendment Bill must receive a two- third majority vote of the House and be mandated at a referendum to pass into law.