New Constitution needs 2/3rd majority plus Referendum
Govt., Opposition, party leaders say in Parliament
by Saman Indrajith
The Prime Minister, opposition leader and all party leaders in parliament stated yesterday that the draft for a new constitution needed not only two-third majority of the House, but also the approval of the people in a referendum.
Party leaders said so when the Constitutional Assembly met in the Parliament chamber yesterday.
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, in his capacity as Chairman of the Steering Committee of the Constitutional Assembly, presented to the assembly the reports of six subcommittees appointed for the purpose of drafting a new Constitution have concluded their work in six main areas.The sub committees have prepared their reports on the areas of Fundamental Rights, Judiciary, Finance, National and Public Security, Public Order and Police and Law Enforcement, Public Service Reforms and Centre-Periphery Relations.
These reports have been made by the sub committees on the basis of proposals and suggestions from individuals, organisations and political parties.
The Prime Minister, presenting the reports, said that three alternatives had been proposed for the post of executive presidency. The best alternative would be selected based on the opinion of Parliament and the people.
He said that principles of power devolution including police and land powers to peripheries too had been discussed in the reports separately.
The Premier said that three days — Jan 10, 11 and 12 have been allocated for a debate on the reports and, if the need arises, the time could be extended by a couple of more days with the agreement of party leaders.
Wickremesinghe said that the Steering Committee of the Constitutional Assembly had met for 40 sessions so far since its inception. The committee had extensive discussions on the first and second chapters of the constitution on the issues of sovereignty and religion. There is no intention of changing the existing provisions but to further strengthen them, he said.
The fact that none of the parties have a clear majority, he said, would further strengthen the new constitution democratically.
He said the reports of the sub committees should be debated in parliament and they should be taken to temples, kovils, mosques and churches and to people through the official web.
Chief Opposition Whip, JVP leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake said that of 19 amendments introduced to the present constitution, 17 were intended to consolidate power.
He said his party too agree with the need for a new constitution. “There should be an election system that reflects the people’s wishes. We believe that the executive presidency should be abolished. Provisions of the new constitution should ensure the rights of all people, irrespective of their differences.
The new constitution should be passed with a two-third majority in Parliament and it should be referred for a referendum so that people could make the final choice,” Dissanayake said.
MEP Leader Dinesh Gunawardena said that the Joint Opposition submitted to the Steering Committee a document containing 14 principles for the new constitution. He said that the JO would not agree to anything without those 14 principles.
He wanted to know what would happen to the powers vested with the President on provincial councils if the executive presidency is abolished. The Constitutional Assembly should neither hurry the process nor bulldoze it through parliament. People too should be given an opportunity to have their say with regard to the new constitution, Gunawardena said.
Opposition Leader R. Sampanthan said that formulating a new constitution was a sacred task. He said that the new constitution required the consent of two-third majority of parliament and of the people in a referendum. A new constitution for the country should be introduced only with the consent of people, he said.
The Constitutional Council is scheduled to meet again at 9.30 am on December 10 to table the six reports by sub committees presented by the Prime Minister in Parliament.